Politics

08 Oct 2019, 20:00 PM

STA, 8 October 2019 - Slovenia has earned a new reproof for the slow uptake of EU funds as the country's member of the European Court of Auditors reported that by the end of 2018 the country had only used 24.2% of the funding available for the period between 2014 and 2020.

Presenting the annual report for 2018 in Brussels, Samo Jereb said that the uptake rate was rather low the fifth year into the current financial framework, in particular compared to the fifth year of the previous framework when the rate was 37%.

While Slovenia is one of the least problematic countries when it comes to correctness of budget implementation, it is one of the poorest performing member countries in terms of the use of the available funding.

Slovenia is also one the countries with the biggest difference in the uptake rates in 2018 and 2011, which Jereb says is partly owing to that fact that in 2014 and 2015 Slovenia was focused on drawing funds from the previous financial framework, hence a delay in the uptake of current funds.

Part of the delay may be attributed to the late adoption of the legal basis at the EU level as well as to the fact that the current financial framework is more demanding than the previous one so countries have more problems adjusting their programmes to the new rules.

Slovenia's uptake rate, at 24.2% for 2018, is below the EU average of 27.3%, after being above the EU average of 33.4% in 2011, at 37%. Last year Slovenia was the fifth worst performing country, and it is the sixth this year, having come ahead of Slovakia.

According to the table released by the court, the lowest proportions of the available EU funding have been taken up by Croatia, Malta, Italy and Spain, while Finland comes first having used up more than half of the funding available in the current perspective.

Jereb explained that the European Commission had demanded EUR 8 billion worth of advance funds back from the member countries that failed to use the planned volume of available funding. The payments were then relocated to the member countries that implemented more than planned investments between July 2016 and June 2017.

Jereb would not go into details because the Commission's decisions are confidential, but he did say that the countries that benefited from the redistribution of funds were those with low uptake rates.

Slovenia got the final stamp of approval for EUR 73 million from three cohesion and structural funds in 2018 - the Cohesion Fund, European Regional Development Fund and the European Social Fund - related to investment implemented between July 2016 and June 2017. Last year the sum was zero.

Slovenia is also the only EU country that had not yet put in place in 2018 a system of indicators to monitor the effectiveness of implementation of EU-funded programmes, but only did so this year, Jereb noted.

Responding to the report, the Government Development and Cohesion Policy Office said that the 24% mentioned by Jereb included only the final phase of EU funds uptake - the payouts from the EU to the state budget.

The figure leaves out the first two phases, which see Slovenia well on its way to draw the entirety of the funds available to it, according to the office.

EUR 3.068 billion is available to Slovenia in 2014-2020 and can be drawn until 2023. Between January 2014 and August 2019 EUR 2.52 billion in EU funds has been allocated to various projects, which accounts for 82% of all funds available.

Meanwhile, EUR 2.02 billion worth of projects, representing 66% of funds, have been carried out by the end of August, while EUR 851 million has been paid out by the state budget, which accounts for 28%.

By the end of September, Slovenia forwarded to Brussels EUR 812 million worth of claims, or 26.4% of funds available, the government office said.

08 Oct 2019, 09:30 AM

STA, 7 October 2019 - Former Health Minister Tomaž Gantar stepped down as vice-president of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) in September. In today's statement for the STA, Gantar was critical of the way Karl Erjavec is leading the party, saying his leadership style was less and less democratic.

Gantar, who has been a prominent member of DeSUS for years, is returning to his medical profession.

The former health minister said he was unhappy with the party's work recently. He said vice presidents did not have clearly defined roles and subsequently had no significant influence on the work of the party.

He will, however, remain a member of the party.

Erjavec would not comment on Gantar's resignation or his statements about party leadership today.

Meanwhile, DeSUS deputy group head Franc Jurša said that everyone was entitled to make assessments about anybody's work. "I would not assess Erjavec at this point," he said.

Juša also said that he did not sense any friction among top party officials but that messages did come on a daily basis from the field. Many think the party should do more, he added.

DeSUS, which has been on a downward trajectory for some time, will hold an extraordinary election congress on 17 January.

The party won only five seats in the National Assembly in 2018 and failed to secure a single MEP post in the May EU election.

Erjavec offered his resignation already after the general election, but the party council rejected it. After the EU election, however, the party decided it was time for an election congress.

The long-serving party head and current Defence Minister Erjavec announced he would run for another term. So far, no other candidates have announced their bids.

Asked whether it would be good if Erjavec had a rival at the congress, Jurša did not give a straightforward answer. He said that multiple candidates made election more interesting from the democratic point of view.

"But being a party president is not a rewarding job and I don't know if any of those who would be capable of running the party will decide for it."

Gantar said today he would not run for any posts at the congress.

