15 Mar 2020, 11:08 AM

STA, 14 March 2020 - The situation on Slovenia's borders with Italy and Croatia remains complicated as different countries have opted for different levels of border checks to contain the coronavirus epidemic. There are long lines of lorries in particular on the border with Croatia, but the authorities say they are working to address the situation.

Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec visited Gruškovje, one of the biggest crossings on the border with Croatia, Saturday afternoon to say that talks were under way with neighbouring countries.

"Goods are trapped on motorways, which is not good... We're in regular contact with ministers from neighbouring countries to resolve the situation. We're making various proposals, in particular to ensure uninterrupted supply and that the trapped lorry drivers could cross Slovenia faster," he said.

Many lorry drivers, in particular Romanian nationals, have been stuck in Slovenia because of restrictions imposed by Croatia and Hungary. At the same time, transit through Slovenia has been heavily affected due to restrictions that Slovenia adopted.

Vrtovec said that whatever the solution is, it must not cause new coronavirus infections. It must also apply to the entire transit route through Slovenia.

At Gruškovje the line of lorries waiting to cross into Croatia was nine kilometres long late in the afternoon. At Obrežje, another major crossing further south, the line was four kilometres long.

But cargo is not the only portion of traffic affected. Slovenia's restrictions on the border with Italy have left 95 Eastern European passengers stuck on two Ukrainian buses in the zone between the Slovenian and Italian border at the Fernetiči crossing since Friday morning.

The buses were allowed through the Italian checkpoint but were turned back at the Slovenian border, reportedly out of fear that they would be stuck in Slovenia. Italian authorities however refused to let them enter Italy and now they are stuck.

The local civil protection service from Sežana provided food and water last night and today. With the help of the Foreign Ministry it has been agreed that they will be escorted by police to a crossing with Croatia, where Croatian police will take over and see them through to Serbia.

Live updates from the Slovenian traffic service can be found here

Humanitarian convoy organised through Slovenia

STA, 14 March 2020 - Slovenian authorities have organised a humanitarian convoy to get lorries and passenger stranded in Slovenia due to border checks to their destination countries, the Foreign Ministry said on Saturday evening.

The convoy of lorries and buses got under way in the evening accompanied by police and vehicles of the national motorway company DARS.

Transit to their destination countries will be supervised and there will be no stop in the transit countries, the ministry said.

The convoy was organised in agreement with Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria and Turkey.

Two Ukrainian buses with 95 passengers which had been stuck in the zone between the Italian and Slovenian border on Fernetiči for almost two days are not part of the convoy, according to public broadcaster TV Slovenija.

The buses were sent to Padua and the passengers will be airlifted to their countries, the report said.

All our stories on Slovenia and coronavirus are here

15 Mar 2020, 10:47 AM

Update - The government is suspending public transportation services in Slovenia to contain the spreading of the new coronavirus, with the measure coming into effect at midnight Sunday Taxis will still be able to operate, but drivers will have to sanitize their vehicles after every drive.

STA, 14 March 2020 - The government's crisis management unit agreed additional measures Saturday to slow the spread of the coronavirus epidemic. Public transportation will be suspended on Monday with bars and restaurant closures planned as well.

"Stopping public transportation is an emergency measure if we want to effectively contain the outbreak," Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said about the blanket suspension of bus and rail traffic due to take effect on Monday.

Health Minister Tomaž Gantar announced a closure of bars and restaurants as well, though the specifics and the time frame have not been announced.

Prime Minister Janez Janša wrote on Twitter that "Slovenia will close or limit all non-urgent activities" and that measures would take effect once the competent ministries have prepared the requisite decrees.

The measures were discussed at a session of the extended government crisis management unit which featured top government and civil protection officials as well as the central bank and other institutions.

It was set up by the government at its maiden session last night to serve as the central body managing and coordinating the crisis response.

The coronavirus epidemic is seen as the biggest disruption to society since Slovenia fought for independence from Yugoslavia nearly thirty years ago, and it marks the return of a person who had been synonymous with crisis management at the time.

Jelko Kacin, long-time MP and until recently Slovenia's ambassador to NATO, was named tonight the official spokesman of the crisis management unit, performing a role he played during the independence war as information minister.

In that period, he and Janša provided daily briefings for the media, an era that Janša also recalled today during a press conference in the afternoon.

Bookmark this link for all our stories on COVID-19 and Slovenia

14 Mar 2020, 22:05 PM

STA, 14 March 2020 - Slovenia's second largest city Maribor plans to close bars, restaurants and establishments such as hair salons and flower shops to slow the spread of coronavirus.

"We want Maribor and its surroundings to remain an area with a relatively slow spreading of the epidemic," Mayor Saša Arsenović said on Saturday.

All such establishments will be closed unless they can arrange contactless delivery and service of food, which could mean fast food stalls would be exempted.

Arsenović said shops should consider closing as well, except for petrol stations, pharmacies and grocery stores.

