STA, 10 June 2020 - European Commissioner for Economy Paolo Gentiloni has addressed a letter to Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša, asking him to explain the changes at the helm of Slovenia's Statistics Office, the Commission's press service confirmed for the STA on Wednesday.
The letter was sent to Janša yesterday with the aim to provide complete compliance with the principles of impartiality and professional independence of national statistics offices, the press service said.
The move comes after the government dismissed in late May director general of the Statistics Office Bojan Nastav and appointed Tomaž Smrekar acting director general. The latter will serve until a full-fledged director is appointed but no longer than six months.
Earlier this month, the Statistics Council, an expert advisory body, asked the Constitutional Court to review the dismissal of Nastav.
The council is not sure which law applies in this case - the one on public sector employees, which allows the government to dismiss a top public sector employee a year after the employee started their job, or the national statistics act.
Janša said in late May that the dismissal of Nastav was necessary "due to responsiveness". "This is about a body functioning in a professional fashion, being responsive, so that we can rely on getting data tomorrow if we need it."
SURS has a great website, in English, here
On May 21 2020 the Slovenian Government dismissed the director of the Statistical Office (SURS) Bojan Nastav, who was appointed for a five-year term in August last year. The decision took effect the next day and the acting director for a period of six months became Tomaž Smrekar. The media now reports the reason for replacement of the head of SURS was his refusal to submit confidential information to a non-authorised body of external government advisors in an unorthodox way.
Following his dismissal, Bojan Nastav told RTV Slovenia he had learnt about the decision from the government website’s session’s minutes, and that he was not familiar with the reasons for his firing.
The new acting director, Tomaž Smrekar, who began working immediately after Bojan Nastav was dismissed, explaining to RTV Slovenia that it was impossible for the around 300 SURS employees to properly analyze all the data, and that help will be needed from the government’s advisory group, headed by Matej Lahkovnik.
The Statistical Council of SURS demanded the government to present the reasons for the replacement of the head of the agency, and the government replied citing Article 83 of the Public Employees Act, which allows public officials to be dismissed within the first year of their office.
The Statistical Council then asked for another opinion from the attorney Rajko Pirnat, who claims that the head of SURS is not covered by this law, but rather under the jurisdiction of the National Statistics Act. For this reason, the Statistical Council has issued a request that the Constitutional Court decide which of the two laws applies in this case.
According news portal Necenzurirano.si, Nastav was dismissed on a request of Lahovnik’s advisory group, which approached SURS with a request for raw economic data. SURS then replied that the data can be accessed under certain circumstances prescribed by the relevant legislation. Access to the SURS database for research purposes is only allowed with prior approval, in a safe room and only after employees have anonymized the data - covering up names and other identifying data of specific companies, since SURS is obliged to protect statistical confidentiality.
Furthermore, reports necenzurirano.si, the Lahovnik’s advisory group is functioning as an informal association, which works pro bono and without any legal grounds for its activities. Its members are not responsible to anyone and therefore also not obliged to protect the data that they obtain from state bodies. Its members work for private companies and boards, which could use such data for their personal gain.
Because Nastav didn’t seem to respond to the group’s request, concludes Necenzurirano.si, Lahovnik called Prime Minister Janez Janša and Nastav was immediately replaced.
Since its inception the current Janša government has replaced most of the heads of the state security apparatus, including heads of the police and the army, National Bureau of Investigation, Criminal Police, and Office of the Republic of Slovenia for the Prevention of Money Laundering. The head of the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA), however stepped down on his own after Janša’s government excluded SOVA from the National Security Council.
According to Mladina, several of these heads were removed in order to stop investigations into the financing of Janez Janša’s SDS party.
STA, 9 June 2020 - China and Slovenia have had good relations in all fields. As Chinese Ambassador to Slovenia Wang Shunqing told the STA, a new opportunity to deepen the relations will be the 17+1 initiative summit in Beijing, which has been moved to the second half of the year due to the pandemic. Wang hopes Slovenia will be pragmatic in picking 5G technology.
In an interview conducted last weekend, Wang said that the exact date of the 17+1 summit was not known yet. When the date is known, the ambassador expects information about Slovenia's participation.
Slovenia's participation had already been announced by former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, but Wang has not had the opportunity to speak about this with representatives of the current government due to the coronavirus epidemic. The ambassador has only met with Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek.
Wang expects that the good bilateral relations between China and Slovenia, which were confirmed by the visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi last December, will continue also with the government of Janez Janša taking over.