05 Oct 2019, 09:08 AM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 27 September
        NEW YORK, US - PM Marjan Šarec made a strong plea for efficient multilateralism in his address to the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. He stressed the importance of fundamental principles such as the rule of law and respect for human rights. He also called on delegates to back at November's UNESCO general conference Europe's first international AI research centre that would be set in Slovenia's capital Ljubljana.
        NEW YORK, US - FM Miro Cerar hosted ministers and high representatives of the Slovenian-sponsored Green Group initiative, an informal forum of foreign ministers from Slovenia, Iceland, Costa Rica, Cape Verde, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, which promotes green policies and encourages the transition to a green economy and the use of renewable energy sources.
        GENEVA, Switzerland - Slovenia presented its resolution on human rights education at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council. The proposal envisages a multi-annual strategy for educating the young about human rights. The council's members addressed a wide spectrum of issues during the three-week session, including the human rights situation in Venezuela, Yemen, Myanmar, Sudan and Ukraine.
        LJUBLJANA - Employers withdrew from the Economic and Social Council (ESS) in protest of bills being filed in parliament past the ESS, whereas the head of the ZSSS trade union confederation Lidija Jerkič followed suit by resigning as ESS chair. PM Marjan Šarec later announced that he would attend a session of the ESS in person on 8 October in an attempt to restore social dialogue. He noted that the Left, which had filed the bills bothering employers, was an opposition party.
        LJUBLJANA - Hundreds of young people took to the streets as part of the Global Climate Strike and #FridaysForFuture movement, urging politicians to declare a climate crisis and come up with practical measures. The young decided not to meet state representatives given that nothing had improved since they held talks during the March strike, but Environment Minister Simon Zajc expressed his support for the protests across Slovenia, held by the Youth for Climate Justice.
        LJUBLJANA - Denis Stroligo, a law graduate, was appointed director-general of the Official Gazette publisher. This was after the ruling LMŠ party official Brane Kralj had been swept out of office for trying to secure the job for former MEP Igor Šoltes.

SATURDAY, 28 September
        LJUBLJANA - CEO of Mercator Tomislav Čizmić said in an interview with Delo that Slovenia's leading retailer would become the biggest company and biggest retailer of the newly-established Fortenova Group once it is transferred to the group. Mercator is currently a part of the debt-ridden Agrokor, whose healthy assets are in the process of being transferred to Fortenova Group.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Murska Sobota Protestant priest Leon Novak was elected the new head of the Slovenian Evangelical Lutheran Church in a secret ballot. He will take over from Geza Filo in December. The head of the Slovenian Evangelical Lutheran Church is elected for a six-year term with the possibility of another six-year term.

SUNDAY, 29 September
        PARIS, France - The Slovenian men's national volleyball team won another silver at the European Championship after losing the final match to Serbia 1:3. After making an improbable run in Ljubljana, beating the European champions Russia and world champions Poland in the process, Slovenia had to concede to Serbia even though they won the first set.

MONDAY, 30 September
        LJUBLJANA - The management of struggling air carrier Adria Airways filed for receivership after the government said it was not ready to invest in the carrier under the current owner and in its current financial state. On news of the receivership proposal, the Civil Aviation Agency stripped the airline of its operating licence and all flights have been cancelled.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that FM Miro Cerar had ordered an internal investigation at the ministry over the leaking of classified information, in particular the names of ambassadorial candidates. The final straw is said to have been Dnevnik's reporting that Ambassador to Serbia Iztok Jarc would replace Slovenia's future EU Commissioner Janez Lenarčič as the country's ambassador to the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - The coalition agreed that the abolition of top-up health insurance be made in two steps, with the first being the transfer of its collection onto the public health insurance fund ZZZS. The second step would be making what Health Minister Aleš Šabeder termed a solidarity scale for the collection of health insurance contributions. This is an alternative idea prepared by the health and finance ministries after the opposition Left had filed into parliament a bill of its own, which the coalition rejected.
        BLED - Slovenia and Croatia failed to agree to build a common repository for nuclear waste from their jointly-owned N-plant, as the inter-governmental commission in charge of overseeing the bilateral agreement on the Krško Nuclear Power Plant met for a session in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia posted a general government surplus of EUR 124 million, or 1% of GDP, in the second quarter of the year but revenue growth was outpaced by growth in expenditure in a first sign of economic slowdown. Consolidated general government gross debt at the end of the second quarter amounted to EUR 31.803 billion, or 67.7% of GDP.
        LJUBLJANA - The government confirmed a bill which limits certain expenditure on wages of civil servants and introduces an extraordinary 1% indexation of pensions in 2020 under the condition of 3% GDP growth for this year. The bill will be filed together with the remaining budget documents to be fast-tracked in parliament.

TUESDAY, 1 October
        LJUBLJANA - Adria Airways having filed for receivership, Ljubljana airport operator Fraport Slovenija announced that a network of flights comparable to Adria's could be set up within a year and a half. The Belgian air carrier Brussels Airlines, part of Lufthansa Group, announced it would restore its Brussels-Ljubljana link on 4 November.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Miro Cerar and his Luxembourgian counterpart Jean Asselborn noted the importance of multilateralism and respect for international law during Asselborn's official visit to Slovenia. The pair announced a new Slovenia-Benelux summit for later this year or early 2020. Asselborn also met Slovenia's other top officials.
        NOVO MESTO - Pharma company Krka inaugurated a EUR 55.6 million research and development centre that nearly doubles its R&D, and control and analysis capacities.
        PREVALJE - Lek, the Slovenian subsidiary of Swiss multinational Novartis, announced it would phase out antibiotics production in Slovenia's Prevalje in two years, moving it to Austria, while Prevalje would become part of Novartis's emerging global operative centre.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of 32 MPs led by the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) asked the Constitutional Court to review the property appraisal act on the grounds that the issues found unconstitutional by the court in 2013 still remain after the act was changed in May 2019. This was as the Surveying and Mapping Authority released the results of a preliminary property appraisal. PM Marjan Šarec told MPs the government in its current form was not in a position to push through a real estate tax.
        LJUBLJANA - Calls to improve the economic and housing situation of the elderly marked the start of the three-day Festival for the Third Age on International Day of Older Persons. The Pensioners' Association issued a list of demands to the government, including for an annual allowance and an immediate indexation of pensions.
        LJUBLJANA - A new academic year started for close to 76,000 Slovenian students. In total, more than 48,300 new places are available this year at nearly 820 graduate, MA and doctoral programmes.

