Politics

03 Aug 2021, 16:08 PM

STA, 3 August 2021 - A tweet in which the editor-in-chief of the recently established National Press Agency (NTA) labels Adolf Hilter a hero has raised dust in the Slovenian public and drew condemnation from part of politics, with opposition parties demanding a response from the government and relevant authorities.

Urban Purgar, the NTA editor-in-chief and president of the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values, which operates the media outlet, tweeted on Sunday that "Hitler is #hero" to spark strong reactions and condemnations.

As the tweet has also raised the question of whether such a post is a criminal act, lawyer and criminal law teacher at the European Faculty of Law Blaž Kovačič Mlinar has told the N1 news portal that such statements cannot be labelled a criminal act in Slovenia.

Glorification of totalitarian regimes is not a criminal act in Slovenia, he said, adding that Purgar's tweet did not contain enough elements to qualify as hate speech.

Former Justice Minister Aleš Zalar meanwhile said on Twitter that glorifying Hitler, a symbol of Nazism, was a criminal act. "It is on the state prosecution to make a move. The reaction of the state's repressive apparatus must be immediate and strict."

Several political parties have said that such posts are unacceptable, with the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) demanding that the government and relevant authorities launch appropriate proceedings against Purgar ex officio.

"In democratic Slovenia, such posts and spreading of intolerance are absolutely unacceptable. We expect from all government parties to clearly condemn such glorification of Hitler and, above all, to take measures," the party added.

Purgar's post has been also condemned by Matej Tonin, the head of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi).

"European nations suffered in the past century due to three totalitarian regimes. Glorifying leaders who are responsible for the death of millions of people is reprehensible and has no place in modern society," he said.

Opposition Social Democrats (SD) deputy Marko Koprivc addressed an initiative to the government regarding the "provocations related to the glorification of neo-Nazi ideologies in Slovenian society".

He has proposed that the government and the Ministry of Culture strip the Association for the Promotion of Traditional Values of the status of a non-governmental organisation of public interest in the field of culture.

Koprivc also called on relevant authorities to initiate proceedings against the association and its president due to glorification of neo-Nazi ideologies and incitement of intolerance and hatred in the Slovenian society.

The government and the Culture Ministry should also publicly distance themselves from the ideas promoted by the so-called Yellow Jackets and "similar associations and groups" and make sure that such messages no longer enjoy their support.

The opposition Left thinks that this is a direct consequence of the "spreading of divisions and hatred" by the ruling Democrats (SDS), whose rhetoric "gives wings to such ideas."

The party added that numerous visible representatives of the SDS "flirt with neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist organisations, including the prime minister", which is why glorification of Hitler is not surprising.

"Being appalled and moralising is not enough. It is a criminal act that must be immediately penalised, and the status of the association and its financing abolished," the Left said.

The head of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), Ljubo Jasnič, also strongly condemned the post. "My parents and my close relatives have survived Fascism and the Dachau death camp as patriotic Slovenians of Primorska.

"Me and my friends witnessed the literal slaughtering in the Balkans, a genocide over a nation that could have been fatal for us as well. History obviously no longer teaches us," he told the STA.

The opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said in its response for the STA that it "strongly condemned the post and expected from relevant bodies to act against the known person who glorified Hitler".

Opposition National Party (SNS) head Zmago Jelinčič blamed the post on "permissive parenting that has destroyed all traditional values and knowledge, including of history".

Purgar, who is also a member of the Yellow Jackets, a far-right group linked to neo-Nazis, meanwhile said on the NTA website that the purpose of the tweet was to "reveal all the misery of Slovenian 'left-wing politics' and journalism".

02 Aug 2021, 17:18 PM

STA, 2 August 2021 - A memorial ceremony was held in Sinagoga Maribor on Monday to mark Roma Holocaust Memorial Day to commemorate the victims of the genocide committed against the Roma in WWII. "This should be spoken about so that such things do not repeat," Amanda Fetahi of the Maribor Roma community said on the occasion.

Today's traditional event, called The Night When Violins Went Silent (Noč, ko so violine obmolknile), was hosted by the Sinagoga Maribor centre of Jewish culture and the Association Epeka with jurist Vera Klopčič talking about the recently adopted definition of antigypsyism/anti-Roma discrimination by member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The definition stipulates that ceremonies remembering the victims of the Holocaust also mention the victims of Porajmos, the attempt at ethnic cleansing and genocide against Europe's Romani people by the Nazis in WWII.

"The remembrance of the Roma genocide had been pushed aside for a long time, kept silent in the activities for remembering the Holocaust. This definition obliges countries to include remembrance of the victims of the Romani genocide in awareness-raising activities," said Klopčič.

She stressed that these activities were of key importance for eliminating prejudices, collective intolerance and hatred towards the Roma and, consequently, equal inclusion of the Roma in the broader community. "It is important that this is talked about and that it is noted where such phenomena can lead to."

