07 Jan 2020, 09:13 AM

STA, 6 January 2020 - The coalition Social Democrats (SD) want Slovenia and the EU to help Australia fight bushfires, by offering civil protection resources and other forms of assistance to save lives.

The party formally asked the government on Monday to offer assistance to Australia given that Slovenia has one of the best civil protection systems in the world and a broad network of voluntary firefighters.

Slovenia should also offer secondary assistance by supporting NGOs that want to help Australia with activities such as reforestation and protection of animal and plant species.

Meanwhile, the party's MEPs Tanja Fajon and Milan Brglez urged the European Commission to draw up a plan of joint EU activities and form a European unit pooling together free civil protection and firefighting resources from across the bloc.

However, the office of Slovenia's European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič told the STA it had not received the initiative yet.

It noted though that the EU and its members had mechanisms to help, but that the Australian authorities must first request aid.

Australia last asked for EU assistance last November, when the EU's Copernicus Earth observation programme provided it with satellite images of New South Wales.

According to unofficial information, Australia has requested satellite images from Copernicus five times so far but has never requested aid from the EU's mechanisms for civil protection.

Sources in Brussels say that highly developed countries outside the EU usually do not request this type of aid, which is why some find the SD initiative somewhat unusual.

A total of 24 people have died in the Australian bushfires since the end of September, and more than 1,800 homes have been damaged or completely destroyed. It is estimated that more than a third of animals from the affected areas have died, and the koala bear population is in jeopardy as most of its habitat has been destroyed.

06 Jan 2020, 16:52 PM

STA, 6 January 2020 - President Borut Pahor has congratulated Croatia's newly elected President Zoran Milanović over the phone. "I am happy that he reiterated in our conversation that he wanted to improve relations with Slovenia and that this will be one of his priorities," Pahor told the press on Monday.

"I replied that, in this sense, Slovenia has a friend, somebody completely devoted to dialogue, to finding solutions. But added that he must be aware of my position about the arbitration agreement and that these must be taken into account."

He expressed hope that the dialogue will lead to the implementation of the border arbitration decision through agreement of both countries and to benefit of them both.

Pahor said he would attend Milanović's inauguration in early February, to convey the message that Slovenia and Croatia are neighbouring countries and must also be friendly countries.

He believes that his presence at the inauguration will also be that relations between the two countries were mostly good, bar one, very complicated chapter.

However, a tribunal has decided on the issue and the decision will have to be upheld sooner or later, added Pahor.

Milanović was Croatia's prime minister at the time when Croatia withdrew from the border arbitration procedure, declaring it null and void after a wire tap showed inadmissible communication had taken place between Slovenia's arbitration agent and the tribunal member nominated by Slovenia.

The agent and the tribunal member resigned immediately and the tribunal decided that the breach was not such as to warrant a discontinuation of the arbitration process.

Nonetheless, Croatia withdrew and has been refusing to implement the border arbitration decision ever since it was presented in mid-2017.

Pahor, who signed in his capacity as prime minister in 2009 the arbitration agreement with Croatia that led to the arbitration procedure, said today that he would approach his relationship with President Milanović "with open arms and open doors".

Social Democrats (SD) president Dejan Židan also congratulated Milanović, who is a member of the Croatian Social Democrats (SDP).

Židan expressed confidence that the countries will be able to renew friendly relations "based on the rule of law, mutual respect and dedication to common European values".

06 Jan 2020, 12:44 PM

STA, 6 January 2020 - President Borut Pahor has called for a de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East as he made an appeal for a peaceful resolution of disputes following the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by the US.

"I'm in favour of a de-escalation of tensions on all sides," Pahor said on Monday, adding that he has always been "an advocate of a peaceful resolution of disputes".

Pahor also acknowledged that the order by US President Donald Trump to kill Soleimani had "caused tensions across the Middle East and in the entire international community".

As the supreme commander of the armed forces the president is briefed on the state of the six-strong Slovenian contingent currently in Iraq helping to train the local security forces.

"They are safe, together with their German colleagues. They are assessing the situation. In the event the decision is taken that their status in Iraq has to change, the Slovenian state will immediately respond."

Overall, Slovenia plans to keep a close eye on the developments in Iraq, where the situation is "complex," according to Pahor.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry expressed concern about the escalation of the conflict between the US and Iran, and condemned all kinds of violence and the latest armed attacks in Iraq, which it said increased risks for more violence in the entire region.