WEDNESDAY, 2 October
        LJUBLJANA - The Kranj District Court launched receivership for Adria Ariways. The creditors will have three months to file their claims. Unofficially, the company has run up EUR 90 million in debt. The receivership will put 558 people out of their jobs.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia's European commissioner-designate Janez Lenarčič was heard by the EU Parliament's Development Committee in a session that revolved around migration and climate crisis, as well as the role of the private sector and NGOs in humanitarian activities, education of child refugees and nuclear incident preparedness. According to sources in the European Parliament, he passed the test with all political groups backing him bar the far-right Identity and Democracy.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec denied the allegation by the Požareport news website that he intervened to have the SOVA intelligence agency hire a former female employee of the Kamnik municipality where he served as mayor before becoming PM. Šarec said she got the job in line with standard procedure. The allegation had been discussed by the parliamentary intelligence oversight commission, with findings yet to be presented.
        RIMSKE TOPLICE - President Borut Pahor met mayors as part of a congress of Slovenian municipalities to see whether it was worth proceeding with establishing provinces. Mayors told him there was no doubt Slovenia needed them to decentralise and get a fresh development impetus. Pahor will host a meeting discussing the issue in November, while a decision could then be made as he meets the prime minister and the presidents of both chambers of parliament in December.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court ruled in a 5:4 vote that the retirement and disability pension act is not unconstitutional in the part that prevents sole proprietors from receiving full pension if they continue working after reaching retirement age, stating intergenerational fairness, equality and financial sustainability took precedence over sole proprietors' interests.
        LJUBLJANA - Even though the agreement on joint patrols policing the Slovenian-Italian border ended, cooperation between the two police forces remains in place in certain areas, in particular in the Koper Police Department district, but not in the Nova Gorica Police Department district.
        LJUBLJANA - The two-day Slovenia Business Bridge investment and development conference, hosted by AmCham Slovenia at its 20th anniversary, started with a business breakfast discussing challenges in the management of family companies, and continued with a panel discussing strategies by investors.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian car dealerships Autocommerce, Avto Triglav and AC-Mobil, which are part of the holding company ACH 2, will be acquired by Swiss Emil Frey Group for an undisclosed amount, pending the approval of the EU Commission.

THURSDAY, 3 October
        LANY, Czech Republic - President Borut Pahor participated in a Visegrad Group summit plus Slovenia and Serbia which backed the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans. Pahor warned that the EU not expanding into the region "could have major bad consequences".
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed changes to the aviation act that create a legal basis for the state to subsidise crucial air links with the country if this proves necessary in the wake of Adria Airways collapse.
        LJUBLJANA - The government confirmed a package of tax tweaks that are meant to reduce taxation of labour to increase competitiveness, while slightly increasing the taxation of capital gains and rental income to offset for the loss of revenue.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a set of changes to the pension insurance act to equalise the pension base for men and women at 63.5% of the salary as of 2025 and regulating the status of pensioners who continue to work. Working pensioners will initially get 40% of the pension they are entitled to, along with the salary, but after three years their pension will drop to 20%.
        LJUBLJANA - The government proposed amendments to the labour market regulation act that increase the minimum monthly unemployment benefit while stiffening entitlement conditions. The amendments also introduce compulsory Slovenian language classes for non-Slovenian EU citizens registered as unemployed and a basic language skill requirement for the rest.
        LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek is taking over as a stand-in head of the Government Office for Development and EU Cohesion Policy after Iztok Purič stepped down on 20 Sep. Her SAB party said it would propose a minister candidate after the 2020 and 2021 budgets are passed in parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Peter Jenko as the new director general of the Financial Administration for a five-year term. Jenko, current deputy director general, will take over on 27 November, succeeding outgoing FURS director general Jana Ahčin.
        LJUBLJANA - The news portal Siol.net reported that the Czech EPH group will enter the cargo arm of the Slovenian railway operator as a strategic partner under a deal worth roughly EUR 80 million. The entry is to be discussed in the coming weeks by the supervisory board of Slovenske Železnice, while the final say will rest with state asset custodian Slovenian Sovereign Holding.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total fell to 69,834 in September, down 2.4% from August and down 5.3% from September 2018. It is close to the all-time low recorded in September 2008 when 59,303 were registered as being out of a job.

All our posts in this series are here

05 Oct 2019, 08:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 04 October

Mladina: Slovenia reduced to periphery as key companies sold

STA, 4 October 2019 – The left-wing weekly Mladina criticises governments for lack of reflection and long-term vision when selling companies key to Slovenia's economic independence and sovereignty. "All serious countries take special care of certain sectors, and infrastructure is the first among them," the weekly writes in Friday's editorial Periphery Country.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž also notes that Slovenian managers and politicians like to brag about knowing the Balkans very well, but the truth is much more miserable.

He says there are only few Slovenian investments in Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and elsewhere in the region, whereas Austria is a strong player there.

What is more, Croatian and Serbian companies have taken over a number of Slovenian flagships, such as retailer Mercator, food companies Droga Kolinska and Žito, soft drinks maker Fructal and bank Gorenjska Banka.

Nevertheless, the true big players on the Slovenian market come from others parts of Europe, chiefly Austria and Germany, says Repovž.