Association Epeka president Štefan Simončič said that the most burning problem was the unemployment rate among the Roma, which according to unofficial data in the Maribor area exceeds 90%. The association is thus mulling a lawsuit against the state over the inability to eliminate this problem.

"It is unheard of that 20 years after a huge amount of EU funds was invested in employment of the Roma, the employment rate is so low," he said, adding that the main reason for the lack of progress was "institutional discrimination. The Roma are being blamed, while the money is gone."

The Romani genocide will also be remembered on Friday in Murska Sobota and in Petanjci, where a tree will be planted in the Remembrance and Friendship Park to mark the 50th anniversary of the first international congress of the Roma.

This will be followed by a round table debate in Murska Sobota about the situation and expectations of the Roma in Europe and laying of a wreath at the memorial plaque remembering the Roma victims of WWII.

The international community has been marking Roma Holocaust Memorial Day on 2 August, with the day being chosen because on the night to 3 August 1944, almost 3,000 Roma, mostly women, children and elderly people, were killed at Auschwitz.

A total of 21,000 are believed to be killed at Auschwitz, coming from 14 European countries. The Roma were also being exterminated in other Nazi camps, with the most recent estimates putting the total number of victims between 1939 and 1945 at at least half a million.

02 Aug 2021, 12:00 PM

STA, 2 August 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has indicated Slovenia would be willing to offer refuge to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya amid reports that she is planning to seek asylum after the Belarusian Olympic Committee removed her from the national team for publicly criticising the coaches.

The 24-year-old Belarusian athlete got into trouble on Sunday after she publicly criticised the coaching staff of her national team. The Belarusian media condemned her move, saying she had no team spirit, and she was expelled from the national team.

Tsimanouskaya was then brought to the airport to leave Tokyo on Sunday, but she decided to stay and ask for help from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Several countries and politicians have already offered protection or asylum to Tsimanouskaya, including Janša, who posted a tweet on Sunday evening saying: "Krystsina is welcome in Slovenia," in reply to a post by Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya.

STA, 2 August 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has indicated Slovenia would be willing to offer refuge to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya amid reports that she is planning to seek asylum after the Belarusian Olympic Committee removed her from the national team for publicly criticising the coaches. The 24-year-old Belarusian athlete got into trouble on Sunday after she publicly criticised the coaching staff of her national team. The Belarusian media condemned her move, saying she had no team spirit, and she was expelled from the national team. Tsimanouskaya was then brought to the airport to leave Tokyo on Sunday, but she decided to stay and ask for help from the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Several countries and politicians have already offered protection or asylum to Tsimanouskaya, including Janša, who posted a tweet on Sunday evening saying: "Krystsina is welcome in Slovenia," in reply to a post by Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya. In her post, Tsikhanouskaya criticised the attempted forced return of the athlete to Belarus, pointing out that the case was reminiscent of the hijacking of a Ryanair plane at the end of May. At the time, the Belarusian authorities arrested opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner, who were on a plane that was forced to land in Minsk. In another post, also retweeted by Janša, Tsikhanouskaya called on the IOC to launch an investigation against the Belarusian Olympic Committee and to ensure the safety of all Belarusian athletes.

In her post, Tsikhanouskaya criticised the attempted forced return of the athlete to Belarus, pointing out that the case was reminiscent of the hijacking of a Ryanair plane at the end of May.

At the time, the Belarusian authorities arrested opposition journalist Roman Protasevich and his partner, who were on a plane that was forced to land in Minsk.

In another post, also retweeted by Janša, Tsikhanouskaya called on the IOC to launch an investigation against the Belarusian Olympic Committee and to ensure the safety of all Belarusian athletes.

31 Jul 2021, 09:28 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 30 July 2021. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: New right-leaning party is being formed

STA, 30 July 2021 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest editorial that Prime Minister Janez Janša is working hard for a new right-leaning party that would present itself as centrist at the next general election. It says that the most likely candidate for leading such a party is Health Minister Janez Poklukar.

Despite the appearance that a new party is to emerge on the left, much more intensive work for a new party is under way on the right end of the political spectrum, says the paper, noting that Janša will need a third coalition partner besides New Slovenia if his Democrats (SDS) win the election.

Thus Janša is looking for a person that would seem different enough from him and acceptable to less engaged voters. Someone would give the impression he is willing to overcome the left-right divide.

"Increasingly many signs suggest Janša has already found such a person. Partly by chance, and partly it was planned: this is most probably the current health minister, Janez Poklukar, whom the previous Marjan Šarec-led coalition appointed the head of the Ljubljana UKC hospital."

He has experience in business, is a leader, a man who sees the public sector as a kind of company. His rhetoric significantly differs from the rudeness of other SDS politicians.

He has quickly climbed the popularity rankings and strikes people as a trustworthy person already because he is a doctor. He seems kind, moderate, acceptable.

