23 Aug 2021, 16:09 PM

STA, 23 August 2021 - With the start of the school year only a week away and facing criticism about inadequate preparedness, education officials provided assurances on Monday that educational institutions are prepared for another year of coronavirus restrictions.

Schools and kindergartens will operate according to what is called model B, which means in-person instruction for all children, mandatory masks for older children, distancing, extensive ventilation, and mandatory Covid certificates for staff.

Damir Orehovec, a state secretary at the Education Ministry, acknowledged at a conference for head teachers today that the rules concerning Covid certificates have not been finalised yet.

At present unvaccinated teachers have to be tested by an official provider of testing once a week, but it is likely that self-testing will be introduced soon.

Parents who wish to enter school or kindergarten premises will have to show a Covid certificate as well. It remains unclear who will check parents' status, though.

The rules for the school year have been issued in a 140-page publication for educational institutions and were presented today at the onset of a three-day conference for head teachers.

Vinko Logaj, the head of the National Education Institute, expects that the school year will start and finish in-person.

"The protocols that some schools have already finalised and others are still supplementing will make it possible to successfully carry out instruction in this school year," he said.

Education MinisterSimona Kustec  was supposed to address the head teachers as well but she has contracted Covid-19 and is isolating at home with severe symptoms.

Responding to calls that she should resign, she said in a written message that she would "not accept threats, insults and unsubstantiated shaming, or attempt to dehumanise by those ... who abuse the educational system for their narrow, egotistic and often partisan interests".

Messages about sufficient preparedness were also delivered at a session of the parliamentary Education Committee, called at the request of the opposition with the argument that preparations for another epidemic school year have not been sufficient.

Education Ministry State Secretary Mitja Slavinec said the planned measures were a compromise between efforts to secure a safe learning environment and effective instruction.

He said the situation was changing fast and that restrictions were unpredictable, noting that it would be easy to set very strict rules from the start, like Italy did, but that the main goal of the restrictions was to keep schools open as long as possible.

The statement came after the centre-left opposition claimed the government was a complete failure when it came to getting schools ready.

Marko Koprivc, an MP for the Social Democrats (SD), said on behalf of the opposition that with one week to go before classes start, teachers still did not have any information and it was unclear what kind of restrictions will be in place.

He accused Minister Kustec of being "incompetent" and urged her to resign, while calling on the government to finally start working and make sure instruction can proceed normally.

23 Aug 2021, 12:44 PM

STA, 23 August 2021 - PM Janez Janša and parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič marked Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes on Monday, warning against glorification of Nazi and other totalitarian regimes' symbols. Zorčič called for prosecution of such acts, which he deems extremely dangerous and inadmissible. 

Addressing an international conference on transition processes in Central and Eastern Europe marking Black Ribbon Day in Ljubljana, Janša stressed that unless the society learned from history it would be condemned to repetition.

He noted that it took more than 15 years for the resolution based on which Black Ribbon Day is marked to be adopted. He also thinks a lot more work will be needed to achieve national reconciliation.

However, at least the memory of the past has been preserved, he stressed. "Today, nobody in Slovenia can say they do not know or do not have the opportunity to know the entire truth, all aspects of events during all totalitarian regimes under which Slovenians have suffered," he said.

The prime minister also expressed concern about the attitude to totalitarian, criminal regimes. "Today, when we remember victims of totalitarian regimes on European soil, let's not look only back but also forward. If we are not capable of learning anything from history, we'll be condemned to repetition," he warned.

Speaker Zorčič said in his message on Black Ribbon Day that even though it seemed that the period of peace and economic progress after the Second World War had brought catharsis to European nations and an understanding of the evil that totalitarian regimes bring, it was clear today that Europe had still not come completely to terms with its totalitarian past.

"Worse yet, recently historical criminals, their totalitarian ideas and despicable actions are increasingly being glorified, while intolerance to those who are different and think differently is strengthening," Zorčič warned.

The current situation is a warning how extremely thin and fragile is the borderline between normality and totalitarianism, he said.