Taking a look at the case of Slovenian airline Adria Airways, Repovž says there was no doubt Germany's Lufthansa would try to take over Adria Airways.

And it goes without saying that Europe's leading airline has an advantage because the government sold Slovenian airport operator Aerodrom Ljubljana to Germany's Fraport.

But while Austria, Switzerland and Belgium had set Lufthansa strict conditions when selling it their airlines, Slovenia's prime ministers Alenka Bratušek, Miro Cerar and Marjan Šarec "were obviously not thinking about these dimensions of their country's statehood, independence and sovereignty".

"Countries are no longer being conquered with armies, they are being conquered economically. And small countries which can easily become dependent are very careful [about this possibility]."

However, Slovenia has sold almost the entire food and retail sectors, all key banks and the national airport. It has avoided by a notch Hungary's becoming a co-owner of port operator Luka Koper, allowed a Chinese investor to buy home appliances maker Gorenje, sold one of its few tech gems, Fotona, for small change, and left the aviation market to the mercy of foreign airlines.

"Is this enough to prove that we are good students of those who then buy our companies? In the Balkans they call it 'voluntary sacrifice'. This is how Slovenia goes about strategic decisions. And a special credit for this goes to Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek," concludes Repovž.

Demokracija: Bojan Požar’s advertising deals not corruption

STA, 3 October 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija comes to the defence of Bojan Požar, the editor of online tabloid Pozareport who tried to enter politics, in its latest editorial, rejecting the premise that signing advertising deals with state companies while running for office entails serious corruption risks.

While only using the first names, Demokracija's editor-in-chief Jože Biščak compares Požar's campaign situation to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who campaigned while he was serving as mayor, and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) head Karl Erjavec, who has served in ministerial posts for years.

The two politicians enjoyed stable funding by taxpayers and were constantly in the public limelight without having to spend almost any funds on campaigning, whereas Požar has to fight for his survival on the market.

"Because he has a media company, he needs to sign advertising deals with companies. If he fails, there will be no wages the next month. Bojan wanted to become a politician, but he failed. He is not an official, not part of the power structures, he works with his own money, for his own account."

According to Biščak, the question at the heart of the matter is "in which case the corruption risk is bigger ... with Marjan, Karl or Bojan?".

"In normal countries, where the dividing lines between state-owned, public and private are very clear, the answer would be clear: with Marjan and Karl. But because Slovenia is not normal (yet), let alone free, the (socialist) mainstream media are sending the Court of Audit and the Corruption Prevention Commission after Bojan (Požar)," Biščak says in the commentary entitled Other Side of the Mirror.

All our posts in this series are here

03 Oct 2019, 15:15 PM

STA, 3 October 2019 - Slovenia's joblessness keeps declining with the latest official data putting the number of registered unemployed to 69,834 in September, down 2.4% from August and down 5.3% from September 2018.

The latest total is close to the record-low level registered in September 2008 when 59,303 were registered as being out of a job.

The Employment Service registered 5,752 newly unemployed people in September, which is 34.8% more than in August and 0.3% more than in September last year.

Most (2,917) saw their fixed-term job contracts expire; 981 just entered the job market and 741 were made redundant.

Out of the 7,462 unemployed who were removed from the unemployment roll, 5,420 got a job or became self-employed. The latter figure is 84.6% higher than in August but 7.4% lower year-on-year.

In the first three quarters of the year, an average 74,448 were registered as being out of a job, which is 5.7% fewer than in the same period a year ago.

The number of the newly unemployed in the nine months decreased by 4.1% from the same period a year ago. The number of registered first-time job seekers dropped by 16.4% and the number of those whose fixed-term jobs expired fell by 6.5%, whereas the number of those who were made redundant rose by 10.6%.

Of the 60,080 removed from the unemployment register, 44,530 found a job, which marks a decline of 9.3% year-on-year.

Employers registered 13,726 vacancies in September, 7.6% more than in August, but 5.2% fewer than in September last year. Most openings were for simple jobs in manufacturing.

The most recent data on the registered unemployment rate are available for July; at that month the rate was 7.4%, up 0.1 percentage point from June and down 0.6 points year-on-year.

Statistics Office data for July put the number of people in employment at 893,760, which is 0.4% fewer than the month before and 2.5% more than a year ago.

Govt proposes increase of unemployment benefit, stiffens conditions, including language tests

STA, 3 October 2019 - The government has proposed changes to the labour market regulation act that increase the minimum monthly unemployment benefit while stiffening entitlement conditions. The changes also introduce compulsory Slovenian language classes for non-Slovenian EU citizens registered as unemployed and a basic language skill requirement for the rest.

The minimum monthly unemployment benefit is being raised from EUR 350 gross to EUR 530 gross to equalise it with the basic minimum income for single-person households, which currently stands at EUR 402 net.

On the other hand, the minimum insurance period in 24 months prior to unemployment guaranteeing benefits would be extended from 9 to 10 months.

Also, the maximum duration of unemployment benefit entitlement for those over 53 and with an insurance period of at least 25 years is being set at 19 months and for those older than 58 with an insurance period of over 28 years at 25 months.

Currently, those over 50 and with a 25-year insurance period are entitled to benefits for 19 months and those over 55 and with 25 years for 25 months.

What is more, those meeting conditions for occupational and regular retirement age retirement will no longer be able to claim the unemployment benefit.

The government is on the other scrapping the financial penalisation of those failing to register as unemployed within three days after being laid off. Presently, the benefit in such cases is only set at 60% as opposed to 80% of the wage average.

