15 Nov 2019, 10:56 AM

STA, 14 November 2019 - The government adopted on Thursday an action plan that lays the groundwork for accepting persons of Slovenian descent who have asked for repatriation from Venezuela. A total of EUR 1.2 million has been set aside for a project that has been months in the making.

The Office for Slovenians Abroad has so far received 17 requests for a total of 53 individuals, while the money covers a maximum of 70 persons over the 15-month validity of the repatriation status, Olga Belec, state secretary at the Office for Slovenians Abroad, told the press about the "pioneering project".

Now that the action plan has been adopted, formal decisions will be issued immediately, but when exactly they start arriving also depends on individual arrangement of those who asked for repatriation.

The government has a list of 30 accommodation options around the country. One extended 16-member family has arranged accommodation with relatives, according to Belec.

To facilitate integration, the repatriated individuals will be accommodated in towns with good job prospects or places where their forebears come from. The majority of the expected arrivals are of working age and some have already been offered jobs.

Those who do not speak Slovenian will be immediately enrolled in Slovenian courses.

The repatriation status covers 15 months after arrival. After that, they will either be able to request permanent residence or citizenship; spouses who are not of Slovenian origin will be subject to the provisions of the aliens act.

The government decided in late August that it would help a number of Venezuelans of Slovenian origin settle in Slovenia under a law that permits repatriation from countries hit by a severe political or economic crisis.

Official data show 335 Slovenian citizens live in Venezuela, with another several hundred who are of Slovenian stock but do not have citizenship.

14 Nov 2019, 14:18 PM

STA, 13 November 2019 - The Slovenian National Security Council has called on the government to table legislation that would allow law enforcement to prosecute paramilitary militias, which have recently sprung up and started to patrol the border to keep illegal migrants out.

Changes to the penal code and misdemeanour regulations are needed to "appropriately sanction association and activities by various organisations that encroach on the powers of state authorities", the National Security Council said after Wednesday's session.

The appeal comes in the aftermath of increased activity by militias including the Štajerska Guard, whose leader Andrej Šiško was sentenced to eight months in prison earlier this year for attempting to subvert the constitutional order.

Šiško is no longer in prison, having served out most of his sentence in pre-trial detention, and in recent months his group has stepped up activities.

When he was arrested in September last year, his Štajerska Guard had only gathered for training in the woods near Maribor; in recent weeks they have been patrolling the border with Croatia in fatigues and wearing airsoft rifles, posing as defenders of the southern border.

This is the same area, along the river Kolpa, where a local family has taken it upon themselves to "protect the border" by patrolling the riverside.

Concern about their activities has been rising, with the police, which have been keeping an eye on militia activities, for example writing on Tumblr today that they were opposed to such militias, whose activities "constitute a certain degree of security risk".

The Interior Ministry said it had "zero tolerance" to such actions, noting that "the law gives the state monopoly over the use of force". It said the police would immediately act on suspicion of criminal activity and misdemeanour.

The statements by police and the Interior Ministry suggest the authorities think they cannot crack down on such conduct under existing law, hence the appeal for tougher regulation.

The fact is that the court did not find Šiško guilty of any unlawful conduct of his militia, he was convicted for trying to subvert the constitutional order by calling for a coup against the government.

All our stories on militias in Slovenia are here

09 Nov 2019, 10:35 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 8 November

Mladina: Govt, Left must find common ground or face demise

STA, 8 November 2019 - The left-leaning weekly Mladina warns in its latest commentary that if the minority coalition and the opposition Left fail to come to a new agreement in the coming weeks, the government will not even survive until the spring, with Janez Janša of the Democrats lurking from behind and waiting for a snap election.

If the heads of the coalition parties and the Left do not start to actually talk to each other, instead of flexing muscles and promoting their own importance and self-confidence, the "government will fall, loudly," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in Risky Game.