China is the most important trade partner to Slovenia in Asia, and Slovenia is the most important partner to China in the Western Balkan region, he said. "It is true that Slovenia records a trade deficit with China, but the countries are striving to balance the trade," Wang added.
According to the ambassador, China uses various platforms to promote Slovenian products. One of them is the China International Import Expo fair in Shanghai, where Slovenian companies get invited every year.
The Chinese state and local authorities provide all necessary support for Slovenian investments in China, among which Wang singled out the investments by the ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel.
As for Chinese investments in Slovenia, the ambassador noted the takeover of the household appliance maker Gorenje by Hisense two years ago. "The Hisense investment is currently the most important Chinese investment in Slovenia," he said, adding that China supported Hisense in its further expansion and investments in Slovenia.
Wang is concerned about the announced lay-offs in Gorenje. "Lay-offs in companies, although they are part of the business, are always very sensitive, but it is not unusual that something like this takes place during the pandemic," he said.
The ambassador has been in constant touch with the management of Hisense Gorenje lately. It was explained to him that the lay-offs are a consequence of the new coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced orders considerably, and of a low efficiency in comparison to competitors in the industry, an issue Gorenje has been facing for quite a while.
"Measures should be made to make the company competitive. This needs to be our common goal," he said. In talks with the management of Hisense Gorenje, Wang said that lay-offs should be carried out carefully and gradually, and in accordance with the Slovenian legislation.
Wang is convinced that the management will make a lot of effort to this end as, after all, it has reduced the planned number of lay-offs, which it will try to carry out using soft methods as much as possible.
Wang stressed that - the company donated protective medical equipment to Slovenia at the end of March - has a long-term interest in Slovenia. "Cooperation with Hisense and Gorenje is strategic," he said, noting that Hisense had picked Slovenia for its seat of European operations. In this light, he also mentioned Hisense's plans to build a new television plant this year and to invest in a development centre in Velenje.
Wang would like to see Chinese companies in general participate in projects in Slovenia. With four Chinese companies currently in play for the main construction work on the planned new railway line between the port of Koper and Divača, Wang would like to see one of them succeed in the tender.
"Chinese companies have a lot of experience in rail construction, as they have built them all around the world, they have well-developed technology and a lot of experience in construction of tunnels and in constructions in unpredictable terrain, such as karst."
The ambassador hopes that the selection procedure for the main contractor for the railway line will be "just and fair", but he is worried about the EU guidelines which allow for the exclusion of bidders from third countries from public procurement contracts. "I hope that Chinese companies will be able to participate," he stressed.
Wang also touched on the implementation of the fifth generation mobile network (5G) and the technology of the Chinese company Huawei, which is a thorn in the US's side, and the US is calling on its allies to reject Huawei's 5G technology for security reasons.
"But let's look at the facts. In the last 30 years, Huawei operated in more than 170 countries, and none of them reported about security issues. The US is talking about espionage, but there is no proof for this whatsoever. It is a question of technology which has been completely politicised by the US. We strongly object to this," Wang said.
The Chinese ambassador hopes that Slovenia will take a decision on 5G based on its own interest and needs, while taking into account the costs and quality of the selected technology. "I hope that it will take a pragmatic approach and that it will not succumb to the US influence," he said. As for security, Wang said that security risks could be avoided by setting common standards.
Wang admits that the coronavirus pandemic has eroded the relations between the EU and China, but he believes that problems can be bridged with cooperation. He sees potential for cooperation in the economic recovery measures presented by the EU. Wang stressed that the EU and China share similar ideas, especially when it comes to measures for combating climate change and protecting the environment. "Efforts have been made on both sides for cooperation to be facilitated."
China encourages European business executives to visit China, to re-start their businesses which had to be suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. "We also support European companies to relaunch their operations in China," he said, adding that China was offering a special visa regime to Slovenian business executives.
Besides the 17+1 initiative summit, no high-level political or business visits or events between the countries are planned for this year. The plan was different but, as Wang put it, they were blown away by the coronavirus pandemic.
"I hope that we will also make agreements about this after the situation normalises," said Wang, who also announced China's support to Slovenia's presidency of the EU Council in the second half of next year. He also pointed to the links in culture and education among the important elements of the countries' cooperation.