Stricter penalising is meanwhile envisaged for those gravely violating the job search requirements of the Employment Service. One grave violation, for instance refusing to partake in an active employment policy programme or rejecting a suitable job, will be enough to get job seekers erased from the registry, while this will also be possible with two minor violations as is the case presently.

Also envisaged are changes for pensioners who perform occasional work. While they can presently work up to 60 hours in a month, an exception is being added that allows up to 90 hours, provided this only happens three times in 12 months and does not amount to more than 720 hours in total.

Foreigners wishing to be registered as unemployed also face stricter conditions. Third-country citizens will need to have at least A1 level command of the Slovenian language to register, while unemployed non-Slovenian EU citizens, citizens of Switzerland and European Economic Area members will have to attend Slovenian language classes and take a basic language skill exam while they are registered.

03 Oct 2019, 14:05 PM

STA, 2 October 2019 - Even though the agreement on joint patrols policing the Slovenian-Italian border ended on Monday, police cooperation between the two countries is still in place in certain areas, in particular in the Koper Police Department district, police told the STA on Wednesday.

However, joint police patrols are no longer patrolling the Nova Gorica Police Department district.

Joint patrols were carried out between 1 July and 30 September. During this time, 46 joint patrols were deployed in the Koper Police area - 36 in Slovenia and 10 in Italy. Altogether, 276 hours were used for patrolling and a total of twelve Slovenian police officers were part of the joint patrols, said the police.

In the first nine months of this year the Koper Police apprehended about 3,920 illegal migrants (some 1,920 during the joint patrolling period), an increase over the same period last year when they caught some 3,270 foreigners who had crossed the border illegally (about 1,780 during the July-September period last year).

Despite the agreement coming to an end, Italy and Slovenia have carried on with policing the border together due to the pressing illegal migration situation and based on the agreement's terms and arrangement with the Italian authorities.

Both countries are also interested in extending their cooperation to other forms of joint effort enabled by the agreement, including joint analyses and forming a joint investigative task force.

According to the Koper police, joint patrols are effective and successful at their job. The police officers involved in them are motivated for this kind of work and are directly exchanging know-how, experience and information regarding illegal migrations.

On the other hand, the Nova Gorica police have decided not to proceed with joint patrolling, having agreed with the Italian authorities to end such police cooperation already on 9 August.

During the joint patrolling period, six joint patrols were carried out in the Nova Gorica area - half of them in Slovenia.

Until 29 September, the Nova Gorica police apprehended 190 illegal migrants (some 40 during the joint patrolling period), which is more than in the same period last year - 61 persons who had illegally crossed the Slovenian-Croatian border (some 30 during the July-August period last year).

02 Oct 2019, 12:18 PM

STA, 1 October 2019 - A group of 32 MPs has requested that the Constitutional Court review the property mass valuation act. The request, distributed to the press on Tuesday by the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), says that the valuation models used for the estimates, set to serve as basis for a property tax, should have been closely defined by the act.

The models are key in determining the taxpayers' position and must thus be prescribed by the law and not by executive acts, the review request says.

The issues found unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court in 2013 still remain after the act was changed in May 2019, the request says.

The court found in 2013 that the act failed to define individual valuation models and the application of models in value estimated of different types of real estate.

The act also failed to define "actual use of buildings or parts of buildings" and did not define individual types of actual use, the request notes.

The NSi has called a press conference for tomorrow, featuring MP Iva Dimic and the NSi's farmers' branch head Janez Beja.

One of the points in the request says that the valuation system has been set up in a way that will force farmers to sell agricultural land whose purpose is classified as building land.

The act envisages that the value of this type of land be estimated based on classification by purpose, rather than actual use, which would lead to higher taxes. The request says that this will force farmers to sell the land, and to development of agricultural land.

Meanwhile, the Mapping and Surveying Authority (Geodetska uprava Republike Slovenije – GURS) released today preliminary results of mass valuation of property. The results could be used for a number of purposes, including a real estate tax.

However, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told the MPs in a Q&A today that the government, "in its current constellation is not capable of passing a real estate tax".

01 Oct 2019, 10:38 AM

STA, 30 September 2019 - The coalition has agreed on a proposal from the health and finance ministries that the abolition of top-up health insurance be made in two steps, with the first being to transfer the collection of all contributions to the jurisdiction of the public health insurance fund ZZZS.

The second step would be making a so-called solidarity scale for the collection of health insurance contributions, Health Minister Aleš Šabeder told the press on Monday on the sidelines of the government session.

He explained that this was an alternative idea prepared by the two ministries after the opposition Left had filed into parliamentary procedure a proposal of its own last week, which the coalition has rejected.

In the first phase, the collection of what are currently contributions for top-up health insurance, paid to insurance companies, would be transferred to the jurisdiction of the ZZZS, making them mandatory contributions.

For starts, the contribution would be the same for all, while in the second step a progressive scale, which the minister called a "solidarity scale", for the collection of the contribution would be created.

According to Šabeder, the transfer of the payment of the contribution to the public health insurer would not change the current total amount of contributions paid.

The health purse would actually have more funds available, as a part of the collected contributions for top-up health insurance is currently being spent for costs of the insurance companies collecting them, he added.

The minister said that the proposal had not been discussed yet with the Left, the minority coalition's partner in the opposition, with a meeting expected to take place in the coming days.