He is not incompetent, as he has led UKC Ljubljana well, and is working hard as health minister.

However, Poklukar seems to have not even the slightest reservation towards Janša's actions in other fields. On the contrary, he faithfully serves Janša, and seems to have no problems with his interfering with the rule of law, harassing of certain groups of the population, Hungarisation, intolerance, attacks on the civil society and media.

The creation of a new party led by Poklukar has undoubtedly been backed by private insurers that are already leading the efforts for further privatisation of the Slovenian healthcare through his legislative proposals.

Creating Poklukar's party is thus a serious project that can succeed and that Janša is dependent on. If voters are fooled, the consequences will be very serious, warns Mladina in the commentary entitled New Party.

Demokracija: EU of overreach, betrayal of ideals

STA, 29 July 2021 - Looking at EU action against Hungary over its LGBT+ law, the right-wing weekly Demokracija argues in Thursday's commentary that this is about more than Hungary. "All EU countries will be punished if they resist," the magazine says in Bukovsky Was Right.

"The declaration of 'war' on Orban is merely a test for others who are in the cross-hairs just because of their conservative world view and because they dare to preserve the segment of their sovereignty that was never transferred to Brussels elites.

"This is why they face accusations of attacking minorities (sexual, racial), 'independent' media, divergence from the rule of law and other fabricated imputations," the commentator says.

Demokracija argues that fundamental EU documents clearly state that European culture is built on Christian foundations, whereas the new member states joined the bloc predominantly for economic reasons.

"What they are doing today at the Berlaymont is usurpation of power and a betrayal of the Europe of nations that is unprecedented in the history of the old continent.

"Core EU members (whatever that may mean) are far from the ideal of democracy and freedom as seen by countries that had spent decades suffering under Communist dictatorship."

All our posts in this series are here

31 Jul 2021, 07:32 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, 23 July
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - European Commissioner Janez Lenarčič rejected the accusation by Prime Minister Janez Janša that he was acting against Slovenia's interests, as he arrived for an EU ministerial, saying "Slovenia is being harmed by those who undermine the rule of law and media freedom, rather than those of us who warn of such conduct being problematic".
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - After an informal meeting of EU ministers for European affairs, Slovenian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan and European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič noted that it had been agreed that the EU must be integrated and coordinated in the time of crises. The pair also stressed the importance of cooperation with the Western Balkan countries.
        LJUBLJANA - Franci Matoz, a prominent lawyer best known as a long-time legal representative of PM Janez Janša and his Democratic Party (SDS), was named chairman of the board of directors of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC), Slovenia's bad bank, just a day after the government appointed him a non-executive director to replace a director who stepped down last week.
        LJUBLJANA - Organisers of public events and gatherings became obligated to check visitors' Covid certificates. A mobile app was released and not long after deleted due to privacy concerns and a new one is in the works. Hospitality providers in Slovenia have been required to check guests' Covid certificates from Monday.
        LJUBLJANA - Web portal Necenzurirano reported that PM Janez Janša had been holidaying in Mauritius for almost 20 years, playing golf and socialising with lobbyist Božo Dimnik and entrepreneur Andrej Marčič, representatives of the largest healthcare suppliers in Slovenia. Part of the opposition demanded a debate in parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - The Health Ministry made EUR 65 million available for the reduction in waiting times for health services. More than 20,000 patients are expected to benefit, according to Health Minister Janez Poklukar.
        LJUBLJANA - Fresh statistics showed Slovenia's tourism is picking up with visitor numbers and nights spent at accommodation facilities rising substantially year-on-year in June. Arrivals were up by 54.7% to over 375,000 and nights spent rose by 66.7% to over a million, data from the Statistics Office showed.
        NOVO MESTO - Revoz, Renault's Novo Mesto-based assembly plant, said it would have two sets of collective leave this summer due to a shortage of chips that has plagued the automotive industry worldwide. The company said it would be difficult to meet production targets.

SATURDAY, 24 July
        TOKYO, Japan - Reigning Tour de France champion Tadej Pogačar won the bronze medal in the men's cycling road race at the Tokyo Olympics in what was the first Olympic medal in cycling for Slovenia and the first medal for Slovenia at the 2020 Summer Olympics.
        BOVEC - Addressing the annual gathering of the ruling Democrats (SDS), the party leader, Janez Janša, called on the party members to step up in the 2022 election campaign. The PM said the party had been successfully steering Slovenia through the Covid-19 epidemic for almost a year and a half.
        LJUBLJANA - A EUR 15 million contract on the purchase of a multi-purpose helicopter for the police was signed by Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and representatives of Italy's Leonardo Helicopters. The contract also includes delivery and maintenance of the AgustaWestland AW169, a twin-engine, 10-seat multi-purpose transport helicopter.
        ORMOŽ - Yummy, a 2019 Belgian comedy horror by Dutch director Lars Damoiseaux, won the Vicious Cat award as the 17th Grossmann Fantastic Film and Wine Festival came to a close.

