21 Dec 2019, 16:00 PM

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

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FRIDAY, 13 December
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - PM Marjan Šarec expressed satisfaction that nearly all EU members had reached an agreement on carbon neutrality by 2050, saying Slovenia was happy that each member state determines its own energy mix in sustainable energy transition, indicating it would substitute nuclear energy for thermal. He warned however that carbon neutrality should not come at the expense of cohesion funding.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Commenting on the Conservatives' landslide victory in the UK general election, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Brexit by the end of January was probable and that a trade agreement with the UK could be reached next year if talks were conducted quickly.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Left made a renewed appeal on the government to push for Palestine's recognition at EU level, saying that in the EU failed to reach a consensus on the matter by the end of March 2020, Slovenia should take steps to recognise Palestine itself.
        SEOUL, South Korea - Slovenia was ranked 13th in the Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index compiled by Solability, a sustainability think-tank based in Switzerland and South Korea, among a total of 180 countries. The country fared best in terms of governance efficiency, and worst in natural capital and resource management.

SATURDAY, 14 December
        LJUBLJANA - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged protecting multilateralism against unilateralism as he visited Slovenia for talks with his counterpart Miro Cerar and the country's top officials. Both ministers also welcomed a preliminary trade agreement reached between the US and China. Cerar said China was an indispensable strategic partner of the EU even if the two sides did not always share the same positions.
        LJUBLJANA - Seasoned diplomat Andrej Logar told the weekly Večer that he had been tasked with reviving the Ljubljana-based International Center for Promotion of Enterprises, founded in 1974 at the UN's initiative to promote international cooperation of developing countries. "Since Slovenia does not have intensive contacts with African and Asian countries as potential ICPE members, the centre could be an important instrument of Slovenia's foreign policy," Logar said.
        KOČEVSKA REKA - A ceremony attended by several independence-era figures marked the lining up of a territorial defence unit seen as a precursor to the Slovenian army on 17 December 1990, just a week before the country held its independence referendum. The keynote speaker, Igor Bavčar, the then interior minister who is now serving prison for money laundering liked to shares trading, said that challenges faced by the EU and NATO undermined the foundations of the EU as had been known for 30 years.

SUNDAY, 15 December
        MADRID, Spain/LJUBLJANA - In response to the UN Climate Change Conference COP25 in Madrid, which put off a decision on a rulebook for meeting Paris Agreement targets to 2020, Environment Minister Simon Zajc said the event was "a disappointment, as expected". Climate expert Lučka Kajfež Bogataj called the conference far from noteworthy, except for the fact that negotiators ignored calls for action by millions of young people and other citizens who demand change.
        LJUBLJANA - The December Vox Populi poll showed the coalition Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) at the top of the party rankings with the support of 20.2% of respondents. The opposition Democrats (SDS) calme second at 16.6%. Moreover, 50.4% of respondents believe the government is doing a good job.