"I don't dare to be an optimist," Wang said when asked how he imagines the new reality after the pandemic. The disease is far from being defeated, he warned, adding that if China developed a vaccine for Covid-19, it will be made a global public good, as announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Opening of the 73rd World Health Assembly.
Countries must defeat the new coronavirus together and in solidarity, he said to conclude the interview for the STA.
All our stories about China and Slovenia
STA, 8 June 2020 - Three coalition parties have filed legislative changes under which children who skipped mandatory vaccinations could not be enrolled in publicly-funded kindergartens and schools, while those without all mandatory shots could not work in health care or care homes or study and train for these professions.
Secondary schools and universities, not only in health but also in education, would not be allowed to admit students who have not had all their shots, under the proposed changes to the changes to the communicable diseases act.
The changes would allow medical exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. In Slovenia, vaccinations against measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis and hepatitis B are mandatory.
Proposed by 38 MPs of the Modern Centre Party (SDS), the Democratic Party (SDS) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), the changes would prohibit those who had not received these vaccines from working with patients in health care and care homes.
Moreover, health workers and care home staff would also have to get flu shots every year, the cost of which would be covered by the Health Insurance Institute.
The changes also stipulate fines for legal entities, meaning health institutions, care homes, kindergartens and schools, found in breach of the provisions to the tune of between EUR 400 and EUR 40,000.
The sponsors want to fast-track the legislation through parliament.
A similar bill was proposed by the Modern Centre Party (SMC) in late February just as a non-parliamentary party submitted to parliament a proposal to abolish mandatory vaccination altogether.
STA, 8 June 2020 - In a unique decision, Germany will send a married couple of ambassadors to Slovenia in August. Termed a family-friendly job sharing experiment by the German Tagesschau news programme, it will allow Natalie Kauther and Adrian Pollmann to take turns as ambassador every eight months for the next four years.
In an article posted on Sunday, Tagesschau says that this is the first such decision by the German Foreign Ministry in an effort to give its employees more flexibility.
The pair, in their mid-40s, said the main reason why they lobbied for this arrangement was because they realised they needed to spend more time with their children, aged seven, eight and ten.
The pair have experience with job sharing, as they had previously both held, at the same time, the title of deputy-ambassador to Bosnia-Herzegovina.
They decided not to split the mandate in two, but to switch every eight months, with Pollmann starting the rotation in August.
STA, 6 June 2020 - Ten years have passed since the referendum in which Slovenians expressed support for the border arbitration agreement with Croatia. After a fierce campaign, the arbitration received the green light in a narrow vote. But despite great expectations, the countries are still on opposite sides a decade later.
The arbitration agreement was signed by the then prime ministers Borut Pahor and Jadranka Kosor in Stockholm on 4 November 2009 following almost two decades of failed border talks.
The agreement envisaged taking the issue of both land and sea border to the arbitration tribunal. The tribunal was also to decide on Slovenia's junction with high seas and a regime for the use of maritime zones.
The agreement was reached following an intervention from the EU to overcome the impasse created by Slovenia's blockade of Croatia's EU accession. Slovenia argued that Croatia was predetermining the border between the countries in the documents it submitted to the EU during accession talks.
The Slovenian parliament ratified the arbitration agreement in April 2010 but decided to nevertheless put the matter to a referendum on 6 June, arguing "this is such an important issue that the final decision should be made by the people".
A total of 51.54% of voters backed the agreement and 48.46% were against. The turnout was 42.66%.
In the campaign, the opponents of the agreement - the then opposition Democrats (SDS), People's Party (SLS), National Party (SNS) and the Institute 25 June - argued the deal posed a risk to Slovenia's national interests, while the advocates - the Social Democrats (SD)-led coalition - claimed the agreement was the best possible solution, protecting Slovenia's interests and guaranteeing it access to the open sea.
President Pahor labelled that time as a period of "extraordinary concerns, stress, responsibility, focus but also happiness because of successes on this path" in a recent statement for the STA.
He said he had no doubt the referendum would be a success. "I simply did not see any other option, alternative to us succeeding."
In the years that followed, all deadlines from the agreement were honoured, but in 2015 it became clear that Croatia had made a false promise.
In July that year, the Croatian newspaper Večernji List published a recording of phone conversations between Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal Jernej Sekolec and Slovenian agent in the case Simona Drenik discussing details of the tribunal's confidential deliberations.
The scandal prompted the pair to step down and Croatia withdrew from the arbitration process, calling it compromised, although the tribunal later decided to resume its work.