The mayor's order is expected to take effect on Sunday, when the detailed rules will be announced. The order may include fines for violators.

The move comes after Prime Minister Janez Janša has called on local communities to be proactive in curbing the epidemic, saying that people are still too careless and that additional restrictions may be imposed.

There are currently 13 confirmed coronavirus cases in Maribor area out of 181 confirmed cases nationwide.

Slovenia records first coronavirus fatality as elderly man dies

STA, 14 March 2020 - An elderly man died of coronavirus at UKC Ljubljana hospital in Ljubljana on Saturday, the first covid-19 victim in Slovenia, the STA has learnt from multiple sources.

The man is believed to have had multiple underlying conditions and been very ill prior to the infection. He had been infected in Metlika, where several residents of a nursing home contracted the disease from a doctor who became infected in Italy.

The doctor had been at work for three days before he became symptomatic, during which time he had been in contact with several nursing home residents and staff.

Seven residents and five staff have tested positive for coronavirus and Metlika and several more in the region, making Metlika one of the biggest hotspots of the disease in Slovenia.

Things seem to be moving into the new normal, so updates should so down, but if you want the latest on coronavirus and Slovenia then bookmark this link

14 Mar 2020, 16:17 PM


181 cases

Shift in focus

Price caps on protective gear

Coronavirus on Turkish Airlines 1061 flight in Ljubljana on 10 March at 8:45am

Travellers advised to avoid Spain

Slovenia sees new steep increase in coronavirus cases as 181 infections confirmed

STA, 14 March 2020 - Slovenia had 181 confirmed coronavirus cases by 2pm on Saturday, up by 40 since Friday, as the number continues to rise sharply.

Regional data show 75 cases confirmed in the general Ljubljana area, 39 in Novo Mesto, 27 in Celje and 13 in Maribor, the government announced on Twitter.

The figures reflect the largest clusters of cases detected so far.

The largest single cluster, numbering 46, is in Ljubljana, and 26 have been infected in Šmarje pri Jelšah, a small community in eastern Slovenia where an outbreak was registered in a primary school.

Metlika has 25 cases associated with a doctor who came to work sick and infected multiple patients and health staff.

Slovenia shifting focus from confirmed to severe cases

STA, 14 March 2020 - Slovenia plans to shift the focus of efforts to fight the coronavirus epidemic from the number of confirmed cases to the number of serious cases, which will allow it to better plan and allocate resources, Prime Minister Janez Janša said on Saturday. The shift will change the way Slovenia reports statistics.

The number of confirmed cases is relative since it depends on the number of tests and how testing is conducted, whereas the number of serious cases who need hospital care affects how the system operates, he said.

But Janša nevertheless warned that the change in what will be considered the benchmark data, which will be used to calculate the number of infections, "does not alter the gravity of the outlook on the situation."

The shift in effect means that Slovenia will no longer report all confirmed cases, it will extrapolate the number of infections from the number of severe cases based on figures available in countries such as China and Italy.

The result will be a range of possible infections, around which work in the healthcare system will be organised, according to Bojana Beović, an infectious disease specialist.

She said Slovenia was at a point in the epidemic at which it is "impossible to determine all contacts infected persons have had or sources of infections," which is why it made sense to direct all the effort into treating persons with the most severe symptoms.

Consequently, persons with respiratory infections will be told to self-isolate for two weeks and will not be tested for coronavirus. Only if they need to be hospitalised will they be tested.

Govt caps protective gear prices, creates legal basis to fight COVID-19

STA, 14 March 2020 - The new government has issued a decree that caps the highest prices of protective personal and medical equipment and agents, and adopted a legal basis to step up measures to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The decree affects protective and surgical masks, goggles, gloves, protective suits, sanitizers, ventilators, portable oxygen systems and contactless body temperature thermometers.

The prices of these products over the next three months are capped at the highest retail prices in the market at 8am on Saturday.

The government also issued a decision that measures "stipulated in the contagious diseases act for plague or viral haemorrhagic fevers" be applied to fight the COVID-19 epidemic as a novel disease.

The act provides for measures such as epidemic testing, quarantining, inoculation and disinfection.

Once provision provides for a quarantine as a measure to restrict the freedom of movement and impose mandatory health checks of healthy persons suspected to have been in contact with an infectious person.

A quarantine is decreed by the minister of health on the proposal of the National Institute of Public Health and is not appealable.

As the number of coronavirus cases kept rising the former government already declared an epidemic earlier in the week and ordered the closure of all educational institutions from Monday as well as banned public events and urged a scale-down of public life.

Quarantine or self-isolation has so far been ordered only for individuals infected or in contact with coronavirus patients.

The most recent official number available shows that 181 persons had tested positive for coronavirus until 2pm today.

A decree issued by the former Health Minister Aleš Šabeder stepped in force at 7pm on Friday limiting the amount of prescription drugs issued by pharmacies equal to a month's treatment per patient and over-the counter drugs to a packet per person.

