07 Oct 2020, 18:32 PM

STA, 7 October 2020 - The leaders of the four centre-left opposition parties have confirmed they have launched talks to form an alternative to the Janez Janša government based on an initiative led by economist Jože P. Damijan, who is willing to become prime minister.

Marjan Šarec, the former prime minister and leader of the LMŠ party, told reporters on Wednesday that the basis for talks was the Constitutional Arch Coalition initiative presented by Damijan.

The LMŠ, Social Democrats (SD), Left and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) deem the manifesto presented by Damijan acceptable because it contains points from their own platforms, which makes it a good basis for talks.

Šarec said they wanted to lead talks away from cameras and microphones. As for support to Damijan, he said nobody was bothered by him "but at this point we can't say we've reached common ground on everything already".

Despite differences of opinion in the past, SD leader Tanja Fajon said the four parties wanted a better country in which there would be more respect for democracy, independence of regulators, media, the constitution and laws. Asked about support to Damijan, she said everyone agreed in this initial phase that this was a good basis for further talks.

"Our country is being captured under the pretext of coronavirus. There's no time to wait for elections, an alternative must be formed here and now," said the leader of the Left Luka Mesec. He said Damijan was an appropriate candidate, and that if an agreement was reached, he would get the Left's support.

Alenka Bratušek said her party had committed to do everything in its power to re-establish a centre-left government, asserting that she believed "we are capable of agreeing on what needs to be done", and on staffing. But she said the programme must be agreed on first, only then came staffing decisions. She said whoever would get the most votes would be the new prime minister.

The four parties have a combined 39 seats in the 90-strong National Assembly, so they will also invite the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) to join the talks, to "give them an opportunity to jump off the train of madness that is hurtling into ruin", as Bratušek put it.

However, the two junior coalition parties do not seem impressed by the initiative, with SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek and interim DeSUS leader Tomaž Gantar rejecting it downright.

According to Počivalšek, leading a government "takes courage, going to the election, getting a mandate and executing what you plan". "But at this moment there is no alternative to this government," he told the STA.

Gantar said the matter did not warrant a commentary, arguing similar proposals have become a regular occurrence in the media. He has so far not heard of a good alternative to the current government, which he feels is doing a good job.

Gantar said the information that Karl Erjavec will attempt a comeback to the helm of the party would not affect DeSUS's position in the government. He said Erjavec had made no mention of not being able to work with Janša.

Matej Tonin meanwhile said New Slovenia (NSi) was interested in the platform of the initiative and the number of votes it would have in parliament. He told the STA the NSi was a party of dialogue and was ready to talk. But the NSi has not been invited to talks, he said on Facebook.

"I assess Slovenia needs a stable and homogeneous government in these crucial moments. The last thing we can afford in this situation is a political crisis and experimenting with some kind of transitional government," Tonin wrote.

Janša responded to the initiative by tweeting that "naming a small group of left and far-left parties and tiny parties a constitutional arch means to ridicule both the Slovenian language and Slovenia's constitutional order". "By definition a constitutional arch requires the representation of at least two-thirds of the electorate," he added.

The manifesto of the Constitutional Arch Coalition sets out as priorities an effective response to the coronavirus crisis in healthcare; infrastructure for a kind future; modern infrastructure, science and culture; a green and digital transformation and stimulating technological development and the marketing of breakthrough ideas.

As an effective response to the health crisis the manifesto calls for an immediate creation of regional centres to treat Covid-19 patients, and a plan to reduce waiting times. Health funding is to be increased by 1% of GDP in 2021 and by 3% of GDP by 2025.

To increase social security, the manifesto proposes introducing a minimum universal income and incorporating top-up health insurance in mandatory contributions by raising contribution rates.

Higher contribution rates would also fund a system of long-term care, while a demographic fund would help fund the burden of demographic transition.

The manifesto also promises affordable housing for young people and new capacities for elderly in care homes and sheltered apartments, which would be funded by transforming part of the Bank Assets Management Company into a housing fund.

The document also lists free pre-school care and education for all children, regulation of flexible forms of employment and distance jobs with full social security for all forms of work.

To fund the construction and renovation of the rail network, new schools and hospitals, the manifesto proposes to create an investment fund by issuing 30-year infrastructure bonds on the domestic market.

The manifesto also proposes for budget funding of research and development to be raised to 1% of GDP by 2025 and increasing culture funds by 20%.

07 Oct 2020, 12:43 PM

STA, 7 October 2020 - Slovenia has seen a new record daily increase in coronavirus infections as those nearly doubled to 356 on Tuesday, data from the government show. The total number of cases has now passed 7,000 and hospitalisations hit a record 122.

The latest cases come from a record 3,998 tests for Sars-CoV-2 performed on Tuesday, which means a positive test rate of 8.9%, another record high.

Slovenia Announces New Covid Guidelines, Restrictions Start Wednesday

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin, speaking at today's press briefing, said Slovenia's coronavirus incidence rate, that is the number of cases per 100,000 residents in a fortnight, rose to 116 after 106 the day before.

Hospitalisations rose to a new high of 122 to exceed the number seen in the first wave of coronavirus in spring; 22 patients require intensive care, which is still below the high of 36 seen in early April.

The new daily high comes just days after Slovenia logged a record of 238 on 1 October. It brings the overall case count since the start of the pandemic to 7,120, of which 2,426 remain active cases, data from the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org show.

The national Covid-19-related death toll remains unchanged at 159.