"Violence and attacks on civilians, diplomatic and consular missions and on cultural monuments are a blatant violation of civilisational norms and international law, so we oppose such acts," the ministry said in a release.

It urged all sides to avoid any acts that could lead to further destabilisation of Iraq and the region, calling for dialogue.

The ministry added it was in contact with the Slovenian soldiers in Iraq, stressing they were there as part of a global coalition against Islamic State (IS) which played a key role in strengthening the Iraqi military forces' capabilities in fighting IS.

"We believe it is in the interest of the global coalition and of Iraq and the region's long-term stability for the international community to continue to provide Iraq with assistance as Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity are fully respected," the ministry said.

04 Jan 2020, 17:36 PM

Andrej Šiško, president of the United Slovenia political party and a leader of Štajerska varda paramilitary group, was arrested at the Pohorje Battalion Commemorative Ceremony this Saturday.

Šiško has already been sentenced to eight months in jail for incitement to subversion of the constitutional order (see here), but he and his lawyer believed that time served while in remand would suffice, and that Šiško would not be called back to jail after sentencing. The court decided otherwise, and called the militia leader to complete his sentence in December 2019 by issuing an arrest warrant.

This Saturday Šiško and several members of Štajerska varda showed up at the annual ceremony on Osankarica, with the keynote speaker being the Minister of Education, Science and Sport, Jernej Pikalo. Šiško was allegedly apprehended when he attempted to approach President Borut Pahor.

President Pahor responded to the incident with the following comment: “We have the right to express our opinions, but also to respect the dignity of other people as well as of the commemorative events. Especially when these are solemn events.”

The annual ceremony by the Three Nails memorial commemorates the last battle of the Pohorje Battalion, which occurred on January 8, 1943. Only one of the partisans in the battle survived, but he was later executed.

pohorski batalijon.jpg

All our stories about Andrej Šiško are here

04 Jan 2020, 10:33 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 3 January 2020

Mladina: Change ahead for the global economy in 2020

STA, 3 January 2019 - The trade war the US started three years ago could get a new development in 2020 which will be caused by Europe as it is transiting to cleaner technologies. To promote clean technologies as it pursues its CO2 commitments, Europe will have to resort to customs and taxes, "which changes everything", the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday.

Europe is rushing the change especially because of the interests of Germany, its No. 1 economic power which wants to be the leader, says editor-in-chief Grega Repovž, noting the German industry is expected to roll out this year many new materials and products, which will not be competitive at least in their first years.

The editor says there is some historical irony and a lot of symbolism in Europe starting the transition to cleaner industries and a new way of protecting its interests with steel.

Firstly, steel epitomises the old and dirty industry which used to turn entire regions in deserts, and secondly, the EU was in 1950 formed to protect its steel industry.

Ursula von der Leyen included the introduction of a CO2 tax in Europe in the programme of the new European Commission, thus highlighting a new/old way of protecting European interests in order to adapt to the climate crisis.

She believes Europe should not allow its market getting flooded by cheap Chinese steel which is possibly subsidised and produced in an environmentally contentious manner.

"This announcement clearly shows that Europe will change its economic behaviour, while other superpowers will not be just watching what is going on.

"The global economy could thus change significantly due to the climate crisis ...," Repovž says, adding that things may well not develop as Europe would like it.

The transition will cost a lot at first and there is no doubt that European countries and the EU itself will have to help companies financially.

Industries are thus in for several difficult years as production and markets gets adapted to new environmental standards.

This is not just an economic issue, but also a political one because such developments can cause political turmoil, Repovž concludes the editorial A Fight for New Economy.

Demokracija: Doubts about the multiplier effect of state investment

Ljubljana, 3 January - The right-wing weekly Demokracija disputes the argument that state investment in infrastructure projects has a multiplier effect on the national economy and economic growth, rubbishing an op-ed article in which economist Jože P. Damijan argued against the selection of Turkey's Cengiz as the contractor to build the Karavanke motorway tunnel.

In the latest editorial, headlined Jože P. Damijan's Voodoo Economics, Demokracija editor-in-chief Jože Biščak notes that the article appeared in Delo, the newspaper owned by the industrial concern Kolektor, whose construction arm was one of the bidders in the tender to built the Slovenian section of the tunnel.