The proposal comes after the Left last week tabled a motion that would in effect abolish top-up health insurance and replace it with a progressive levy, having failed to find common ground with the coalition despite weeks of talks.

Šabeder said that after the coalition had agreed to the proposal today, all details would now be sorted out, adding that the motion would be filed only after the parliamentary procedure for the Left's proposal started.

It would go through the usual procedure, with the government formally proposing it before it goes into public debate and debate at the Economic and Social Council. He expects heated debate and a negative campaign from the insurance companies.

Left head Luka Mesec said that the party had not seen the proposal yet, and invited the minister to present it to the Left.

"We are, of course, ready to talk about additional solutions and we kindly invite them to have a talk and try to include that in the proposal which has been 90% complete and which can be passed in the next two months, i.e. the proposal from the Left."

What is important for the party is that the final outcome is not an "MP and a pensioner with a monthly pension of EUR 400 still paying the same amount for insurance", as one can conclude from the minister's proposal, Mesec added.

01 Oct 2019, 09:34 AM

STA, 30 September 2019 - Slovenia posted a general government surplus of EUR 124 million or 1% of GDP in the second quarter of the year but revenue growth was outpaced by growth in expenditure in a first sign of economic slowdown. Consolidated general government gross debt at the end of 2nd quarter amounted to EUR 31.803 billion or 67.7% of GDP.

In absolute figures, the state of government finance worsened slightly compared to the second quarter of 2018, with the government surplus decreasing by EUR 7 million, the Statistics Office reported.

"The state of public finance has already reflected in a slow-down in growth," Nina Stražišar from the office told reporters on Monday, pointing to the slowed growth in revenue.

At EUR 5.331 billion, general government revenue increased by 4.6% year-on-year, as expenditure expanded by 4.8% to EUR 5.207 billion. The growth in expenditure outpaced the growth in revenue for the second straight quarter.

Revenue from social contributions rose by 7.2% to EUR 128 million, and revenue from taxes on production and imports was up by 2% to EUR 33 million.

Revenue income from current taxes on income and wealth decreased by 1.4%, while revenue from capital transfers grew by 65.6% to EUR 27 million.

General government expenditure has been increasing since the first quarter of 2017. In the second quarter it was up due to a 22.8% increase in gross fixed capital formation, a 7.4% increase in the public wage bill, and a 4.9% increase in welfare payments.

The cost of debt servicing continued to decrease with interest expenditure decreasing by 17.1% from the the second quarter of 2018.

The surplus for the first half of the year amounted to EUR 61 million or 0.3 of GDP, which compares to EUR 127 million or 0.6% of GDP a year ago.

By the end of the year, the surplus is projected to increase to EUR 391 million or 0.8% of GDP.

Consolidated general government gross debt increased by EUR 232 million year-on-year to EUR 31.803 billion or 67.7% of GDP. Debt in short term loans and short term debt securities was up the most.

As a proportion of GDP, the debt decreased by 2.7 percentage points from December 2018, which Stražišar attributed to the economic growth.

National government debt was estimated at EUR 31.227 billion (66.5% of GDP) and local government debt at EUR 794 million (1.7% of GDP). Social security fund debt remained at EUR 0.5 million.

The Finance Ministry expects the public debt to decrease further to 66.3% of GDP by the end of the year.

28 Sep 2019, 09:39 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 27 September

Mladina: If Germany can rescue its companies, why can't Slovenia?

STA, 27 September 2019 – Mladina, the left-wing weekly, criticises Slovenian governments for failing to protect the interests of Slovenian companies, including Adria Airways, saying they usually give EU rules as an excuse not to act, whereas engines of capitalism such as Germany always help their companies. What is more, they are indirectly buying Slovenian companies.

Due to the government's inactivity, nearly 600 Adria staff will lose their jobs and at least another 600 jobs will be lost indirectly, while the budget will suffer a loss of EUR 20 million, the weekly says in its editorial on Friday.

When Economy Minister Zdarvko Počivalšek met on Wednesday a group of Adria workers who are seeking a solution, he said the state was not indifferent to its troubles, and mentioned Adria's irresponsible owner, which had put at stake the company's operating licence.

But it is surprising he became aware of Adria's troubles only now when the rest of Slovenians realised how deeply in trouble it was much earlier, and that he forgot to mention he was the economy minister in the Miro Cerar government, which sold Adria to Germany's 4K Invest in 2016.

At the time, the government argued the sale would enable Adria to "develop, expand and provide for Slovenia's new links to the world", and those who warned this would not be the case because Adria was sold to a speculative venture capital fund were said to be ignorant of the very basics of capitalism.

When Počivalšek visited Adria, Germany announced it would help the airline Condor get a loan to prevent its bankruptcy. Two days before the German rescue effort, former Adria director Peter Grašek proposed a similar solution for Adria to the Slovenian government.

But the government is actually not seeking a solution, it is waiting for the situation to calm down so that it may start pointing fingers and complain about its hands being tied by EU rules. Yet, the same rules do not prevent Croatia or Estonia to help their airlines, or Germany to immediately rescue an airline or car factory when in trouble.

Mladina says that Slovenia's national airport operator Aerodrom Ljubljana was not sold just to any company in 2014, it was sold to Germany's Fraport, which is indirectly in majority ownership of Germany.

"Isn't it strange that we are being constantly told it is vital to sell companies and banks for the state to be successful and efficient, while at the same time it always turns out that the countries which are considered the culmination of capitalist efficiency and success, are buying our companies and banks?"