MONDAY, 16 December
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec told reporters that incorporating a new airline in full or partial state ownership after flag carrier Adria Airways went into receivership was not very likely, because of the highs risks entailed. The Bank Assets Management Company later said it was in talks with several European regional carriers to increase flight frequencies on major routes connecting Ljubljana.
        LJUBLJANA - European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič urged the implementation of the European Green Deal, outlined by the European Commission the week before, as he met Slovenia's senior officials in his first official visit to the country as commissioner. He deems environmental issues one of Slovenia's major challenges for the future.
        MADRID, Spain - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar presented Slovenia's stance on multilateralism and efforts related to climate change, sustainable development and gender equality on the final day of the Asia-Europe Meeting, he also held several bilateral meetings.
        TRIESTE, Italy - Slovenian Consul General in Italy's Trieste Vojko Volk condemned the posters on which an Italian neo-fascist movement labelled five Slovenian victims of fascism as terrorists on 14 December, the eve of an event commemorating the victims, executed in 1941.
        LJUBLJANA - Just over a year after its launch, the Ljubljana-based European Blockchain Hub, a cooperative designed to act as a platform bringing together blockchain stakeholders, declared bankruptcy, the main reason being that some stakeholders had failed to deliver.
        PARIS, France - Slovenian painter Gregor Pratneker won the Eugene Boudin Prize at the Salon de Beaux Arts in Paris, a major international art showcase. He received the honour for his oil painting Spring in Mountains.
        LJUBLJANA - The Youth Committee of the European Trade Union Confederation elected Slovenian Tea Jarc its president, making her the first Slovenian to elected president of a European trade union confederation.
TUESDAY, 17 December
        NOVI SAD, Serbia - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec promised Slovenia's further assistance to Serbia in efforts to join the EU, as he visited the country with five ministers for a joint session of the two governments. Šarec said there was no alternative to Serbia joining the EU. His counterpart Ana Brnabić thanked Slovenia for its political and technical support.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's central bank downgraded its projection for the country's economic growth for the year by 0.6 percentage points to 2.6%, decreasing the forecast for 2020 by 0.4 points to 2.5%, the level it is expected to remain in 2021 and 2022. The rates are above the euro area average.
        PULA, Croatia - The Croatian media reported that Croatia's fisheries inspectors had imposed over 270 fines worth over EUR 490,000 on Slovenia fishermen for fishing in what Croatia claims is its part of the Piran Bay since 15 March 2018. Since Slovenia implemented the arbitration award in December 2017, it issued over EUR 1 million in fines against Croatian fishermen in Slovenian waters.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian troops serving in international missions and operations discussed security situation in an annual video conference with the Slovenian president, defence minister and the chief of the general staff. They reported being satisfied with their equipment, except for those in Latvia, who complained about the light armoured vehicles.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Stock Exchange marked its 30th anniversary with a ceremony at which its current boss Aleš Ipavec said the desire was to make the exchange more appealing to investors. The exchange was launched on 26 December 1989 as the Yugoslav Stock Exchange.
        BELGRADE, Serbia - The Serbian newspaper Blic reported that Slovenia's largest bank, NLB, had submitted a binding bid to take over the Serbian state-owned bank Komercijalna Banka, along with Austria's Raiffeisen Bank International and Serbia's AIK Banka.
        LJUBLJANA - Cyclist Primož Roglič, sport climber Janja Garnbret and the men's national volleyball team were declared athletes of the year by the Association of Sports Journalists.

WEDNESDAY, 18 December
        LJUBLJANA - The Competition Protection Agency confirmed it had temporarily seized 70% of shares of retailer Mercator shares from its owner, Croatia's Agrokor, so that Agrokor pay a EUR 53.9 million fine for failure to notify its 2016 takeover of Slovenian-based bottled water company Costella. The decision is not yet final and Agrokor's successor, Fortenova said it would fight it with all means available. Fortenova described the agency's move as a coordinated effort to secure Slovenian suppliers of Mercator favoured position in Mercator group.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed a bill securing up to EUR 777 million in state loan guarantees for the construction of a new rail link connecting the Koper port and Divača, and two sections of an expressway connecting the north and south of the country.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly reviewed a report on the 2015 wiretapping scandal during the Slovenia-Croatia border arbitration process behind closed doors. The report, compiled by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission, finds that the Slovenian government and the intel agency SOVA were not involved in the violation of the arbitration agreement, attributing the blame for the scandal, which Croatia used as an excuse to withdraw from the arbitration, on Simona Drenik, Slovenia's agent in the procedure.
        WOLFSBURG, Germany - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and representatives of Slovenian automotive industry suppliers visited the headquarters of the Volkswagen Group in a bid to boost cooperation, especially in e-mobility and innovative solutions for carbon-neutral society.
        WASHINGTON, US - Slovenia placed 35th in the 2019 Human Freedom Index, level with last year. Austria is the only neighbour doing better, ranking 13th.

THURSDAY, 19 December
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly voted 44:43 to appoint Angelika Mlinar, an ethnic Slovenian from Austria, minister without portfolio in charge of cohesion policy, as the government secured a slim minority after several days of uncertainty. Mlinar said the vote showed that "we want to overcome borders".
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Environment Minister Simon Zajc called on the EU to take taking into account specific circumstances of individual EU countries regarding their large-carnivore management, especially in cases like Slovenia's where animal populations are booming. He suggested the EU habitats directive may have to be changed.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Public Health Institute said that the number of confirmed cases of measles infection in Slovenian population this year rose to 40 plus two in foreigners. In one outbreak, unofficially at the Škofja Loka company Knauf Insulation, a person got infected in Belgium before infecting six more people, one of whom infected a further eight.
        LJUBLJANA - Archbishop of Ljubljana Stanislav Zore told the STA he would like the Catholic Church to settle practical matters with the state, so they do not change with every change of government. Some of the things that needs addressing are education, social security contributions for priests and financing of heritage.
        LJUBLJANA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption issued an opinion finding Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek was in conflict of interest in 2014, when she nominated herself for EU commissioner. Bratušek said she would challenge the claim, just as she had successfully challenged a previous opinion, which was dismissed by courts on procedural grounds.