Pharmacies that meet the requirements to produce official formula preparations have been ordered to produce sanitisers and disinfectants.

Coronavirus infection on Tuesday's Turkish Airlines flight to Ljubljana

STA, 14 March 2020 - The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) has found that a person infected with the novel coronavirus arrived on a Turkish Airlines 1061 flight in Ljubljana on 10 March at 8:45am. Fellow passengers are urged so monitor their condition and to limit their contacts with other people.

"The passengers on that flight are urged to closely monitor their health condition and seek the advice of their doctor over the phone if feeling unwell, have signs of a respiratory infection or fever," the NIJZ said in an urgent appeal.

Even if they do not have any symptoms, the passengers are advised to follow the advice on hygienic measures and to limit their close contacts and reduce social contacts that could lead to them passing potential infection.

The NIJZ detected the infected passenger in looking for contacts of a COVID-19 patient.

Foreign Ministry advises against all travel to Spain

STA, 14 March 2020 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry has issued a travel alert on Saturday advising against all travel to Spain as the number of coronavirus cases continues to surge. All Slovenians in Spain have been advised to return home as soon as possible.

Since some airlines have already cut off links with individual European countries, the ministry said that Slovenian citizens currently in Spain should monitor the situation and contact airlines about their journey.

Spain today reported an increase of over 1,500 confirmed cases on Friday raising its total to 5,753 cases, the second-highest number in Europe after Italy.

The ministry again appealed on all Slovenians planning any travel abroad to reconsider their plans and postpone non-essential travel.

The ministry is advising in particular against travel to Italy, Iran, South Korea and China.

As US Donald Trump's travel ban from Europe to the United States has come into force, the Foreign Ministry advised all Slovenian citizens temporarily in the US to immediately return to Slovenia.

They are also being advised to follow the media and the local authorities' instructions, and to brace for potential delays.

Bookmark this link and keep up to date with all the latest on coronavirus and Slovenia

14 Mar 2020, 12:22 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 March 2020

Mladina: Hoping for the best with Janša & COVID-19 far-right govt amid major crisis

STA, 13 March 2020 - Mladina says the hearings for ministerial candidates have shown Slovenia is getting a far-right government, the assurances of the coalition's two centrist parties notwithstanding. The left-wing weekly hopes new PM Janez Janša will live up to his reputation as a master of states of emergency, something he failed to do in 2012.

Editor in chief Grega Repovž starts by highlighting statements that Slovenia would try to join the Visegrad Group - "composing countries that pursue backward policies, interfere in the judicial branch, persecute the media and intellectuals and reject minorities" - that new fences will be erected on the Croatian border and that it would make sense to include members of an extremist group into the Slovenian army.

Repovž says that the Modern Centre Parts (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) did not even wince in the face of such announcements by the ministerial candidates of the Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), confirming the extreme candidates as appropriate and good.

This is happening as the world and Slovenia are facing one of the worst situations imaginable, says Repovž who hopes that these people with questionable views will nonetheless be capable of trusting the public sector in this situation and not use the circumstances to generate additional crises.

This will mostly depend on Janša, who has a reputation of thriving in states of emergency, but the past has shown "that it is in precisely such circumstances that this man creates panic and increases pressure time and time again".

"The last time we witnessed this was during the 2012 financial crisis, when he neglected serious economic polices to instead paint new disaster scenarios on a daily basis and portray the economy - which was struggling, banks included - as bankrupt," Repovž says in Janša Govt in Times of Anxiety.

Arguing it was his inexperienced successor Alenka Bratušek who actually protected Slovenia from the Troika, Repovž says one can really not say Janša performs well in such situations.

"But this does not mean we are not hoping things will be different this time around. After all, lives are at stake, to quote Janša himself."

Repovž goes on to urge the public to remain watchful of the actions of power holders, who often abuse extreme situations for steps that have a long-term impact on society and its prosperity.

This goes for politicians but also for international capital, which definitely sees the crisis as an opportunity to take over troubled companies and sectors. Whatever the government may be, it currently needs to act very prudently.

"That being said, Slovenia is short of experts in all areas and if Janša picks them on the basis of political affiliation, their numbers will be even smaller."

All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Reporter: Počivalšek won over Šarec

STA, 9 March 2020 - The right-wing weekly Reporter says in its commentary on Monday that the Modern Centre Party (SMC) head Zdravko Počivalšek had the best poker face in the game that has just played out in Slovenian politics and will soon see a new government taking over.

It is an art to persuade competitors that one has a good hand of cards when in fact the opposite is true and outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec failed to do this.

He could not persuade Počivalšek that early elections were the best solution. "Počivalšek is the better bluff and even though he as well had a poor hand, he demolished Šarec."

Soon, Janez Janša will become prime minister a third time, but this would not have been possible without Počivalšek.

"Počivalšek is [the government's] main political godfather and he will de everything necessary for this government to remain in for the next two years, until regular election."