Aleš Rozman, director of the Golnik University Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases, told the press briefing that he was "very concerned" about the "sharp rise" in the epidemic and number of hospitalisations.

If harsh restrictions are taken now, and if everyone starts abiding by precautionary measures now, it will only show in ten to 14 days, he said.

He said Slovenian hospitals had already exceeded 70% of the capacities which they can allocate for Covid-19 patients without affecting other health services, but projected that 200 Covid-19 beds would be required in ten days and 300 by the end of the month.

They were trying to mobilise extra beds, but that would also entail halting other programmes in hospitals and consequently prolong waiting times.

A point is about to be reached when it will no longer be possible to move infected care home residents showing mild symptoms to nursing hospitals to isolate them, so Rozman urged care homes to set up so-called red-zones before infections occur.

An even bigger problem is a shortage of staff, Rozman said, referring to infected and quarantined staff, both as a result of infections in non-work environment and those brought to hospitals by patients that only developed symptoms days after being admitted.

Tracker data shows 16 of the latest cases are health staff and six among care home staff, but none among care home residents.

By far the largest number of new cases, 60, was recorded in the capital Ljubljana, which tracker data show has 410 active cases out of the total of 1,305 logged since the start of the pandemic.

The government briefing heard that community transmissions account for the bulk of new cases, with one problem being private parties such as weddings and birthday parties, which continue in contravention of restrictions.

Kacin mentioned a wedding party featuring 150 guests in Koroška, which has the highest infection rate per capita among all Slovenian regions.

Similarly, Rozman said the problem was private parties, as well as working environments where precautionary measures were not being heeded, as well as commute to work in private cars.

Both Rozman and Kacin appealed for solidarity and responsible conduct, with Kacin announcing that the government would take measures already announced and potential new ones on Thursday. They will become effective from Friday.

Mobilisation of new beds and staff in preparation of a surge in Covid-19 patients was discussed yesterday in a meeting between Health Minister Tomaž Gantar.

Rozman said the idea was to coordinate and pool bed and staff capacities of hospitals, in order to allow patients to be treated as near as their home as possible, which is why new hospitals are setting up Covid-19 departments.

In a post on its Twitter profile after the meeting, the Health Ministry said that Gantar on the occasion appealed for a joint effort to turn down the curve of infections. "Let's be serious and responsible. We can do it," the post reads.

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06 Oct 2020, 16:27 PM

STA, 6 October 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has presented guidelines adopted by the government to determine what anti-coronavirus measures to take, based on three parameters, the main one being the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients. He has already announced several new measures as of Thursday as Slovenia persists in the orange phase.

The guidelines, titled the Plan of measures for containing the second coronavirus wave, are featured in a table which sets the parameters for so-called orange and red phases, with respective measures being envisaged for each phase.

The parameters are the number of newly confirmed infections per 100,000 residents in the last 14 days, the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients and the number of patients who require ventilation.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday, Janša said that the number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients was the main parameter, and noting that since the spring, the government had managed to double the capacity for treatment of such patients.

When this number exceeds 60, Slovenia enters in the orange phase, and if it is higher than 140, it enters the red phase. The green phase means that residents are required to follow general rules such as distancing, hand sanitation and masks.

Janša said that Slovenia had been in the green phase all the way until the beginning of autumn, when the situation had worsened due to imported cases, and that some of the measures envisaged for the orange phase had to be taken in September.

These have not produced the desired results and, as of Thursday, additional measures will enter into force, including bars and restaurants needing to set up fewer tables across the same area, and serve only the guests sitting at tables.

Public and private gatherings will be restricted to 10 people, with the exception of religious ceremonies, weddings and supervised public cultural and sporting events, with consideration of all hygienic measures.

Another measure is restricting the number of persons in enclosed public spaces (shops, banks, post offices and other offices) relative to the size of the space, with details not specified.

Events will have to be held without food and drink being served, and visits to certain nursing homes and hospitals will be banned. The new measures are expected to be confirmed by the government on Wednesday.

Janša also noted the latest measure – mandatory installation of hand sanitisers in the shared areas in multi-apartment buildings, which will enter into force on Wednesday.

The government has almost exhausted the set of measures which do not significantly hamper public life, and if the number of infections continues to grow, it will have to declare an epidemic, which means stricter measures, he added.

"If the number of infected exceeds 140 per 100,000 residents in a 14-day period and if there are 250 patients in hospitals, more than 50 of them in intensive care, we will need to declare an epidemic," said Janša, adding that an epidemic would be automatically declared if Slovenia entered the red phase.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia

06 Oct 2020, 14:01 PM

STA, 6 October 2020 - Out of the 2,509 coronavirus tests conducted in Slovenia on Monday 189 came back positive as the daily case counts remain high and on an upward trajectory. Three people infected with coronavirus died and hospitalisations continued to rise, show fresh government data.

There were 111 Covid-19 patients in hospital yesterday, four more than on Sunday, including 20 in intensive care units, one fewer than the day before. Ten persons were discharged from hospital.

The death toll climbed to 159 as three Covid-19-related fatalities were recorded on Monday.

The latest cases were confirmed in 78 municipalities, with Ljubljana again recording the largest number of infections, 32.

The greatest share of those actively infected remains in Črna na Koroškem in the north (1.55%), where three new cases were confirmed yesterday.

Infections are also spreading inside health institutions. The Jesenice general hospital has seen 26 of its staff test positive for coronavirus. Infections have been confirmed in three patients as well.