The crisis situation brought about by the Covid-19 epidemic creates the conditions for hate speech that is spreading particularly aggressively on social media, the speaker noted.

"In this situation adding fuel to the fire by irresponsible individuals, including politicians, is particularly dangerous. Any glorification of Nazism and totalitarian symbols, even only to get public attention, is extremely dangerous and inadmissible, yet it is becoming increasingly frequent, so it should be prosecuted in Slovenia as well," Zorčič said.

Tomaž Ivešić, director of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, which hosts today's conference in parliament together with the National Council and Foreign Ministry, said that Slovenia had so far made some important steps towards reconciliation, correcting injustices and punishing human rights violations in totalitarian regimes.

He noted that almost 36,000 decisions had been issued to political prisoners and victims of post-war violence and their relatives based on which EUR 127 million in damages had been paid out.

However, he added, one problem was that so far no one had been convicted of any crimes committed during the Second World War, and that the process of denationalisation was still not completed.

National Council president Alojz Kovšca said that the term reconciliation was being abused in a political sense. He thinks it should be made clear publicly that reconciliation meant letting go of resentments referring to the past and not giving mandate for illegitimate obtaining of privileges for anyone.

Kovšca also warned of the "aggressive political discourse", including on social media.

Victims of totalitarian regimes will be remembered today as wreaths will be laid at the Monument to the Victims of All Wars in Ljubljana's Congress Square and in front of the US Embassy. A mass will also be celebrated at the Ljubljana cathedral by Archbishop Stanislav Zore, which will also be attended by Janša.

Slovenia and Europe mark today the international day of remembrance for the victims of totalitarian regimes, specifically Stalinist, communist, Nazi and fascist regimes. The European Parliament set 23 August as Europe-wide Day of Remembrance for the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes in 2009. Slovenia has been officially marking the day since 2012.

23 August was chosen as the date of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, a 1939 non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

23 Aug 2021, 10:59 AM

STA, 23 August 2021 - Just over a quarter of respondents in the latest public opinion poll conducted by Mediana for commercial broadcaster POP TV support the work of the Janez Janša government, which is the lowest support in this term. The senior coalition Democrats (SDS) continue to top party rankings, followed by the opposition Social Democrats (SD).

While 27.5% of the respondents support the cabinet, two-thirds or 63.9% oppose it and 8.6% are undecided, shows the poll conducted among 714 respondents this month.

Although it remains the most popular party, the SDS lost ground, with its support dropping by almost two percentage points to 16.1%. The SD in second place also lost some ground going from 11.7% to 11.1%.

Meanwhile, the support for the opposition Left increased by 0.8 of a percentage point to 8.8%.

The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) continues to lose voters' trust, going from 7.9% to 5.6%.

In contrast, the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) saw its support rise from 4.2% to 5.6%.

The top five are followed by the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), whose support was up by 1.4 percentage point to 4.1%, the Pirates with 2.5%, and the Greens with 2%.

All other parties enjoy the support of less than 1% of respondents.

One in four respondents is undecided (23.3%), and one in ten would not vote for any of the existing parties. Just under 3% of the respondents would not reveal their party preferences.

MEP Ljudmila Novak (EPP/NSi) climbed to the top of the list of most popular politicians from the third place last month. She is followed by last month's favourite, President Borut Pahor, and parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič. Prime Minister Janez Janša ranked 15th, while Education Minister Simona Kustec is at the very bottom of the list.

21 Aug 2021, 14:22 PM

STA, 21 August 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša and Interior Minister Aleš Hojs were heckled by anti-government protesters at a mountain hut below Mt Triglav, Slovenia's tallest peak, on Friday evening.

Video shared on social media and reports by media including N1 and Reporter show Janša and Hojs filmed being confronted by a group of protesters as they were sitting in front of the Kredarica mountain hut.

This was after anti-government protesters, who usually stage bicycle rallies in the centre of Ljubljana, marked the 70th week of protests by climbing Mt Triglav, bicycle in tow.

