Politics

19 Sep 2019, 17:03 PM

STA, 19 September 2019 - President Borut Pahor met his Swiss counterpart Ueli Maurer in Bern on Thursday with the pair calling for a deepening of what was said to be already good cooperation between the two countries. "The Swiss and Slovenians are similar and we want to cooperate," Pahor said as he and Maurer addressed the press.

Maurer, who serves as the president of the Swiss confederation and head of the Federal Department of Finance, hailed good bilateral cooperation, offering digitalisation and new technologies as two areas where they would like to enhance it.

"The two countries share ideas and views. This is a good basis to build our cooperation on," the Swiss president said, describing Slovenia as a reliable and important partner.

"Switzerland has always been an inspiration to Slovenians, and it still is in a sense," Pahor said, in a reference to a popular aspiration during independence efforts that Slovenia would be a second Switzerland.

"Tradition, identity, pride, a small country, that's what we share and I believe we've taken a big step toward further development of the relationship, which is strong economically even now," said Pahor.

According to a press release from Pahor's office, the presidents noted the excellent and problem-free political relationship between their countries and Pahor hailed regular bilateral political dialogue.

Economic cooperation ranked prominently and Pahor was happy to note that bilateral trade in goods increased by almost 50% to EUR 1.49 billion in 2018. He also noted scientific cooperation.

Pahor also hailed Slovenia's good experience with Swiss investors. Maurer agreed on the importance of people-to-people relations for business, saying akin views was what made the cooperation between two business communities even better.

The two presidents agreed that Switzerland was a close and important partner for the EU, and noted the significance of the institutional framework agreement.

They agreed that the EU should be made stronger to be able to provide external, internal, economic and social security. They found that a no-deal Brexit would be the worst-case scenario for everyone.

At the outset of his official two-day visit on Wednesday, Pahor met Marina Carobbio Guscetti, president of the Swiss National Council, and took part in the council's session.

They talked about Brexit, the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans, and illegal migration.

Guscetti agreed with Pahor that the two countries maintained good cooperation, including at the parliamentary level.

Today Pahor was also due to address a Slovenian-Swiss business conference in Zurich entitled Slovenia, the Country of Niche Business Champions.

Pahor is being accompanied by Education Minister Jernej Pikalo, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Dobran Božič and Economy Ministry State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar.

19 Sep 2019, 10:30 AM

STA, 18 September 2019 - Police are looking into three cases of simplified debt restructuring that would allow companies owned by Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković's sons to write off about EUR 29 million in debt. The General Police Administration confirmed the news for the STA on Wednesday.

"Police are checking certain circumstances in these cases and if we find grounds to suspect that a criminal act was committed ... we will act accordingly," the Police Administration said after the newspaper Finance reported on the matter.

The news of the write-off of the debt by the companies Electa Inženiring, Electa Naložbe and Electa Holding, owned by the mayor's sons Damijan and Jure Janković, has provoked public outcry and led to calls to change bankruptcy law.

Simplified debt restructuring was originally designed to speed up bankruptcy procedures for small firms and sole proprietors, but the rules are so lax that even companies with millions in assets, including financial holdings such as Electa Holding, can take advantage of the procedure.

The decisions on simplified debt restructuring for Electa Inženiring and Electa Naložbe have become final, while in the case of Electa Holding, the Ljubljana District Court is challenging the decision in its capacity as a claimant over unpaid court tax. The appeal will now be deliberated on by the Ljubljana Higher Court.

According to Finance, in all three cases, the decisions on simplified debt restructuring had been made thanks to debtor-friendly companies owned by Jan Bec, who has purchased the claims that one of the creditors, Heta Asset Resolution, had to the three companies. Thus he had the main say on the future procedures.

Web portal Siol.net also reported today that the Notary Chamber is checking the work of notary Miro Košak in the three cases. Košak made all the notary work related to the debt restructuring procedures.

The question is whether Košak acted with due care and made sufficient effort to stop the manoeuvres with which Damijan Janković planned to achieve the debt write-offs, Siol says.

Notaries are also obligated to report any suspicion of a crime.

The portal also suggests that Košak must have known that some of the biggest creditors of Electa Inženiring, Electa Naložbe and Electa Holding were in fact controlled by Damijan Janković, which means that the simplified debt restructuring should not be valid.

19 Sep 2019, 09:06 AM

STA, 18 September 2019 - UKC Ljubljana, the country's leading hospital, incurs an annual loss of seven to eight million euro because their services and programmes are underrated, consequently receiving less funds then necessary, its director general Janez Poklukar told the press on Wednesday.