MONDAY, 26 July
        TOKYO, Japan - Canoeist Benjamin Savšek convincingly won the men's C-1 slalom to earn the first gold medal for Slovenia at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and the second overall medal for the country.
        TOKYO, Japan - Slovenian superstar Luka Dončić scored 48 points as the basketball team cruised past Argentina to open their campaign at the Olympics with a 118:100 win. The first Olympics win for Slovenia came against the runners-up from the last World Cup.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - EU finance ministers endorsed another four national recovery and resilience plans, including Slovenia's, which the European Commission approved at the beginning of the month. Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said Slovenia would get the first funds, EUR 231 million of the EUR 2.5 billion plan, in September at the latest.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian state-owned development bank SID, its Croatian counterpart HBOR and the European Investment Fund (EIF) signed an agreement to establish a regional technology transfer platform under which universities and public research institutions will be able to tap on EUR 40 million to start up and commercialise their development projects.
        LJUBLJANA - An inquiry into police handling of an incident in front of the Parliament House in which several MPs were harassed by a group of anti-maskers in early July has found several flaws, including a lack of coordination and a plan of response and subsequent failure to protect the site.
        
TUESDAY, 27 July
        TOKYO, Japan - Slovenian judoka Tina Trstenjak won the silver medal in the 63kg category at the Tokyo Olympics. The second-best-ranked in the category had to concede to the top-ranked Clarisse Agbegnenou of France in what was a replay of the gold medal match from the previous Olympics where Trstenjak won.
        LJUBLJANA - Matej Oštir and Tanja Frank Eler, the candidates picked by the State Prosecution Council for Slovenia's two European delegated prosecutors before the nomination process was annulled by the government, also applied in a repeat call for the posts. The Justice Ministry later confirmed it had received two applications for the posts.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry shared on Twitter a statement by the EU condemning Turkey's unilateral steps regarding the town of Varosha in Cyprus. Slovenia supports all endeavours towards a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus issue in line with UN resolutions and European Union values, the ministry wrote.

WEDNESDAY, 28 July
        TOKYO, Japan - Bouncing back from difficulties in the Olympic road race, cycling star Primož Roglič outclassed the competition by more than a minute in the men's Olympic time trial to win the second gold for Slovenia in Tokyo and the second medal for Slovenian cycling at the ongoing Games.
        LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana's landmarks designed by architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957), including the Triple Bridge, Congress Square and Žale Cemetery, have been included in UNESCO's World Heritage List in line with a decision adopted by the World Heritage Committee.
        LJUBLJANA - The annual ceremony in memory of Russian POWs who died building the Vršič pass during WWI that will be held on Saturday will mark a number of anniversaries, including 30 years of Slovenia's independence. Slovenian president Borut Pahor and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin agreed to declare the day of the annual ceremony Slovenia-Russia Friendship Day.
        LJUBLJANA - The list of countries whose PCR and rapid antigen tests for coronavirus are recognised by Slovenia was expanded to include Bosnia-Herzegovina. Tests from countries not on the list will be also accepted if they are of the standard compatible with tests in EU and Schengen countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Finance Ministry official Janez Mravljak to head the newly founded Recovery and Resilience Office as acting director starting from 2 August. The office was founded on 3 June under the Finance Ministry to coordinate and manage the implementation of the national recovery and resilience plan.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian PEN centre expressed support to the Montenegrin PEN centre and called on the international community, the EU and Slovenia's EU presidency to condemn what it sees as the violence inflicted on the Montenegrin nation and culture by the current Montenegrin government in cooperation with the Serbian Orthodox Church and pro-Serbian players.
        
THURSDAY, 29 July
        NOVO MESTO - Pharma group Krka Group saw its net profit rise by 11% to EUR 177.4 million in the first six months on record sales revenue of EUR 808.6 million, according to unaudited data. Sales revenue was up by 1% compared with the same period last year and up 6% from the first half of 2019.
        LJUBLJANA - The group Telekom Slovenije generated EUR 317.6 million in sales revenue in the first half of the year, down 1% from the same period in 2020. Net profit was up by 44% to EUR 21.3 million.
        JESENICE - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec and his Austrian counterpart Leonore Gewessler took part in a ceremony marking the reopening of the Karavanke railway tunnel following a safety and technical upgrade. Vrtovec noted the upgrade would improve Slovenia's link with Austria. The ministers said that railways represented the backbone of the future of mobility.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's ILO-compatible survey unemployment rate fell to 4.8% in June, down 0.2 percentage points from May and half a point down from June a year ago, showed data released by the Statistics Office.
        TOKYO, Japan - Slovenia made it to the quarter-finals of the basketball tournament at the Tokyo Olympics after defeating the hosts Japan 116:81 for what is their second win in as many matches. Led by the NBA All-Star Luka Dončić, Slovenia were in the lead throughout the game.

