06 Nov 2019, 09:30 AM

Please note that a forum on white collar crime was organised by the Centre for Education in Judiciary, which operates under the wing of the Justice Ministry, not by the Association of State Prosecutors, as stated in Tuesday's copy in para 2.

STA, 5 November 2019 - White-collar crime in the usual sense is on decline in Slovenia, while corruption is on the rise, State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa said on Tuesday. Prosecutor Boštjan Valenčič believes this is so because "corruption is still socially acceptable".

Addressing a two-day forum on white collar crime hosted by the Centre for Education in Judiciary, Šketa called corruption a "systemic anomaly", which should be prevented by state mechanisms.

He gave corruption in healthcare as an example, saying that criminal proceedings were being launched for acts committed ten years ago. "Supervisory mechanisms should have detected those anomalies right at the start."

Valenčič, a prosecutor at the Specialised State Prosecution, said that case law was gradually being created for white collar crime.

Responding to public criticism that "the big fish always get away with it", he said that certain "big fish" were serving their sentences at the moment, while some had been found not guilty by courts.

He said a reason why the procedures in high-profile cases took so long was outdated legislation, which did not envisage cases of such complexity and so many suspects.

Another reason is that Slovenia did not have a specialised court for dealing with white-collar crime cases, Valenčič said.

This was echoed by former State Prosecutor General Zvonko Fišer, who was critical of the changes to the penal code and the criminal procedure act made in recent years. "These are complex laws, which need to be consistent. Our current approach, changing the law over individual cases, does not lead to good solutions," he said.

The prosecutors also touched on the confiscation of assets of illicit origin act, which was watered down by a Constitutional Court decision that the law cannot apply for assets gained before the passage of the law.

They agreed Slovenia should follow the example of Italy, which has an instrument called preventive confiscation, which is not bound to a concrete criminal act. This mechanism has also received a green light from the European Court of Human Rights.

Fišer was also very critical of the recently launched inquiry into the prosecution of Franc Kangler, the former Maribor mayor.

"The fact that parliament ordered an inquiry to establish political responsibility of judges and state prosecutors in concrete criminal cases is a first-class scandal," he said.

He was also critical of the fact that neither the president, prime minister nor justice minister reacted to this. "I don't expect them to defend any individual decisions of the judiciary, but they should say that in a democratic country investigating the political responsibility of judges and prosecutors is a no-go," he said.

05 Nov 2019, 12:36 PM

STA, 5 November 2019 - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Peter Jožef Česnik is starting a ten-day visit to Australia on Tuesday. Travelling across the continent, he will make stops in Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Melbourne and several other smaller towns to meet members of the community he belonged to for nearly four decades.

On route to Australia, Česnik made a stop in Singapore, where Slovenians are building a new community, the government Office for Slovenians Abroad said before the trip.

Česnik will start his tour in Brisbane and then travel to Sydney, where he will visit the Slovenian-Australian chamber of commerce, as well as the two Slovenian associations based there and a church. He will also meet Tanya Pliberšek, the years long Labour deputy president and former cabinet minister.

He will visit the community in Wollongong before heading to Canberra, where he will meet the Slovenian community and Ambassador Jurij Rifelj, and lay a wreath at the War Memorial dedicated to Australian soldiers who lost their lives in combat.

Česnik will also visit the community in Geelong and meet community representatives of greater Melbourne, as well as Honorary Consul Eddy Kontelj.

He will then travel to Adelaide, where he will be welcomed by South Australia Governor Hieu Van Le and visit the National Wine Centre of Australia.

The minister will end his tour in Perth, where the small Slovenian community is gaining new momentum, as local Marjana Kaker is to be named honorary consul for Western Australia.

The government Office for Slovenians Abroad estimates that Australia is home to between 20,000 and 25,000 people of Slovenian descent. Minister Česnik himself moved to Australia in 1967 and lived there for 36 years before returning to Slovenia after retiring.

05 Nov 2019, 11:45 AM

STA, 4 November 2019 - 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 told the STA on Monday.

In July a three-month trial period started in which the two countries' mixed police units patrolled the border to curb illegal migrations. The cooperation continued into October.

Since such cooperation was assessed as effective in migration management, the leaderships of border police from both countries agreed to prolong and enhance it.

It was agreed in Trieste on 24 October to double the patrols to eight, with seven patrolling the border in the area of the Koper Police Department in the south-west of Slovenia and one in the area of the Nova Gorica Police Department further north on the Slovenian-Italian border.

The two police forces also agreed to exchange information more promptly to allow for more flexible planning of joint policing of the border, the Slovenian police also said.