The question about what is behind Počivalšek's decision to switch sides, if anything at all, remains unanswered for now. "It is fact that Janša came to power very easily," the paper says, wondering whether this was really the consequence of MPs working to preserve their positions.

"Also because the network of [former President Milan] Kučan, Forum 21, is allegedly in shambles, even though Janša has recently been raging on twitter that this was not the case."

The paper says that Počivalšek may not be any more than a pawn of "the so called deep state". "To allow Janša to take power for a short while so that he will then be more easily defeated in election."

Under the headline Poker Face, the weekly says that estimates about the duration of this government vary greatly, indicating that estimates like these are often far off the mark.

All our posts in this series are here

14 Mar 2020, 10:25 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, while if just want everything on COVID-9, that's here

FRIDAY, 6 March
        LJUBLJANA - Janez Janša, the incoming prime minister, formally nominated his 16-member cabinet. Most of the nominees are senior politicians with prior experience in government, in particular in his previous cabinets. The Democrats (SDS) are slated to head seven ministers and will lead several key departments, including foreign affairs, finance and home policy.
        LJUBLJANA - Official statistics released ahead of International Women's Day showed that Slovenia ranks 8th among 120 countries on the OECD gender equality scale, however women earn nearly EUR 130 less a month than men, and two-thirds of pensioners below the poverty line are women. The share of discrimination in Slovenia was 12.9%, with discrimination within the family being the biggest problem.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will get a new biotechnological centre, located in Ljubljana, as the agreement on the construction of the Biotechnological Hub of the National Institute for Biology (NIB), valued at EUR 20.8 million, was signed. The 6,500-square-metre research centre is to be built by 2023. The EU is to chip in EUR 16 million.

        LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Aleš Šabeder issued a decree banning all public indoor events for 500-plus participants as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by four to 12. The ban was accompanied by a recommendation to organisers of smaller events to reconsider cancelling too.
        MARIBOR - The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) survey showed that detection of business opportunities by individuals in Slovenia has been improving in recent years. Almost 58% of Slovenians perceived business opportunities last year, up from 38% in 2016, putting Slovenia 26th among the 50 surveyed countries around the world.
        HOLMEKOLLEN, Norway - Slovenia's ski jumpers grabbed third place at the Ski Jumping World Cup team event, finishing behind the victorious home team and Germany. This was the third consecutive podium placement for the Slovenian team, which finished fifth overall in the Nations Cup.

SUNDAY, 8 March
        LJUBLJANA/NOVO MESTO - Authenticity was confirmed of the first fragment of the meteor which disintegrated over Slovenia at the end of last month, after it was found last week in a village near Novo Mesto. A second chunk was found this week, also in the Novo Mesto area.
        LJUBLJANA - A report on the Slovenian-Croatian border arbitration agreement implementation showed that Croatian authorities initiated 913 proceedings against Slovenian fishermen for fishing in what Croatia claims is its part of the Piran Bay, while Slovenia has paid EUR 190,954 for legal assistance to the fishermen so far.

MONDAY, 9 March
        LJUBLJANA - As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia grew to 23, Health Minister Aleš Šabeder announced that all indoor events would be limited to 100 participants. A number of higher education institutions in the country started cancelling in-class lectures and moving instruction online.
        LJUBLJANA - The government announced a stimulus package worth close to EUR 1 billion to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on the economy. Short- and long-term measures such as tax deferrals, state guarantees and credit lines are planned, mostly from existing financial facilities, said Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek.
        LJUBLJANA - After European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called on EU member states to help unaccompanied migrant children on Greek islands, the Slovenian Interior Ministry said it had not received an official request and that the caretaker government could not decide on such an issue in any case.

TUESDAY, 10 March
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Policy Committee backed the foreign minister candidate Anže Logar after what was mostly a Croatia-focused confirmation hearing. While arguing new approaches would be needed, he asserted Slovenia would continue insisting Croatia honour the border arbitration decision after he had raised eyebrows with his statement it was time to switch to silent diplomacy.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia (NSi) head Matej Tonin was backed for defence minister at committee level after he defended plans to gradually reintroduce conscription. He also announced higher defence spending, saying "NATO remains the best and cheapest insurance policy", and mentioned an idea to enlist older people who have received military training to help patrol the border.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court stayed the implementation of an act providing easier access to recourse for roughly 100,000 investors who lost their investments during the banking sector bailout of 2013. The announcement came two months after the central bank challenged the legislation over unlawful monetary financing and encroachment on the financial independence of the central bank.
        STRASBOURG, France - The European Court of Human Rights said that Slovenia has taken adequate steps to provide informal Roma settlements with drinking water, as it rejected an application by two Roma families who alleged violations of basic human rights because of inadequate access to drinking water and sanitation.
        LJUBLJANA - Javelin thrower Martina Ratej was suspended over doping suspicion based on a repeated analysis of a sample taken at the 2012 Olympics in London, where she placed 7th for her best career result. The Slovenian women's record holder is facing a penalty from World Athletics for the use of a banned clostebol metabolite.
        LJUBLJANA - The global decline in petroleum prices brought by the new coronavirus resulted in much cheaper motor fuel in Slovenia. Regulated prices of regular petrol and diesel dropped by almost 5% each to EUR 1.205 and EUR 1.146 per litre, respectively.