"Since the deep state is facing the threat of a similar outcome in other public infrastructure tenders (...) Jože P. Damijan set out to 'scientifically' prove why the state should renounce (cheaper) foreign contractors (in particular the Turks), and explained to the executive how to get rid of them.

"Damijan is not just anybody, in a decade and a half the man went from being a young free market economist to an advocate of the command economy, becoming the darling of Forum 21 and the leading left economist," writes Biščak.

He says that in his "zeal Damijan applied his strongest weapon - the multiplier effect", which Biščak denounces as a myth, quoting economists Federic Bastiat and Friedrich von Wieser.

"This is not to say the national and local governments should not invest money into infrastructure (...) but they should do so with utmost care. Including by seeing to the cheapest possible implementation of an infrastructure project.

"Governments do not produce a market value (...) Even less has their investment multiplier effects. This has also been established in a working document of the IMF for 2014 (which Damijan often refers to) by economist Andrew M. Warner, who found few (empirical) pieces of evidence that infrastructure projects had multiplier effect or generated economic growth.

"The state can do most for the domestic economy by ensuring a functional rule of law and by allowing freedom to people. That should be Slovenia's reality if it wants to be a successful country."

All our posts in this series are here

04 Jan 2020, 09:53 AM

STA, 3 January 2020 - One year into her term, Slovenian Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar is happy to report that crime clearance rate has increased to over 50%. However, cybercrime is a problem, in particular because the police force lacks the powers to investigate it.

The clearance rate increased from 47% in 2018 to 50.2% in 2019, which Bobnar says is the success of the system, not just individuals. Speaking to the STA in an interview, the commissioner compared the police force to a postage stamp: "It sticks onto the envelope until it reaches its destination."

Bobnar, who a year ago became Slovenia's first woman police force chief, says that the police now handle many more cases of corruption, and that cracking down on corruption crimes is a priority.

Cybercrime in Slovenia

Cybercrime is a problem, in particular on the dark web "where criminals use electronic currencies, leaving behind dispersed digital traces, which we cannot secure. Applying classic investigation tools, we are not a couple of metres behind, but far behind [the criminals]," says Bobnar.

Last year the police acquired equipment to examine huge amounts of data on seized electronic devices, and the force has also established a computer forensic investigation centre and special cybercrime divisions at police departments. "But we are lagging behind in terms of powers, and that is the problem."

The Slovenian police are able to monitor telephone communications, but not encrypted communication. The Constitutional Court has banned them from using IMSI catchers, devices that mimic mobile phone towers to intercept mobile traffic, as well as the system for automatic license plate recognition.

"Slovenia is one of few EU countries that doesn't have the legal basis in place for that. We absolutely need that, also to provide road traffic safety. In the short time that we had that power, we detected many offenders who drove faulty vehicles," the commissioner notes.

The police are not demanding to be allowed to exercise general surveillance, "it's not about having the freedom of a fox in a hen house", but "security in the broadest context is a key asset that we mustn't squander", the commissioner warns.

"Luckily, we haven't witnessed a lorry ploughing into a mass of people, we don't have child kidnappings ... We still have time to ponder year in year out how much safety we want at the expense of privacy. It's not one or the other, it's both. You don't realise safety is a human right until it's gone."

The police force will push for amendments to the police tasks and powers act again this year, taking into account the Constitutional Court's guidance in annulling the respective provisions.

However, Bobnar wondered "whether it may be in someone's interest in this country that police should not be effective enough in cracking down on a portion of crime".

In fighting cybercrime, which as a rule spans across borders, legislation that is adjusted at the EU level is of exceptional importance, says Bobnar, adding that Slovenian police can benefit from exchange of data with other police forces as well as Europol and Interpol.

The police have been detecting an increase in reported cases of internet child sex abuse and pornographic material dissemination. The number of cases reported by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children rose from 2,000 in 2018 to 3,000 in 2019.

"We are raising awareness among people that sharing such a video is a renewed sex abuse against the child involved," says the commissioner.

The police have also been busy cracking down on illicit drugs trade, with some of major heroin and cannabis drug busts made last year. Slovenia remains a transit country for illicit drugs, and new synthetic drugs are appearing on almost a weekly basis.

Staffing issues remain a problem

The force has been grappling with staff shortages with round 900 staff leaving over the past ten years. However, they have been applying active staffing policies over the past four years to attract as many new police candidates as possible.