Later it transpired that Sekolec and Drenik were tapped by the Croatian Intelligence Service (SOA).
The arbitration tribunal declared its final decision on the border on 29 June 2017, awarding Slovenia the bulk of the Bay of Piran, as well as a belt extending 2.5 nautical miles in width, which would be Slovenia's junction with the open seas. The border on land largely followed the demarcation of cadastral municipalities.
Although the decision gave neither side everything it wanted, Slovenian politicians were united that it was biding and must be implemented while Croatia insisted on rejecting it.
Zagreb would like the countries to engage in bilateral talks again but Slovenia has so far rejected this option. Current Foreign Minister Anže Logar said when he started his term that the tribunal's decision was clear and that legal decisions of international tribunals must be respected.
However, during his hearing in parliament before taking office he proposed appointing a special envoy for Croatia, noting it was time for quiet diplomacy.
A decade after the arbitration referendum Pahor remains optimistic. "I know some still think today that Slovenia should have got more when it comes to the border but many thought so for 18 years but were not successful. Now the border has been set, Croatia will acknowledge it sooner or later," the president told the STA.
The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 5 June 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here
Mladina: Šarec's comeback
STA, 5 June 2020 – The left-wing weekly Mladina takes a look on Friday at the latest Slovenian Public Opinion survey, which is to be released next week, but which the weekly says shows former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ has climbed back to the top of party rankings, overtaking the ruling Democrats (SDS). It wonders what potential consequences this shift could bring.
"Slovenian Public Opinion, one of the oldest opinion polls in Slovenia, brings extremely interesting results, which were already signalled in polls by Ninamedia and Mediana - that Janez Janša and his government of the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS has failed to convince voters, losing their support since assuming power on 13 March."
Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says the reasons for this are well known: Janša has abused Covid-19 for a political and ideological pogrom and for giving medical equipment deals to friends' companies. "Slovenians, including those who have otherwise no ideological reservations towards him, will never forgive him especially the latter."
However, the survey, which is released once a year by Ljubljana's Faculty of Social Sciences, is even more interesting from the aspect of Šarec, showing that two months after the change of government, the parties of Janša and Šarec are equally popular.
Mladina says "Šarec has managed to return to the first party league ... incredibly fast, while it seemed highly unlikely even in mid-April that he could at all make such a comeback". The LMŠ has managed to get back to the No. 1 spot even if people blamed him for the emergence of Janša's government coalition due to his resignation.
"What is more, he is returning to the top despite a very brutal campaign launched by the entire government coalition, the Hungarian-owned media and the media subjected to the SDS (Siol.net) which tried to portray him as the one who took wrong decisions and was responsible for the lack of medical equipment at the outbreak of the epidemic."
The survey has also shown the LMŠ, the Social Democrats (SD) and the Left would win an outright majority if an election was held now, Mladina says under the headline Šarec's Comeback. Noting the survey was carried out before Tanja Fajon took over as SD leader, Repovž believes her leadership could even further strengthen the trio.
Mladina says that voters seem to have very quickly forgiven Šarec for pushing them into distress by resigning as prime minister at the end of January, which however does not mean an early election is anywhere near.
This is also why it is too early to speculate whether it would be better if some other party than his, for instance, the Left or SD, should take the leading position. It however means that Janša's coalition partners will change their behaviour, with some MPs perhaps considering defecting to opposition parties.
Demokracija: Anti-govt protests
STA, 4 June 2020 - The right-wing magazine Demokracija takes stock of Friday's bicycle protests in the latest editorial, finding that while everyone has a right to protest, police will have to demand the organisers acquire the permission to hold protests in order to protect those who do not protest.
Under the headline Dinner with Cyclists, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak writes that one of those spotted at the protests was Rajko Kenda, the former medical director of the UKC Ljubljana Paediatric Clinic, whom he sees as "caricature and pathetic cry of fighters for democracy".
"The man who ruined paediatrics and child surgery and who (...) knows about everything should have been pedalling an exercise bike at Dob [prison]."
Still, Biščak says that anyone has a right to protest against anything as protest is one of the forms of the freedom of speech.
"The problem is in understanding human freedoms. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has done much damage. There is much that has been thrown in there, including the right to prosperity. As a result the concepts of rights and freedoms have become totally mixed up."
The editor notes that as a result human rights are now also a right to housing, artistic expression, positive rights that pertain to an individual, while collective rights do not exist.