All our posts in this series are here

21 Dec 2019, 09:32 AM

STA, 20 December 2019 - Police processed more than 15,200 illegal crossings of the border by the end of November this year, as much as some 70% increase compared to the same period in 2018. A total of 3,640 migrants have asked for international protection.

Citizens from Pakistan, Algeria and Afghanistan were processed by police officers most often.

This year's situation shows a steeper increase year-on-year. August saw the greatest surge of illegal crossings of the border per month since the 2016 mass migrations, with the situation getting more manageable in autumn when the temperatures started dropping.

The police has recorded an increase in the number of asylums requests as well - in 2018, 2,875 asked for international protection, while in the first eleven months of 2019, 3,640 did the same. Most of those procedures have been completed, with 67 persons granted asylum.

Considerably more illegal migrants were handed over to the Croatian authorities this year as well - some 10,640 compared to 4,590 in 2018. Most of them were from Pakistan.

20 Dec 2019, 12:55 PM

STA, 19 December 2019 - The budget of the ZPIZ pension fund will stand at EUR 5.8 billion in 2020, but the state will have to chip in almost EUR 680 million to balance revenue and expenditure.

Under ZPIZ's financial plan for next year, adopted by the fund's council on Thursday, 84.2% of all revenue or EUR 4.9 billion will go for pensions.

Another EUR 145 million is planned to be spent on the annual holiday allowance for all pensions, up EUR 4.6 million from this year.

Almost 82% of the ZPIZ's revenue will come from contributions for social security and other taxes, with EUR 50 million expected from the state-owned KAD fund.

Pensions are planned to rise twice - by 3.5% in February, and by EUR 6.5 at the end of 2020 as part of an extraordinary rise if economic growth exceeds 2.5%.

Deputy ZPIZ director general David Klarič said as he outlined the plan the EUR 6.5 rise could still change as the upper chamber of parliament had filed a bill to rise pensions not in an absolute sum but as of percentage. In this case, the rise would amount to 1%.

The financial plan will now be sent to the government for approval. The government's representative on the council, Simona Poljanšek, said it was well prepared.

Klarič, however, said the budget would probably have to be overhauled in mid-2020 to adjust it to the latest pension changes which are expected to cost EUR 33 million.

The only council member voting against the financial plan was Frančiška Ćetković, who represents pensioners.

The plan does not envisage pensioners getting back what was taken from them due to the 2012 austerity legislation, which she assessed at 7.2%.

"We won't accept this share not being paid out," she said.

In response, Katja Rihar Bajuk from the Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Ministry announced the ministry would analyse retirement conditions as those retiring during the crisis were more affected than others.

Council president Dušan Bavec, who represents employers, said more pension revenue could be collected with more effective measures against grey economy.

20 Dec 2019, 11:02 AM

STA, 19 December 2019 - Angelika Mlinar, a member of the Slovenian minority in Austria and a former MEP for Austria, has been appointed minister of development, strategic projects and European cohesion policy.

Mlinar was born on 29 June 1970 in the village of Altendorf in the south of the Austrian province of Carinthia.

She has a PhD in law from Salzburg University, having previously obtained her master's degree at American University in Washington.

She has worked for several NGOs, and also served at the European Commission Representation in Ljubljana from early 2000 to mid-2005.

She has been an active member of the Slovenian minority, but not a traditionalist one, she says.

Between May 2009 and June 2010, she was secretary general of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), one of the two umbrella organisations of the Slovenian community in Austria.

Some of her statements in that capacity earned her a lawsuit from the right extremist organisation Heimatdienst, while a few years ago she said she had not been very popular among politicians because of her criticism of the attitude of the Slovenian state to the minority in Carinthia.