Border areas will be patrolled alternately on both sides of the border on the basis of a detailed analysis of the routes used by illegal migrants. The legal basis for the cooperation is the 2007 Slovenia-Italy agreement on cross-border police cooperation.

In the July-September period, over 1,900 foreigners were processed for crossing the Slovenian-Italian border illegally in the area policed by the Koper Police Department, up from almost 1,800 in the same three-month period in 2018. In the area covered by the Nova Gorica Police Department, 42 persons were processed, up from 33.

04 Nov 2019, 10:00 AM

STA, 3 November 2019 - Milan Kučan, Slovenia's first president, criticised political elites in Slovenia and Croatia in his address at a commemorative ceremony in Croatia on Sunday, accusing them of a lack of ideas to resolve issues troubling bilateral relations. He also called for dialogue to resolve the Catalan crisis.

The ceremony at Kučibreg in Istria marked the 75th anniversary of the World War Two battles in which more than 120 Croatian, Slovenian and Italian Partisan resistance members were killed in fighting the Germans together.

The ceremony, organised by organisations and local authorities from the three countries, was also attended by Slovenia's Ambassador to Croatia Vojislav Šuc, among others.

In his keynote, Kučan said that "the fight for freedom never ends" because "freedom is never secured for ever", and that the message of the Kučibreg battles was that the fight for freedom knew no national boundaries.

"The desire for freedom cannot be confined to one man, one group or one nation. This was also testified by the fighters here, on the slopes of Kučibreg, where Slovenes, Croats and Italians fought together. They fought under the common banner of freedom."

Turning to the troubled relationship between Slovenia and Croatia today, Kučan said: "Is it truly more important to deny the right to a few miles of sea and to deny the authority of international tribunal than to have the opportunity for both countries to contribute to resolving vital issues in the EU?"

Responsible politicians should know that there are no winners in such disputes, and that there are no innocents, he said. "If anything, it is a shared defeat," he said, adding that both countries lack ideas, direction and capability to make serious initiatives and take steps in resolving issues.

Kučan also raised the developments in Catalonia in his address, in what he described as a field of the fight for freedom, human rights and human dignity.

"Catalan-Spanish relations are in a serious political crisis," which could only be solved through democratic political means, openness, dialogue and responsibility on the part of the parties involved.

He said it was necessary to say out loud that it was unacceptable to have political prisoners in any country in Europe today. "We cannot keep silent, because silence would mean assuming responsibility for the fate of the recently convicted Catalan leaders, and for the fate of European values."

01 Nov 2019, 13:11 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 1 November

Mladina: Problems with staffing in state firms

STA, 30 October 2019 - Mladina draws parallels in its latest commentary between the staffing policy in state-owned companies of the senior coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and that of the government of Janez Janša, arguing that the LMŠ is not being serious when it comes to managing state assets, and that it could be dangerous in the long run.

"When the management of Petrol stepped down last week, it was clear that the replacement took place because the management did not want to fulfil certain, actually very open wishes of the ruling party for staffing expansion."

Under the headline The Ides of October, editor-in-chief of the left-leaning weekly Grega Repovž adds that the energy company Petrol, one of the largest companies in Slovenia, was not the only one faced with such a manner of staffing lately.

Actually, reporting of this soft (or even hard) pressure are numerous companies, and some of them have already been restructured. Management and supervisory boards have already been expanded in the motorway company DARS and the railway operator Slovenske Železnice, among others.

"Prime Minister Šarec claims that he has nothing to do with that, but he is not being credible, as at the same time he complains that his party has fewer of its people in companies than other parties do."

According to Repovž, there is no doubt whatsoever that his people, cabinet officials and ministers are making order in state-owned companies.

The management of Petrol is stepping down, but neither the prime minister, Slovenian Sovereign Holding nor the finance minister have explained this. "This is done when there is only one goal: to put someone of yours in a position, regardless of the cost."

Repovž argues that this is "completely unhealthy, suspicious and smelly. Even more: there are methods present that we witnessed during Janša' rule between 2004 and 2008."

This is how important companies, including Petrol, were managed. New managements of these companies usually put them into difficult situations with their lack of knowledge. Petrol barely managed to pick itself up after Janša's venting out."

A few exceptions excluded, Šarec's government is not putting strong staff in state-owned companies either, but its people, most of them with little knowledge and experience, concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Slovenia is in a swamp of a deep state

STA, 30 October 2019 – The right-leaning Demokracija argues in its latest commentary that it is because of the favourable attitude of the media towards the "holders of the former totalitarian authority" that Slovenia is where it is today - "in a swamp of a deep state".

One of the persons referred to is former Slovenian President Milan Kučan, the usual target of the right-leaning weekly, who is labelled as a key person who had initially "intimately" opposed Slovenia's independence.