To improve the situation, UKC Ljubljana has asked the ZZZS public health fund to expand some of its programmes and raise prices, but is still waiting for reply.

The hospital makes a loss of up to EUR 5,000 per procedure for which it has no adequate funding, or even up to EUR 50,000 per patient for external mechanical circulatory assistance and mechanical ventilation assistance, the director explained.

One of such treatments is a newer procedure to replace the aortal valve without incision in the chest.

Another is the DaTscan brain imaging test to help diagnose Parkinson's disease or radiofrequency ablation in patients with arrhythmia, to name but a few.

Having enough staff and equipment, UKC Ljubljana could perform more aortic valve procedures than approved by the ZZZS, said Poklukar.

However, it met the approved quota for this year before August, so any new procedure the hospital would perform without ZZZS funding approved generates loss.

Poklukar would also expect more understanding from the state in radiofrequency ablation, a procedure performed largely on active population, which in the long run reduces healthcare costs.

The waiting time for this procedure at UKC Ljubljana, one of only three Slovenian hospitals performing it, is the longest in Slovenia, up to three years, he said.

"Regardless of all organisational measures and streamlining, it's impossible to break even with the treatment of patients with severest conditions, so we make a EUR 5,000 loss per procedure on average," he said.

Poklukar explained that the majority of underrated services are carried out only by both university clinics - UKC Ljubljana and UKC Maribor and by one other hospital.

"And this is why they are underfunded. The services are often hidden in a package of payments of tertiary services so that nobody at the ZZZS actually deals with them, which consequently makes us inefficient," he complained.

He said UKC tried to change the situation as part of talks on changes to the healthcare system over the past year, but had not been successful.

18 Sep 2019, 10:45 AM

STA, 17 September 2019 - President Borut Pahor will pay an official visit to Switzerland on Wednesday and Thursday. Talks with his counterpart Ueli Maurer are expected to focus on political and economic cooperation between Slovenia and Switzerland, and the country's relations with the EU. A business conference will also be held.

 Pahor will start the visit in Bern by meeting parliamentary Speaker Marina Corabbio Gusceti, who paid an official visit to Slovenia this May.

On Thursday, the president will be received by his host, Swiss President and Finance Minister Maurer, according to Pahor's office.

The topics to be discussed include regional issues, climate change, environment, and science and research.

The presidents will exchange views on topical international political issues, including the situation in the Western Balkans, as Slovenia and Switzerland both advocate for stability in this region.

EU topics will also be discussed. Switzerland is an EU partner country, and has signed more than 20 important agreements with the bloc, and more than a hundred other technical agreements allowing it to cooperate in the EU's internal market.

This will be Pahor's first visit to Switzerland, and the continuation of political dialogue with top-level Swiss politicians. Pahor hosted former Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga in Ljubljana in September 2015.

According to Pahor's office, the two-day visit confirms the interest of both countries to enhance cooperation and friendly relations. It will also be an opportunity to further strengthen political and economic cooperation.

Trade in goods between Slovenia and Switzerland has been on the rise since 2013. Last year, it reached EUR 1.48 billion, which is almost 50% more than the year before.

In the first half of this year, bilateral trade in goods topped EUR 2 billion.

In 2018, pharmaceuticals represented the bulk of both exports and imports.

On Thursday, Pahor is scheduled to address the participants of a Slovenian-Swiss business conference in Zürich entitled Slovenia, the Country of Niche Business Champions.

Heinz Karrer, executive director of the Switzerland's biggest economic organisation Economiesuisse, executive director of the Slovenian Business Club Goran Novkovič and Economy Ministry State Secretary Eva Štravs Podlogar will also take the stage.

18 Sep 2019, 10:15 AM

STA, 17 September 2019 - Slovenia keeps seeing a surge in illegal migration with the latest police data showing that the number of illegal crossings peaked at 2,352 in August, the highest monthly figure since the 2015-16 refugee crisis.

In the first eight months of the year, police registered 9,801 instances of people trying to cross illegally into the country, which compares to 5,899 in the whole last year.

In most of the cases the migrants were citizens of Pakistan (2,344), followed by Algerians (1,427) and Afghanis (1,064).

The largest number of cases was handled by the Koper, Novo Mesto and Ljubljana police departments (3,310, 2,672 and 1,975, respectively.

The migrants filed 2,577 petitions for asylum between January and the end of August this year, almost 500 more than in the whole of 2018.

Of the 2,475 petitions whose processing has been completed, asylum status was granted to 49 migrants.

Slovenian police returned 6,533 migrants to foreign law enforcement authorities (2,411 in the whole of 2018), while foreign police forces returned 461 migrants to Slovenia (372 in the 12 months of 2018).