Opposition leader Janez Janša, who has a (malicious) historical memory, is probably watching the elbowing within the coalition with a smile on his face, and he will definitely "help" bring the chaos in a few months to the point when snap election will be an option.

And if election is to be held soon, no party of the current coalition would gain from it, and would instead be severely punished by voters. The same is true for the Left, as voters will not care about details, having voted for a coalition and stability for the next four years.

According to Repovž, the absence of memory in the coalition party and the Left is astounding: they do not remember that the promise of normality was what attracted voters who did not want a coalition of hatred, but a normal government.

"And after one year they are not capable of talking to each other, everybody praises only themselves, and pointing finger at others? The only person who has managed to control himself ... is [DeSUS president Karl] Erjavec. Everybody else are throwing spanners in the works."

In the eyes of voters, including their own, the Left could become the party which has brought the government down and undermined stability, and made it possible for Janša to take over the government in a few months, with or without an election.

"They can ease the tensions and make a new agreement. But they can also destroy what looked like an achievement after the 2018 election in the increasingly nationalist Europe. They are putting a lot at stake. Of course, everybody has the right to miss their own historic opportunity," concludes the commentary.

Reporter: Petrol management resignation political move

STA, 4 November 2019 - Energy company "Petrol has always smelled not only of oil and petrol but also of politics," the weekly Reporter says in its commentary on Monday, more than a week after the company management resigned at a marathon supervisory board session.

The state owns a controlling 30% stake in Petrol and there is no point in pretending that the tentacles of politics do not reach the company, the magazine says under the headline Smell of Oil and Gunpowder.

The company's most recent CEO Tomaž Berločnik was appointed to the position because this was decided by the ruling politicians, in February 2011 this was the government of Borut Pahor, the then president of the Social Democrats (SD).

Berločnik was considered a key link in the network of Borut Jamnik, the wonder boy of the SD, who has been making staffing decisions in state-owned companies for a decade.

"Jamnik's clan has become a state within the state, a network that has grown over-ruling politicians' heads. The only thing above them was the blue sky.

Berločnik is likely not the angel the media is making him out to be. Apparently, there is a binder full of documents relating to allegedly harmful moves and plans, say sources close to the supervisory board.

The question remains the reason for the management's resignation. Innocent people do not just leave their jobs in a haste, allegedly also without severance.

There are many rumours: from Berločnik's links to Croatian tycoon Emil Tedeschi to contentious businesses in Russia. Maybe more details will surface in the future throwing more shadows on Berločnik's management and Jamnik will be even paler in his TV interviews.

After Telekom, this is the second blow to Jamnik's clan in the war among party networks in state companies. A political dimension cannot be denied in Petrol resignations, although all politicians have been denying involvement.

All our posts in this series are here

09 Nov 2019, 08:12 AM

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

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

FRIDAY, 1 November
        LJUBLJANA - A group of unidentified persons stormed Tiffany Club, a popular venue for LGBT events at the Metelkova Mesto alternative arts centre in Ljubljana, in what circumstances suggest was an attack motivated by hate. No one was injured in the attack and the perpetrators fled the scene when the police arrived.

SATURDAY, 2 November
        LJUBLJANA - Veronika Stabej, former ambassador to France, has been charged with abuse of office and forgery and is expected in court next month, Delo reported. Stabej was recalled as ambassador to France in July 2015 on suspicion she misappropriated embassy funds.

SUNDAY, 3 November
        KUČIBREG, Croatia - Milan Kučan, Slovenia's first president, criticised political elites in Slovenia and Croatia for their lack of initiative to resolve issues troubling bilateral relations, as he addressed a ceremony commemorating WWII battles in which Croatian, Italian and Slovenian Partisan resistance members fought German forces together.
        MARIBOR - A 500kg World War Two bomb was safely defused in Maribor after hundreds of people were evacuated from their homes in the vicinity, the largest such operation in Slovenia's second largest city since 1945.