30 Jul 2021, 15:21 PM

STA, 30 July 2021 - Proceedings have been launched against two doctors by the Medical Chamber tribunal due to their contentious statements about Covid-19 vaccination and vaccines, the chamber has told the STA. Unofficially, one of them is a member of an anti-vaccine doctors' movement.

The vast majority of health workers, including doctors, have been highlighting the importance of vaccination and other preventive measures against Covid-19, however a handful have taken a different stand, airing their anti-vaccine views on social media and via certain media outlets.

Unofficially, one of the doctors against whom the chamber has initiated proceedings is a member of the Slovenian Doctors' Initiative, a movement that has been present online since last autumn and is among the most prominent anti-vaccination groups on social media in the country. The movement also questions some preventive measures such as testing and mask-wearing.

The chamber, which is keeping a close watch on its members' public posts, making sure they are not unprofessional or unethical, has confirmed that it has received a number of complaints against doctors, most of whom are members of the initiative.

The chamber's committee in charge of legal-ethical issues has processed seven cases so far. More serious ones have been referred to the tribunal, which is currently investigating two cases.

According to unofficial information obtained by the STA, the other case involves Nada Hiti, a GP with the Domžale Health Centre who published a recording on social media after diluting an mRNA Covid-19 vaccine with water and urine and sending the sample to the laboratory for analysis.

Hearings in both cases are expected to be held in late August.

29 Jul 2021, 16:07 PM

STA, 29 July 2021 - The Social Democrats (SD) president and vice-president Tanja Fajon and Matjaž Nemec, respectively, called on Prime Minister Janez Janša to initiate an independent, voluntary forensic investigation of mobile devices of political leaders, journalists and civil society in the face of the Pegasus scandal.

Fajon said today Janša should explain what he was doing and talking about during his visit to the company selling the spyware Pegasus in Europe while in Israel in December 2020.

This comes after a consortium of media reported that hacking spyware sold by the Israeli NSO Group has been allegedly used by governments to target journalists, activists and political opponents.

Fajon also urged Janša to enable an "independent and voluntary forensic investigation of mobile devices, primarily of leaders of political parties but also investigative journalists and civil society, so that we'll actually know whether eavesdropping was actually taking place here as well".

Some European countries have already announced independent investigations, she noted.

If Janša fails to order an investigation until a certain deadline, European institutions or independent bodies will have to be asked to do it, Fajon said.

She said the European Parliament had been urged a few days ago to start dealing both with spying allegations on European ground as well as a rise in neo-Nazism and rightist extremism in Slovenia.

Nemec said he would call a session of the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission (KNOVS) to discuss the Pegasus scandal and allegations of political pressure on the police, especially in connection to the Yellow Jackets group.

He said that both journalists and politicians, including the prime minister and state secretary for national security in the prime minister's office Žan Mahnič, would be invited to the session that was to be held at the end of August.

28 Jul 2021, 14:16 PM

STA, 28 July 2021 - In a telephone conversation on Wednesday, Slovenian president Borut Pahor and Russian president Vladimir Putin agreed to declare the day of the ceremony at the Russian Chapel at Vršič as Slovenia-Russia Friendship Day, said Pahor's office.

On 23 July, Pahor sent a letter to Putin proposing that the day of the annual ceremony in memory of Russian POWs who died building the Vršič pass during WWI also be declared as Slovenia-Russia Friendship Day.

In a long telephone conversation, Putin informed Pahor that Russian Ambassador to Slovenia Timur Eyvazov would hand him a letter on Thursday welcoming the proposal.

The presidents of Slovenia and Russia are aware of the differences in political positions between the two countries, but believe that efforts should be made to promote dialogue in the interests of peace and friendship, a press release by Pahor's office reads.

"The Russian Chapel symbolises the ties between Slovenians and Russians, and the annual ceremony there reminds us of the importance of peace. It is not a given, but something we must continuously strive for," the release adds.

During their conversation, both presidents also expressed their hope that the situation will improve after the Covid-19 pandemic and that vibrant economic cooperation will resume.

Putin also recalled the warm welcome he received on his visit on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Russian Chapel, noting that next year will mark 30 years of diplomatic relations between Slovenia and Russia.

The two presidents therefore agreed to dedicate Slovenia-Russia Friendship Day to this important anniversary next year. The Russian president also wished success to the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the EU.

The Russian Chapel below Vršič, a wooden Orthodox style chapel, was built in 1916 by surviving Russian prisoners of war to commemorate their dead comrades who had been buried in an avalanche during the construction of the road across Vršič.

After the First World War, the chapel was maintained by local residents. After the reconstruction of the road in 1937, many graves of Russian prisoners were found and their remains were buried in the ossuary next to the chapel, above which a pyramid was erected with the inscription "To the Sons of Russia".