The hospital has shut down three of its departments and suspended any non-urgent procedures due to staff shortages. Most of the infected staff are nurses, Anja Jovanovič Kunstelj, the hospital's director, has told RTV Slovenija.

The virus has found its way into two other hospitals as well, the Ljubljana UKC hospital, where there are currently ten infected staff and just as many infected patients, and the Maribor UKC hospital, where infections have been confirmed in eleven staff and one patient.

Slovenia currently has the incidence rate of 101 cases per 100,000 residents reported over the past fortnight, according to fresh data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

As case numbers are not going down, Prime Minister Janez Janša is expected to present new measures to tackle the second wave of infections and boost Covid-19 units capacities at a press conference in the afternoon, presumably at 3pm.

According to unofficial information, stricter rules for bars and shops are among the measures on the horizon, reported RTV Slovenija.

So far, Slovenia has seen 6,764 coronavirus cases. There are currently 2,206 active cases in the country, according to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries. All our stories on coronavirus and SloveniaCan I transit Slovenia? Find out from the police...

06 Oct 2020, 12:08 PM

STA, 5 October 2020 - Major Slovenian regulators have voiced opposition to plans to merge eight independent agencies into two super-agencies as part of government efforts to streamline the public administration. Some say the plan violates international rules and Slovenia's commitments under EU law, was made without any analyses and curbs their independence.

The Competition Protection Agency (AVK), one of the six agencies slated to be merged into an agency for market and consumers, said the plan ran "contrary to all democratic standards and regulations" as well as the 2018 EU directive on the strengthening of competition protection bodies.

It would "substantially reduce the independence of the agency, which is in explicit violation of the directive", the agency said on Monday.

The Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) said the merger did not ensure regulatory independence. "The proposal is incompatible with multiple EU directives, in particular in the sense of ensuring the independence of the regulatory authority, a demand of directives in all areas covered by the agency," AKOS director Tanja Muha told the press.

The Securities Market Agency (ATVP) said the proposal was unsuitable since the stock market regulator was supposed to be truly independent, not just on paper. But under the proposal, the government would appoint the management and the governing council of the new agencies, which would be "a step back".

Similarly, the Agency for Insurance Supervision (AZN), which would together with the ATVP form a new agency for financial markets, said the new legislation would not bring "more efficient supervision" of the financial market as the agency's independence would diminish.

The only legitimate purpose of merging regulators is more efficient supervision, or equally efficient but financially more viable, AZN boss Gorazd Čibej said.

He said expert views needed to be carefully weighed on before any systemic change to regulators, especially when bodies of strategic importance for financial supervision and stability are concerned.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), which would be merged with the road safety and rail transport agencies, told the STA the plan violated the basic tenets of international regulations in which competent independent bodies are the foundation of aviation safety.

It said the stated goal of streamlining was untenable since the agency needed to secure a sufficient number of qualified staff and staff cuts would render it impossible to carry out the prescribed tasks. In 2014, the agency had already been the subject of EU infringement proceedings due to insufficient staffing.

What is more, aviation safety has "nothing to do with consumer protection or market regulation" and the two agencies with which it is supposed to be merged have completely different powers.

The agencies said they had neither been briefed nor consulted about the plan. They received the proposal on Thursday and were given until today to submit comments. The ATVP did not even receive the proposal, but found it on the internet.

The agencies also object to how the new management and supervisory bodies would be appointed since the government would have the final say.

The director of the Energy Agency Duška Godina said such a merger and government appointment powers would be in violation of EU law on the energy market while bringing no benefits for users.

She said that no analysis had been put forward to substantiate the merger of incompatible agencies, which could in fact lead to additional costs.

Godina stressed energy regulators had primarily been established to keep decisions independent of economic and political interests. This independence is clearly in peril, including because the regulator needs to be able "to independently decide on how much human and financial resources it needs for successful and effective work".

The Public Agency for Railway Transport (AŽP) said that it is not a regulator for railway transport and that its activities are not related to keeping track of market conditions as is the case with most other agencies that are to be merged.

AŽP, established on the basis of EU law and under direct oversight of the EU Agency for Railways, is a security, licensing, inspection and penalising body designed to secure safety in railway transport, the agency said.

It examined the proposal nonetheless, but was not able to recognise any positive effects of a merger. "The present AŽP organisational model is completely adequate in our opinion; this was also confirmed in the oversight by the EU Agency for Railways."

The Traffic Safety Energy intends to issue a response on Tuesday.

The Economy Ministry, which drafted the proposal, said the proposal was currently subject to talks among various government departments and expected the coordination would result in a "consensus for positive change".

Prime Minister Janez Janša meanwhile said on Twitter that the proposal was modelled on the Dutch system, which was considered "one of the most efficient and transparent models in the EU".

06 Oct 2020, 12:03 PM

STA, 5 October 2020 - Prime Minster Janez Janša presented a draft bill on a National Demographic Fund, a new overarching state fund designed to pool all state assets to shore up the pension system, to the Economic Social Council (ESS) on Monday before the government adopted it later in the day.

Janša told the government's social partners on the ESS - employers and trade unions - it would be only right for the generation of pensioners which created state assets to benefit from them when it retired.

He said part of the funds would go for pensions, part for long-term care and part for construction of care homes and for family policy measures.

The bill, which follows the principle of social justness, will be discussed by the ESS and in parliament simultaneously, and the debates will aim to be as efficient as possible so as to prevent unnecessary delays, Janša was quoted as saying by his office.