MONDAY, 4 November
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian and Italian police forces will further enhance cooperation in fighting illegal migrations, as the number of joint police patrols, launched on 1 July, will be doubled from four to eight, the General Police Department said. This was agreed in Trieste on 24 October.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) sent a response to the government regarding the 24 October resignation of the Petrol management. The report, requested by the government, brings no new insight into the reasons for the move. Shareholders now expect to get more information at a shareholder meeting.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor hosted parliamentary parties for a debate after a new initiative for devolution of government was launched by the National Council. The meeting showed differing opinions regarding the territorial division as well as the question of provinces' powers and financing.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec met the mayors of border municipalities to discuss ways to reduce the impact of illegal migration on the lives of people living in border areas. They agreed to set up a task force that will prepare systemic solutions.
        LJUBLJANA - The ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) declared that the time had come to ease up on the fiscal rule which was introduced to put constraints on public spending in mid-2015. It announced an amendment to relax the fiscal rule, which would need a two-thirds majority in parliament to pass.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary inquiry into suspected abuse of office at the bad bank interviewed the former chairmen of NLB and NKBM, Janko Medja and Aleš Hauc, who said that the banks had no power in determining which assets were going to be transferred to the bad bank and which not as part of the 2013 bailout.
        LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije, the telecoms incumbent, confirmed it had been ordered to pay EUR 17.6 million plus default interest to its Greek partner Antenna Group for its remaining 34% stake in a media joint venture that the Greeks have long sought to exit. The decision was handed down by the Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce on 31 October.

TUESDAY, 5 November
        PRAGUE, Czechia - A summit of the Friends of Cohesion, an informal group of EU members opposing cuts to cohesion funds, urged the EU to adopt a 2021-2027 budget with a sufficient amount of cohesion funds. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec said that a strong EU needed a sufficient and future-oriented budget.
        PRAGUE, Czechia - PM Marjan Šarec strongly criticised the central bank's curbs on consumer loans out of fear that it might impact economic growth. He voiced the hope that Banka Slovenije and its governor, Boštjan Vasle, would take a step back.
        LJUBLJANA - The Russian-owned steel maker Sij dismissed speculation it was interested in taking over energy trader Petrol. It said it did not and that it does not have such an interest and also does not plan to enter Petrol's ownership structure in the future.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's first prime minister Lojze Peterle and Olympic medallist Jure Franko received Japanese state decorations for their work in promoting relations between Slovenia and Japan. Peterle received the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun and Franko the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays.

WEDNESDAY, 6 November
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Left declared its partnership with the minority government over after the coalition made its support for a key health insurance bill tabled by the Left conditional on adoption of amendments that would significantly change the Left's intention. PM Marjan Šarec said the government would complete its term in office, but acknowledged this would not be possible without compromise.
        OSLO, Norway - President Borut Pahor met King Harald V and Norway's senior officials as he started his two-day state visit to Norway. King Harald V decorated Pahor with the Grand Cross of the Royal Norwegian Order of Saint Olav, while Pahor presented Haakon with the Golden Order of Merit for his efforts in the diplomatic and international fields. Pahor and Prime Minister Erna Solberg highlighted the excellent bilateral relations and shared views on a number of global challenges.
        OSLO, Norway - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Norwegian counterpart Ine Marie Eriksen Soreide discussing cooperation, the Western Balkans, topical EU issues, the rule of law and migrations. Cerar and Soreide expressed satisfaction with what they labelled as excellent relations between the countries in various fields of cooperation, in particular in multilateral cooperation.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's central bank rejected criticism of lending curbs on households that took effect on 1 November, with its leadership arguing that lending trends simply had become too risky and threatened to undermine financial stability. The aim of the measure is to "prevent excessive crediting activity in the consumer loan segment," Banka Slovenije vice-governor Primož Dolenc said.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's top court annulled provisions of the media act under which commercial radio stations were required to dedicate 20% of their airtime to Slovenian music, reasoning the provisions were too vague and incompatible with the rule of law. Radio stations and media experts alike welcomed the decision as a fitting end of a poorly conceived system.
        LJUBLJANA - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) downgraded its forecast for Slovenia's GDP growth for this year by 0.3 a percentage points to 3%, while keeping the projection for 2020 at 2.8%. The bank said that the main risk was weaker demand by the main trading partners.
        LJUBLJANA - Medex, Slovenia's biggest honey producer, said it had found traces of antibiotics in 2.5 tonnes of honey it bought from three Slovenian beekeepers last summer. The contaminated honey was destroyed before it could enter production.