        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia stepped up containment activities as the number of coronavirus cases rose 57. Spot checks were introduced at six points along the border with Italy, and all other road links with Italy closed. Passenger train service was suspended and two primary schools were shut down.
        LJUBLJANA - Andrej Šircelj, candidate for finance minister in the incoming Janez Janša government, indicated that the new government would pursue a more expansionary fiscal policy if needed to counter the adverse effects of the coronavirus, even though sustainable public finances would be a top priority.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior minister candidate Aleš Hojs told the parliamentary Home Policy Committee that effective protection of borders, not only because of migrants but also the coronavirus, and reduction of administrative burdens on police would be his first priority in the emerging government.
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) brought a defamation suit against outgoing PM Marjan Šarec over what they say are his untruthful and insulting allegations that the party was being financed from Hungary. The lawsuit comes after the SDS threatened Šarec with a damages suit in mid-February unless he retracted certain comments.
        LJUBLJANA - The Home Affairs Committee struck down legislative amendments proposed by the outgoing government in order to outlaw the activity of self-styled village guards or militias patrolling the border with the intention to stop illegal migrants.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office reported that Slovenia had exported EUR 3 billion worth of goods in January while importing EUR 2.8 billion. Exports were up 10.6% and imports 5.2% in year-on-year comparison, and the export/import coverage was 107.5%.
        LILLEHAMMER, Norway - Slovenian ski jumpers Žiga Jelar and Timi Zajc finished second and third, respectively, in what turned to be the penultimate event of the World Cup season, as it was cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak. Peter Prevc finished 7th overall as the best Slovenian, while Zajc was second in the ski flying segment.
THURSDAY, 12 March
        LJUBLJANA - An epidemic was declared in Slovenia based on fresh data on the spreading of coronavirus showing an increase in confirmed cases of COVID-19 to 96. Outgoing PM Marjan Šarec said this was done to better coordinate actions of the civil protection and other services. All educational institutions were ordered closed as of Monday. Major sporting events were cancelled as well, including the Alpine Ski World Cup ski meet in Kranjska Gora and the Ski Flying World Championship in Planica.
        LJUBLJANA - The incoming Janez Janša government announced sweeping lockdown measures it plans to take immediately after assuming office after infectious disease specialists issued an urgent appeal for public life to be brought to a standstill due to the coronavirus epidemic. Janša said the new government supported the appeal and would form a crisis centre at its first session after it takes office on Friday evening.
        LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek announced an expansion of the stimulus package meant to mitigate the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis. The announcement came as he was heard parliament in at the committee level and endorsed to continue as minister in the forthcoming Janez Janša government.
        ATHENS, Greece - Four Slovenian police officers started serving on the Greek-Turkey border as part of a 100-member Frontex rapid border intervention team which is helping Greece cope with the new migration wave. They will stay on the land border in the north-east of Greece at least until 6 May.
        LJUBLJANA - The government confirmed a bill providing subsidies to employers for wages paid out to employees on temporary lay-offs and in certain cases of self-quarantine resulting from the spreading of coronavirus. The state will aid employers who are not be able to provide work to at least 30% of their employees due to a decline in turnover. Worth some EUR 50 million, the legislation will be fast-tracked at the National Assembly.
        LJUBLJANA - IMAD, the government's macroeconomic forecaster, halved its GDP growth forecast for the year to 1.5% from 3% due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The projection is made under the assumption that the situation will calm down in the second half of the year. The forecast for 2021 was cut to 2.2% from 2.7%
        LJUBLJANA - The SBI TOP index on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange lost almost 9% to 753.70 points, the largest daily drop since it was launched in 2006, as major issues lost in excess of 10% on coronavirus concerns.

All our posts in this series are here

14 Mar 2020, 09:50 AM

STA, 13 March 2020 - Slovenia got its 14th government at the height of the coronavirus epidemic as the National Assembly confirmed the centre-right cabinet of Janez Janša at a session Friday at which the fight against coronavirus and the previous government's inaction in the face of the outbreak dominated the debate.

Jump to Police, army and defence intel chiefs dismissed

 Janša, the president of the Democrats (SDS), came out in force against the previous government's efforts, accusing it of having missed the best time to take action and announcing that the new cabinet would hold its first session an hour after parliament goes into recess to discuss new measures to fight the epidemic.

He promised the government would take concerted and far-reaching measures. The virus can no longer be stopped, but its spreading must be slowed. "This is a battle with time, a battle that has to be won inasmuch as this is possible," he said.

The debate touched on little else except the epidemic, which is not surprising given that the new government will take over a day after Slovenia officially declared a coronavirus epidemic due to a surging number of new cases.