Mlinar became known in Slovenia in the autumn of 2013, when she was elected to the Austrian parliament as the first female member of the Slovenian minority. She represented the liberal party Neos, which she co-founded, until June 2014, when she went on to became MEP.

As MEP she advocated a more cohesive and stronger Europe, and promoted human rights and women's rights. She also worked extensively with refugees.

In November 2014, she was elected a vice-president of ALDE.

But last spring she decided to quit as NEOS vice president, saying she was "too independent and too liberal for NEOS". She said she did have enough support within her party to stand in the 2019 European elections and even announced she would resign from active politics by the end of the parliamentary term.

But then she topped the ticket of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) in Slovenia in the May EU elections. Although she performed well on preference votes, this did not suffice for her to become one of the eight Slovenian MEPs given the party's poor showing overall.

In the campaign, she spoke in favour of common European values and solutions, and called for more determination in the representation of Slovenia's interests within EU institutions. She was also critical of Austria's policy towards Slovenia.

As candidate for MEP she did not yet have Slovenian citizenship although she had residence in Slovenia, where she lived for 13 years.

And it was the citizenship that turned out to be the biggest obstacle to her appointment as minister without portfolio for development and cohesion policy.

She had requested Slovenian citizenship before asking for permission for dual citizenship from Austria. After Austria gave her the green light, Slovenia granted her Slovenian citizenship on grounds of national interest.

The right-wing opposition and conservatives in general have taken issue with the way she was granted citizenship and questioned her loyalty to Slovenia.

The situation escalated at her committee hearing, where she failed to secure support for the appointment amidst nationalist criticism that some critics say undermined relations with the entire Slovenian ethnic community in Austria.

As minister she plans to focus on improving the efficiency of EU funding. She highlighted R&D, information and communication technologies, competitiveness and regional development as the key areas Slovenia needed to invest the just over EUR 3 billion in cohesion policy funds it is entitled to in the current multiannual financial framework.

18 Dec 2019, 09:38 AM

STA, 17 December 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec promised Slovenia's further assistance to Serbia in efforts to join the EU, as he visited the country on Tuesday. Talking to the press alongside his counterpart Ana Brnabić in Novi Sad, he said that there was no alternative to Serbia joining the EU.

The EU accession process is the most important tool in preserving economic stability in the region and its slowing down or suspension would carry serious consequences, Šarec said.

Brnabić thanked Šarec for Slovenia's political and technical support, adding that the countries' bilateral cooperation, both economic and political, were at a high level and with no open issues.

She noted that Slovenian companies are among the biggest investors in Serbia and that the number of Serbian investments in Slovenia is rising as well.

There are more than 1,500 companies with Slovenian capital in Serbia, employing some 25,000 people, she said. Trade is increasing, as well, exceeding EUR 1.6 billion in 2018, while the figure for the first nine months of this year was at EUR 870 million, according to Brnabić.

Šarec hopes the countries will strengthen their economic cooperation even further. He added that Slovenia valued highly joint implementation of the former Yugoslavia succession treaty.

He also touched on cooperation of the Slovenian and Serbian police forces in migration management, while Brnabić expressed the wish for a common European policy.

There can be no success in the fight against management unless the EU provides a uniform response and unless Frontex becomes more effective, Šarec also said. It is not up to individual countries to do their homework, everybody needs to take action, he added.

Slovenia and Serbia signed a cooperation protocol on internal security in the police force and a memorandum on technical cooperation in agriculture and rural development.

Šarec and the ministers accompanying him on the trip to Serbia took part in what was the fifth joint government session. A number of bilateral meetings on the ministerial level also took place.

Slovenia's Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his counterpart Ivica Dačić and Jadranka Joksimović, the minister of EU affairs, to discuss the situation in the region and EU accession.

Joksimović also met Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek. The pair agreed to strengthen expert cooperation in cohesion policy.

Interior ministers Boštjan Poklukar and Nebojša Stefanović agreed that cooperation between their ministries and the countries' police forces was very good.

So far, Slovenia has deployed 26 groups of police officers to the Serbian-Bulgarian border. The ministers also discussed organised crime and terrorism.

Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Damjan Stanonik and Serbia's Agriculture Minister Branimir Nedimović talked about digitalisation in agriculture and signed a memorandum on technical cooperation and rural development.