The wooden chapel had deteriorated over the years, so in 1991 it was cleaned, conserved and restored, along with the graves of the Russian prisoners and the grave of the unknown soldier next to the chapel. In 2006, the chapel was completely restored, and a traditional commemorative ceremony is held there every year at the end of July.

This year's ceremony will be dedicated to several anniversaries, including the 200th anniversary of the participation of the Russian Emperor Alexander I at the Ljubljana Congress and the 30th anniversary of Slovenia's independence. Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek will be the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

Slovenia-Russia Friendship Day is not the only one in Slovenia celebrating international ties. This July, the first Slovenia-Israel Friendship Day took place. At the initiative of Pahor, Slovenia also commemorates Slovenia-US Friendship Day and Slovenia-UK Friendship Day.

24 Jul 2021, 10:26 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 23 July 2021. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Preparations in light of low vaccination rate

STAv, 23 July 2021 - In its latest editorial, Mladina looks at the situation in Slovenia regarding vaccination and suggests that the vaccinated and non-vaccinated will need to learn how to co-exist. Under the headline Us, the Vaccinated and Them, the Unvaccinated, the weekly calls for preparedness and suggests alternative measures to vaccination.

"The vaccination debate has become very personal, there are feuds between partners, families and friends. The debate is so fierce that some get vaccinated in secret, while others hide their intention not to be vaccinated," begins the commentary.

Mladina continues with criticizing Slovenia's unsuccessful collective effort to achieve herd immunity, adding that the whole society, including the government, needs to accept that some people are simply not going to get vaccinated.

"We need to react not by violence, arrogance and ridiculing those who oppose vaccination, but by introducing other ways of preventing infections and establishing rules of behaviour between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated."

Mladina suggests that there should be more focus on schools and the preparations for the upcoming fourth wave of the epidemic, criticizing the government for "betting exclusively on vaccination."

The weekly says that Slovenia is ill-prepared for the next wave and the autumn, when people will return to the offices, classrooms and other indoor spaces, adding that the alternative solutions like ventilation technologies are being ignored.

"We need to be realistic and prepare in good time: we are only a month away from the start of the school year and more people staying in unventilated spaces. Two roughly equal groups of people with completely different views of the epidemic will be living in the same society, that is a fact to which all measures must be adapted," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Leftists getting more radical

STA, 22 July 2021 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest editorial that last week's developments indicate the left bloc continues to realise their idea of transforming Slovenia back into a socialist country despite the centre-right government. Even leftists who are willing to cooperate are being radicalised, it adds.

The left-wing's control in the media, NGOs, institutions and even ministries provides a button that, when pushed, enables media attacks or violence, says the weekly, adding that "the left-wing is willing to burn to the ground everything it does not like".

Listing the centre-left opposition's responses to last week's political developments, Demokracija says that leftists think every rightist is a racist, Nazi, supremacist or harbouring a tendency towards autocracy.

"This is, of course, complete nonsense. Same goes for leftists: not all of them are inclined to Marxism, repression of freedom of speech or opening of gulags," says the commentary, headlined Let's Talk About the Left Wing Then, arguing there is a key difference between the two poles though.

Those that are not all-around leftists in Slovenia are overnight subjected to threats as dire as foreshadowing physical violence, so even the progressives who are willing to cooperate are being radicalised including with the enormous help of mainstream media, Demokracija writes.

"The leftists believe they have a right to eradicate ideological opponents and that only they may rule," says the weekly, highlighting that the right-wing has been silently observing this as well as underestimating "the rise of cultural Marxism".

"If we're only silently observing, I fear this will not end well for either of us. It is good if one prays for a good harvest, but then one has to grab a hoe, rake, scythe and garden fork as well," concludes the commentary.

All our posts in this series are here

24 Jul 2021, 09:40 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, 16 July
        LJUBLJANA - Mark Boris Andrijanič, a 38-year-old law graduate who has worked for Uber, was appointed minister without portfolio for digital transformation in a 45:44 vote in parliament, pledging to work for digitalisation to become a national priority and a project uniting Slovenia's society and politics. A new Digital Transformation Office he will head was founded on 22 July.
        LJUBLJANA - The upper chamber of parliament vetoed amendments to the audiovisual services act whose core provision is a 6% levy on content providers to finance a new fund for the production of domestic content. This was the second veto against a government-sponsored act in less than a week.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU justice ministers held an informal meeting discussing the use of AI in judicial proceedings, with Slovenia's Marjan Dikaučič saying the debate centred around the need to put in place safety mechanisms to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the Commission's goal was to protect fundamental rights of European citizens, including in law enforcement and judiciary. Reynders also made a renewed appeal for Slovenia to appoint European delegated prosecutors, indicating action unless the government acted very soon.
        LJUBLJANA - Wrapping up a high-level online conference on innovative solutions for a resilient healthcare system, which featured the health ministers of Slovenia, Portugal and Germany, Slovenia's Janez Poklukar said the EU's trio presidency were working to finalise negotiations on three draft regulations that form the basis of the EU Health Union in a bid to coordinate the regulations in trialogue with other EU institutions as soon as possible.
        LJUBLJANA - A new batch of government-sponsored vouchers became available to all Slovenian residents. Unlike the holiday-at-home vouchers issued last year, they can be used to pay for a variety of services and goods in tourism, hospitality, sports and culture. At EUR 100 for adults and EUR 50 for those under 18, the vouchers are valued at a combined EUR 192.2 million.
        BORDEAUX, France - Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) won stage 19 of the Tour de France from Mourenx to Libourne after attacking 25km from the finish in his second win and the fifth for Slovenian riders at this year's Tour.