Various social media posts suggest the protesters and the government officials met by chance.

The interchange lasted several minutes, during which Janša and Hojs faced a barrage of criticism and insults while periodically exchanging statements with the protesters.

The authors of the video said Defence Minister Matej Tonin was also there, but he is not seen on video.

Tonin's party, New Slovenia (NSi), confirmed Tonin had climbed Mt Triglv on Friday independently, with a group of ministry officials.

On the way up he encountered protesters who hurled some insults at him and behaved inappropriately.

Reporter says a helicopter landed at the mountain hut at around 9:45 PM and took the officials to the valley.

The prime minister's office would not comment on the events beyond saying that Janša had gone to Triglav in his spare time.

Uroš Urbanija, the head of the Government Communications Office, tweeted that the actions by the protesters were "a primitive attack".

One of the activists, trade unionist Tea Jarc, subsequently wrote on Twitter that an opponent of the protest movement had punched her.

21 Aug 2021, 09:30 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, 13 August
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that passengers transiting through Slovenia will not be required to produce a Covid certificate only until 22 August, but from 23 August they will have to produce a certificate proving that they have either recovered from Covid-19, or been tested or vaccinated.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that people attending public cultural events will have to wear face masks as of 16 August, with the exception of performers. There are no changes regarding restrictions of public gatherings.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Administrative Court said it had rejected a request from prosecutors Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir to stay the government's May decision not to get formally acquainted with their appointment as Slovenia's European delegated prosecutors (EDPs). However, it effectively acknowledged that the government made a formal decision about which it may now decide on the merits.
        LJUBLJANA - The four centre-left opposition parties filed for an emergency session of parliament's Environment Committee to debate the alarming findings of the IPPC report for Slovenia and measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions, after the report showed Slovenia was warming at twice the rate of the global average.
        LJUBLJANA - A chamber representing small businesses called on the government to scrap the requirement of frequent testing of staff who have not been vaccinated or have not recovered from Covid-19, saying in any event the cost of testing should be covered by the state.
        BRNIK - Fraport Slovenija, the operator of Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport, said that 70,011 passengers and almost 6,800 aircraft movements were recorded in the first half of 2021, with the first figure being almost three times fewer than in the same period last year. An increased number of passengers was recorded in the last two months though.

SATURDAY, 14 August
        VALLADOLID, Spain - Slovenian Olympic champion in time trial Primož Roglič won the first stage of the 2021 Vuelta a Espana, another time trial, to take the red jersey already at the start of his bid to defend the 2020 Vuelta title. His compatriot Jan Tratnik finished third.

SUNDAY, 15 August
        BREZJE - Marking Assumption of Mary, Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore called for open-mindedness, acceptance and mutual respect as he said mass at Brezje, Slovenia's biggest pilgrimage site. Zore urged people to get vaccinated and pilgrims to Brezje indeed had a chance to get a jab on the spot.
MONDAY, 16 August
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan saying that violence should be ended, the civilian population, in particular women and children, be protected, and basic human rights standards upheld. PM Janez Janša described the chaos in Afghanistan and the handover of modern weapons to the Taliban as "the greatest defeat for NATO in history".
        LJUBLJANA - A group of Slovenian environmental NGOs called on Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec as a representative of the Slovenian EU presidency to propose a political discussion on the EU exiting the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) at the September informal meeting of ministers in charge of energy. They said the Energy Charter Treaty was an obstacle in the transition to clean energy.
        LJUBLJANA - Education Minister Simona Kustec announced she had tested positive for coronavirus, saying on Twitter she had been isolating since Saturday. All activities for the safe start of the school year continue, she added. Kustec is fully vaccinated.