"Cyclists come to the protest as individuals. As a group, regardless of their numbers, they do not have any special freedoms (or rights).
"The first problem is the permission for the protest. They do not have one. They come and protest. This is wrong understanding of the rule of law. The permission for a protest rally is not designed for the authorities to check the content but so they know who provides the security and where and when the rally will be held (...)
"Consider what happened if ten of us gathered and we protested by driving in the middle of Slovenska Street. We would be captured like rabbits because we were only ten. That would mean the law of the stronger (...) It is unequal treatment before the law."
Noting that the protests held in support of Janez Janša in front of the Ljubljana court house in 2014 were held with the authorities' permission and in accordance with traffic regulations, Biščak says that while police now wisely let Friday cyclists their way, sooner or alter they will have to demand the organisers get the permission.
"Do not let them worry, they will get one, there is no dictatorship in Slovenia that would prevent anyone from protesting or expressing their views. However, in that way responsibility will be personalised and locations determined, which they will have to respect. So they do not disrupt life in the capital and those 99% of Ljubljana people who are not at the protest."
All our posts in this series are here
STA, 5 June 2020 - Despite the stormy weather, anti-government protesters on bicycles hit the streets of several Slovenian towns for the seventh consecutive Friday, the biggest crowd rallying in the capital Ljubljana.
Even before the protest, a dozen gathered in rain in the square in front of the parliament building in Ljubljana to draw slogans on the ground with chalks.
This has become a new form of protest after a group of protesters were subject to a misdemeanour procedure a week ago for drawing a slogan on the pavement and face fines.
In a public letter signed by more than 100 individuals, the Forum for Democracy condemned what they described as "growing police repression" targeting "citizens and their constitutional right to a freedom of expression".
Pred predsedniško in vladno palačo trenutno skandirajo ... pic.twitter.com/tWF4HSDhn5— Blaž Petkovič (@Soba404) June 5, 2020
Despite the police taking steps against individuals drawing slogans last week, the streets in the centre of Ljubljana were today covered in new chalk slogans such as Stop corruption, Nature is not yours, and calls for PM Janez Janša and his government to resign.
Protest organisers called on participants to draw on the streets and pavements exclusively rather than on the walls or facades of buildings.
As every Friday, the protesters doing rounds of the streets surrounding the parliament and government buildings shouted slogans and clanked their bicycle rings, played music or made some other noise.
ene 12 nas je pic.twitter.com/3AWKtwr26y— Roni Kordiš (@had) June 5, 2020
Coinciding with World Environment Day, the protest also heard loud opposition to the efforts to exclude environmental organisations from investment approval procedures.
The protests are being organised by several groups and initiatives, who have been inviting people to join in the cycling via social networks.
At an assembly on Wednesday, several of the initiatives decided that the demonstrations next Friday will be held on foot rather than on bicycles to allow everyone to take part in a protest against authoritarian politics.
STA, 5 June 2020 - After Slovenia banned a concert by Marko Perković - Thompson, a Croatian nationalist singer, three years ago, recently a second attempt was made at organising it but the Maribor Administrative Unit again blocked the initiative. However, this time the Interior Ministry annulled the decision in a move that has caused quite a stir.
The ministry told the STA the decision to grant the appeal against what is the second banning of the concert had been made in line with a ruling of the Administrative Court and valid legislation.
The Maribor Administrative Unit was the first to block the controversial concert in 2017 as well, but more than two years after the concert was scheduled to take place the Maribor Administrative Court lifted the ban last June.
Marko Perković participated in the Croatian War of Independence (1991–95), during which he started his career with the patriotic song "Bojna Čavoglave".
Although the Maribor Administrative Unit stands behind the decision it made on 4 May, the procedure to ban the concert initiated by police is now stopped. According to the paper, the singer can now either stage the concert or claim compensation from Slovenia.
The head of the Maribor Administrative Unit, Srečko Đurov, told the STA today he believed the decision to ban the concert was correct but he was obligated to respect the ministry's decision.
"Promoting the Ustaše movement at a public event is a severe violation of human dignity. This is especially so in the case of Maribor, which was subject to horrible terror during the Second World War."
He said the administrative unit had granted the police's request to ban the concert "to protect the fundamentals of our constitutional order, which is the rule of law, human dignity and pluralism".
Thompson's speeches at his concerts are a "direct attack on the fundamental values of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Slovenian Constitution", Đurov said.