"Later on, this person made plots to hinder Slovenia on its way to a truly free and democratic society," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says under the headline Alligators in a Swamp and Pterodactyls in the Sky.

According to him, Kučan is still a deity for a majority of the journalist, editorial and managerial staff of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, "about whom it is literally prohibited to utter any criticism, let alone connect him with human rights violations."

It is also because of this attitude of the media that Slovenia is "in a swamp of a deep state, where the leftists elites are protected, sitting at the top of the food chain like predatory alligators and pterodactyls."

A pile of nonsense which has been uttered by these people and which should be exposed to serious criticism has gone by, and even deserved an applause, the commentator says, adding that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec is leading the pack.

Šarec recently said in parliament that "taxes finance public services" with a straight face. "If this was true, it would mean that taxes grow on trees. That the government picks them and fills the budget basket. But this is not true."

Public services are largely financed by taxpayers, the mass of completely ordinary people who, without any connections or acquaintances, work hard in the private sector, which is increasing feeling the tax wedge.

"Because of the large amount they need to earmark to the state, we can say that they live in a kind of a state-controlled slavery, where it is completely clear who is the slave and who is the master," concludes Biščak.

All our posts in this series are here

01 Nov 2019, 11:34 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, 25 October
        LJUBLJANA - The Tomaž Berločnik-led management of energy group Petrol resigned "by mutual agreement" late on 24 October, capping a day of speculation about its fate amidst what media labelled a politically-motivated struggle to control one of Slovenia's largest companies.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court imposed a temporary injunction on the legislation governing parliamentary inquiry, which means the National Assembly's inquiry into prosecution of former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, a member of the upper chamber of parliament, will not be able to investigate judges for now.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec stressed the government would continue investing in the Slovenian Armed Forces, rejecting calls by the Left to withdraw soldiers from Afghanistan and cancel the planned purchase of Valuk six-wheeled armoured personnel carriers. He also signed a memorandum to set up regional command for special operations with his counterparts from Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's likely new European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, who has worked for the Foreign Ministry since 1992, handed in his resignation last week out of protest against a legal requirement which he believes deters Slovenian diplomats from taking jobs in international institutions.
        LJUBLJANA - Rudi Pavšič and Marjan Sturm, the long-serving retired leaders of umbrella minority organisations representing ethnic Slovenians in Italy and Austria, were honoured with the Medal of Merit for their decades-long efforts to promote minority rights and inter-cultural dialogue.
        LJUBLJANA - A code of conduct advising members of supervisory boards on how to act in case of political pressure was formed to tackle the issue in wake of a recent staffing pressure scandal at the Official Gazette.
        OSLO, Norway - The Slovenian Supreme Court received this year's Crystal Scales of Justice Prize, an award given out by the EU Council and the European Commission for innovative and effective judicial practices in the EU.

SATURDAY, 26 October
        KOPER - Primorske Novice reported that the Koper Higher Court ordered a retrial in a case involving plot purchases for a logistics hub in the town of Beltinci planned by port operator Luka Koper.
        CERKNO/VRHNIKA - A memorial plaque was unveiled at the site of a secret weapons depot of the Slovenian Territorial Defence force in 1990 and 1991 as part of celebrations of Sovereignty Day, a public holiday observed on 25 October to remember the day in 1991 when the last Yugoslav People's Army soldiers left Slovenia.

SUNDAY, 27 October
        LJUBLJANA - Ethiopian runner Kelkile Gezahegn Woldaregay won the men's marathon race in Ljubljana, clocking in at 2:07:29, the second fastest time in the history of the Ljubljana course. The women's race was won by Bornes Chepkirui Kitur from Kenya, who set a new women's record with a finish time of 2:21:26.
        MARIBOR - No Title Yet (Še ni naslova), directed by Tomi Janežič and produced by the Slovensko mladinsko gledališče theatre, won the award for best play as the curtain fell on the 54th Maribor Theatre Festival.
        SÖLDEN, Austria - Slovenian alpine skier Žan Kranjec picked up where he left off at the end of last season, finishing third in the season opening giant slalom World Cup race in Austria's Sölden.