17 Dec 2019, 09:00 AM

STA, 16 December 2019 - Slovenian Consul General in Italy's Trieste Vojko Volk has condemned the posters on which an Italian neo-fascist movement labelled five Slovenian victims of fascism as terrorists. The provocation happened in two Italian towns on Saturday, on the eve of an event commemorating the victims.

The five patriots - Pinko Tomažič, Viktor Bobek, Simon Kos, Ivan Ivančič and Ivan Vadnal - were executed on 15 December 1941 after being sentenced to death by a fascist court in what is known as the "second Trieste trial".

On the eve of the 78th anniversary of their execution, Casa Pound put up posters in Opicina and Longera, saying they were not victims but terrorists, Primorski Dnevnik, the newspaper of the Slovenian minority in Italy, reported two days ago.

The neo-fascist campaign was immediately condemned by the Slovenian minority party - Slovenian Community (SSk) and by the Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association, an umbrella minority organisation.

Related: Ethnic Slovenes in Italy Concerned about Neo-Fascist Rally in Trieste, Saturday (Videos)

TIGR Primorska, an association cherishing the memory of the first anti-Fascist fighters in the area Italy occupied after WWI, also condemned the incident, urging Slovenian senior officials to respond.

It called on President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, Foreign Minster Miro Cerar and Consul Volk to ask Italy's officials to publicly distance themselves from such acts.

Responding to the appeal, Volk said today the provocation was meant to undermine the achieved level of cooperation and trust among the Slovenian and Italian nations.

He noted that in 2020, 100 years will have passed since the National Home in Trieste was burnt down by Fascists, on which occasion the Slovenian and Italian presidents will be in Trieste for a commemoration. Talks are also under way for the National Home to be returned to the Slovenian minority.

"These processes contribute to reconciliation and coexistence among the nations and direct us towards the future at concrete and symbolic levels", which Volk believes some far-right groups in Italy find disturbing.

"But it is up to us to respond to political provocations calmly and resolutely," he wrote in his response, noting yesterday's commemoration in Opicina was exactly such a response.

The diplomat stressed a lot of people turned out, and Trieste Mayor Roberto Dipiazza as one of the speakers strongly condemned the provocation and urged tolerance.

16 Dec 2019, 09:42 AM

STA, 15 December 2019 - The National Assembly will start its December session with question time on Monday. The most interesting item on the week's agenda will likely be an investigative report on the arbitration wire taps in 2015 and the second reading of a proposal to abolish voluntary top up health insurance.

The top up insurance abolishment will be discussed on Thursday, with nearly seven hours planned for the debate.

It is unclear whether the changes, proposed by the opposition Left and later reshaped by the parliamentary Health Committee, will garner sufficient support.

Moreover, coalition parties have lodged a number of amendments to the changes, while the Health Insurance Institute has said that the contribution planned to substitute the premiums in the existing system would generate a EUR 70 million shortfall a year.

The coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) is also sceptical of the changes, and wants the document taken off the National Assembly's agenda. DeSUS, similar to the National Party (SNS), also wants to wait for a comprehensive reform promised by the Health Ministry.

But perhaps the most interesting discussion is likely to take place on Wednesday, when the MPs are to talk about a report by the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services looking into the wire taps of communication between Slovenia's agent and Slovenia-appointed arbiter in the border arbitration procedure with Croatia.

The report largely pins the blame on former agent Simona Drenik Bavdek, who has turned to the Administrative Court demanding that the National Assembly remove the report from its website and from the National Assembly's agenda.

The MPs are planned to start discussing the confidential part of the report first, while the session will be opened to the public once the National Assembly starts discussing the publicly accessible part of the report, which is also available on its website.

The MPs will also discuss legislative changes introducing a lump sum aid for families in which the mother is unemployed when she gives birth. The changes would cost EUR 13.5 million, which has not been earmarked in the budget.

On Wednesday, the MPs will also go over the second reading of the bank guarantee bill for the second rail track towards Koper and the third developmental axis, a road project connecting the Koroška and Dolenjska regions.

16 Dec 2019, 09:32 AM

STA, 15 December 2019 - The December Vox Populi poll shows the coalition Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) at the top of the party rankings with the support of 20.2% of respondents. The opposition Democrats (SDS) are in place two with 16.6%. Moreover, 50.4% of the respondents believe the government is doing a good job.