Janša said the outgoing government had "flunked the test in recent days", likening the response of the authorities to the reaction to the migration crisis in 2015, when "what was coming was underestimated and reactions were chaotic".

This was despite health professionals warning that immediate tough measures must be taken to contain the disease, he said, noting that Slovenia should have followed the example of countries such as South Korea, which it had had enough time to do given that there was a month's advance warning from the situation in China.

Given the national emergency, the new centre-left opposition pledged to be constructive in helping the government fight the epidemic, but it also stressed that it would keep close watch on any actions that may be deemed excessive.

The Left in particular warned about Janša's "autocratic potential" with MP Matej Tašner Vatovec saying that the circumstances - the coronavirus epidemic and the looming new migration wave - practically "put the state of emergency into your hands". "He will not have to create a state of emergency like he did in the past, it is practically here already."

The coalition said once the situation normalises the government would focus on its priorities, in particular demographic policy, regional development, infrastructure investments, housing policy and healthcare, and presidency of the EU in 2021.

SDS deputy Eva Irgl said the overarching goal was to ensure the "fair and effective functioning of the state" by tackling pensions and health insurance, establishing a balance between welfare and the market economy, strengthening Slovenian and European identity, and protecting borders.

Irgl said it was impossible to put all priorities of the coalition partners in the coalition agreement given that the government will have only two years, but it would "invest the time and effort to together support solutions that citizens urgently need."

The session lasted a mere two and a half hours as procedural rules were used to limit formalities and all but a handful of MPs refrained from debate after the deputy groups presented their positions.

The entire process of building the government has been fast by Slovenian standards. The vote came just two weeks after Janša was endorsed as prime minister designate and a month and a half after Marjan Šarec stepped down as prime minister.

Several coalition MPs today stressed it was fortuitous that the partners had decided against a snap election, the outcome favoured by Šarec, and in favour of building a new government; if snap election had been the chosen path, Slovenia would now be in the midst of an election campaign.

Police, army and defence intel chiefs dismissed

STA, 14 March 2020 - The Janez Janša government dismissed the heads of the police force, the armed forces and of the Defence Ministry's intelligence and security service OVS at its maiden session early on Saturday.

Addressing reporters after the session, Defence Minister Matej Tonin announced the decision on the dismissals of Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, Chief of the General Staff Major General Alenka Ermenc and OVS director Dejan Matijevič.

Ermenc's successor is yet to be appointed with her deputy, Brigadier Robert Glavaš, 58, taking over for the interim period.

Anton Travner, a security expert who has served with the Geneva Centre for Security Centre Governance (DCAF) as head of Border Security Programme for Southeast Europe, was appointed acting police commissioner.

Ermenc and Bobnar were the first women to head the army and police force. They were both appointed by the Marjan Šarec government.

Andrej Osolnik was appointed OVS director for a five-year term.

The government also made several other appointments with Božo Predalič returning as government secretary general. He will also represent Slovenia as a sole stakeholder in state-owned companies, according to a press release issued after the government session.

Kristina Plavšak Krajnc was dismissed as director of the Government Communication Office (UKOM) with Miro Petek, a former MP and press officer for Janša's Democratic Party (SDS) named as acting director.

As is usual, the heads of junior coalition partners, who also serve as ministers, were named deputies to the PM; Zdravko Počivalšek (Modern centre Party), Matej Tonin (New Slovenia) and Aleksandra Pivec (Pensioners' Party).

Several state secretaries have also been appointed with diplomat Igor Senčar, SDS MP Žan Mahnič and Vinko Gorenak, a former SDS MP and interior minister, appointed as state secretaries in the PM's office.

Franc Kangler, the former Maribor mayor, was named state secretary in the Interior Ministry, while Gašper Dovžan and Tone Kajzer were appointed state secretaries at the Foreign Ministry, and Damijan Jaklin and Uroš Lampret will be state secretaries at the Defence Ministry.

Peter Ješovnik and Kristina Šteblaj were named Finance Ministry state secretaries and Aleš Cantarutti was reappointed one of the state secretaries at the Economy Ministry along with Simon Zajc, who has so far served as environment minister.

Andrej Možina, the former head of the Medical Chamber, was named state secretary at the Health Ministry, and Blaž Košorok, the former CEO of the power utility HSE, was appointed state secretary at the Infrastructure Ministry, among others.

Lilijana Kozlovič, who was appointed justice minister last night, is being replaced as the head of the Environment Agency by Iztok Slatinšek as acting director.

All our stories about the new government can be found here

12 Mar 2020, 21:53 PM

STA, 12 March 2020 - Slovenia declared a coronavirus epidemic on Thursday as the number of cases continued to surge with 96 persons confirmed to have fallen ill, almost double the number from the day before. A number of measures were taken to contain the spreading, from school closures to cancellations of virtually all public events, with additional measures announced.

The declaration of the epidemic, which took effect at 6pm, gives the government and public health authorities more leeway in organising the response effort and coordinating the actions of the civil protection and emergency services.