MONDAY, 28 October
        BUDAPEST, Hungary - PM Marjan Šarec and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban called for stronger economic cooperation in what was their first official meeting. Also commenting on the Koper rail track project, Orban said Hungary was still willing to consider participating "if the situation in Slovenia changes".
        LJUBLJANA - The National Council unanimously vetoed the government-sponsored bill designed to provide legal recourse for holders of subordinated bank liabilities wiped out on instruction of the EU in the 2013 bank bailout. It also vetoed the raise of minimum net hourly rate for student work.
        PRAGUE, Czech Republic - The Czech investment group PPF, owned by Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, signed an agreement on the takeover of the US-owned CME fund, which also owns Slovenia's leading television network group Pro Plus.
        DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar paid a two-day working visit to the United Arab Emirates. He visited the site of the Expo 2020, meeting the Expo Director General Reem Al Hashimiand, and met the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court said it suspended, pending a final decision, the implementation of a criminal procedure act provision allowing house searches without the presence of the resident or their representative.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Bank Association said that the pending new consumer lending restrictions would have wide ramifications if the state failed to provide alternative financing sources after Banka Slovenije imposes effective on 1 November restrictions to consumer and housing loans. PM Šarec also criticised the planned measure on 29 October.
        LJUBLJANA - The ZSSS trade union confederation said it reported about labour exploitation occurring within Slovenia's system of temporarily posting workers to other EU countries and to the European Labour Authority (ELA).
        MARIBOR - A couple of unexploded aerial bombs, relics from the Second World War, were unearthed in two locations in Maribor over the weekend and were expected to be defused later in the week. This will prompt the evacuation of thousands of people in the vicinity of the defusing sites.
        NEW YORK, US - Slovenian mission to the UN co-hosted with the Council of Europe (CoE) and UNESCO an event discussing the challenges of artificial intelligence (AI) at the UN headquarters.

TUESDAY, 29 October
        LJUBLJANA - MPs voted 34:18 to confirm amendments scraping a bonus for social benefit recipients who work. The majority of MPs agreed that the bonus, introduced in 2012 as a corrective welfare measure and work incentive, in many cases discouraged people from taking a full-time job.
        VELENJE/LJUBLJANA - The household appliances maker Gorenje will be split into two companies as part of group integration a year after it was taken over by Chinese conglomerate Hisense, with the management moving to Ljubljana as a separate company and providing corporate support services for all Hisense companies in Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously endorsed legislative changes making most public transportation free of charge for pensioners and persons with disabilities, among others, as of 1 July 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - Nine Slovenian meat processing companies recalled their products after the Food Safety Administration warned on 25 October that meat from an Austrian abattoir that failed to meet the required standards might have entered food supply chain.
        LJUBLJANA - Men outnumbered women in Slovenia in the first half of 2019 for the first time in the 160-year long history of population statistics recording in the present-day territory of Slovenia. In the total number of residents of Slovenia, which includes foreigners, recorded on 1 July there were 1,045,835 men and 1,043,475 women.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of road and urban public transport passengers dropped in 2018 on the previous year, while the rail passenger figure stayed mostly level. Passenger traffic in the Slovenian port and air passenger transport saw an increase last year, with the number of ship passengers going up the most - by as much as 23%.

WEDNESDAY, 30 October
        LJUBLJANA - Consumer prices in Slovenia grew at an annual rate of 1.4% in October, down from 1.7% in September, while monthly inflation was 0.1%. Annual inflation is driven by higher prices of services, which were up 3.2% to contribute 1 p. p. to the rise. Pushing annual inflation up by 0.4 p. p. were higher prices of housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels, also as a result of prices of refuse collection increasing by 18.2%, the Statistics Office said.
        LJUBLJANA - A total of 5.2 million tourists were recorded in Slovenia in the first nine months, generating 13.2 million overnight stays, with the numbers going up 5.7% and 1.9%, respectively.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS) visited the SOVA national intelligence and security agency in the morning in connection to a current development in Slovenia's economy. The inquiry was allegedly prompted by the management board overhaul at energy company Petrol.
        LJUBLJANA - A potential partner of a new flag carrier which might be set up to fill the void left by Adria Airways's bankruptcy is a regional airline, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told the weekly Mladina in an interview. Pressed, he would not reveal who the potential partner was.
        LJUBLJANA - Geza Filo, the outgoing head of Slovenia's Evangelical Lutheran Church, told the STA that the spirit and teachings of the Reformation are still topical 500 years after the movement to reform the Roman Catholic Church shook Europe. At the national ceremony marking the holiday, Speaker Dejan Židan stressed in his keynote the importance of love for one's native tongue.

THURSDAY, 31 October
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia observed reformation Day, a bank holiday. Luther Bishop Geza Filo delivered a mass that was attended by top representatives of the state and other religious communities.
        MARIBOR - The first of two WWII-era bombs discovered at construction sites in Maribor was successfully diffused in a two-hour operation. Some 80 people in the 300-metre radius had to be evacuated.

All our posts in this series are here

30 Oct 2019, 12:15 PM

STA, 29 October 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar bin Mohammed Gargash on day two of his working visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), discussing with him further cooperation and the situations in the Middle East and Western Balkans, the Foreign Ministry said in a press release on Tuesday.