The Maribor Administrative Unit did not ban the planned concert because of the views and ideology of the organiser and signer, as the organiser claims, but because promoting the Ustaše movement and inciting hatred is not allowed at a public event in Slovenia, he stressed.
The concert organiser, Milan Trol, who initially wanted to organise the concert on 20 May 2017, told Radio Maribor that the concert would be carried out. "You will be notified of all the details when the time is right," he added.
The ministry's decision triggered a wave of criticism on Twitter, mainly among opposition parties but also from the head of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), Zdravko Počivalšek.
"Thompson's concert, which comes with promoting contempt of other nationalities, is not and must not be welcome in Slovenia. Any kind of incitement of national, racial, religious or any other intolerance is an insult to our values and a violation of our Constitution," he tweeted.
Marjan Šarec of the namesake LMŠ party said the government was "rehabilitating the Ustaše movement" and that the annulment of the concert ban was a "slap in the face to all those who suffered and bled including because of collaboration".
"The decision tramples on human dignity and gives recognition to the Ustaše regime. The fact that Thompson supports the Ustahsa is not a problem. The problem is that our government does," said the interim head of the Social Democrats (SD), Tanja Fajon.
Matej T. Vatovec of the Left said that while many countries were rejecting Thompson and banning his concerts, the Janez Janša government was doing everything for him to have a concert in Slovenia and "thus open the door to promotion of the Ustaše movement and Fascism".
President Borut Pahor's office also responded. "Based on the many questions the president has been receiving regarding a Thompson concert in Slovenia, we highlight that the president's view is the same as in 2017: It is not a matter of politics to allow or ban concerts but a matter of the organiser or relevant institutions to make sure the event is organised in line with the law and that public law and order is protected," the office said on Twitter.
"The president is not familiar with Marko Perković Thompson's music. However, he is familiar with his political views and he rejects them," the office added.
Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič said such a concert had no place in Slovenia. He noted though that media had reported that the Administrative Court had lifted the ban on the first concert. "If that is the reason for the ministry's decision, then I will understand it, although I absolutely do not support this concert," he told reporters.
Thompson - his nickname he took from the gun he had used in Croatia's war of independence - has often been accused of extremist nationalist views due to some of the lyrics of his songs and due to the fact that youth wear Ustaše and Nazi symbols at his concerts.
What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.
FRIDAY, 29 May
LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed the third economic stimulus package, valued at roughly a billion euro. The legislation brings a subsidised short-time work scheme until the end of the year and a one-month extension of the existing furlough scheme until the end of June for all employers. All Slovenian permanent residents will also get vouchers to spend on tourist accommodation in Slovenia.
LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed an emergency law aimed at accelerating major investments to help the economy. The government will draw up a list of 50-odd investments which will be handled as a matter of priority in granting construction permits and other approvals.
LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed legislation under which Slovenia will support the EU SURE instrument to mitigate unemployment risks across the EU with up to EUR 88.1 million in loan guarantees. The scheme is designed to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic's massive negative impact on the European job market.
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP decreased by a slower-than-expected 2.3% in the first three months of 2020 year-on-year due to a slowdown in domestic consumption and external demand. Seasonally- and working days-adjusted GDP contracted by 4.5% compared to the last quarter of 2019 and by 3.4% year-on-year, the Statistics Office said.
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor proposed that the National Assembly take a vote on Barbara Zobec and Andraž Teršek for one vacancy on the Constitutional Court, as the nine-year term of Dunja Jadek Pensa runs out on 14 July. Statements by parliamentary factions suggest Teršek enjoys broader support, since Zobec was unequivocally endorsed only by the ruling Democrats (SDS).
LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar underlined good relations between Slovenia and Norway in a phone conversation with his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen Soreide as well as Slovenia's interest in further strengthening economic cooperation with Norway.
LJUBLJANA - Several thousand people flooded the streets of the capital Ljubljana for what is the sixth Friday in a row that protesters, most of them on bicycles, expressed opposition to government policies. Smaller crowds also gathered in other cities around the country. After a minor altercation with police, six persons were fined.
LJUBLJANA - After two months and a half of severe air traffic restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, regular passenger transport services resumed at Ljubljana airport. The first flight was operated by Air Serbia. More airlines are expected to start operating Ljubljana flights from mid-June.
SATURDAY, 30 May
LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry amended a decree on quarantine requirement for people coming to Slovenia from third countries by adding new exemptions, including Slovenian citizens and foreigners with a permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia, persons attending a relative's funeral, those coming for a medical procedure, and those transiting Slovenia.