A national emergency response plan will be set in motion and the admission and treatment of patients will be changed.

To help the health system cope with the influx of new cases, all but the most urgent procedures at all health institutions have been cancelled as of Monday, including all prevention, Health Minister Aleš Šabeder said.

The authorities have decided to start admitting patients to regional hospitals since major health centres are becoming overwhelmed.

Related: How Many Hospital Beds Are There In Slovenia?

A special decree has been adopted that in effect suspends most labour rights of health staff, who will not be allowed to go on strike, take annual leave or travel abroad.

Another major decision is the closure of all educational establishment across the entire country. The shutdown becomes effective on Monday and schools have been told to skip regular instruction on Friday in favour of providing a basic care service for the children as they prepare to move classes online and reorganise the curriculum. Some schools will close tomorrow.

Companies and public institutions have been advised to organise telecommuting to the maximum extent possible to contain the spread.

Since many businesses will be strongly affected by the gradual winding down of public life, the outgoing government has adopted a bill under which it will co-finance the pay of workers who will be temporarily laid off or quarantined.

EUR 50 million has been set aside and more will be provided as necessary. Outgoing Labour Minister Ksenija Klampfer said that the legislation would be fast-tracked in the National Assembly.

Major sporting events have been cancelled as well. The Alpine Ski World Cup event, scheduled to take place in Kranjska Gora at the weekend, was cancelled and the Ski Flying World Championships at Planica, scheduled for 19-22 March, postponed. The Football Association has suspended all games.

The measures put Slovenia ahead of the curve of most other European countries and given the proximity of European coronavirus hotspot Italy they are seen as essential to slow the epidemic, but many have criticised the response as inadequate.

Infectious disease specialists at Slovenia's largest hospital, UKC Ljubljana, issued an urgent appeal for public life to be brought to a standstill. They want bans on all gatherings in public including in cinemas, museums and bars, and urged people to stay indoors in order to prevent the epidemic from unfolding the way it has in Italy.

Additional measures are bound to be adopted soon as Janez Janša, the new prime minister, endorsed the appeal and announced new measures as soon as the new government takes office tomorrow evening.

One of the first things the government plans to do is set up a dedicated crisis headquarters to manage the coronavirus response. Due to the closure of kindergartens and schools, daycare would be provided as a matter of priority for employees working in critical industries such as healthcare, energy, public utilities and security services.

Military capabilities including two field hospitals will be activated as well since the health system is expected to be overstretched soon, providing additional beds for patients, according to Matej Tonin, the incoming defence minister.

All our stories on COVID-19 and Slovenia can be found here. If this subject is of continued interest just bookmark that link and we'll have confirmed news up as soon as we see it.

12 Mar 2020, 17:48 PM

STA, 12 March 2020 - The incoming Janez Janša government announced sweeping lockdown measures it plans to take immediately after assuming office after infectious disease specialists issued an urgent appeal Thursday for public life to be brought to a standstill due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Doctors called on the outgoing and incoming government to shut down educational institutions immediately, not on Monday as planned, and extend the closure to all places where people gather, including cinemas, museums and bars. They urged people to stay indoors in order to prevent the epidemic from unfolding the way it has in Italy.

Janša told the press the new government supported the appeal and would form a crisis centre at its first session after it takes office on Friday evening.

All our coronavirus and Slovenia stories are here – just bookmark that link and check for updates

One of the first things the government plans to do is to reduce the number of entry points where people are tested for coronavirus.

Janša said people should work from home where possible, including in the public administration. Due to the closure of kindergartens and schools, daycare would be provided as a matter of priority for employees working in critical industries such as healthcare, energy, public utilities and security services.

But regardless of how efficient these measures are, "the capacity of the Slovenian health system will be put to the test, which is why our effort will be targeted at securing additional capacities."

For infected persons who are not in critical condition, accommodation capacities would be provided in facilities such as military installations, hotels and student dormitories.

Matej Tonin, the incoming defence minister, added that Debeli Rtič, a large Red Cross resort on the coast, could potentially be used to accommodate persons who need to self-isolate but do not have the ability to do so at home.

The army has a field hospital with 25 beds, which is currently in Maribor but can be transferred to any location if needed within 48 hours. Another mobile unit with 120 beds is on store at the Institute for Commodity Reserves. "With these two mobile units we can provide an extra 145 beds," Tonin said.

Additionally, the army has been asked to designate one of its barracks to provide an additional 300 beds if necessary. It should be clear by Friday morning which barracks will be chosen.

The government ordered two million surgical face masks yesterday. Today China offered via diplomatic channels to help with protective equipment. Tonin said a list of things that Slovenia would ask China for was already being drawn up.

SBI Top index has record fall

STA, 12 March 2020 - The SBI TOP index on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange lost almost 9% to 753.70 points on Wednesday, the largest daily drop since it was launched in 2006, as major issues lost in excess of 10% on coronavirus concerns.