While the government's approval rating grew by 5.8 percentage points over November, LMŠ's support dropped by 1.1 percentage points. On the other hand, the support for the SDS increased by 3.1 percentage points.

Similarly, the support for the Social Democrats (SD), in place three, also went up this month, reaching 9.7%, while a month ago it was at 7.1%.

The opposition Left is in fourth place this month with 6.5% (6.6% in November), followed by New Slovenia (NSi) with 5.3% (7.4% in November) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) with 3.1% (3.2% in November) and the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) with 2.8%.

Excluding the undecided voters from the poll (23.1%), the SLS would make it into parliament, according to Vox Populi. The rest of the parties would not make it across the 4% parliamentary threshold.

President Borut Pahor continues to top the popularity rankings, followed by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and MEP Tanja Fajon.

The Vox Populi poll was commissioned by newspaper Dnevnik and broadcaster RTV Slovenia and conducted by pollster Ninamedia between 10 and 12 December, including 700 people.

15 Dec 2019, 09:36 AM

STA, 14 December - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged protecting multilateralism against unilateralism as he and his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar discussed bilateral relations, EU-China cooperation, and the 17+1 initiative, which brings together 17 Central and East European countries plus China.

Making a case for multilateralism at a time of major global changes, Wang stressed that both countries must continue to defend multilateralism and build open economy.

"We must adopt concrete measures to reject unilateralism and avert power politics in a bid to protect the international system with the UN at its centre, the international order backed by international law, and a multilateral trade system with the WTO as its basis," he said at a press conference in Ljubljana on Saturday.

Wang stressed that despite having different culture and history or being different in size, China and Slovenia respected the basic rules of international relations.

"This is the basis for our mutual trust, which benefits both countries," said Wang, who believes China-Slovenia relations are becoming increasingly mature and stable.

Cerar noted China was a superpower, a permanent UN Security Council member and an indispensable strategic partner of the EU's, but indicated the two sides did not always share the same positions. But he said China was a key partner of the EU's in fulfiling commitments from the Paris Agreement on climate change.

"We have different stances or standards in the EU and China, but we need to discuss it with respect and openly, but most of all we must seek common areas of cooperation, enhance constructive relations and respect each other," he said.

Cerar stressed political and economic cooperation had been growing, making China Slovenia's most important trading partner in Asia and the 13th most important one overall.

Since 2013, trade in goods increased by some 15% a year to reach EUR 1.3 billion in 2018, with several Slovenian firms opening their offices in China and China's investment increasing in Slovenia.

He also noted that 2020 would be a year of enhanced dialogue between the EU and China, with two EU-China summits planned alongside a 17+1 initiative summit.

Cerar also announced Slovenia and China would further strengthen cooperation next year in view of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021.

Wang announced the 17+1 summit, to be held in Beijing in April, would focus on mutual connectivity, green development, innovation and openness.

It is Slovenia's wish to take the lead in the 17+1's coordinating mechanism for winter sports, an area where it has developed good cooperation with China.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is another area of cooperation, with Slovenia promoting its port of Koper as "one of the best points for good from Asia ... to reach Central and East Europe", stressed Cerar.

Wang would meanwhile also like to see more cooperation within the BRI in science, technology, advanced production, pharmaceutical industry, healthcare and winter sports, while he belives infrastructure, such as railways and ports, should be better connected.

"Let's hope for the Beijing summit to create better synergies between the 17+1 forum, the BRI, the EU's strategy to connect Europe and Asia, and the Three Seas initiative as well as development strategies of Central and East European countries," he said.

Cerar announced he would visit China with a business delegation next year, while a China-Slovenia Day of Science and Investment would be organised here.

Wang, who is en route to the Europe-Asia meeting in Spain, which will be also attended by Carer, also met President Borut Pahor.

The pair discussed topical issues in the international community and urged enhancing the good relations between the EU and China, Pahor's office said in a release.

Pahor also took the opportunity to invite Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Slovenia.

Wang also met Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and Speaker Dejan Židan before completing his visit, the first to Slovenia by a Chinese foreign minister since 2008.