"We want to boost traffic police, special police unit, the security and protection centre, as well as the ranks of border patrol units and other units," says Bobnar, adding that another goal is to rejuvenate the force, whose average age at the moment is 42.

Talks have been under way for three years to let army members beyond the age of 45 continue their careers in the police force. "Everyone who meets the legislative requirements is welcome. However, some laws will need to be amended so the soldiers can bring promotions and pay brackets with them from the army."

Amending the police career system remains a challenge for this year, while Bobnar is happy that the government has secured an extra EUR 15 million per year for bonuses for police officers managing migration.

Difficult work on the border

That is a demanding task with Bobnar saying that the police manage migration as a security problem and as a humanitarian issue. However, she also noted the gap between the expectations from one part of the public who would like to open borders wide to everyone, and those who would want to shut them tight.

None is possible. Even the Hungarian border is not impenetrable, with Slovenian police assessing that the migration flow has changed direction from Slovenia's southern border toward Hungary, says the commissioner.

Last year, the Slovenian police handled almost 16,000 foreigners who entered the country illegally, returning roughly 11,000 to law enforcement authorities in neighbouring countries, most to Croatia.

"The police are investing a lot of effort an energy in preventing illegal migration so I'd like to deny any allegation of our southern border being porous and of the state being ineffective in the field," says Bobnar, noting purchases of surveillance drones and more fencing to fight the problem.

The commissioner also commended cooperation with the security authorities in the neighbouring countries, the Slovenian Armed Forces and the national intelligence and security agency SOVA, including in the efforts to detect potential former Islamic fighters, smugglers and those intending to commit other crimes.

The police last year handled 455 smugglers of migrants in 317 such cases. "It's the activity of organised criminal rings who profit at the expense of vulnerable people who seek a better life in the west."

The smugglers are "mostly citizens of third-countries, Bosnia, Serbia, North Macedonia, Kosovo, but there are also Italian, Slovenian and Croatian nationals. They include asylum seekers who have abused international protection."

Growing migration is met with spreading hate speech. In cooperation with the Web Eye the police have detected a slight increase in reported hate speech cases in 2019. "In particular on forums, social networks where there's a lack of regulations and which afford anonymity," says Bobnar.

However, she does not think repression alone is the answer. "All other stakeholders, including the primary family, should do their job first. Society must say no to intolerance loud and clear (...) Equal treatment and equal opportunity should be society's key guiding principle, or else we'll never make progress."

03 Jan 2020, 15:02 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, 27 December
        LJUBLJANA - Bank NLB and Belgian KBC, NLB's former owner, sold their life insurance company NLB Vita to the country's second biggest insurer Sava Re for an undisclosed amount believed to be in the EUR 20-30 million range. The sale means that NLB met the last of several conditions attached to the 2013 bailout.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Bankrupt Croatian conglomerate Agrokor, the owner of Slovenian retailer Mercator, turned to the EU to complain about the seizure of Mercator stock by Slovenian anti-trust authorities. In a letter to Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Agrokor chairman Fabris Peruško said the procedures ran contrary to EU and Slovenian law and were motivated by "national political reasons".

SATURDAY, 28 December
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec criticised some of his coalition partners in an interview with Dnevnik. He suggested he would not yield to pressure by DeSUS leader Karl Erjavec to act against Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec, his main challenger for the party presidency, until there is firm evidence of any wrongdoing.

SUNDAY, 29 December
        LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland - Slovenian cross-country skier Anamarija Lampič dominated the World Cup freestyle sprint in Lenzerheide, the second event of the Tour de Ski series. This was the second World Cup win for the 24-year-old.

MONDAY, 30 December
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor offered to help the government undertake much-needed reforms, even as he acknowledged that structural reforms may lead to the demise of the Marjan Šarec government. He told TV Slovenia the government should pick a handful of projects and try to achieve consensus with his help.
        CELJE - Three companies that form the heavily indebted retail group Tuš entered preventive financial restructuring. The restructuring for the holding company Tuš Holding, its retail arm Engrotuš and its real estate arm Tuš Nepremičnine was initiated at the request of the companies themselves and with the support of creditors.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded an above-average general government surplus in the third quarter of the year, as it reached EUR 193 million or more than triple that in the same period last year, the Statistics Office said. The surplus represented 1.6% of Slovenia's GDP.
        MORAVČE - A giant wooden sculpture resembling US President Donald Trump, which stirred controversy in late summer when it was erected in the village of Sela, was officially unveiled at its new home in Moravče, north-east of Ljubljana. The night before the second unveiling, the effigy was defaced in an effort to add a Hitler-like moustache.