The Finance Ministry noted as the government adopted the bill today that the costs of population ageing would increase from 21.9% of GDP in 2016 to as much as 28.2% by 2070. The number of pensioners is expected to rise by some 20% in the next 50 years.

The bill is to take over the assets currently held by Slovenian Sovereign Holding, the bad bank, the para-state DSU and KAD funds, the pension insurer Modra Zavarovalnica and the stake in insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav currently held by public pension insurer ZPIZ.

The assets to be managed by the Demographic Fund are currently valued at almost EUR 8.6 billion and according to current plans, 40% of dividends and 60% of proceeds from the sale of stock would be retained so that the assets under management grow in the long term. 40% of the dividends would finance public pensions, while the rest would go towards financing family policies and construction of nursing homes.

Following Janša's presentation of the bill, Jakob Počivavšek of the Pergam association of public sector trade unions told the press a proper debate would still have to be held at an ESS session and within the negotiating group which the ESS has already established.

He said Pergam found some points controversial, including the use of funds for day-to-day costs and the absence of other sources of financing. The union is also reserved about the idea of merging assets and the influence of politics on the management of assets.

Employers' Association head Jože Smole said he expected a constructive debate. "Our starting point needs to be that this bill, given its importance, receives the widest possible social consensus, with social dialogue being one of the options of coordination," he said, expressing optimism about the outcome.

Smole welcomed Janša's decision to present the bill in person, saying this was a sign of respect for social dialogue.

Director general of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) Sonja Šmuc said employers were mostly interested in how companies under the fund would be able to develop. "It is important to find the right balance between the investment and dividend policies," she said.

Secretary general of the Union of Shop Assistants Ladi Rožič expressed concern that there "will not be enough money to fulfil all the wishes". Janša said all remarks would be taken into account, but there will most certainly be a lot of desires, Rožič said.

In the afternoon, the prime minister also discussed the bill and the rival opposition-sponsored bill on the new fund with the head of the Association of Pensioners (ZDUS), Janez Sušnik. Sušnik told the STA both bills had some good solutions, but while the government's is bolder, the opposition's is more savings-oriented.

Sušnik and Janša agreed that a ZDUS task force will prepare its remarks to the government proposal within 10 days. ZDUS welcomes the planned concentration of state investments within the fund but only if no assets are sold, Sušnik said.

A potentially good solution from the opposition-sponsored bill is according to ZDUS collecting part of the funds from excise duties, income tax and other sources.

The opposition Social Democrats (SD) also started presenting their bill today after submitting it to parliament with the support of the fellow opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB).

The proposal, which stipulates that the money generated with the help of the fund would be used exclusively for pensions after 2040 and for protecting strategically important companies from privatisation, was presented to the ZZZS trade union confederation, but the SD would also like it discussed by the ESS.

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), the Left, SD and SAB today repeated their criticism of the government-sponsored bill, with LMŠ head Marjan Šarec saying it envisaged looting of all that was left in this country. Labelling the fund a smokescreen, he said it was a way to bribe the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which has been demanding such a fund.

Left leader Luka Mesec said the bill was about "the kidnapping of state assets" and warned that some of Slovenia's strategic companies could fall in the hands of the oligarchy around Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

All our stories on demographis in Slovenia

05 Oct 2020, 17:40 PM

STA, 5 October 2020 - Aleksandra Pivec stepped down as agriculture minister on Monday following her recent resignation as the leader of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). She resigned as minister just a few hours before the National Assembly was to vote on her dismissal and after presenting her take on her fallout with DeSUS.

Addressing parliament, Pivec said she had been the target of an unprecedented smear campaign. "It's difficult to find a case in the history of independent Slovenia where a politician was brought down in such an orchestrated and demeaning way."

She stressed this was not the end of her political career but "only a challenge for a new beginning". Speaking to the press later on, she said she would take a short break to think things over. She is, however, not considering joining another party, forming her own or joining the prime minister's office.

Announcing her irrevocable resignation, Pivec told MPs she did not want to be judged by politicians who do not accept individuals who work to the benefit of the people.

According to Pivec, the taxpayers deserve to have an insight into the "games behind the scenes, where only private interests count, while the needs of the state and society are pushed aside".

She said MPs would dismiss her because she was giving priority to the actual problems of ordinary people, and worked with farmers, forest managers, fishermen, craftsmen, the elderly and other citizens.

She said she had not been guided by the interests of her party or political elites. "You expected more benefits for individuals in the party and other political elites from me. My opposing this was obviously seen as a mistake, but I think this should become a model for the functioning of any politician."

The outgoing minister said she had been working during weekends and holidays too, and that her "biggest sin" had obviously been the fact that she had devoted some time to her family during her work at the weekends.

"A few slices of pršut, a glass of Teran and our staying the night have become the biggest corruption scandal in Slovenia," she said in a reference to what is seen as her ethics transgressions related to her two official trips to the coast in the capacity of minister which led to a revolt against her within DeSUS.

"Let's be open here. It's my fight against corruption in Slovenian forests and revelations of thefts there that was one of the main reasons for my dismissal."

Before today's parliamentary debate on Pivec's dismissal virtually all parties announced they would vote for the dismissal, with the head of the opposition LMŠ and former PM Marjan Šarec saying Pivec would do everyone a favour by stepping down herself.

Pivec said the advocates of her dismissal were not interested in the achievements of her ministry such as increasing its budget to EUR 143 million, changes to the legislation on farm land or changes to the drawing of EU funds.