In the afternoon, Cerar officially inaugurated in Abu Dhabi Slovenia's first embassy in a Gulf country, which has been operating since 2018.

Cerar said in his address that the embassy was an "important step forward in deepening Slovenian relations with the UAE and the region". A similar a sentiment was expressed by Gargash in their meeting earlier in the day.

"Our countries share common values and mutual interests and it is time now to unleash our full potential for cooperation." Slovenia highly values "the role of the UAE in sustainable development, modern technology, food safety, exploration of space."

"Slovenia also possesses rich experiences and extensive knowledge in many areas and is keen on sharing these with our friends and partners," said the foreign minister.

After visiting the grounds of 2020 Expo in Dubai yesterday, Cerar said at the embassy opening that the exhibition was the first major opportunity for to promote Slovenia and said that the help of some 300 Slovenians living in UAE would be very important in this respect.

Cerar's talks with Gargash meanwhile focused on the Middle East and the Western Balkans, as well as Yemen and the importance of bringing an end to the suffering of civilian population.

Cerar also presented to Gargash a project by ITF - Enhancing Human Security in Yemen. It was reported earlier in the year that the Slovenia-run fund was supported in this project with a EUR 600,000 donation from the UAE.

This morning a commission for economic cooperation brought together representatives of a number of Slovenians and UAE ministries to discuss cooperation projects in business, logistics, science and artificial intelligence.

29 Oct 2019, 09:00 AM

STA, 28 October 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban called for strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries. The pair moreover urged a continuation of EU enlargement, while also discussing migration.

Hungary is Slovenia's sixth largest trade partner, with trade increasing by 9.1% in 2018 to exceed EUR 2 billion for the first time.

"I'm happy about this figure, but I'll be even happier if it will be higher," Šarec told the press after the meeting.

The pair meanwhile expressed regret that EU leaders recently failed to provide the green light for the start of accession negotiation talks with North Macedonia and Albania.

Šarec and Orban also talked about the situation of the respective minorities in Slovenia and Hungary, agreeing both needed to be secured opportunities for developing economically in the areas where they lived.

Orban dedicated a substantial part of the press conference to migration, saying that the two countries knew very well what migration was and what it meant if a large number of migrants crossed the border in an uncontrolled way.

Šarec added that the issue of migration needed to be addressed at its root. "This is the joint task of the EU," he said.

The Slovenian PM was also scheduled to meet parliamentary Speaker Laszlo Köver and Slovenians living in Hungary.

Accompanied by Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, Šarec also attended an annual promotional event hosted by the Slovenian Tourism Board (STO).

All  our stories on Hungary and Slovenia are here

26 Oct 2019, 10:21 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 25 October

Mladina: Student work debate shows MPs out of touch with reality

STA, 25 October 2019 - Mladina, the lef-leaning weekly, is critical in its commentary on Friday of MPs and their disparaging comments about students as they were debating a rise in hourly wage for student work. Criticising students, while failing to make it easier for them to afford going to university, shows that MPs have no clue about the social reality of the country.

The weekly praises the coalition for increasing hourly wages for student work to EUR 4.56 nett, albeit by less than initially planned.

However, the discourse during the plenary debate was barely acceptable. If they had been talking about women, it would be chauvinism, if it were foreigners, it would be racism, Mladina editor-on-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Students? A Pest?

MPs do simply not understand what a child, or two, at university means for an average Slovenian family. It calculates that two children studying in Ljubljana cost about EUR 1,000 a month, which is a lot of money even for a middle-class family.

Students work and they have expenses besides just housing and food. This is 2019 and there is nothing wrong with the notion that student life should not be complete misery.

Many MPs likely had to sacrifice a lot and work hard manual jobs in exchange for poor pay, while they were studying. "But this society has advanced, GDP has grown to EUR 22,000, and the standard of living has increased for students, just like for everybody else."

Most students do not work 170 hours a month, most work between 60 and 70 hours a month and make about EUR 300. Saying they represent unfair competition is obscene.

They are hired because they are more flexible, they can work weekends, when most full-time employees need to get childcare. What is more, students do not get paid extra for working weekends, nights and holidays, like full-time employees.

While a family with average income can barely afford to send two children to university, those leasing apartments to students in Ljubljana will on average make an additional EUR 2,400 in the coming year as a result of growing rents, the weekly says.

Of course, these rents are off the books so that flat owners can avoid paying tax. While MPs were not short on words in their criticism of students, did they take any measures against Airbnb to reign in the growth of rents?

"How many student dorms will be built next year? Hasn't the coalition given up on a property tax? Didn't the coalition just now lower tax on labour, especially for those with highest pay?"