17 Sep 2019, 18:01 PM

Numerous outlets are carrying a report from the Associated Press about armed individuals – carrying knives – now patrolling Slovenia’s border with Croatia. These are part of Andrej Šiško’s Štajerska varda (“Home Guard”), the anti-migrant movement led by the former football hooligan, presidential candidate and recent prison inmate. Šiško is quoted as saying his goal is “to train people to defend their country and help the military and police at a time of massive migrations from the African and Asian states, mostly Muslims.”

One member of the group is Blaž Židar, a “47-year-old former Slovenian army soldier, dressed in camouflage trousers with a long knife hanging from his belt” who  goes on daily patrols near his village of Radovica. The story quotes him as saying “I would prefer to enjoy my retirement peacefully, but security reasons are preventing this.” He goes on to say that his six children often join him on patrol, along with his wife, “because they have to learn how to protect their nation from intruders.”

Related: 1 in 8 Slovenians is an immigrant

The reporter, Dušan Stojanović, goes on to interview Miha Kovač, a Slovenian political analyst and professor at the University of Ljubljana, who describes such anti-migrant groups as made up of “guys with big beer bellies who don’t have much of an education, who didn’t have much of a career, who don’t know what to do with themselves in the contemporary world. They find their meaning in this kind of movement and this kind of hatred toward migrants.”

While Kovač doesn’t see the movement as an immediate danger, he says the problem would get worse if Slovenia had significant numbers of immigrants, from 20-50,000.

Meanwhile, the story claims the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to the patrols, as long as they stay within the law. As France Bozicnik, the head of criminal police at a police station near the border, states: “People call us on the phone every day and give us information about suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons, and we sincerely thank them for this information.”

You can see the full story here, while all our stories on Andrej Šiško are here

 

17 Sep 2019, 09:40 AM

STA, 16 September 2019 - President Borut Pahor and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind reaffirmed their commitment to boost cooperation and friendship between their countries, as they met in Ljubljana on Monday. They also stressed the importance of global partnership and multilateralism. Pahor accepted an invitation to India.

Pahor said during the talks with Kovind, the first Indian president to visit the country, that India is the largest country in the world and one of the biggest democracies, where the implementation of the rule of law and human rights could be an example to other countries.

The pair reviewed bilateral and multilateral cooperation, reaffirming their commitment to multilateralism. While agreeing that it needed some changes, they stressed that it represented a safe environment for humanity to tackle the most sensitive and important challenges, from climate change to terrorism.

Discussing terrorism, the presidents exchanged views on the situation in Kashmir. Kovinda said terrorism was one of the biggest challenges of humanity and the presidents agreed that the whole world would have to join forces to defeat it.

Kovinda stressed that the fight against cross-border terrorism was very important for India.

The Indian president also pointed to the historical ties between Slovenia and India, saying they were based on shared cultural and democratic values.

He added that he and Pahor had agreed to strengthen bilateral ties and global partnership.

The presidents signed a statement after the meeting, calling for the strengthening of economic ties. Pahor noted that the two countries posted half a billion euro in goods trade a year and that trade was rising at a 30% rate.

Kovind is accompanied by a business delegation, featuring representatives of 20 Indian companies who will attend a Slovenian-Indian business forum in the afternoon. The two presidents will address the forum.

Kovind said he was pleasantly surprised by Slovenia's technological progress and its achievements in the international arena. It has become a pioneer in environment and forests conservation, he said.

According to the president, India will have more than five billion inhabitants by 2025. The country would like to cooperate with Slovenia in science, know-how and innovation to support this growth.

On the sidelines of the presidential visit, several agreements were signed between the two countries' governments and companies.

Government representatives signed a programme of cooperation in culture, arts, education, sports and media for the 2019-2014 period, and a programme of cooperation in science and technology in 2020-2022.

The Slovenian Institute for Standardization and the Bureau of Indian Standards signed an agreement on technical cooperation in standardisation.

The Indian president believes the agreements signed today will enhance the cultural and economic ties between the two countries.

Kovind will conclude the two-day official visit on Tuesday, when he and his spouse visit the lakeside resort of Bled.

Pahor noted that he had hosted two Indian prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, and that the ties between India and Slovenia go back to the period before Slovenia's independence.

He also stressed the importance of Mahatma Gandhi for humanity, as India celebrates the 150th anniversary of his birth this year.

Kovinda expressed gratitude that Slovenia was nurturing this heritage, including by issuing a special stamp next month.

He also congratulated Slovenia on initiating World Bee Day, which New Delhi has also backed.