Jožef Horvat from the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) said the NSi had no major objections to her work and that it regretted this debate was even taking place. Similarly, Zmago Jelinčič from the opposition National Party (SNS) said Slovenia had much bigger corruption problems than the Pivec case.

In contrast, Robert Pavšič from the LMŠ said Pivec had not only failed as politician but had completely neglected her tasks. Matej T. Vatovec from the Left said Pivec's actions and behaviour were the "symptom of all that is wrong with this government". He said she was the "symptom of political elites alienated from the people and of putting own interests before the interests of the community", the "symptom of politics which is defending its corruption and desire for power with all forces".

Although the prime minister has seven days to notify the speaker of a minister's resignation, PM Janez Janša already sent the note to the National Assembly today and the parliament already took note of the resignation, thus relieving Pivec of her duties.

The prime minister has now ten days to put forward a new candidate, temporarily give the post to another minister or take over at the ministry himself. Once a new candidate is announced, they must be presented to the relevant parliamentary body within seven days before parliaments votes on the candidate.

DeSUS has already announced it will put forward Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Jože Podgoršek, so the procedure is expected to be somewhat shorter.

Pivec resigned as DeSUS leader in early September, after only around eight months at the helm of the party, following a rebellion within DeSUS which was prompted by her two official trips to the Kras region and Izola. Today she also left the party and contrary to her earlier announcement, she will not stand for DeSUS leader at the congress in November.

DeSUS deputy group leader Franc Jurša said today Pivec's resignation had been expected yet had come a bit late. He expects some tough times for the party ahead of the congress, which he expects to elect a leader who will be willing to do everything for the party to enter parliament in the next election.

05 Oct 2020, 12:29 PM

STA, 5 October 2020 - Slovenia recorded 75 new coronavirus cases from 1,034 tests carried out on Sunday, and another fatality as hospitalisations and intensive care cases climbed further, data from the government show.

The latest figures bring Slovenia's overall tally of cases to 6,573 and the death toll from Covid-19 to 156. There are just over 2,100 active cases, according to tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

The number of patients hospitalised with the novel disease rose by six to 107, with 21 requiring intensive treatment, that is five more than the day before. Eight patients were discharged yesterday.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin noted that the lower daily case count was due to fewer tests taken, warning that the rate of positive tests remained high, at 7.25% on Sunday after 8.6% the day before.

Moreover, compared to the Sunday a week ago, the number of daily cases rose by 50%, from 50 to 75.

He declared that Tuesday will be the "day of truth". If infections increase further and the trend cannot be contained, "it's very likely we'll have to present certain measures".

He referred to possible measures announced by the government's chief Covid-19 advisor, Bojana Beović, who has talked of a new cap on gatherings and number of people allowed inside shops and bars.

"Her projections are realistic. It's not a measure that would take us days to prepare," said Kacin, suggesting gatherings in private and public places would be limited to ten people flat except when a higher number is sanctioned explicitly by the National Institute of Public Health.

Hospital capacities are becoming stretched due to the rising number of Covid-19 patients, coupled with infections emerging at non-Covid units.

UKC Ljubljana, Slovenia's largest hospital, said today that ten patients and ten staff at the vascular disease unit have tested positive, so they will no longer admit patients there this week.

Meanwhile, one infection has been confirmed in the past days at the UKC Ljubljana's pulmonary disease and allergy unit, where the situation will continue to be monitored.

The UKC Department of Infectious Disease, Slovenia's main Covid-19 treatment facility, is moving non-Covid patients to the Peter Držaj hospital in the Šiška borough, thus freeing up 19 beds at the regular unit and ten intensive care beds for Covid-19 patients.

Coronavirus depresses Ljubljana tourism

STA, 5 October 2020 - Ljubljana, which has become Slovenia's top tourist destination in the past decade, has suffered a significant blow this year, as the coronavirus pandemic suspended air travel. This summer, the capital recorded a total of 160,341 overnight stays, 75% less than last summer.

Director of the Turizem Ljubljana agency Petra Stušek has told the STA that the number of overnight stays in the first eight months of the year reached 425,178, while the number reached 335,132 in August last year alone.

Ljubljana usually draws a great number of foreign tourists, while Slovenians are more likely to stay away. However, this July and August the share of overnights by Slovenians went to 14% from 2.1% in the same period last year. Most overnights were still generated by foreigners: Germans, Italians, Dutch, French and Austrians.

Following the coronavirus lockdown in spring, seven of the city's 44 hotels remained closed due to the drop in visitors, said Stušek, adding that vacancy capacities were down 16% this summer.

Of the 22 hotels included in the agency's basic statistics, 16 are open at the moment, providing 3,873 of the total of 5,022 beds, she added.

"The future depends on a number of factors: epidemiological situation in Slovenia and in our close markets, border regimes, quarantine orders, air traffic and aid from the state," she said.

Meanwhile, the hotels have largely managed to avoid cancellation of conferences planned in Ljubljana this year, with most being postponed to next year, said Stušek.

Even though hybrid events are becoming a trend for scientific and expert events, Stušek believes that in-person events still have a future, as direct personal contact is an important factor.

Stušek also expressed the wish that Slovenia increase the cap on the number of people at gatherings. "Organisers know each participant and are very eager to see participants arrive and leave the event healthy, because this will affect all future events and thus their livelihoods."

Turizem Ljubljana is planning a number of events for this autumn and winter, all in line with the recommendations of the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ). In November, Gourmet Ljubljana will take place as a series of small events, while December will feature winter holiday events.

Stušek said that the city wanted to see as many events as possible take place, as it tries to attract guests from Slovenia, as well as Italy, Austria, Germany, Croatia, Hungary and Serbia.