Reporter: SOVA should be rebuilt from scratch

STA, 21 October 2019 – Reporter, the right-leaning weekly, takes the opportunity of the controversial hiring of an acquaintance of PM Marjan Šarec in SOVA (Slovenska obveščevalno-varnostna agencija)  to say in its latest commentary that the national intelligence and security agency should be rebuilt from scratch as it has been completely discredited by politicians.

"SOVA should be demolished to the ground and then built anew," Silvester Šurla, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly says under the headline From a Target to Death.

Politicians who have been in power in the last three decades have completely "plucked and discredited this mysterious bird", he adds in reference to SOVA meaning an owl in Slovenian.

The secret service which should protect the interests of the state has been the grounds for political battles, with SOVA being hit by scandals under every government. Its agents have even been on strike and the agency has become a "caricature of itself, a disgrace for the country."

Each government has been employing their people in the agency following the party affiliation or family lines, with the first public call for applications being published only this year. "A bunch of rotten eggs have ended up in SOVA's nest."

In this "spy brothel", there are few innocent politicians who would be without a sin, and the battle for SOVA, for who will use it and (probably) abuse it for their political goals, is actually a battle for power.

"Politicians who should act from the position of statesmen towards SOVA, they engage in politicking. And then everybody are surprised by intelligence information produced by SOVA having practically no applicable value."

All our posts in this series are here

25 Oct 2019, 16:52 PM

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, 18 October
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, speaking at the conclusion of the EU summit, said Slovenia opposed for the outgoing EU Commission to take a decision on Croatia's meeting the requirements to join the Schengen zone. This was after six of the eight Slovenian MEPs addressed an appeal calling for the new Commission to make that decision to Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and current and next president of the European Council.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Commenting on the EU summit's failure to greenlight the launch of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said that an opportunity had been missed, that the damage was done now and that the EU's credibility in the region was shaken.
        NICOSIA, Cyprus - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides and Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris as part of an official visit for an exchange of views on topical developments in the EU, Mediterranean and the Middle East, and bilateral relations. Cerar was accompanied on the two-day visit by a business delegation.
        LJUBLJANA - A committee in support of Catalan leaders, set up at the initiative of former President Milan Kučan, philosopher and sociologist Spomenka Hribar, Ljubljana Faculty of Arts professor Rudi Rizman and former Foreign Minister Ivo Vajgl, held its maiden session to protest against the "draconian" prison sentences handed out to the nine independence leaders, as well as against the EU institutions' silence on the issue. The committee later sent a protest statement to Slovenian and European leaders.
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry announced that the chief of staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Major General Alenka Ermenc, withdrew her proposal to prosecute Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc, whom she had sacked as force commander in April, for commenting on her health. However, Ermenc will push ahead with legal action against the online tabloid Požareport, which was the first to report about her health.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Academy of Music launched a facsimile of a copy of Ludwig van Beethoven's manuscript of Symphony No. 6 containing the composer's handwritten corrections, allegedly Beethoven's present to the Philharmonic Society in Ljubljana in gratitude for being admitted as its honorary member in 1819. Kept by the National and University Library, the Ljubljana copy of the Pastoral Symphony is one of the two preserved copies of Beethoven's autograph score.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court held pre-trial hearings in an insurance fraud case that shocked Slovenia earlier this year involving a young woman who cut off her hand to claim insurance. The 21-year-old, Julija Adlešič, and her 29-year-old partner Sebastien Abramov, who allegedly persuaded her to saw off her hand, pleaded not guilty. They are both in custody.

SATURDAY, 19 October
        WASHINGTON, US - Central bank Governor Boštjan Vasle and Finance Ministry State Secretary Metod Dragonja, attending the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF, told reporters that Slovenia's economic condition was sound despite risks to the global economy. They did note the issue of high public debt, though.
        TRBOVLJE - Delo reported that Lafarge Cement, the Slovenian subsidiary of the Switzerland-headquartered multinational LafargeHolcim, asked for an environmental permit to resume cement grinding, storage and dispatch in Trbovlje at the beginning of next year. Lafarge Cement suspended operations in February 2015, having lost an environmental permit.

SUNDAY, 20 October
        LJUBLJANA - Voter approval rating for the Marjan Šarec government fell by 11.4 percentage points in the October Vox Populi poll commissioned by TV Slovenija and newspapers Dnevnik and Večer. The proportion of supporters and opponents is all but tied at 49.2% against 48.2%. Šarec's LMŠ party slid 3.2 points to 20.1% ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS), who lost 0.8 points to 14.7%.