TUESDAY, 17 August
        LJUBLJANA - Four centre-left parties said they were planning to file a motion to vote Education Minister Simona Kustec out of office, arguing that two weeks before the start of the new school year, it was still not clear how primary and secondary schools will organise the education process while the epidemiological situation in the country is deteriorating.
        ISTANBUL, Turkey - Defence Minister Matej Tonin attended the opening of the IDEF International Defence Industry Fair, where he also met his counterparts from Turkey and Kosovo, Hulusi Akar and Armend Mehaj.
        LJUBLJANA - Police have filed a criminal complaint against actor and drama teacher Matjaž Tribušon, 58, after young actress Mia Skrbinac publicly accused him of sexually harassing her while she was a student in 2014-2016 and filed a sexual harassment complaint at the University of Ljubljana last spring, Delo reported.
        LJUBLJANA - Insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav saw group net profit rise by 40% to EUR 47 million in the first half of the year as premium revenue rose across all segments and all markets. The company expects to hit end-year profit targets.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission has approved state aid worth EUR 1.3 million for the operator of the Postojna Cave, a global tourist attraction, to help it cope with the damage resulting from the closure due to the coronavirus. The aid covers the period between 26 October 2020 and 1 June 2021, when the Postojna Cave and the cave under Predjama Castle were closed.
WEDNESDAY, 18 August
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - EU home affair ministers agreed to send additional help in the form of experts and technical support to EU member states bordering Belarus, which have been facing a wave of illegal migrants. They also urged the EU to provide additional financial aid, calling for better control on the bloc's external border.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia is ready to accept up to five members of the Afghan staff that worked with the EU, to show solidarity with other EU member states, FM Anže Logar said, adding that, for the time being, Slovenia will not offer to take in additional refugees from Afghanistan.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) announced motions of no confidence in the environment and justice ministers, Andrej Vizjak and Marjan Dikaučič. The motions will be formally tabled once the remaining opposition parties have had their say.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a regulation banning the sale of single-use plastic products including plastic cutlery, plates and straws, ear swabs, stir sticks and balloon sticks. There are exemptions for industrial and medical use.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a watered-down version of amendments to the act on value added tax (VAT) after its first proposal was defeated in parliament in July. The new version preserves some of the key solutions but is narrower.

THURSDAY, 19 August
        LJUBLJANA - The latest reported daily figure of new confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia reached 381, down slightly from the almost three-month high registered on the day before. The positivity rate remained high, at 17%. The situation in hospitals remained broadly stable with 56 patients in hospital, of whom 10 were in intensive care.
        PORTOROŽ - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs met his Slovak counterpart Roman Mikulec to talk, among other things, about the issue of illegal migration from Belarus. Hojs said that Slovenia had already donated 10 kilometres of "technical obstacles" to Lithuania, and that two Slovenian police officers would be deployed there soon.
        MARIBOR - Andrej Rihter and Vinko Filipič quit the three-member management board of national postal operator Pošta Slovenije, and so did supervisors Franci Mihelič and Aleš Buležan. The former two are on the board together with Tomaž Kokot, who took over as interim director general on 1 April after long-serving Boris Novak resigned on 30 March.
        LJUBLJANA - Insurer Sava Re said it had generated a net profit of EUR 43.5 million in the first six months of 2021, an increase of 35.3% compared to the same period last year. The group collected gross premiums of EUR 414.5 million, a growth of 10.9%, show unaudited interim results.
        LJUBLJANA - Answering an appeal from the Trade Union of Hospitality and Tourism Workers, Slovenia's equal opportunities ombudsman assessed that the requirement for people to meet the recovered-vaccinated-tested (PCT) rule to access services, goods or venues is not discriminatory against the unvaccinated who could get vaccinated but have not.
        KOČEVJE - The state-owned forestry company SiDG, which has been managing state forests since July 2016, reported revenue of EUR 56 million and a net profit of EUR 7.5 million for 2020, a drop of 15% and 34%, respectively, compared to the previous year.


20 Aug 2021, 16:36 PM

STA, 20 August 2021 - Slovenia was expected to phase out as of next week free rapid testing for all but the most high-risk professions, but the government has now changed course. Employees in healthcare, education, retail and the events industry will continue to have access to free tests.