THURSDAY, 7 November
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission forecast that Slovenia's economy will grow by 2.6% GDP in 2019 and 2.7% in 2020 and 2021, a downgrade of 0.6 and 0.1 percentage points respectively compared to its spring forecast. "Growth is cooling down but remaining robust," the Commission said.
        AMMAN, Jordan - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi and several other high-ranking officials as he started the first official visit by a Slovenian foreign minister in almost two decades. Cerar and Safadi talked about the combat against terrorism, development aid, the countries' cooperation in the Union for the Mediterranean and the situation in Syria.
        HANOI, Vietnam - A Slovenian government and business delegation led by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek started a two-day visit to Vietnam. The second session of the intergovernmental commission for economic cooperation and a Slovenia-Vietnam business forum were held.
        LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije reported a group net profit of EUR 29.4 million for the first nine months of the year, a 25% increase year-on-year despite a 6% drop in net sales revenue to EUR 507.4 million.

All our posts in this series are here

08 Nov 2019, 15:13 PM

STA, 8 November 2019 - Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković is potentially on the line for a significant tax bill stemming from transactions with companies owned by his sons, web portal Siol reported on Friday.

The Tax Administration put a specific type of lien on his family house to the tune of EUR 335,000, a move it typically resorts to if it intends to issue a tax bill.

Such a lien prevents the person subject to a tax audit from selling or encumbering the property or before the end of the audit.

While Janković has refused to comment on the details of the audit, Siol says the tax liability stems from payments the mayor had received from Electa Group, owned by his sons Jure and Damijan Janković.

These transactions have been subject to media scrutiny several times before; Janković claims the money was payback for loans he had given his sons in the past.

This is just one of the Janković family business dealings that authorities are looking at.

Less than two months ago his sons attempted to send the core Electa company into bankruptcy using a simplified insolvency procedure reserved for micro firms, but the procedure was stopped on suspicion creditors may be defrauded.

His son Jure, meanwhile, faces a EUR 600,000 tax bill after tax inspectors found a huge mismatch between his assets and his reported income. Both sons are reportedly in personal bankruptcy.

08 Nov 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 7 November 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar started an official visit to Jordan on Thursday by meeting the country's senior officials, including his counterpart Ayman Safadi. The first such visit in almost two decades is designed to boost bilateral political and business links.

According to a press release from the Foreign Ministry, Cerar and Safadi talked about the combat against terrorism, development aid, the countries' cooperation in the Union for the Mediterranean and the situation in Syria.

Cerar hailed Jordan "as a pillar of stability, peace and religious tolerance in the Middle East". He also expressed interest in enhancing cooperation with Jordan and other countries in the region.

Cerar expressed Slovenia's unflagging support for political efforts to resolve the Syria crisis under the sponsorship of the United Nations and under a Security Council resolution.

The Slovenian-run international demining fund ITF - Enhancing Human Security is supporting a two-year project in support of Syrian refugees in the Irbid province in north Jordan.

Safadi noted that the two countries shared views on foreign policy issues such as their advocacy of effective multilateralism and looking to preserve water resources.

The Jordanian foreign minister called for improving air links between the two countries, with him and Cerar agreeing on the need to revive partnership between the Slovenian port of Koper and Jordan's Aqaba in a bid to increase bilateral trade.