TUESDAY, 31 December
        LJUBLJANA - A Vox Populi public opinion poll commissioned by Dnevnik showed that Slovenians are quite satisfied with their lives, with the respondents assessing the quality of life with an average mark of 3.38 on a one-to-five scale. It shows that persons younger than 30 are the most satisfied with their lives and that satisfaction correlates with the level of education.

WEDNESDAY, 1 January
        LJUBLJANA - Tens of thousands of Slovenians ushered in the new year in the open, with the largest crowd of 55,000 gathering in four squares in Ljubljana. The capital also saw the traditional fireworks, while some major cities this time opted for quieter celebrations without fireworks.
        LJUBLJANA - Uniform cigarette and tobacco packaging rolled out on New Year's Day under new rules, bearing graphic warnings of the adverse health effects of smoking and donning the Pantone 448 C dark brown hue, known as the ugliest colour in the world, to further deter anyone from picking up the harmful habit.

THURSDAY, 2 January
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry condemned attacks on coalition forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and an attack on the US Embassy compound in Baghdad in the strongest terms, urging the Iraqi authorities to ensure security of diplomatic missions in the country. In a response echoing the position of the EU, the Foreign Ministry expressed its condolences to the governments of the US and Iraq and to the families of those killed in the attacks.

All our posts in this series are here

03 Jan 2020, 11:24 AM

STA, 3 January 2019 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has condemned attacks on coalition forces fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq and an attack on the US Embassy compound in Baghdad in the strongest terms, urging the Iraqi authorities to ensure security of diplomatic missions in the country.

 In a response echoing the position of the EU, the Foreign Ministry also expressed its condolences to the families of those killed in the attacks and to the governments of the US and Iraq.

In a release issued last night, the ministry said that State Secretary Dobran Božič had spoken with US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard in connection to the attacks.

Several thousand protesters attacked the US Embassy compound on Tuesday angered by US air strikes targeting an Iran-backed militia in Iraq and Syria.

The strikes were in retaliation for a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk on Friday in which an American civilian contractor was killed.

In a major escalation of tensions between the US and Iran, General Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, was killed in a US air strike in Iraq early on Friday.

In response to the development, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry issued a travel alert on Friday advising against travel to parts of Iran.

The ministry also called on Slovenian citizens in Iran or heading there in the coming days to avoid public rallies, events or funeral ceremonies held in the wake of Soleimani's death.

The ministry noted that the general's mortal remains would shortly be brought to Iran and that mass funeral ceremonies and protests were planned throughout the country.

"Due to the population's emotional reactions we advise Slovenian citizens not to take part in such events and to limit their movements in public spaces," reads the ministry's release.

The ministry advised against any non-urgent travel to parts of Iran, including within a 100 kilometre perimeter of the Iranian-Afghan border and a 10 kilometre perimeter along Iran's border with Iraq.

The ministry also identified as risky the area along the Pakistani border and advised against travel to the Hormozgan Province along the Persian Gulf.

Travellers to eastern Iran are advised to stick to main thoroughfares and to avoid travelling at night, in particular outside major towns.

The ministry also advised against any travel to the south-eastern provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman due to abductions of tourists and travellers there.

29 Dec 2019, 10:07 AM

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

Mladina: Decline in reading shows intellectual regression

STA, 27 December – The left-leaning weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the Slovenian nation as a whole has received a slap in the face with the results of a recent reading culture survey, which actually does not speak about reading of books, but is a cruel report about intellectual regression of the nation.

The survey shows that Slovenians have continued to regress when it comes to reading habits in the last five years, with half of the nation failing to read a single full book in a year.

"No, the trends are not similar in other countries and even our trends were not such in the post-independence period," Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly, says in State as a Company.

He notes that Slovenia has also fared very poorly comparatively, with five more books per capita being sold in Norway than in Slovenia.

The survey is actually a cruel report about intellectual regression of the nation, as reading of books is one of the indicators showing the state of intellect and power of thought in a country.