Kovinda met Prime Minister Marjan Šarec at Ljubljana Caste this afternoon and is also scheduled to meet parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

All out stories about India are here

16 Sep 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 16 September 2019 - The business newspaper Finance comments on Monday about the debt of the Janković family that has recently been written off, wondering who and why is afraid of the family of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković.

The key question in all this is who is the man who bought most of the debt of Janković's sons Jure and Damijan. Where has the money, some EUR 30 million, including a EUR 5 million debt held by Zoran Janković, come from?

The paper also wonders whether any authority is looking into the assets of the man, a Jan Bec, who bought the debts.

This is not the only scandal involving the Janković family, the author of the commentary notes. "Personally, I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but there have simply been too many happy endings involving the Janković family to call it luck."

"Considering all the scandals and financial 'innovations' it is only logical to ask: Who and why is afraid of the Janković family?" the paper wonders in a commentary with the same headline.

jankovic finance editorial.JPG

finance.si

16 Sep 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 13 September 2019 - Slovenian Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar proposed that Slovenia and Austria form joint police patrols to police the Slovenian-Austrian border, as he hosted his counterpart Wolfgang Peschorn for a visit in Ljubljana on Friday.

Peschorn, saying it was a good proposal, announced the Austrian government would examine it to see if it could fully contain the migration pressure.

Slovenia has recently introduced similar police patrols with Italy.

Poklukar reiterated Slovenia's stance that Austria's border checks with Slovenia had a negative impact on local population on both sides of the border, causing economic damage and long lines of vehicles on the shared border.

He said this was the reason why he had suggested Austria eliminated border checks and set up mixed police patrols with Slovenia.

The Austrian minister said the government planned to take a new decision on the border checks in mid-October.

Austria introduced checks on the border with Slovenia, which is an internal EU border, at the peak of the 2015 refugee crisis, and has been extending them ever since.

Poklukar also announced Slovenia would soon send its police attache to the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Both ministers said they supported effective control of the EU's external borders and a comprehensive solution to the migration issue at the EU level.

The Salzburg Forum, meeting in Vienna in November, will thus discuss initiatives for a more efficient asylum and migration policy.

A message needs to be sent out that illegal migrations and human smuggling do not pay off, the Austrian minister stressed, adding that this applied to the Balkan route as well as other routes in the Mediterranean.

Poklukar acknowledged that illegal migrations have been increasing for four years, but he said there was "no cause for concern". "Slovenia is a safe country and Slovenian police are managing the situation."

As Poklukar noted, Slovenian police had apprehended roughly 9,800 illegal migrants so far this year, with the majority returned to Croatia; Austria, meanwhile returned only 62 persons to Slovenia.

"This data shows that Slovenia conducts effective control of its southern border."

Both officials also commented on the threat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will open Turkey's borders and let Syrian refugees into Europe.

Peschorn said "announcements are commonplace in polit
On the sidelines of the visit, he decorated two Slovenian police officers wiics, but it is always important what happens," but stressed that the situation on the Turkish-Greek border would inform Austria's decision on whether to extent police checks.

Poklukar said that the 2016 deal the EU struck with Turkey in 2016 helped significantly reduce migrations from Syria and the Middle East. Slovenia's position is that the deal is very important.

16 Sep 2019, 10:33 AM

STA, 16 September 2019 - Indian President Ram Nath Kovind will be in Ljubljana on Monday as the first Indian president to visit the country. He will be received with military honours by President Borut Pahor, will have a working lunch with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and meet parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

Following the reception ceremony in Congress Square, Kovind will lay a wreath at the monument to victims of wars, after which the presidents will hold talks behind closed doors.

Talks between Slovenian and Indian delegations will be attended by Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, after which several cooperation agreements will be signed. The presidents will hold a joint press conference just before noon.

Kovind will also have a working lunch with Šarec and meet Židan in the afternoon.

This will be followed by a Slovenian-Indian business conference, one of the key events organised as part of the visit. The conference, organised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), will see the signing of a cooperation memorandum.

Before dinner, to be hosted by Pahor, the two presidents will visit the Ljubljana-based International Centre for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE), where they will unveil a Bench of Friendship.

Official portrait of Shri Ram Nath Kovind, President of India Wikimedia.jpg

Official portrait of Shri Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, Wikipedia

Background to the visit

STA, 14 September 2019 - Ram Nath Kovind, the president of India, will pay his first official visit to Slovenia on Monday for talks with his host, President Borut Pahor. The pair is to discuss bilateral cooperation, the priorities of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021, and the situation in India. A business forum will also be held.

Cooperation between Slovenia and India is versatile and also has a legal basis, but the presidential visit is to further enhance these ties, especially political dialogue and business cooperation, according to Pahor's office.