Calls for cooperation between the two ports also ranked prominently as Cerar met Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Tariq Hammouri.

The pair urged the implementation of the memorandum of understanding signed between the two port operators in 2015.

The talks showed potential for cooperation in agriculture, energy, information technologies, telecommunications, logistics, medicine and tourism, said the Foreign Ministry.

The Slovenian foreign minister also met Upper House Speaker Faisal Al-Fayez as well as Lower House Speaker Atef Tarawneh. They all agreed that the relations between Jordan and the EU were good and could serve as a stepping stone for creating numerous new jobs in Jordan through reinforced trade and investment cooperation.

They also called for the inter-parliamentary cooperation and focussed on the Palestine and Syrian situations.

Moreover, Cerar met Tourism Minister Majd Mohammad Shweike, with the pair discussing options for setting up a direct charter route between Jordan and Slovenia in summer as well as for the collaboration between the investment and entrepreneurship promotion agency Spirit and Jordanian tourism organisation.

The visit is designed to strengthen bilateral cooperation between the two countries, in particular reinforcing political and economic relations.

Jordan is also seen as a port of entry for some other markets in the Arab world with the Foreign Ministry noting the importance of the Jordanian market, also because of the country's good relations with all countries in the region.

Jordan and Slovenia also cooperate well in the Union for the Mediterranean, where Slovenia has been focusing on supporting empowering young people through education and intercultural dialogue as part of the initiative Positive Agenda for Youth in the Mediterranean.

The country will host in 2021 a ministerial conference of the Union for the Mediterranean on higher education. Cerar has invited representatives of Jordanian companies to take part in the conference.

Cerar was tonight scheduled to take part in a working dinner hosted by Slovenian Consul General Ali Haider Murad which will also be attended by representatives of the Jordanian Senate and Jordanian tourism organisation.

08 Nov 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 7 November - President Borut Pahor completed his state visit to Norway on Thursday after he was received by King Harald V and met top Norwegian officials on Wednesday, including Prime Minister Erna Solberg, with whom he highlighted the excellent bilateral relations and shared views on a number of global challenges.

The pair confirmed that Slovenia and Norway advocated efficient multilateralism, the rule of law and human rights, the Slovenian president's office said in a release.

They also agreed there was still a lot of potential to deepen economic cooperation, foremost in circular economy, environmental technology, AI, robotics, ICT and tourism.

Security and the EU's future also featured strongly, with the pair noting the EU should be strengthened to provide for security and thus protect European values and national identities.

The two officials also discussed the situation in the Western Balkans, calling for countries from the region to join the EU and, if they wish so, also NATO.

After meeting Solberg, Pahor pointed to the importance of his state visit, noting the Norwegian royal couple hosted only two such high-level visits a year.

Slovenia has earned it with its efforts for peace and prosperity at home, in the region and the EU, and with its efforts for reconciliation and peaceful resolution of all issues, Pahor said.

Norway has a good reputation in Slovenia because of its foreign policy of "peaceful resolution of all disputes", said Pahor, adding Slovenia and Norway shared "many values and views on global issues".

He believes his meetings with the Norwegian officials - he also met Speaker Tone Wilhelmsen Troen - will deepen bilateral cooperation in various fields.

In his toast at the gala dinner last evening, King Harald V hailed the role of the alliance among like-minded countries.

He stressed that Norway and Slovenia should "use our joint strength to tackle global challenges - security, climate change, human rights and the rule of law".

Pahor in turn highlighted the role of bees. "The Carniolan honeybee was - more than hundred years ago - one of the first export articles from our lands to Norway. Nowadays, we are both aware of the importance of bees and pollinators for our ecosystem and food chain."

The main event on Pahor's agenda today was a business conference at research organisation SINTEF, where Slovenia's Jožef Stefan Institute and SINTEF signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation.

The three-year memorandum covers the fields of AI, circular economy, sustainable mobility and innovative materials, Slovenia's top research institution said in a press release.