03 Oct 2020, 15:12 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 2 October 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: The way to a new govt

STA, 2 October 2020 - The left-leaning magazine Mladina argues in the latest editorial that the only way to stop Slovenia being turned into a "little Hungary" is to find a non-partisan candidate for PM and a merger between several current coalition and opposition parties.

The editor-in-chief Grega Repovž lambastes the opposition for its response to calls this week to close its ranks and establish whether it is capable before the election to stop "Slovenia's being turned into a little Hungary with one leader and one party and its satellites, with limited media freedom, party-run economy etc.".

He finds it ludicrous that former PM Marjan Šarec should have offered himself as a candidate considering that he had blown his chances as PM by "stupidly" resigning, after showing himself as a bad leader.

Repovž goes on to say that the prospects for Šarec's LMŠ party are not promising, as are not for the Left and its leader Luka Mesec, who lost credibility in voters' eyes when it parted their ways with the Šarec-led coalition.

Voters blame the Left and the LMŠ for bringing PM Janez Janša to power, and "the arrival of something new", i.e. a new party, will be destructive for both, writes Repovž, adding: "And this new something will arrive."

He goes on to say that SocDem leader Tanja Fajon neither has the political power nor skills to be PM and does not appear to be capable of strengthening her party.

For anything to change, it has to be in the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Repovž says, adding that while DeSUS might survive, the SMC has no future as an independent party, while both parties know they cannot recover as long as they continue in coalition with PM Janez Janša.

"The only serious chance for a potential attempt to form a coalition is a candidate for PM who does not belong to any of the parties and is a powerful enough personality (a former publicly esteemed politician) on the one hand, and a process to form a new political party within the current parliament on the other."

Repovž proposes a merger between the SMC, SAB and DeSUS and possibly another party, saying that the whole proposition seems unlikely but is the only way out of the current situation, while anything else is hopeless.

Reporter: Scenarios for a new government

STA, 28 September 2020 - The right-wing weekly Reporter looks at potential scenarios that could lead to a new government in the latest editorial, saying that unless the Janez Janša government gets a vote of no confidence by the end of the year or by the end of the winter, the third Janša's government will be firmly in the saddle until the next election in the spring of 2020.

Janša is back in power not so much thanks to the voters of the Democrats (SDS), who gave the party the most votes in the June 2018 election, but primarily thanks to Marjan Šarec, who resigned as prime minister at the end of January and his coalition partners, who denied him support, starting with the Left.

And now this left-leaning lot is working on creating a new government, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says. They say that they could agree on at least five key projects but the problem is they cannot agree on who would be the new prime minister.

Former PM Alena Bratušek has sensed the opportunity to return to power and could offer to be a compromise solution, as Šarec and SocDem leader Tanja Fajon have publicly clashed, both wanting the post.

Šarec's argument is that his LMŠ party still has the most votes among left parties, while Fajon claims it would be ridiculous if Šarec became prime minister again, given that he had resigned from the post.

However, the LMŠ, SD, SAB and the Left have only 39 votes in the 90-member parliament, so they would have to get at least seven votes from the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and Modern Centre Party (SMC) for their no-confidence motion to succeed.

After Aleksandra Pivec resigned as DeSUS head the chances of at least four of its MPs changing sides are a little bit bigger. But in that case at least three SMC MPs would also be required. Some say that even SMC head Zdravko Počivalšek could change sides.

But these are nothing but political calculations. In the 30-year-history of independent Slovenia, the country has never had three governments in a single term and the left has never been so fragmented, Šurla says.

Perhaps, everything is merely a show for voters of left-leaning parties. So that their leaders could say that they did what they could to beat Janša but failed. "Taking on the responsibility and rule in these difficult times of the epidemic and multi-billion gap in the state budget is no walk in the park."

Only the SD has a relatively stable election base, while the LMŠ, Left and SAB do not, so their interest is primarily political survival. Hence their selfishness and political calculations. The joint interests of the left bloc come second to them. Being a veteran politician Janša knows that very well, Šurla says under the title Mission Impossible, Part III.

All our posts in this series are here

03 Oct 2020, 13:14 PM

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, 25 September

        SKOPJE, North Macedonia - President Borut Pahor urged for the EU to launch accession talks with North Macedonia without delay, as he met his counterpart Stevo Pendarovski at the outset of a two-day official visit. He reiterated Slovenia's support for North Macedonia's bid to join the EU and said Slovenia was in favour of bringing all countries in the region into the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar affirmed Slovenia's commitment to "enhanced and reformed multilateralism" as he delivered a virtual address to the Alliance for Multilateralism on the sidelines of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. He said multilateralism needed to be based on trust, respect and international law.
        LJUBLJANA - MPs of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) formally requested that Prime Minister Janez Janša dismiss Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec, the former leader of their party. Jože Podgoršek, state secretary at the ministry, was proposed as her successor. Under agreement reached with other coalition partners on 29 September, Janša asked the National Assembly to dismiss Pivec. The vote will be taken next week.
        LJUBLJANA - Ivan Gale, who came forward with accusations of flawed procurement of medical supplies during the first wave of coronavirus, was reported to be facing losing his job at the Agency for Commodity Reserves. TV Slovenija reported that Gale was summoned by the agency's director Tomi Rumpf for an interview before he is handed a dismissal notice on suspicion that he closed detrimental contracts for PPE supply.
        LJUBLJANA - The recently unveiled deregulation plan was the main target of the 23rd protests against the government. A "Ministry of the Rich" banner was unveiled in front of the Ministry of Finance as Tea Jarc, the head of the trade union Mladi Plus, spoke about a tax reform that would mean lower taxes for the rich and public service cuts for everyone else.
        KOPER - Media reported that the Koper Higher Court had quashed a prison sentence against Igor Bavčar, the former CEO of Istrabenz, in a case related to a 2007 transaction involving shares of logistics company Intereuropa, and ordered a retrial.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Author, actor and street theatre producer Andrej Rozman - Roza won the Večernica Prize for the best youth and children's book written in the past year. The jury said the collection marked Roza's "return to linguistic nonsense."