The two countries traditionally have good relations. Pahor paid an official visit to the country with a strong business delegation in 2011 at the invitation of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Pahor and Kovind are also expected to express strong support for multilateralism under the sponsorship of the UN, and discuss the situation in India and the wider region of South Asia. Cooperation between India and the EU will also be on the agenda.

India is Slovenia's third most important foreign trade partner in Asia after China and South Korea. Bilateral trade in 2018 was the highest in the last five years, reaching EUR 361 million or 34% more than in 2017.

Slovenian and Indian companies have recently set up several join ventures specialising in car parts, construction materials and abrasives.

Kovind will be accompanied by a business delegation, compiled by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), which will attend the Slovenian-Indian business forum.

Several agreements are expected to be signed as part of the forum, which will be a continuation of efforts for cooperation initiated during a visit by a Slovenian delegation from transport and logistics in Mumbai and Chennai this April.

Pahor and Kovind will also unveil a bench of friendship in front of the Ljubljana-based International Center for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE).

Slovenia opened an embassy in new Delhi in 2002 but sent its first ambassador to the country, Janez Premože, only in September 2009.

India in turn opened its residential embassy in Ljubljana in March 2008, when Indian Foreign Minister Ananda Sharma paid a visit.

The first Slovenian president to pay an official visit to India was Janez Drnovšek in January 2007. He attended an international conference marking the 100th anniversary of the Mathama Ghandi peace movement in New Delhi and met top officials.

In February 2004, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel visited.

More recent exchanges include a working visit by President Danilo Türk in February 2010, a visit by Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec in 2013 and a multi-day visit by National Assembly Speaker Milan Brglez two years later.

All our stories on Slovenia and India are here

14 Sep 2019, 12:03 PM

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

Mladina: Energy sector suffers from excessive pay

STA, 13 September 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the government does not want to make order in the energy sector and reduce the excessive wages there as the sector is highly politicised, with each political party having their piece of the pie.

"The world of energy in Slovenia is a distinctively political matter. The entire sector could be called a small political paradise," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline EUR 100,000 a Month.

According to him, energy should be a competitive business in which the state does not and must not have any connection, because otherwise it does not function under the economic principles.

"It is supposed to be a serious business, with competition, market, large players, fierce fights for every consumer. But it is not. In reality, it is a completely state-owned system, but excluded enough from the state that the public sector rules do not apply to it."

At the same time, it is included in the state enough that politics can influence it. When it comes to distributing influence in the energy sector, political parties are able to make agreements and they cooperate well.

"There is a code of silence among parties and each new party which enters the government quickly gets its own 'energy district'," Repovž adds.

As energy companies in Slovenia are mainly public companies, it would be right if they get completely subordinated to the rules of public sector "in the field of wages for starts. Slovenia has one unusual feature: the highest wages are not paid out in the banking sector, but in energy."

However, Mladina does not believe that the current government has the courage or even the intention to do something about that. "It seems that a majority has already forgotten about their high-flying election promises," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Slovenia should learn from Estonia

STA, 12 September - The right-wing weekly Demokracija praises Estonia for its break with Communism, while Slovenia opted for a gradual transition and never really broke with the regime. "Communism was an occupation and Slovenia will not be able to step out of its shadow by ignoring its remnants. The snake needs to be decapitated or it will bring us down once more."

The weekly comments on Thursday on an interview Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid gave the broadcaster TV Slovenija last week in which she specifically said that the country had been occupied by the Soviet Union and did not join the union willingly.

Slovenia and Estonia are similar in many ways, sharing similar fates after World War II. "Both had been occupied, in both countries the Communists first killed most of the bourgeois intelligentsia, industrials and entrepreneurs, and sent the rest to labour camps."

In both countries, power was in the hands of foreigners: in Slovenia in the hands of Serbs and in Estonia in the hands of Russians. They experienced Communist dictatorship and the countries stagnated for half a century.

But after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the independence of the two countries, their ways diverged. Slovenia opted for a gradual transition to market economy and never got rid of its socialist mindset, while Estonia broke off with Socialism overnight.

Slovenia could learn a lot from Estonia. The latter was a much poorer country when it became independent, but is now on Slovenia's tail, the paper says under the headline Why Estonia Became E-stonia.

The different mindsets were the most pronounced in the 2008 crisis, when Slovenia decided for Keynesian measures, while Estonia let the market sort itself out.

Although unemployment in Estonia was higher than in Slovenia during the crisis, the levels are similar now. But Estonia's debt amounts to only 8% of GDP, while Slovenia's is at over 70% of GDP.

All our posts in this series are here

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