What is more, they purchase our companies in collaboration with their private companies, Mladina says, noting Fraport is partly owned by Lufthansa, the airline which will most certainly take over Adria's business.

Mladina says it is clear Počivalšek knew Adria was sold to speculative funds which would drain it. And as prime minister, Alenka Bratušek also knew airport operator Aerodrom was actually bought by the German state.

"She also knew that as soon as the national airport is sold, there will be an end to the complementarity between the airport and Adria, which will be fateful for Adria in five years' time," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in They Knew.

Reporter: Bratušek attempting power grab in corrupt energy sector

STA, 23 September 2019 - The right-wing weekly Reporter says in Monday's commentary that a recent failed attempt by Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek to be given the final word in the appointment of executives at two state-owned energy companies had not been about wanting to end rampant corruption but merely about trying to seize control over it.

While managing to subjugate SODO, the state-owned electricity distribution system operator, to the government in this way, Bratušek failed to get same statue change proposals passed by the government last week for ELES, the transmission system operator, and for power market operator Borzen.

While Reporter's editor-in-chief Silverster Šurla says that Bratušek, whose proposal had been rejected by Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) president and Defence Minister Karel Erjavec while the remaining ministers abstained, should in fact be believed when she speaks of rampant corruption in the sector.

However, in any normal state accusations of such gravity as the ones issued by her would immediately be examined by authorities specialised in the prosecution of organised crime.

"The minister should report these things to the police immediately and share everything she knowns, including with all the names," Šurla says.

He argues Bratušek has not done that because she is part of one wing of the energy lobby herself. The two wings are engaged in a struggle for the executive posts and thereby for control over the bountiful money flow in state-owned energy companies.

Šurla says under The Fox and the Sour Grapes that Bratušek "is a cunning political fox, who will stop at nothing to reach her goals and is possibly even ready to bring down the government".

All our posts in this series are here

28 Sep 2019, 09:32 AM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

This summary was prepared by the STA:

FRIDAY, 20 September
        LJUBLJANA - Iztok Purič stepped down as the head of the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy, citing personal reasons.
        LJUBLJANA - The Civil Aviation Agency grounded two Adria Airways Bombardier CRJ900 planes, after lessors terminated lease contracts for the two planes due to payment default.
        LJUBLJANA - Media reported that the national motorway company DARS selected for further talks three out of the five bidders vying to build the second tube of the Karavanke tunnel: Turkish builder Cengiz, a consortium of Kolektor CGP, Riko and Turkey's Yapi Merkezi, and Implenia Österreich, a consortium including Implenia Švica and CGP Novo Mesto.
        LJUBLJANA - Culture Minister Zoran Poznič welcomed the government's decision to endorse a "culture euro" bill which envisages additional funds for culture to promote its development through investment. The price tag of the new bill for 2021-2027 is EUR 122.6 million.
        METLIKA/KOSTEL - Thirteen municipalities along the border with Croatia joined forces in urging the government to start renewing local roads that have been damaged from heavy use by the police patrolling the border and to start cleaning the border fence.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's consumer confidence deteriorated for the second month running in September to a level last seen in late 2016. Nevertheless, the index remains eight percentage points above the long-term average.
        BLED - The Pergam confederation of trade unions marked the 150th anniversary of the formation of Slovenia's first trade union at a general assembly in Bled that saw Prime Minister Marjan Šarec stress the importance of social dialogue.

SATURDAY, 21 September
        LJUBLJANA - Modern Centre Party (SMC) members unanimously elected Zdravko Počivalšek the SMC's new leader at a congress. Taking over from party founder Miro Cerar, Počivalšek called for economic stability, a fair welfare state, a liberal approach and sustainability.
        MARIBOR - The SNG Maribor was honoured with the Golden Order of Merit for its outstanding contribution to performing arts and Slovenian cultural identity as the theatre, bringing together drama, opera and ballet, marked its centenary at a high-profile ceremony.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's information and communications technology (ICT) sector generated EUR 4.4 billion in revenue last year, 3.9% more than in 2017. Growth was slower than the year before, when revenue increased by 6.4% year on year, according to data from the Statistics Office.

SUNDAY, 22 September
        LJUBLJANA - Banks will have to adapt to changes in the business environment, Slovenian central bank Governor Boštjan Vasle said as he commented on a recent set of measures taken by the ECB to revive inflation. Without the ECB measures, inflation would have been even lower and the economic cooling even stronger, he told Radio Slovenija.
        LJUBLJANA - Stories from the Chestnut Woods, a debut feature film by up-and-coming Gregor Božič, won eleven of a total of 23 Vesna awards given out at the 22nd Festival of Slovenian Film, plus the audience award.

MONDAY, 23 September
        NEW YORK, US - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec started a five-day visit to New York where he will address the general debate of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on Friday. He started the trip by attending the UN Climate Summit and a World Economic Forum (WEF) debate on sustainable development.
        NEW YORK, US - Former President Danilo Türk told the STA that US foreign policy was being undermined due to President Donald Trump's unpredictable and poorly thought through decisions.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar expects Slovenia to see a rise in the number of people crossing the border illegally before the winter, but not to the extent seen in 2015 and 2016, he said during questions time in parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, his party and the government all saw their popularity ratings fall in the latest poll commissioned by the private broadcaster POP TV, with voter support for the government falling below 50% for the first time this year.
        LJUBLJANA - Roman Kirn, a seasoned diplomat who until recently served as the foreign policy adviser to PM Marjan Šarec, was critical in an interview for Reporter of Šarec's recent visit to Russia, in particular because it had not included a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
        KOPER - Logistics company Intereuropa said that Pošta Slovenije, the state-owned postal operator, plans to acquire a 72% stake in Intereuropa at EUR 1.45 per share for a total of EUR 28.75 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Sales of new housing properties have dropped to the lowest level on record in the second quarter of 2019, according to data from the Statistics Office. Meanwhile, more than 1,360 second-hand houses were sold this second quarter, the most since the second quarter of 2017.
        VIENNA, Austria - Klagenfurt-based Slovenian-Austrian author Maja Haderlap is to receive an Austrian Art Prize which comes with EUR 15,000.