SATURDAY, 17 July
        LJUBLJANA - Europa Cantat, a major international festival dedicated to choral music, got under way in with a concert featuring Slovenian and foreign vocalists at Cankarjev Dom arts centre, bringing a blend of various music genres.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office reported Slovenia recording the highest positive net migration since 2008 last year as almost 18,400 people more moved in than out. Part of the reason for the increase is administrative changes in the population register.

SUNDAY, 18 July
        PARIS, France - Tadej Pogačar, the 22-old Slovenian UAE Team Emirates rider, won the 108th Tour de France to become the youngest double winner of the world's most prestigious cycling race and only the ninth rider with back-to-back wins. He also won the white jersey for the best young rider and the polka dot jersey for the top mountain climber.
        LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Top seed Tamara Zidanšek, the French Open semi-finalist, won the WTA Lousanne Open beating France's Clara Burel in the finals after a good two hours 4:6, 7:6 (5) and 6:1 for what is her first-ever WTA tournament victory.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry put forward for adoption by the government a regulation banning the sale of several single-use plastic items such as plastic cutlery, straws and plates in line with the EU regulation that was supposed to be transposed by 3 July.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia earmarked EUR 10.72 billion (22.2% of GDP) for various social security programmes in 2019, up 6.2% over 2018, with the bulk spent on the elderly, where pensions are also included, and on diseases and healthcare, according to the Statistics Office.

MONDAY, 19 July
        LJUBLJANA - The Infrastructure Ministry issued an energy permit for the construction of the second unit of the Krško nuclear power station in what Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said was a "kick-start of the broadest possible public debate". Details such as the estimated price, time frame and choice of technology are not known yet. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed the plans.
        CERKLJE OB KRKI - A ceremony at the Prilozje air strip near the town of Metlika in south-east marked the first Slovenia-Israel Friendship Day in memory of the joint struggle against Nazism and Fascism in WWII. The event, addressed by President Borut Pahor and Israeli Ambassador Eyal Sela, marked the centenary of the birth of Israeli hero and poet Hannah Szenes, who parachuted into the Bela Krajina region on a mission during WWII in a heroic story that Pahor said linked the two nations.
        LJUBLJANA - Responding to revelations by foreign media that governments had used hacking spyware sold by the Israeli NSO Group to target journalists, activists and political opponents, Matjaž Nemec, the chair of the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission, confirmed the commission had received first hints of potential abuse of spyware in Slovenia as early as last year, but said it was not clear what type of software was involved. He said the commission became even more attentive when PM Janez Janša visited Israel last December. He reportedly met NSO officials.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU ministers in charge of research agreed that Europe needed a common research area as they met for an informal meeting under Slovenia's EU presidency to discuss revitalising the European Research Area, and the role of international cooperation to promote research and innovation.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - EU agriculture ministers meeting under Slovenia's presidency for the first time unanimously endorsed an action plan aiming for at least 25% of agricultural land to be under organic farming by 2030 in a decision hailed by Minister Jože Podgoršek as being one of the priorities of Slovenia's presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that rapid antigen tests will no longer be available free of charge to everyone from 23 August but only to those who cannot get vaccinated for health reasons and for groups such as users of health services, care home residents, prisoners or asylum and safe home residents.
        LJUBLJANA - The State Prosecution Council urged the government to take a decision on the appointment of 12 candidates for state prosecutors put forward by the previous justice minister between last September and June as soon as possible, pointing to staff shortages created by the government's "unprompt and selective decision-making".
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court rejected an opposition-sponsored motion challenging the inadmissibility of a referendum on EUR 780 million investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces in 2021-2026 as declared by parliament in November 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest Vox Populi poll, commissioned by the dailies Dnevnik and Večer, showed the voter approval rating for the Janez Janša government hitting a record low, with nearly 72% disapproving of its work. The ruling Democrats (SDS) nevertheless remain in the lead, on 18.2%, ahead of the opposition Social Democrats (SD) on 12.7%.