Employees in these sectors will have to test once a week, but the testing requirement does not extend to those who have been vaccinated, according to Education Ministry State Secretary Damir Orehovec.

The changed decree also stipulates that pupils in the last three years of primary school and all secondary-school students will self-test on a voluntary basis.

The tests will be free and available in pharmacies, Health Minister Janez Poklukar said after Friday's government session.

These students will also have to wear masks in school, including during classes, not just in communal areas.

The Education Ministry had initially proposed that teachers self-test, a plan supported by teachers, but this will not be rolled out immediately.

Poklukar said a legal basis for self-testing was now being prepared and may enter into effect after 6 September, assuming sufficient quantities of self-testing kits are available.

Branimir Štrukelj, the head of the teachers' trade union SVIZ, told the STA that teachers had expected self-testing from the get go.

"Nevertheless, we hope for the fundamental trust in the teaching profession to prevail," he said, adding that teachers would "responsibly, precisely and consistently" self-test to help preserve the stability of the educational system.

Another decree the government adopted today stipulates that athletes may do organised sport provided they are tested once a week, unless they are vaccinated or have had Covid-19. The new rule applies from 23 August.

20 Aug 2021, 12:40 PM

STA, 20 August 2021 - The government has confirmed a plan for a major new water source for the water-starved Istria region on the coast, a decision that has been welcomed by municipalities in the region but decried by local environmentalists as damaging for the environment.

The EUR 134 million project, confirmed by the government earlier this week, involves building a reservoir on Suhorca stream, and a smaller reservoir on the Padež, a larger stream of which Suhorca is a tributary.

The reservoir would supply water to three existing water supply systems in the region, which is typically very dry because of the karst terrain and, more recently, climate change.

The decision came after almost two years of public debates on the need for a new water source prompted by a train accident in mid-2019 during which a kerosene leak threatened to pollute water supplies for much of the region.

The plan was chosen over an alternative proposal to link up the three existing but separate water supply systems in the region, which would have reduced supply disruptions but would not have increased the overall volume of available water.

The coastal municipalities Ankaran, Izola, Koper and Piran have welcomed the government decision as a major step towards improving the reliability of supply.

In a joint statement issued on Friday, they said the decision was "not only a step towards sorting out water supply in Istria but also the start of resolution of one of the key national security issues."

Locals living in villages in Brkini, a hilly part of Istria where the streams will be dammed, have long opposed the project on environmental grounds and insist the project is hugely damaging.

They say untouched nature will be irreversibly damaged and the altered water regime will pose a risk to the Škocjan Caves, a UNESCO-listed natural wonder.

The government and the Environment Ministry "have clearly shown they don't care if unspoilt nature is irreversibly degraded, habitats and ecosystems destroyed, and the UNESCO status of global natural and cultural heritage lost," Mario Benkoč of the civil initiative Let's Preserve Brkini told the STA.

Brkini locals advocate the link-up of the existing water supply systems and urge the government to abandon the project immediately. A protest is planned in Suhorca Valley on Saturday.

20 Aug 2021, 11:49 AM

STA, 19 August 2021 - Police have uncovered a criminal ring that has been smuggling migrants from Bosnia via Croatia and Slovenia to Italy. According to the Koper Police Department, the ring consisted of six members - four Slovenians, one Kosovo citizens and another of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

A lengthy criminal investigation, conducted by investigators from the Koper Police Department in cooperation with Italian and Croatian police forces, was completed on 4 August.

During the investigation, the criminal ring either attempted to smuggle or successfully smuggled at least 17 citizens of Bangladesh, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan into Italy via Slovenia.

The members, aged between 20 and 43, used hired vans to smuggle migrants, and also delivered them food, drinks and fresh clothes. The police estimate that the group earned between EUR 68,000 and 85,000, but the exact amount was difficult to determine.

The cost of smuggling from Bosnia to Italy was between EUR 4,000 and 5,000 per person, and the cost of transport from the Croatian border through Slovenia to Italy was around EUR 350 per person.