Pahor and the royal couple also attended the opening of an exhibition on Slovenian Alpine architecture, and a seminar on beekeeping and pollination, where Pahor presented the king with a beehive decorated in traditional Slovenian style.

In the evening, Pahor is hosting a Slovenian Evening, a promotional event, which will also be attended by the royal couple.

Pahor was accompanied in Norway by Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, Education, Science and Sport Minister Jernej Pikalo, Agriculture, Forestry and Food Minister Aleksandra Pivec and business and science executives.

07 Nov 2019, 11:05 AM

STA, 6 November 2019 - The opposition Left (Levica) declared on Wednesday that its partnership with the minority government was over after the ruling coalition made its support for a key Left-sponsored bill conditional on adoption of their amendments. Despite the turn, PM Marjan Šarec and the coalition are adamant to serve out their term.

"The final domino has fallen, we find the government has unequivocally broken off cooperation and pulled out from the agreement with us," the Left's leader Luka Mesec said after debate on the party's bill to scrap top-up health insurance was suspended with the coalition announcing several amendments.

The coalition "ran over" the Left-sponsored bill through its amendments, said Mesec, adding that as of this point the agreement with the government was no longer binding on the Left, which from now on was fully in opposition.

However, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said it was not the government, but rather the Left which was quitting the partnership. He was determined to complete his term in office, but said this would not be possible without compromising.

The Left would like to abolish top-up health insurance collected by private insurance companies and needed for virtually all health services by folding it into mandatory health contributions, at different rates, depending on the individual's income.

The coalition meanwhile proposes lump sum payments for the time being, which would be set at EUR 29 a month at first, and could be adjusted once a year. It would be paid by those who currently pay for mandatory health insurance.

The parliamentary Health Committee suspended debate on the Left-sponsored bill, after coalition parties tabled several relevant amendments the adoption of which they made conditional on their support for the bill.

The session was suspended so that other parties and the parliamentary legal service could take their position on the amendments, but the Left said that it had been urging the government for a month already to table amendments. The legal service also raised the question of the admissibility of such amendments.

The amendments are doing nothing to do away with top-up insurance, but "merely fold it into a new gift wrap, and the coalition are only washing their hands", Mesec told reporters.

He said the point of scrapping top-up insurance was to introduce solidarity-based contributions, while the coalition's amendments "preserve the same contribution for everyone regardless of their income".

"They had more than two months to reach an agreement with us, but instead they bring today, at the start of the bill's reading ... amendments that we haven't heard of before. Even the legal service finds the bill is being changed to a point it is in fact a new bill," said Mesec.

Apart from the latest bill, Mesec also listed his party's grievances about the reform of the personal income tax which the party says favours the rich, end of bonuses for social benefit recipients who work and the budget, which he described as neither social nor development-oriented.

He said the Left was not trying to bring down the Marjan Šarec government. "We've merely ascertained that the government has resigned from the agreement it struck with the Left, which is clear in all the mentioned cases."

The Left would like to continue to cooperate with the government, but "the problem is that we've been ignored for several months". Mesec would not answer concretely when asked whether the party might now bring a motion of no confidence.

Šarec, who was commenting on the row on before Mesec made his comments, repeated that he did not want to break off cooperation with the Left, but he regretted "ultimatum politics".

"I'd expect some more patience on the part of the Left because we have implemented many projects together ... However, not all their projects are feasible in the way they imagine them to be.

"Politics is a matter of compromise, in particular in a minority government," Šarec said, noting that several majority governments before had attempted to end top-up insurance but failed. He said such legislation could be passed only if everyone made an effort for a compromise.

Without formal support from the Left, Šarec said the government had to seek support for each project and law outside the coalition anyway, and he expects other parties to support the government proposals they agree with, so he "I don't see need to sign agreements" with some other opposition party.