The situation is a result of mistakes made in state politics in a longer period of time, and the current government will have no impact. "But alarms should be blaring all over the country, from the academy of sciences and arts to the prime minister's office."

The survey clearly shows that "we are in the phase in which the nation is becoming stupid - which is something that we do not feel, something we are not aware of, but which is happening and showing only in the long run."

Reporter: Snap election unlikely

STA, 23 December - Despite the tight result in the vote on the appointment of Angelika Mlinar as cohesion minister last week, the right-leaning magazine Reporter argues in the latest editorial that the opposition does not hold the key to a snap election.

In a piece headlined Pre-Christmas Drama, editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla notes that the minority government's tally of votes in the National Assembly has been reduced to just 42, which even when adding the two minority MPs, does not make a simple majority in the 90-strong National Assembly.

Šurla also notes that after an MP defected from the National Party (SNS) to the opposition Democrats (SDS), the largest opposition party increased its tally of votes to 26, twice as many as the LMŠ party of PM Marjan Šarec.

"The question is, however, whether the SNS defector will get Janez Janša any closer to a new centre-right government in this term or at least a snap election he likes predicting so much."

Šurla remembers similar "manoeuvring" two decades ago when an SNS MP and one from the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) defected to the centre-right bloc, which made it possible for the late Andrej Bajuk to form a centre-right government, but it only lasted half a year, after which the right bloc lost the election.

Wondering who holds the key to a snap election today, Šurla says that the right bloc does not, nor does the Left, but the key is held by the coalition party leaders, who "could leave the Šarec boat early out of their own calculation or on the advice of uncles from behind the scenes.

"Primarily the prime minister, whose LMŠ party could probably enhance its position considerably judging by opinion poll results (...). However, Šarec is not (yet) prepared to risk such a move."

Šurla agrees with economist Matej Lahovnik, who expects that Šarec will wait until after Slovenia's spell as president of the Council of the EU, that is until early 2022 just a few months ahead of a regular election, to pull a "Cerar", that is do as Miro Cerar did when he stepped down shortly before the 2018 election.

"There is no other 'hero' in sight within the coalition for the time being because the leaders of all other parties are trembling with fear about their political survival. In a snap election they could be swept away to the scrapheap of history."

As for the Left, Šurla says that even if the party is trying hard to prove its position in the opposition, the party would back the government if there was a risk of Janša returning to power. "That is, if the uncles from behind the scenes ordered them so".

All our posts in this series are here

29 Dec 2019, 09:32 AM

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

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

FRIDAY, 20 December
        LJUBLJANA - Angelika Mlinar, new cohesion policy minister, took over at the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion. She said the key challenges were speeding up EU funds absorption and opening dialogue with other ministries.
        LJUBLJANA - Lidija Ivanuša, an MP for the opposition National Party (SNS), defected to the opposition Democrats (SDS), a move that could further complicate the operational ability of the minority government.
        LJUBLJANA - The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) indicated it could part ways with MP Robert Polnar who was the only coalition MP to vote against appointing Angelika Mlinar cohesion policy minister. A decision was expected after New Year's.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian police processed more than 15,200 illegal crossings of the border by the end of November this year, a 70% increase compared to the same period in 2018, fresh statistics showed.
        LJUBLJANA - The supervisory board of the motorway company DARS endorsed the selection of Turkish bidder Cengiz as the contractor to build the Slovenian section of the second tube of the Karavanke motorway tunnel for EUR 98.5 million, VAT excluded.
        NOVO MESTO - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek announced that TPV, an automotive industry supplier, will receive EUR 6.5 million in state incentive for a EUR 49 million investment into production expansion after it reached two major deals with car makers Volvo Cars and BMW last year.
        LJUBLJANA - Matej Pirc, the chief executive officer of the Bank Assets Management Company, told the STA that the bad bank could build rental apartments and retirement homes and provide for an additional 5,000 housing units, provided its mandate is extended beyond the currently planned end of operations in 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - Home price growth accelerated in the third quarter of 2019, with average prices rising by 8.5% year on year and 3.1% over the previous quarter on the back of strong growth in prices of used flats, show Statistics Office figures.

SATURDAY, 21 December
        LJUBLJANA - An audit conducted by the Environment Ministry found serious shortcomings in approval procedures for a stretch of an EU-subsidised sewerage project that some say could jeopardise the source of drinking water for 300,000 residents of Ljubljana.
        PLANICA - Swede Jonna Sundling and France's Lucas Chanavat won respective Cross-Country World Cup sprint freestyle events in extremely bad weather conditions in Planica.