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor expressed concern in an interview with the weekly Nedelo that the growing economic and social crisis will increase people's distress and that the anti-government protests will intensify as a result. This is why he believes the government should hear the protesters' messages and restore cooperation with the opposition.
SUNDAY, 31 May
AJDOVŠČINA - Slovenian ultralight aircraft maker Pipistrel announced a special version of its plane had have joined the US Special Operations Command's (SOCOM) fleet as low-cost, high-endurance unmanned aerial vehicles. The company said its airframes were being equipped with sensors to collect video and signals intelligence.
MONDAY, 1 June
LJUBLJANA - Most lockdown measures were relaxed as the Covid-19 epidemic was declared officially over. Large accommodation facilities, spas, gyms and pools were allowed to reopen, although most large hotels said they would do so gradually. Public gatherings of up to 200 persons were permitted, and primary school pupils from grade four started returning to classrooms.
LJUBLJANA - Due to an increased number of migrants heading west on the Balkan migration route, acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner ordered expanded surveillance of the border with Croatia. The beefed up border policing will be in force between 2-5 June, involving an additional 1,000 police officers.
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia assumed the one-year chairmanship of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region. The main focus of the country's chairmanship of both forums will be green cooperation, the Western Balkans and EU enlargement.
LJUBLJANA - The government extended by three months the 15-month period in which persons of Slovenian descent brought from Venezuela have the status of a repatriated person. The extension, which is part of the latest legislative package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, applies to those Venezuelan Slovenians who arrived in Slovenia between 13 November 2019 and 12 March this year.
LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša announced a major digitalisation effort that would accompany the cutting of red tape in the public administration, telling Nova24TV that the first major steps should be taken this year. "Modern technologies make it possible to speed up procedures," he said.
LJUBLJANA - Slovenian frontline staff got an unprecedented thank you for their work during the coronavirus epidemic as military planes and US fighter jets conducted a flypast of the entire country, the first day after the formal end of the epidemic.
LJUBLJANA - Janez Kocijančič, the long-serving Slovenian sports official who was also active in politics and business, died at the age of 78. He had headed the European Olympic Committees since 2017 and served as the head of the Slovenian Olympic Committee between 1991 and 2014.
TUESDAY, 2 June
MARIBOR - It was revealed that a pupil at the Ludvik Pliberšek Primary School in Maribor tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in what was the first positive case among children after they started returning to school on 18 May. The 17 classmates of the infected third-grader, who was asymptomatic, and their teacher were sent into a two-week quarantine, while the remaining pupils at the school were allowed to continue going to class.
LJUBLJANA - The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) rejected the offer for a partnership agreement on key legislation proposed by PM Janez Janša, joining the other left-leaning opposition parties in opposing the proposal which is now seems to be supported only by the National Party (SNS). Janša said the government had extended an offer of cooperation of the kind his party never received while in opposition.
LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Tomaž Besek and Mitja Križaj as non-executive directors on the management board of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) and appointed Alenka Urnaut Ropoša and Boris Novak to replace them, serving from 3 June until the end of 2022. The government provided no explanation for the replacements.
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia purchased EUR 54.4 million worth of protective equipment through the national Agency for Commodity Reserves during the epidemic. Between 14 March and 31 May, the agency signed 64 contracts worth EUR 184 million, which includes contracts that were subsequently annulled or not realised, shows data released by the agency.
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Slovenia pledged EUR 20,000 in an online donor conference for Yemen, launched by the Saudi Arabia and the UN. The conference aims to get pledges for US$2.4 billion to ensure humanitarian aid to the war-torn country in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
LJUBLJANA - The Hungarian channel TV2, whose owner is associated with the Fidesz party, and Croatian entrepreneur Ivan Ćaleta are bidding to purchase Planet TV, the troubled subsidiary of telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije which produces the eponymous TV channel, reported web portal Necenzurirano, citing an unofficial source.
LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court upheld the decision of the Slovenian Environment Agency that an environmental impact assessment is needed before any permits can be issued for hydraulic fracturing planned by British company Ascent Resources at the Petišovci gas field in the north-east of Slovenia, the company said.
WEDNESDAY, 3 June
LJUBLJANA - Italy opened its borders to all EU citizens, and Austria announced the opening of its borders for 4 June, decisions that mean Slovenians are now allowed to travel to all neighbouring countries. Slovenia welcomed the development.