The opposition National Party (SNS) announced before it would provide the needed support to pass the budget, but Šarec would not say his government depended on the party's votes, "we depend on all MPs' votes".

Šarec said asking him whether he would serve out his term, was "like asking me whether I'll be run over by a car ... my plan is for the government to complete its term, I see no reason why it shouldn't ... It depends on those who are fond of calling press conferences and shaking the boat one way or the other."

Šarec's LMŠ party regretted the Left's decision to end partnership, and so did the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), while the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) maintained that the Left had not shown genuine willingness to cooperate anyway.

LMŠ deputy group leader Brane Golubović does not think the decision would change much. "The government will still be stable and the coalition would continue stable," he said, expecting cooperation on some projects to continue with the Left, including to abolish top-up insurance.

Dejan Židan, the head of the coalition Social Democrats (SD), said that had the Left had sincere intentions, it would have accepted the coalition's proposal "with open arms". "We have witnessed the realisation of a scenario which was apparently made a week ago," he added.

Židan believes that the party had already decided that it would be easier for it to increase ratings "if they get fully radicalised in the opposition," and that this was a tactic for short-distance runs, not long-term cooperation.

07 Nov 2019, 09:32 AM

STA, 6 November 2019 - The Labour Ministry is not planning in the short term to sign any new agreements on employing foreign workers, as there are enough recruitment opportunities in the country's neighbourhood for now. It also said on Wednesday it was keeping an eye on labour market dynamics prompted by warnings of a higher economic slowdown risk.

Responding to the recent media reports of Slovenia being interested in employing 2,000-5,000 Philippine workers, the ministry said the country was not preparing to enter into a bilateral agreement with the Philippines on issuing such work permits.

As for importing foreign workers, the ministry follows a migration strategy adopted this year which aims to curb the trend of Slovenian workers leaving the country, promote labour circulation and encourage Slovenians who have been away for a longer period to return home, State Secretary Tilen Božič told the press.

When looking for foreign workers, the ministry focusses on the areas which are geographically and culturally close to Slovenia. The country has so far signed two such treaties - with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia, with another agreement being drawn up with Ukraine.

"Currently, the wider region provides enough opportunities," said Božič, highlighting that in any case negotiations to conclude such an agreement entailed a number of steps and usually took several years.

Asked whether businesses had been calling on the ministry to sign new work permit agreements, Božič said that businesses were more interested in a decree that would enable faster procedures to employ a foreign worker.

He also pointed out that out of some 900,000 working in Slovenia in August, almost 100,000 were foreigners, while in the same month in 2013, there were over 50,000 foreign workers out of 760,000 workers, adding that these figures indicated distinct shifts, including in Slovenia's economy and the labour market, which demanded swift adjustment tactics.

Slovenian media reported in late October that a delegation led by Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti visited the Philippines to strengthen bilateral economic relations and met a Labour Ministry state secretary.

The delegation was accompanied by representatives of Slovenian businesses and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), who were the ones calling for importing Philippine workers, the Economy Ministry said last month, distancing itself from this possible strategy.

The ministry also added at the time that bilateral trade with the Philippines was modest; however, the Philippines' economic growth projections were opening up a huge potential for Slovenia, according to the MMC web portal of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.

The GZS told the STA today that it was currently not considering any new work permit agreements and that the October meeting, which was attended by Slovenian Honorary Consul to the Philippines Srečko Debelak as well, was an isolated case among such organised events.

According to the chamber, Slovenia's industry is looking for workforce outside the EU in the Western Balkans countries and Ukraine, focussing in particular on skills from the occupation shortage list.

Businesses can employ foreign workers from countries with which Slovenia does not have such an agreement; however, employment procedures are more complex in this case, the Labour Ministry told the STA today.

Regardless of the agreement status, the key issue in these procedures is a lack of Slovenian language skills. The existent agreements with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia envisage pre-integration measures which tackle this issue and are funded by the EU, the ministry explained.