TUESDAY, 20 July
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In its second Rule of Law Report, the European Commission raised concerns over delays in Slovenia in the appointment of state prosecutors and the country's two European delegated prosecutors, as well as about deteriorating media freedom and pluralism in the country. Presenting the report, Commission Vice President Vera Jourova and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders called on the Slovenian authorities to ensure a stable financing of the STA. Reynders pointed to potential measures over non-appointment of European delegated prosecutors come autumn.
        LJUBLJANA - Anže Erbežnik stepped down as a state secretary at the Justice Ministry after less than a month on the job. He later said the reason was that he could not perform his duties with due respect for EU law, rule of law and human rights. He accused Minister Marjan Dikaučič of lacking a basic knowledge of EU law. Dikaučič denied the claims as fabrications, implying Erbežnik was more interested in self-promotion than the ministry's reputation.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU environment ministers conducted a preliminary exchange of opinions on Fit for 55, the EU's new energy and climate package, at an informal ministerial with Slovenia's Minister Andrej Vizjak saying the package was seen as a good basis for talks. The ministers also discussed preparations for the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in November with Vizjak pledging Slovenia would work for the conference to achieve concrete results.
        PRAGUE, Czechia - The coronavirus pandemic topped the agenda as foreign ministers of the Central 5 group - Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - met. They also discussed the Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership and Belarus. Anže Logar lauded vaccine solidarity and said Slovenia's EU presidency was focused on developing the European Health Union and boosting the EU's strategic autonomy.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia logged 111 coronavirus cases, the first time after 15 June that the daily rise in infections passed 100. This was after sequencing showed the Delta variant had become the prevailing strain of the virus in the country. The National Institute of Public Health estimates there are now 838 active cases in the country. The 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents is at 40.
        LJUBLJANA - Uroš Novak, one of the two deputy heads of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, sent a letter of resignation to President Borut Pahor in which he cited new professional challenges as the reason for the step. His five-year term would have ended in less than two years.
        LJUBLJANA - The Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana and the German Embassy signed an agreement under which the German government will provide EUR 25,000 as part of a EUR 1.2 million renovation project that will see the centre's synagogue reopen for worship in late autumn.
        LJUBLJANA - The Muslim community celebrated Eid al-Adha with a ceremony at the Muslim Cultural Centre in Ljubljana. Leading the prayer, Mufti Nevzet Porić stressed the importance of vaccination and personal responsibility.

WEDNESDAY, 21 July
        WASHINGTON, US - US President Joe Biden nominated prominent Columbia lawyer Jamie L. Harpootlian to be ambassador to Slovenia. She is the wife of South Carolina senator, Democrat Dick Harpootlian, who is not planning to give up his seat to accompany his wife to Slovenia. The new ambassador will succeed Lynda Blanchard, who tendered her resignation after Donald Trump lost the election to Biden.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - A new proposal for a global framework for biodiversity after 2020 was in the focus of the closing day of the informal meeting of EU environment ministers. Minister Andrej Vizjak said "the time is to stop the trend of declining biodiversity," adding: "ambitious global objectives should be set to contribute to preserving nature, protecting 30% of global land and oceans by 2030 and restoring degraded ecosystems."
        LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court granted the STA's request to stay the implementation of a regulation adopted by the government in June that introduces detailed rules governing the public service provided by the STA. This was a day after the Government Communication Office sent a final draft of the agreement based on that regulation to the STA with the expectation the agency sign it, having taken into account none of the agency's main remarks.
        NASSAU, the Bahamas - Slovenian freediver Alenka Artnik further improved the constant weight world record she set three days earlier by plunging as far as 122 metres deep at the Vertical Blue competition in the Bahamas.

THURSDAY, 22 July
        LJUBLJANA - The government added cross-border workers to the list of exceptions for quarantine-free entry to Slovenia if they do not have a Covid certificate. The exception, effective as of 23 July, will apply to workers who live up to ten kilometres from the national border.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU ministers in charge of competitiveness debated the future of Europe's textile and energy-intensive industries at an informal meeting focusing on how these industries can transition to a circular economy.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided Slovenia will donate equipment to Lithuania to help it stem the flow of illegal migrations from Belarus. Lithuania will get ten kilometres of fence, plus power generators, blankets and ready-made meals.
        LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit established that remedial measures that were taken by the government and the Agency for Commodity Reserves on the basis of the court's audit of the efficiency of purchases of personal protective and medical equipment had been satisfactory.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Electoral Commission dismissed allegations about voter suppression during the new waters act referendum campaign. Claims that the commission is responsible for issues with informing care home residents, mail voting and early voting stems from false understanding of referendum rules, it said.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed two non-executive directors at the Bank Assets Management Company, lawyer Franci Matoz and businessman Gregor Planteu. They will replace Franc Dover, who stepped down effective from 21 July, and Marko Tišma, who started out as non-executive director in 2018 and was dismissed.

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