SATURDAY, 26 September
        LJUBLJANA - The 20th Ljubljana Pride Parade remained focused on the rights of LGBT+ persons, but the rally highlighted broader social rights that are seen as being at risk. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the event was held in the form of ten smaller rallies that then converged in front of Parliament House.

MONDAY, 28 September
        MADRID, Spain - FM Anže Logar met his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Lay with the pair agreeing that the key to true and strong partnership was solidarity, connectivity and unity.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor discussed with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres via a video call the latest escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the situation in the Western Balkans and the Covid-19 pandemic. He pledged full support for the secretary general's efforts for the tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh to calm down.
        POZNAN, Poland - Attending an extended meeting of Visegrad Group agriculture ministers through Minister Aleksandra Pivec, Slovenia did not join a call reflecting the group's stance in favour of equalising common agriculture policy subsidies across the bloc. The meeting featured ministers from the Visegrad Group as well as Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania.
        LJUBLJANA - The 30th anniversary of constitutional amendments that severed key constitutional ties with Yugoslavia and were crucial on Slovenia's path to independence were marked with a ceremony at the Presidential Palace. President Borut Pahor urged a return to the bipartisan efforts seen in that period.
        LJUBLJANA - A Slovenian-Chinese business council was set up at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. More than 30 founding members decided for the move to create better conditions for strengthening ties between Slovenia and China, and help companies access the Chinese market.

TUESDAY, 29 September
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed the fifth stimulus package designed to help alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. There were no major changes compared to the previous version of the bill, which entails measures for healthcare, labour, social security, economy, education, justice, criminal sanctions, agriculture and infrastructure.
        LJUBLJANA - Travel restrictions for passengers arriving from countries which are not on its green list were loosened under a government decree. Passengers with a negative test no older than 48 hours and performed by a credible lab either in Slovenia, the EU or the Schengen zone, not longer have to quarantine. Passengers arriving from orange countries within the EU or the Schengen zone will not have to present a negative test to avoid quarantine.
        LJUBLJANA - The government ordered the Public Administration Ministry and the telecommunications market regulator to put in place rules on enhanced security of fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications networks. The regulator and the body in charge of information security will get additional powers to demand from operators that they ensure their networks are secure.
        LJUBLJANA - Addressing an AmCham event, PM Janez Janša said Slovenia had the potential to become one of the 15 most competitive countries in the world, which could be achieved by improving the support system for business, de-bureaucratisation and a more efficient public sector.
        LISBON, Portugal - Foreign minister Anže Logar and his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva discussed their countries' upcoming stints at the presidency of the Council of the EU. The ministers agreed that both countries shared views on many European and international issues.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the defence act allowing some soldiers to stay on duty even after turning 45. Others will be employed by other state bodies without a pay cut.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed legislation that will close stores on Sundays and public holidays with the exception of small shops at places such as service stations, airports, train and bus stations and in hospitals, and small shops where the customers will be served by proprietors themselves with the assistance of students and pensioners.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed amendments to the state prosecution act under which a prosecutor's decision to dismiss charges for offences carrying more than three years in prison will have to be signed off by the head of the prosecution service. For offences carrying prison sentences of eight or more years, the head of the prosecution will need to consult two other prosecutors.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly confirmed a 2% rise in pensions that will go ahead in December, capping months of debates. The government provided assurances that the move was fiscally feasible.
        LJUBLJANA - Zvonko Černač, the minister for development and European cohesion policy, called for a flexible, simplified and goal-oriented approach to cohesion policy in the EU's next multi-annual financial framework, as he addressed a high-level debate hosted by the German EU presidency. He said national authorities knew best where the money is needed.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a set of changes to the communicable diseases act which aim to increase vaccination rate by making vaccination mandatory for kindergarten children to at least 95% from 93% at present.