06 Nov 2019, 12:00 PM

STA, 5 November 2019 - A summit of the Friends of Cohesion, an informal group of EU members opposing cuts to cohesion funds, urged the EU to adopt a 2021-2027 budget with a sufficient amount of cohesion funds. Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec said that "a strong EU needs a sufficient and future-oriented budget" which will address the bloc's key challenges.

The EU will not be able to achieve this if cohesion funds are cut, so a strong cohesion policy should be preserved, Šarec said at the summit of 17 net recipients of development funds from the EU budget in Prague on Tuesday.

Friends of Cohesion leaders, coming from central, east and south Europe, adopted a declaration which highlights the importance of cohesion policy for reaching some of the EU's key goals, such as economic and social convergence, a functioning internal market and the fight against climate change.

The summit comes before the December EU summit at which key stage in the talks on the next seven-year budget is to be launched, and after the European Commission proposed a cut in cohesion funds.

"If we want to protect cohesion policy, the volume of the multi-year financial framework should stay close to the Commission's proposal of 1.11% of the EU-27's GNP," said Šarec.

It is several net contributors - unofficially the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Germany - that would like the budget to amount to only 1% of GNP, but Šarec said this would not be acceptable for Slovenia. He added the Friends of Cohesion did not want the funds for cohesion and agriculture to drop.

"For us, cohesion funds are of exceptional importance, they have enabled Slovenia and other countries to develop," he told reporters after the summit.

Last May the Commission proposed the 2021-2027 budget of EUR 1,135 billion, of which cohesion funds - a major source of development funds for Central and East European as well as poorer Mediterranean EU members - would amount to EUR 331 billion.

Under this proposal, which is based on per capita GDP statistics for 2014-2016, Slovenia would be entitled to EUR 3.073 billion in cohesion funds. However, it was later agreed data for 2015-2017 would be used, as a result of which Slovenia would lose some funds.

Šarec said Slovenia was pushing for the latest statistics not to be used because they placed it among developed countries, "but we know that our two cohesion regions are not as developed as we would wish".

"Member states cannot lose a significant share of cohesion funds simply because of updated statistics. It is also unacceptable for any EU region, especially if it has half of a country's population, to lose the majority of money from structural funds overnight," said Šarec.

This referred to Slovenia's western cohesion region, for which a budget of 1% of GNP would according to Šarec entail "a drastic cut in funds".

The talks on the EU's next budget were launched in July 2018 and are expected to be completed in spring 2020. Šarec said it was hard to say whether a deal would actually be reached in spring, and expects the talks to be "long and tough".

The Prague summit was hosted by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš. It featured prime ministers and representatives of Slovenia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia and Spain, and European Budget Commissioner Günther Oettinger.

06 Nov 2019, 10:30 AM

STA, 5 November 2019 - Karel Holec has been elected the new president of one of the two Slovenian minority umbrella organisations in Hungary, taking over from Martin Ropoša, who has led the State Slovenian Self-Government organisation since its establishment in 1995, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Tuesday.

Holec, 50, is a journalist and photographer for the Porabje weekly, the only Slovenian-language paper in Hungary, which was launched in 1991. From 1994 to 2006, he was mayor of Orfalu, or Andovci in Slovenian.

The new leader said he would continue with the minority's main project - efforts to develop the Raba Valley (Porabje) to enable young people to stay in the region.

The minority organisation is seated in the town of Felsoszolnok (Gornji Senik) and has a unit in Budapest. Ropoša will from now on serve as its vice president.

Earlier this year, the other umbrella minority organisations in Hungary also got a new leader.

In May, Andrea Kovač replaced Jože Hirnök at the helm of the Association of Slovenians in Hungary after he led the organisation from its establishment in 1990.

The association is based in the town of Szentgotthard (Monošter).

There are some 5,000 Slovenians living in Hungary, of whom some 3,000 in the Raba Valley area along the border with Slovenia.

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