MONDAY, 21 October
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia's position on the British parliament's request for another postponement of Brexit was that "another delay would make sense" as long as it would justifiably contribute to an orderly Brexit.
        LJUBLJANA - Addressing parliament in questions time, PM Marjan Šarec said he was convinced a draft proposal amending Slovenia's electoral law by adopting the relative preferential vote would get enough support in parliament, also because voters had shown they were in support of such a vote.
        LJUBLJANA - Ex-Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler appeared as the first witness in the contentious parliamentary inquiry into the allegation that criminal prosecution against him was politically motivated. Kangler described the prosecution against him as a plot unthinkable in a law-ruled country, while the inquiry proposed parliamentary oversight of the Maribor police force. While the inquiry is being examined by the Constitutional Court, concern has also been raised by the OECD.
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar met his Serbian counterpart Nebojša Stefanović at the outset of a two-day visit to Serbia for talks focused on bilateral relations, a spike in illegal migration and Serbia's EU integration. The next day the pair visited Slovenian-Serbian border police patrols at the Preševo crossing with North Macedonia aimed at stopping illegal migrants.
        KOPER - The police forces of Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Europol dismantled a criminal ring smuggling illegal migrants to the EU through the Balkan countries. Ten persons, including four Slovenians, are charged for having smuggled at least 150 migrants across the border.
TUESDAY, 22 October
        LJUBLJANA - As the European Commission gave Croatia its go-ahead to enter the Schengen zone, PM Marjan Šarec labelled the decision political and regretted it was made right before the end of the Commission's term. He indicated Slovenia would act politically on the matter too. Slovenian diplomatic sources expressed belief that the country should veto Croatia's joining the passport-free zone. Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) Janez Janša argued that Croatia's joining the Schengen zone was in Slovenia's strategic interest.
        TOKYO, Japan - President Borut Pahor started a two-day visit to Japan by attending Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony. The next day he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visited the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation in Tsukuba, decorating director-general Masanori Yamauchi with the Order of Merit for his contribution to international promotion of Slovenian science.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec met his Croatian counterpart Damir Krstičević with the pair lauding the countries' defence cooperation. Erjavec did not want to comment on whether Croatia was prepared for joining the Schengen area, saying this was not in his purview.
        LJUBLJANA - The government-sponsored bill designed to provide legal recourse for up to 100,000 potential plaintiffs - holders of subordinated bank liabilities wiped out in the 2013 bank bailout - was passed in a 46:34 vote. The central bank had announced a constitutional review.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council found the draft budgets for 2020 and 2021 in compliance with fiscal rules, but warned of risks because the financial impact of bills that are being adopted, including those pushed by the minority government's opposition partner, the Left, was not factored in. Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said not all the risks could be fully included in the budget documents.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament backed legislative changes that raise the minimum net hourly rate for student work from EUR 4.13 to EUR 4.56. The opposition Left, which initiated the raise, had been pushing for more, but failed to get the coalition's support because of concerns about the impact on businesses.
        LJUBLJANA - The foundation stone was laid for the construction of nearly 500 public rental flats in the Ljubljana Brdo borough. The EUR 57 million project is part of the national Housing Fund's project to build 1,500 rental flats to expanding its portfolio by 10,000 new flats by 2025.
        LJUBLJANA - Virs, the Lendava-based supplier of welding and cutting solutions, won the Golden Gazelle Award for the fastest-growing company in Slovenia, conferred by the newspaper publisher Dnevnik. It increased revenue almost fourfold in five years to EUR 8.2 million in 2018.