TUESDAY, 24 September
        LJUBLJANA - Carrier Adria Airways suspended virtually all its flights due to a shortage of cash, in what is the biggest upset in Slovenian civil aviation in decades. On 25 September it was given a week to submit to the Civil Aviation Agency a credible financial restructuring plan or lose its operational licence. Meanwhile, a bill was drafted that would allow the government to subsidise selected routes to and from Ljubljana Airport.
        NEW YORK, US - PM Marjan Šarec addressed the first summit dedicated to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development at the UN General Assembly, highlighting Slovenia's ambitions pursuit of the agenda's goals. Šarec also attended the opening of the general debate of the 74th General Assembly session.
        NEW YORK, US - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar took part in a EU-hosted high level meeting on Syria, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, condemning attacks on civilians. In his address, Cerar said that the solution to the Syria conflict could only be a political one.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's business sentiment deteriorated in September to 4.8 percentage points, down 1.2 percentage point on the month before and down 3.4% year-on-year, data from the Statistics Office showed.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Bojan Kumer rejected the recent allegation by several NGOs that Slovenia is planning new subsidies for fossil fuels, arguing that such subsidies will be phased out.

WEDNESDAY, 25 September
        NEW YORK, US/LJUBLJANA - Commenting on reports about Croatia getting a go-ahead to enter the Schengen area in October, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said it was in Slovenia's interest to see Croatia joining, but only if the neighbour showed respect for all EU democratic and legal standards. Indicating a potential veto over Croatia's ignoring of the border arbitration decision, PM Marjan Šarec added on Thursday that should the EU Commission act politically, so would Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - The Left tabled a legislative motion that would in effect abolish supplementary health insurance and replace it with a progressive levy, having failed to find common ground with the coalition parties despite weeks of talks.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that Justice Minister Andreja Katič had reported Maribor Labour Court president Stanko Omerzu to the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption for having employed at the court a daughter of a witness who testified in his favour in a case in which he stands accused of stalking his ex-lover.
        MARIBOR - The teachers' trade union SVIZ told University of Maribor Chancellor Zdravko Kačič to consider resigning over contentious payments at the university. The union blames Kačič for failing to immediately present all the facts to the public and notify the police of potential irregularities related to EUR 50 million being paid through works contracts.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) conferred awards for breakthrough innovations at the 17th Innovation Day. Pharma company Lek won two top awards, for a new procedure for the purification of biopharmaceuticals and a new generation of probiotics, while its rival, Krka, was honoured for an innovative generic drug.
        LJUBLJANA - General government receipts from taxes and social contributions increased for the fifth year running last year, by 7.2% to EUR 17.3 billion, according to the Statistics Office. Tax revenue rose by 7.4% to EUR 10.1 billion and the take from social contributions increased by 6.8% to EUR 7.2 billion in 2018.

THURSDAY, 26 September
        NEW YORK, US - PM Marjan Šarec has expressed regret about the developments at Adria Airways, sympathising with the passengers and the employees' families, but also noted that the air carrier is no longer state-owned and that the outlook for its rescue is not good. Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek on the other hand said potential solutions were still being examined to rescue the company and preserve Slovenia's air links with the rest of the world.
        NEW YORK, US - PM Marjan Šarec underlined Slovenia's support for multilateralism and the need to honour human rights and agreements as he met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in New York.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed the Resolution on National Security Strategy with 46 votes in favour and 29 against after the opposition SDS and the Left succeeded in throwing out an expansion of powers of the intelligence service to fight home-grown terrorism.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia defeated Poland 3:1 in the semifinal of the European Volleyball Championship to qualify for the final in Paris.
        LJUBLJANA - Retailer Mercator saw group sales revenue increase by 0.4% to EUR 1.06 billion in the first half of the year. Group net profit rose by 58.4% to EUR 2.4 million. EBITDA increased by almost 73% to EUR 83 million and operating profit by over 76% to EUR 29.9 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry paid its tribute to late French President Jacques Chirac by describing him as an important ally of Slovenia in its accession to the EU and NATO.
        PODGORICA, Montenegro - Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec and his Montenegrin counterpart Predrag Bošković sought ways to further deepened already close defence cooperation. The Slovenian Defence Ministry announced defence attaches would be sent by both countries to Podgorica and Ljubljana respectively.
        LJUBLJANA - Bank Asset Management Company (BAMC) generated EUR 17.9 million in net profit in the first half of the year, which was 12% less than in the first half of 2018. The company attributed the decrease to a shrunken portfolio.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliament passed a legislative proposal dealing with the indexation of transfers to individuals and households under which such transfers worth around EUR 1.25 billion will be indexed to inflation once a year. The opposition Democrats (SDS) and the Left were the only parties to oppose the amendment.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia gained two spots on the IMD World Digital Competitiveness ranking over 2018, placing 32nd this year.

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