Politics

18 Sep 2019, 10:15 AM

STA, 17 September 2019 - Slovenia keeps seeing a surge in illegal migration with the latest police data showing that the number of illegal crossings peaked at 2,352 in August, the highest monthly figure since the 2015-16 refugee crisis.

In the first eight months of the year, police registered 9,801 instances of people trying to cross illegally into the country, which compares to 5,899 in the whole last year.

In most of the cases the migrants were citizens of Pakistan (2,344), followed by Algerians (1,427) and Afghanis (1,064).

The largest number of cases was handled by the Koper, Novo Mesto and Ljubljana police departments (3,310, 2,672 and 1,975, respectively.

The migrants filed 2,577 petitions for asylum between January and the end of August this year, almost 500 more than in the whole of 2018.

Of the 2,475 petitions whose processing has been completed, asylum status was granted to 49 migrants.

Slovenian police returned 6,533 migrants to foreign law enforcement authorities (2,411 in the whole of 2018), while foreign police forces returned 461 migrants to Slovenia (372 in the 12 months of 2018).

17 Sep 2019, 18:01 PM

Numerous outlets are carrying a report from the Associated Press about armed individuals – carrying knives – now patrolling Slovenia’s border with Croatia. These are part of Andrej Šiško’s Štajerska varda (“Home Guard”), the anti-migrant movement led by the former football hooligan, presidential candidate and recent prison inmate. Šiško is quoted as saying his goal is “to train people to defend their country and help the military and police at a time of massive migrations from the African and Asian states, mostly Muslims.”

One member of the group is Blaž Židar, a “47-year-old former Slovenian army soldier, dressed in camouflage trousers with a long knife hanging from his belt” who  goes on daily patrols near his village of Radovica. The story quotes him as saying “I would prefer to enjoy my retirement peacefully, but security reasons are preventing this.” He goes on to say that his six children often join him on patrol, along with his wife, “because they have to learn how to protect their nation from intruders.”

Related: 1 in 8 Slovenians is an immigrant

The reporter, Dušan Stojanović, goes on to interview Miha Kovač, a Slovenian political analyst and professor at the University of Ljubljana, who describes such anti-migrant groups as made up of “guys with big beer bellies who don’t have much of an education, who didn’t have much of a career, who don’t know what to do with themselves in the contemporary world. They find their meaning in this kind of movement and this kind of hatred toward migrants.”

While Kovač doesn’t see the movement as an immediate danger, he says the problem would get worse if Slovenia had significant numbers of immigrants, from 20-50,000.

Meanwhile, the story claims the authorities are happy to turn a blind eye to the patrols, as long as they stay within the law. As France Bozicnik, the head of criminal police at a police station near the border, states: “People call us on the phone every day and give us information about suspicious vehicles and suspicious persons, and we sincerely thank them for this information.”

You can see the full story here, while all our stories on Andrej Šiško are here

 

17 Sep 2019, 09:40 AM

STA, 16 September 2019 - President Borut Pahor and Indian President Ram Nath Kovind reaffirmed their commitment to boost cooperation and friendship between their countries, as they met in Ljubljana on Monday. They also stressed the importance of global partnership and multilateralism. Pahor accepted an invitation to India.

Pahor said during the talks with Kovind, the first Indian president to visit the country, that India is the largest country in the world and one of the biggest democracies, where the implementation of the rule of law and human rights could be an example to other countries.

The pair reviewed bilateral and multilateral cooperation, reaffirming their commitment to multilateralism. While agreeing that it needed some changes, they stressed that it represented a safe environment for humanity to tackle the most sensitive and important challenges, from climate change to terrorism.

Discussing terrorism, the presidents exchanged views on the situation in Kashmir. Kovinda said terrorism was one of the biggest challenges of humanity and the presidents agreed that the whole world would have to join forces to defeat it.

Kovinda stressed that the fight against cross-border terrorism was very important for India.