WEDNESDAY, 23 October
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a package of tax bills that reduce personal income tax while increasing taxes on capital gains and rental income and introducing a minimum corporate income tax rate of 7%. The government's aim was to reduce the tax burden of highly skilled workers, in order to attract such staff to Slovenia, while the Left insisted the reform would primary benefit the rich.
        LJUBLJANA - Chile Eboe-Osuji, the president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), held meetings with Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Justice Minister Andreja Katič as part of a visit to Slovenia. They discussed the challenges of international criminal justice. Cerar pledged for Slovenia to remain a firm ally of the ICC and to promote its values in bilateral and international activities.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Delo reported that the government had put forward to Brussels three candidates for the post of Slovenia's prosecutor at the emerging European Public Prosecutor's Office; Jaka Brezigar, Tanja Frank Eler and Marjana Grašič.
        LJUBLJANA - The Trade Union of Pensioners and a civil initiative presented a petition, calling for a 7.2% extra indexation of pensions to compensate for the austerity measures that have affected pensioners since 2010. Signed by almost 14,000 people, the petition was handed to PM Marjan Šarec and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.
        LJUBLJANA - Data from the central bank showed that Slovenia's inbound FDI stock increased by 8.6% in 2018 to EUR 15.2 billion, as outbound FDI stock rose by 1.6% to EUR 6.1 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Music Academy marked its 80th anniversary and the centenary of higher music education with a ceremony at Cankarjev Dom. Dean Marko Vatovec told the STA in an interview that the academy had made great progress with its graduates a feature of Europe's leading orchestras.
THURSDAY, 24 October
        LJUBLJANA - The government as the founder and only shareholder of 2TDK approved a EUR 56 million recapitalisation for the company managing the Koper-Divača rail project in accordance with the relevant law. This will increase the company's share capital to EUR 77 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to recall Iztok Jarc as ambassador to Serbia and appoint him permanent representative to the EU, to succeed Janez Lenarčič, a European commissioner-designate.
        LJUBLJANA - The management of energy company Petrol headed by CEO Tomaž Berločnik agreed with the supervisory board to step down over differences in the company's strategy.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-run Farmland and Forest Fund confirmed that it had been ordered by the Ljubljana Higher Court to pay just over EUR 21 million in damages to the Ljubljana Archdiocese due to delays in denationalisation of forests, EUR 17 million of which it paid already.
        LJUBLJANA - David Tasić, a former journalist of the weekly Mladina who was one of the four political convicts in the 1988 JBTZ trial, a key event leading to Slovenia's independence, died aged 57. The quartet tried by a military court included Janez Janša, the long-serving leader of the Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted an annex to the agreement governing the scope of public healthcare services and their financing to allow an extra EUR 10 million worth of services to cut waiting times. The money will be secured by the Health Insurance Institute.
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the Mapping and Surveying Authority showed signs of stagnation in property prices in the first half of 2019, following three years of steep growth. Prices of flats are very close to the record levels in 2008, while prices of houses are lagging behind significantly.
        LJUBLJANA - A report from the Statistics Office showed that Slovenian households stepped up saving in 2018, recording a gross household saving rate of 12.6%, up 0.2 percentage points on 2017 and one of the highest in Europe.
        MARIBOR - Police revealed that they had dismantled a criminal ring that made an estimated EUR 1.3 million in illegal gains by smuggling at least 143 Chinese from China to Italy through Slovenia over the past year and a half. Of the four Slovenians and eight Chinese operating the ring, three are in detention and two in house arrest.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Writers' Association presented the EUR 1,000 Jenko Prize for best poetry collection from the past two years to Kaja Teržan for her second collection, Krog (The Circle).

All our posts in this series are here

24 Oct 2019, 21:45 PM

STA, 24 October 2019 - David Tasić, a former journalist of the weekly Mladina, a publisher and one of the four political convicts in the JBTZ trial, a key event in the mosaic of Slovenian independence, has died, the newspaper Delo reported on Thursday.

Tasić was born in Kurševac, Serbia, in 1962. Between 1981 and 1989 he was a journalist and editor for Mladina.

He covered political events in Slovenia and Yugoslavia, and opened up topics that were considered taboo at the time. His feuilleton on Goli Otok, an island in Croatia where Yugoslav authorities deported political prisoners, raised a lot of dust.

On 31 May 1988, Janez Janša, a Mladina journalist at the time, and private Ivan Borštner were arrested for leaking a military document. Four days later, on 4 June 1988, Tasić and the magazine's editor-in-chief Franci Zavrl were also arrested.

The arrests led to the formation of a committee for the protection of Janša's rights, which later evolved into the Human Rights Committee, which organised mass protests against trying civilians in a military court and against the trials being held in the Serbian language, the language used in the Yugoslav People's Army.

At the end of June 1988, the Yugoslav People's Army court sentenced Borštner to four years in prison, Janša and Zavrl to 18 months, and Tasić to five months.

In mid-October 1988, the Military Supreme Court in Belgrade upheld the sentences and raised the punishment for Tasić to ten months, but none of the defendants served out their full sentences.

Apart from energising the fight for human rights, the JBTZ trial - named after the initials of the four defendants - spurred pluralisation and speeded up Slovenia's transition to independence and democracy, which is known as Slovenian Spring.

Tasić left Mladina in 1989 and went on to set up one of the first independent private publishers in Slovenia, Založba Karantanija. Since 1999, he focussed on studying phaleristics and kept a low public profile.

Taking to Twitter, Janša, who now leads the opposition Democrats (SDS), said Tasić "was a hero of the Slovenian Spring in 1988 and 2014, a good and upright man, and a fighter for freedom and light".

Zavrl told the STA that Tasić "was extremely honest and uncorrupted, and did not tolerate injustice. As a journalist he was always polite, yet also critical."

He sees Tasić's role in the JBTZ scandal as extremely important: "He was at the very centre of developments. He had the courage to take this little stone - which the

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