Drug maker Krka dropped 10.3% to EUR 57.20 and NLB bank was down 10.5% to EUR 47.60. Insurance stocks also took a pounding as Sava Re lost 10.6% to EUR 16 and Zavarovalnica Triglav was down 9.4% to EUR 27.

Energy group Petrol lost in excess of 7% to close at EUR 316 and Telekom Slovenije was down 9.2% to EUR 47.

Trading was brisk as total volumes exceeded EUR 6 million.

All our coronavirus and Slovenia stories are here – just bookmark that link and check for updates, which will slow down when things come to a standstill

12 Mar 2020, 12:57 PM

STA, 12 March 2020 - Outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec announced that an epidemic would be declared in Slovenia on Thursday based on fresh data on the spreading of coronavirus in Slovenia. Restrictions will also be imposed on cargo transport as of Monday, when all educational institutions will be closed as well.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia rose by 25 from yesterday to 82 by 9am today.

Related: How many hospital beds are there in Slovenia?

Šarec said other countries had not declared epidemics yet but Slovenia had decided for the move to better coordinate actions of the civil protection and other services.

According to Nina Pirnat of the National Public Health Institute (NIJZ), the epidemic has also been declared because all regions are affected and the number of cases is rising beyond the level considered normal.

Health Minister Aleš Šabeder noted that two new areas with infections were Nova Gorica and Kranj. In the two towns, one case each was imported from Italy.

slovenia italy coronavirus first 9 days.png

Chart: JL Flanner, made using official data

Where is COVID-19 in Slovenia?

Two major clusters of infection remain Ljubljana with 17 cases stemming from the first case, and Metlika in the south-east, where the virus has spread to 11 people.

The rest 21 patients were infected abroad. In 32 cases, testing is still under way.

In the Celje region, the number of cases rose from one to three since yesterday, Koper has three cases today, in Ljubljana the number went up from 31 to 44, in Maribor from 5 to 7, Murska Sobota from two to three, in Novo Mesto from 15 to 20, and Nova Gorica and Kranj each have one case as of today.

In Šempeter, testing is still under way.

Šarec said the problem in Slovenia was that much bigger because of the number of infections among medical staff. As of 5pm today all medical staff would be banned from travelling to infected areas under a special government decree, Health Minister Aleš Šabeder said.

Šarec urged citizens to stay united, refrain from criticism of state measures or discrimination of those infected by the virus.

All our stories on COVID-19 and Slovenia are here

12 Mar 2020, 12:39 PM

International attention rarely turns to Slovenian politics, but whenever it does there’s been at least one constant for more than three decades – Janez Janša, the man who will soon become Slovenia’s Prime Minister for the third time. What’s more, at a robust and vigorous looking 61, he’s likely to be on the scene for years to come.

Janša is, to put it mildly, a polarising figure. Starting public life as writer for Mladina, and going to jail for his actions against the Communist authorities of Yugoslavia, he was, like Orbán in Hungary, widely seen as a force for good in the years around the end of the Iron Curtain. Indeed, if you want to see how cool he was in the late 1980s then check out this 1989 clip from the UK’s Rough Guide to Slovenia, with more clips from the show here.

In that segment on Mladina you’ll also see Marcel Štefančič Jr., a familiar face on television with his long grey hair and ponytail, both absent at the time of filming. And it’s Štefančič that Politico turn to for some context in their profile of Janša, titled “Slovenian strongman back at EU top table”, a reference to the fact that Slovenia will hold the EU Presidency in the second half of the year (for the second time, with the first being in 2008, when Janša was also Prime Minister, and Europe also faced a crisis).

Facebook - SDS - Orban and Jansa.jpg

Orbán and Janša at an SDS rally. Facebook

As all non-Slovene articles about Janša seem to do, the emphasis is put on his relationship with Viktor Orbán, as well as the similarities and differences between the two men. The overall statement is that Janša “plays to win”, with Štefančič claiming that his former co-worker is “a little bit of Trump, a little bit of Boris Johnson, a little bit of Orbán.” Štefančič goes on to express some concern that Slovenia could follow Hungary down the path of “illiberal democracy”, noting that if Janša decided to do so “I don’t think the other parties that are in coalition with him would stop him.”

However it’s that coalition that Ali Žerdin, of the newspaper Delo, sees as a limiting factor on any great changes to society. Žerdin claims that the parties joined the coalition for fear of being wiped out in a snap election, and thus they preferred to help Janša gain power, keep him in check, and position themselves for the next elections, due in mid-2022 at the latest.


The art world in particular likes playing with Janša, and Janša finds much to excite his supporters with in the art world. There are actually three artists known as Janez Janša, while the Prime Minister himself was born Ivan Janša.

The article goes on to give more background on Janša, and why those in the centre and on the left who have followed his career for decades have some concerns about what’s coming next, particularly with regard to interference in the media. You can read the whole thing here, and – if you’d like to get some idea of what the next Prime Minister is like then you can see his very active, in English and Slovene, Twitter account here.

All our stories on Janez Janša can be found here

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