All our stories on China and Slovenia are here

14 Dec 2019, 11:04 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 December

Mladina: Refugees will eventually tell their stories

STA, 13 December 2019 - Much like Europe's responsibility for developments during the war in former Yugoslavia is being discussed today, the horrors that refugees are experiencing now will surface in the years to come, the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday. The story will be told by people who will be fully integrated into European society, it notes.

"It's winter, a time when we become aware of refugees again. It has been so since 2015. That is when tents collapse because of snow and sleeping outdoors means sickness and death.

"When winter comes, we see footage of children and adults freezing in camps - this year the media and humanitarian workers were attracted by the Vučjak camp in Bihać, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last year it was Lesbos, Greece. In 2016 it was the Calais camp in France," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.

Every year, this prompts people and countries to join forces and help this one particular camp - this year, it is Vučjak - to make Europeans feel a little bit better. "But in fact nothing has changed. There are plenty other tents and camps."

According to Repovž, everyone knows what is happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "We know very well that Vučjak was abandoned because European countries have 'paid' Bosnia-Herzegovina to make this disgrace go away."

"We know exactly what is happening along our wire and around it. We know exactly what Croatian police are doing. We know exactly what the situation is in Greece. We know what is going on in Macedonia."

And this is the story we will not be able to get away from. It will be told in the future by different people, completely integrated into our society, from a basketball star, writer, to perhaps a popular TV anchor or a leading doctor, perhaps a minister.

They will speak about the millions living in camps, including hundreds of thousands of children growing up without education, without basic necessities and in total misery, closed in fact and under the supervision of guards, Repovž says.

Their peers will listen to these stories and they will suddenly see their countries in a completely different light, and they will want to talk about it, Repovž says under the headline “Past Always Catches Up With You”.

Demokracija: Leftists hypocrites on climate change

STA, 12 December 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija accuses leftists of hypocrisy when it comes to climate change. It says the UN climate change meeting in Madrid is "not only a get-together of harmful tragic comedians, it is also a meeting of characters more bizarre than even Graham Chapman could imagine".

The magazine highlights people like US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who liberally uses her private jet, and entrepreneur Elon Musk, "a hypocritical bird" who left US President Donald Trump's advisory board after Trump abandoned the Paris climate agreement but "flies so much each year he could circle the Earth six times and each of his SpaceX rockets uses over 130,00 litres of fossil fuel".

"These people, who do not trigger even minimum moral outrage on the left, trade in and get rich off apocalyptic climate change stories - naturally under the UN banner," says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak, who goes on to accuse the UN and its various climate change endeavours of attempts to "create a global centrally managed society that would control all facets of life of each individual in the world".

Nevertheless, Demokracija, which is co-owned by the climate change-denying Democratic Party (SDS), still sees hope. An increasing number of people are sceptical about climate change and turnout at climate conferences is declining, says the commentary “Haydn's Symphony No. 45 in Madrid”.

All our posts in this series are here

14 Dec 2019, 09:11 AM

STA, 14 December 2019 - Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is visiting Slovenia on Saturday for talks with his Slovenian counterpart Miro Cerar and other senior officials. Wang and Cerar will discuss the two countries' political and economic relations and aim to come up with new cooperation opportunities in various areas.

This will be first visit by a Chinese foreign policy chief since 2008, according to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry.

The official visit is designed to strengthen political dialogue as well as discuss global issues and cooperation within forums such as EU-China cooperation, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) forum and the 17+1 initiative, which brings together China and Central and Eastern European countries.

Cerar is expected to attend the ASEM meeting in Madrid on Sunday and Monday. Foreign ministers from 30 European and 21 Asian countries are to discuss strengthening multilateralism, global and regional issues as well as bolstering sustainable connectivity between the two continents.

While in Slovenia, the Chinese foreign minister will also meet President Borut Pahor, Speaker Dejan Židan and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec.

China is Slovenia's key trading partner in Asia and ranks 13th among Slovenian major trading partners.

In the first nine months of 2019, trade in goods between China and Slovenia exceeded EUR 1 billion, with Slovenia importing EUR 887 million and exporting EUR 191 million worth of goods.

Moreover, after seven years of cooperation based on the 17+1 initiative, Slovenia is seeing positive business results. The two countries also cooperates as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

All our stories on China and Slovenia can be found here

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