SUNDAY, 22 December
        ERBIL, Iraq - Major General Alenka Ermenc, the chief of the general staff, visited Slovenian troops in Iraq.
        ENGELBERG, Switzerland - Ski jumper Peter Prevc finished second at a World Cup event in Engelberg in what was his first podium result this winter.
        ALTA BADIA, Italy - Slovenian alpine skier Žan Kranjec bagged his second podium finish in giant slalom World Cup this season, finishing third in Alta Badia.

MONDAY, 23 December
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor invoked independence-era unity as he called on political stakeholders to engage in dialogue and cooperation as a safeguard against potential threats against society and state in an address to the Independence and Unity Day ceremony.
        LJUBLJANA - Deputy Speaker Jože Tanko of the opposition Democrats (SDS) pinpointed the judiciary as the most problematic area 29 years after Slovenia opted for independence. Addressing the parliament's ceremonial session before Independence and Unity Day, he said equality before law was not guaranteed to all.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor decorated constitutional jurist Peter Jambrek with the Golden Order of Merit and Austrian politician Erhard Busek with the Silver Order of Merit for their contribution to Slovenia's independence and international recognition.
        CELJE - The Celje District Court sentenced Uroš Rotnik, the former boss of the Šoštanj coal-fired power station (TEŠ), to ten months suspended for stealing an income statement from the Financial Administration in November 2013.
        LJUBLJANA - The owner and editor of the pozareport.si news portal, Bojan Požar, was ordered to pay Viktor Knavs, the father of US first lady Melania Trump, EUR 5,000 in damages and almost EUR 2,000 in litigation costs. He also has to publicly apologise for alleging Knavs was in prison due to tax evasion and illicit trade.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian researchers working abroad gathered for a symposium designed to establish and strengthen networking opportunities between Slovenian scholars abroad and those researching in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Alfi, a private equity fund, acquired an 80% stake in Prevent & Deloza, Slovenia's leading maker of protective garments, for an undisclosed sum, a move it said would improve the company's development prospects and strengthen innovation.

TUESDAY, 24 December
        LJUBLJANA - The National Council vetoed changes to the tonnage tax act which extend by ten years a special regulation under which shippers pay an alternative form of corporate tax.
        LJUBLJANA/ZAGREB, Croatia - Agrokor, the owner of retailer Mercator, made good on its plan to challenge the seizure of 70% of Mercator shares by Slovenia's competition watchdog, as it appealed the decision at the Ljubljana Local Court.

WEDNESDAY, 25 December
        LJUBLJANA - News portal 24ur.com reported that a brand new police helicopter, delivered in mid-October, was out of commission because of problems with the main rotor's transmission.

THURSDAY, 26 December
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia observed Independence and Unity Day, a bank holiday, remembering the 1990 independence referendum, in which people voted overwhelmingly for Slovenia to leave Yugoslavia.

All our posts in this series are here

23 Dec 2019, 16:20 PM

STA, 23 December 2018 - Slovenia started annual celebrations of its independence on Monday, which marks the 29th anniversary of the independence plebiscite that culminated in the declaration of the results on 26 December 1990, now celebrated as Independence and Unity Day.

The main national Independence and Unity Day ceremony will be held this evening at Cankarjev Dom with a keynote address by President Borut Pahor, preceded by a ceremonial session of the National Assembly.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec will host a reception for the relatives of those who died in the independence war, while Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore will say homeland mass at the Ljubljana cathedral.

The rightist Association for the Values of Slovenian Independence (VSO) marked the independence anniversary last Monday with a ceremony featuring Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša as the keynote speaker.

Janša said the independence referendum almost three decades ago was the highlight in the history of the Slovenian nation.

Slovenians voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in the 23 December 1990 referendum, endorsing leaving Yugoslavia with a majority of almost 95%, equalling 88.5% of all eligible voters.

Three days later, on 26 December 1990, the National Assembly declared the outcome, triggering a milestone year that included the declaration of independence in June 1990 and a ten-day war.

Legally speaking, the independence efforts were completed on 23 December 1991, when the National Assembly declared the Slovenian Constitution. This is why 23 December is observed as Constitution Day.

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