One of the suspects was arrested by Italian authorities after fleeing from Italian police patrols. After the arrest, he was found to be a Kosovo citizen using forged documents.

In the final phase of the investigation, Slovenian police officers carried out two house searches in the Ljubljana area. They arrested a 31-year-old Slovenian, and a 33-year-old Bosnian citizen with a prior conviction.

The two suspects have been remanded in custody in Koper for risk of repeating the crimes, while the other four will be free during the criminal procedure, Dejan Grandič, deputy head of Koper criminal police, explained for the STA.

The suspects face fines and prison sentences ranging from three to 15 years.

In the first seven months of the year Slovenian police recorded 4,495 illegal border crossings, down by just over 40% year-on-year.

Grandič said fewer cases of smuggling illegal migrants had been recorded this year in the area policed by the Koper Police Department, south-west, while the number of illegal migrants had increased.

The Police Department processed 2,068 migrants entering illegally from Croatia until the end of July this year, up almost 11% from the same period last year.

"There is also more cases when individuals cross the green border, helping themselves with navigation," said Grandič.

The bulk of illegal migrants in the Koper police area this year have been citizens of Afghanistan (621), Pakistan (465), Bangladesh (216) and Turkey (188).

As many as 967 illegal migrants have been sent back to foreign law enforcement, the bulk to Croatia, while there has also been in a rise in migrants expressing an intent to ask for international protection, especially Afghan citizens.

According to Grandič, organisers of illegal migrations usually already have a criminal record, while there are different reasons why people decide to transport illegal migrants, he explained. "They can be either people at the bottom of the social ladder, jobless, addicts, younger people who see an opportunity to earn a quick buck ..."

19 Aug 2021, 11:25 AM

STA, 18 August 2021 - UKC Ljubljana, the country's largest hospital system, is getting ready to handle an anticipated surge in Covid-19 cases even as it performs all other health services to the maximum extent. The hospital is "ready for the challenge," said Matjaž Trontelj, the head of the hospital's governing board.

"This is a major challenge but one that needs to be handled. We have to find a balance due to the need to cut waiting times," he said after a session of the governing board.

The hospital currently has more than 250 beds ready for Covid-19 patients, according to Tatjana Lejko Zupanc, the head of the infectious diseases department.

At the peak of the second wave of the epidemic, it handled 350 Covid-19 patients at the same time (at Covid and regular wards) plus 70 in intensive care units.

There are almost 200 ICU beds available in total, almost twice as many as the hospital had before the pandemic.

"We are probably ready [for the fourth wave], though perhaps not to the extent that we want since we really don't know what awaits us," she said.

Last year the hospital turned parts of the gynaecology department and orthopaedic department into Covid wards, but this is not planned this year. The desire is to perform as many non-Covid services as possible.

"If the scope of the epidemic is really too large, it may happen that some services be curtailed, but they won't be completely shut down," said deputy director general Jože Golobič.

All the latest data on COVID and Slovenia

19 Aug 2021, 10:46 AM

STA, 18 August 2021 - An interpreter who had helped the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) on its mission in Afghanistan has made it to Kabul airport along with his family. They are now waiting for the first available flight out of the country, Defence Minister Matej Tonin told the broadcaster Kanal A on Wednesday.

The interpreter and his six-member family travelled four days to get from Herat to Kabul. It took them another two days to get to airport facilities guarded by US and Turkish troops, the N1 portal first reported.

According to N1, the Slovenian Defence Ministry is in regular contact with NATO allies to make sure the interpreter and his family are evacuated as soon as possible.

Slovenia will then take them in and grant them asylum status.

Minister Tonin confirmed the reports for the news show Svet, saying the family was waiting for safe passage to Slovenia.

He thinks evacuation flights will continue to be operated from the airport in Afghanistan's capital for some time. He said he had been told this by his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar on Tuesday when he met him in Istanbul.