LJUBLJANA - After a significant uptick in joblessness in March and April due to the Covid-19 crisis, the trend slowed down in May, as the jobless total was up by only 2% on the monthly level to 90,415. Compared to May 2019, the figure was meanwhile up by 18,403 or 25.6%, the Employment Service said.
LOŠKA DOLINA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin set out a plan to invest EUR 780 million in defence over the next six years as he joined President Borut Pahor for the viewing of a military exercise dubbed Leap 2020 in Babno Polje in the south of the country.
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Justice Committee endorsed changes to the penal code, raising the penalties for migrant smugglers and those involved in illegal migration. The penalty for migrant smugglers would thus increase from five years to three to ten years in prison.
LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Council asked the Constitutional Court to review the controversial dismissal of Bojan Nastav as the general director of the national Statistics Office. Nastav was dismissed under the public sector employees act, but some jurists believe this is unlawful since the Statistics Office is governed by a special act.
LJUBLJANA - The four centre-left opposition parties urged Milan Krek to resign as director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) after he failed to provide an answer at a government press briefing as to whether face masks are mandatory at shopping malls. The parties also urged action from Health Minister Tomaž Gantar.
THURSDAY, 4 June
LJUBLJANA - The government put Austria on a list of countries whose citizens are free to enter Slovenia without restrictions from midnight, a move that comes after Austria opened its borders for all neighbours bar Italy. Government coronavirus spokesman Jelko Kacin said the National Institute of Public Health is keeping a close eye on the situation and analysing when restrictions might be lifted.
LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek confirmed that his State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti is leaving the ministry. Cantarutti intended to leave before the change of government but was willing to stay on until the end of the Covid-19 epidemic, Počivalšek said.
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor's entire advisory committee on climate change resigned in protest against Pahor's lack of response to recent legislative measures restricting the involvement of NGOs in environmental assessment and building permits procedures.
LJUBLJANA - The National Bureau of Investigation conducted house searches in connection to the bankruptcy of the air carrier Adria Airways. Unofficially, police were looking into suspected abuse of office and business fraud.
LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary foreign policy and EU affairs committees rejected the opposition's criticism of Foreign Minister Anže Logar's disparaging comments on the judiciary that he had attached to Slovenia's report for the European Commission's first annual rule of law report. The coalition majority instead condemned a letter sent to the Commission by the MEPs of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) which accused Logar of promoting the ruling party's views.
LJUBLJANA - The government appointed former criminal police officer Anton Olaj a new state secretary at the Interior Ministry as on 8 June. Olaj served in the police force from 1981, when he joined a police station in Ljubljana, to 2012, when he finished his police career as Novo Mesto Police Department director.
LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Composers' Association presented the Kozina Award for 2020 to Bor Turel, one of the pioneers of electroacoustic and experimental music in Slovenia. Turel was honoured for his all-round oeuvre of electroacoustic music.
LJUBLJANA - Ding Dong Zgodbe (Ding Dong Stories) by Jana Bauer, illustrated by Bojana Dimitrovski, has won the Desetnica Prize for the best children's and youth book of the last three years. The book was published in 2018.
All our posts in this series are here
STA, 4 June 2020 - Slovenia has implemented two thirds of GRECO's recommendations pertaining to preventing corruption among MPs, judges and prosecutors, which puts it among the top ten countries in terms of implementation, shows a report released by the Council of Europe's (CoE) Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).
GRECO's annual report for 2019 says that by 31 December, Slovenia fully implemented 14 out of a total of 21 recommendations made by the CoE's anti-corruption body.
Another five were partly implemented and two were not.
As a result, Slovenia emerged one of the 14 countries covered by the report which did not implement all GRECO recommendations by the end of 2019.
The report, released on Wednesday, also shows that only Finland and Norway implemented all GRECO recommendations for MPs, judges and prosecutors.
Slovenia was among the countries which implemented the greatest share of recommendations for prosecutors - 89%.
While Finland, Norway and Sweden fully implemented all recommendations for judges, Slovenia's share in this segment amounted to 75%.
However, Slovenia was one of the 14 countries which did not fully implement a single recommendation for prevention of corruption among MPs.
The country which had received the largest number of recommendations from GRECO was Turkey (37), followed by Greece and North Macedonia (each 25).
Faring slightly better than Slovenia had been Austria (20) as well as Belgium, Bulgaria and Estonia (each 19).