WEDNESDAY, 30 September
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission raised several issues in its Rule of Law Report for Slovenia, expressing concern about a lack of resources for key independent bodies like the corruption watchdog and networks regulator, and pressure exerted on journalists through lawsuits and online harassment. The Foreign Ministry said the report was relatively favourable, while the opposition said it was worrying Slovenia was nearing the countries which did not respect the rule of law.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia reached a new record in daily coronavirus cases, as 203 tested positive in a total of 3,391 tests. The share of positive tests was 5.99%, lower than in earlier days but still at a level deemed worryingly high.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The government adopted budget proposals for the next two years under which the pandemic-driven deficit is projected to decrease from 9.2% of GDP this year to 5.6% in 2021 and 3.1% in 2022. Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said the budgets were "development-oriented" with investment funding increasing significantly.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted amendments to the foreigners act to tighten provisions on residence permits and reintroduce solutions that would provide for the triggering of a special regime in the event of a massive influx of illegal migrants seeking asylum. The proposal includes similar solutions to those planned under controversial amendments passed in 2017 that were quashed by the Constitutional Court.
        VIENNA, Austria - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg discussed preparations for the upcoming centenary of the Carinthia plebiscite and the position of the Slovenian ethnic minority in Austria. EU topics, including the new migration pact, were also on the agenda.
        NEW YORK, US - President Borut Pahor said the high rate of decline in biodiversity was a serious threat to life on Earth and undermined human progress, as he addressed the UN Biodiversity Summit via videolink. He reaffirmed Slovenia's commitment to mitigation efforts.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor wrapped up the first round of consultations with deputy groups as he prepares to nominate a candidate for a Constitutional Court judge. He announced that Anže Erbežnik, a professor at the Nova Gorica-based European Faculty of Law, had the best chances of getting the required support in parliament. Arjana Brezigar Masten is the likely candidate for a vice-governor post at the central bank.
        LJUBLJANA - Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik and representatives of municipalities signed an agreement that raises the lump sum which municipalities receive per resident from the state. The budget transfer, which was raised from EUR 589 to EUR 624 in April under the new government, will be EUR 628 in 2021 and 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - Janez Žlak, currently serving as executive director for energy and environment at the energy company Petrol, was appointed new chairman of Slovenian Sovereign Holding, which manages over EUR 10 billion worth of state equity stakes. Žlak will succeed Gabrijel Škof, who resigned in July.
        LJUBLJANA - Telecommunications company Telekom Slovenije announced that the sale of Planet TV to Hungarian media company TV2 Media had been finalised. The purchase consideration is EUR 5 million, but Telekom also provided a capital injection via a debt to equity conversion before finalising the transaction.
        LJUBLJANA - Germany added the northern Koroška region to its list of Covid-19 high-risk areas after doing the same a week ago for the western region of Primorsko-Notranjska. Switzerland put the entire country on its quarantine list effective on 29 September.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Gallery launched an exhibition of the Prague Castle Picture Gallery masterpieces. The rare European art collection features paintings from Titian, Rubens and Holbein the Younger and is a result of Emperor Rudolf II's zeal for collecting.

THURSDAY, 1 October
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša was formally indicted of abuse of office over a property sale carried out in 2005. Janša is one of the three persons indicted in a case that case revolves around a plot of land in the Trenta Valley that he sold in 2005 and which was subsequently resold several times, in what the prosecution believes was a chain of related transactions that ended up unlawfully benefiting him.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Prime Minister Janez Janša arrived at the EU summit hopeful that the EU would be able to mount a united show of solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in their dispute with Turkey. As for Belarus, he was hopeful that EU leaders would be capable of supporting the democratic desires of the people of Belarus.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor pointed to the need to accelerate attaining women's rights as he addressed an online UN summit marking the 25th anniversary of the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. He acknowledged there was still much room for improvement,
        LJUBLJANA - An initiative for Slovenia to notify its legal succession to the Austrian State Treaty was filed to parliament, just days before the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite, which left a portion of Slovenians in Austria after WWI. The initiative is spearheaded by legal expert Ivan Kristan and sociologist Niko Toš.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court stopped legal proceedings in the case of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general, Dnevnik reported. The court made the decision based on the criminal procedure act, which says legal procedures stop if the defendant dies.
        LJUBLJANA - Fuel prices in Slovenia became fully deregulated as the decree on administered prices for regular petrol and diesel at service stations outside motorways and expressways expired and was been extended by the government.
        LONDON, UK - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecast a 7.5% contraction of Slovenia's GDP in 2020, a downgrade of two percentage points from May. Partial recovery is expected in 2021 when the economy is projected to grow by 3.5%, which compares to 5% in the May forecast.
        LJUBLJANA - Delo reported that the prosecution dismissed in late August charges over the sale of a plot by the state-owned bad bank to Japanese-owned Swiss company Lonstroff for an elastomer plant in Logatec. The complaints targeted Janez Škrubej, a former executive director of the bad bank, Peter Weber, Lonstroff Slovenia director, and Vlado Petek, director of the real estate firm Svet Re.

03 Oct 2020, 10:25 AM

STA, 3 October 2020 - Face masks will no longer be required for nursery and kindergarten children and primary and secondary school pupils in their class, and for teachers up to the third grade of primary school, under a decision taken by the government last night.

Higher education and university teachers will also not be required to wear masks provided they hold lectures from behind a plexiglass or other type of protective screen. Gym teachers will also not be required to wear masks.

Meanwhile, teachers from the 4th grade of primary school on and secondary school teachers will be required to wear face masks when they cannot keep a distance of at least two meters from pupils during class.

The decision, taken at a cabinet correspondence session, comes after Slovenia registered a record number of daily coronavirus cases for Thursday, at 238, although Education Ministry data show the number of infections at schools has been falling.

Data as of Friday show that one month into the new school year, 0.03% of all pupils and staff at nurseries, kindergartens, and primary and secondary schools are infected, while 0.36% are self-isolating.

Moreover, the Education Ministry noted yesterday that the number of infections had been slightly decreasing in the past week compared with mid-September. Most active infections were recorded on 17 September, at 176, with 136 active infections on 1 October.

The government yesterday also passed a decree under which hand sanitisers will have to be placed at entrances and lift doors of multi-apartment buildings.

The government also relocated EUR 2.5 million for the European Commission Emergency Support Instrument for advance payments to manufacturers of promising vaccines against Covid-19.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries. All our stories on coronavirus and SloveniaCan I transit Slovenia? Find out from the police...

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