The SAF had worked with another Afghan interpreter, who has not made it to the airport so far and neither has his family. Slovenia is willing to give all eight of them sanctuary as well.

"This is our moral duty as the interpreters had helped Slovenian soldiers. Now that their lives are at risk, Slovenia is helping them," Tonin said, adding: "For the remaining eight persons the evacuation will take more effort as they are not in Kabul."

Apart from these two families, Slovenia is also willing to welcome up to five Afghans who had assisted the EU out of solidarity with other EU countries, Foreign Minister Anže Logar announced today, adding that the country would not offer to take in any additional Afghan refugees beyond these for now.

18 Aug 2021, 13:51 PM

Slovenia Will Accept 5 More Afghan’s Who Worked With EU

STA, 18 August 2021 - Slovenia is ready to accept up to five members of the Afghan staff that collaborated with the EU to show solidarity with other EU member states, Foreign Minister Anže Logar said on Wednesday. For the time being, Slovenia will not offer taking in additional refugees from Afghanistan.

At an extraordinary meeting on the situation in Afghanistan on Tuesday, EU foreign ministers agreed that the member states should do their utmost to assist Afghans who have worked with the European Common Foreign Service over the past 20 years and bring them safely to the EU, thus avoiding possible reprisals by the Taliban regime.

According to Logar, there are between 400 and 500 persons who fall into this category. "The EU member states have expressed their willingness to share the burden in solidarity, depending on their size and reception capacity," Logar said, adding that Slovenia would take up to five persons.

Slovenia would accept these additional (up to) five Afghan EU collaborators alongside a group of 14 Afghan staff who have assisted the Slovenian Armed Forces and have already requested Slovenia's help and protection, as Defence Minister Matej Tonin explained on Tuesday evening.

Logar thus stressed on Wednesday that Slovenia was ready to accept those Afghans who have cooperated either with the Slovenian Armed Forces or the European diplomatic service.

On the possibility of accepting refugees from Afghanistan seeking shelter in Europe, Logar replied that Slovenia "will do what it takes within the EU solidarity formula, but will not offer take any additional burden in this respect for the time being".

Logar also said that there has been no major influx of migrants from Afghanistan so far, except to neighbouring countries. The EU will help the countries in the region that will bear the burden of these migrations, said the minister as he spoke to Slovenian correspondents in Brussels at a virtual press conference after Tuesday's meeting.

At the meeting, the ministers made it clear that there must be no repeat of the years 2015 and 2016, when more than one million refugees arrived in Europe, mostly from Syria.

"All the ministers have said clearly that we will not encourage a larger wave of migrants into Europe and that we will do everything in our power to limit this, if it occurs, to the countries bordering Afghanistan," Logar said.

The issue of migration to Europe, in particular from Afghanistan, will also be the subject of Wednesday's extraordinary virtual meeting of EU interior ministers and the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Slovenia in early September.

The EU foreign ministers shared the opinion that the EU must find a channel of communication with the Taliban regime, to be able to monitor and try to influence developments, to do everything to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for terrorism again, and also to prevent human rights violations.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell also said after the meeting that the EU would have to engage in dialogue with the Taliban to prevent a humanitarian and migration disaster.

Borrell "recognised the fact that the Taliban have taken power in Kabul and as such, they are the only possible interlocutor in the pursuit of EU objectives", including those regarding the rule of law and the protection of human rights, Logar said.

For Logar, however, the tragic fact is that "after 20 years, the Taliban successfully invaded Kabul and took power practically with light firearms, inflicting a severe defeat on the international community and its efforts".

But if we want to preserve at least part of what the international community has achieved in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, it is necessary to use diplomatic channels as levers of influence, said the head of Slovenian diplomacy.

On NATO's failure regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban, Logar believes that the Alliance is in for some in-depth debate and self-reflection.

"This episode with Afghanistan is certainly not something that NATO can be proud of," Logar said, adding that it was "a very costly lesson for NATO's future behaviour, especially in areas with a history that differs from the Western value system".

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