The Indian president also pointed to the historical ties between Slovenia and India, saying they were based on shared cultural and democratic values.

He added that he and Pahor had agreed to strengthen bilateral ties and global partnership.

The presidents signed a statement after the meeting, calling for the strengthening of economic ties. Pahor noted that the two countries posted half a billion euro in goods trade a year and that trade was rising at a 30% rate.

Kovind is accompanied by a business delegation, featuring representatives of 20 Indian companies who will attend a Slovenian-Indian business forum in the afternoon. The two presidents will address the forum.

Kovind said he was pleasantly surprised by Slovenia's technological progress and its achievements in the international arena. It has become a pioneer in environment and forests conservation, he said.

According to the president, India will have more than five billion inhabitants by 2025. The country would like to cooperate with Slovenia in science, know-how and innovation to support this growth.

On the sidelines of the presidential visit, several agreements were signed between the two countries' governments and companies.

Government representatives signed a programme of cooperation in culture, arts, education, sports and media for the 2019-2014 period, and a programme of cooperation in science and technology in 2020-2022.

The Slovenian Institute for Standardization and the Bureau of Indian Standards signed an agreement on technical cooperation in standardisation.

The Indian president believes the agreements signed today will enhance the cultural and economic ties between the two countries.

Kovind will conclude the two-day official visit on Tuesday, when he and his spouse visit the lakeside resort of Bled.

Pahor noted that he had hosted two Indian prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, and that the ties between India and Slovenia go back to the period before Slovenia's independence.

He also stressed the importance of Mahatma Gandhi for humanity, as India celebrates the 150th anniversary of his birth this year.

Kovinda expressed gratitude that Slovenia was nurturing this heritage, including by issuing a special stamp next month.

He also congratulated Slovenia on initiating World Bee Day, which New Delhi has also backed.

Kovinda met Prime Minister Marjan Šarec at Ljubljana Caste this afternoon and is also scheduled to meet parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

All out stories about India are here

16 Sep 2019, 12:30 PM

STA, 16 September 2019 - The business newspaper Finance comments on Monday about the debt of the Janković family that has recently been written off, wondering who and why is afraid of the family of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković.

The key question in all this is who is the man who bought most of the debt of Janković's sons Jure and Damijan. Where has the money, some EUR 30 million, including a EUR 5 million debt held by Zoran Janković, come from?

The paper also wonders whether any authority is looking into the assets of the man, a Jan Bec, who bought the debts.

This is not the only scandal involving the Janković family, the author of the commentary notes. "Personally, I am not a fan of conspiracy theories, but there have simply been too many happy endings involving the Janković family to call it luck."

"Considering all the scandals and financial 'innovations' it is only logical to ask: Who and why is afraid of the Janković family?" the paper wonders in a commentary with the same headline.

jankovic finance editorial.JPG

finance.si

16 Sep 2019, 11:30 AM

STA, 13 September 2019 - Slovenian Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar proposed that Slovenia and Austria form joint police patrols to police the Slovenian-Austrian border, as he hosted his counterpart Wolfgang Peschorn for a visit in Ljubljana on Friday.

Peschorn, saying it was a good proposal, announced the Austrian government would examine it to see if it could fully contain the migration pressure.

Slovenia has recently introduced similar police patrols with Italy.

Poklukar reiterated Slovenia's stance that Austria's border checks with Slovenia had a negative impact on local population on both sides of the border, causing economic damage and long lines of vehicles on the shared border.

He said this was the reason why he had suggested Austria eliminated border checks and set up mixed police patrols with Slovenia.

The Austrian minister said the government planned to take a new decision on the border checks in mid-October.

Austria introduced checks on the border with Slovenia, which is an internal EU border, at the peak of the 2015 refugee crisis, and has been extending them ever since.

Poklukar also announced Slovenia would soon send its police attache to the Austrian capital of Vienna.

Both ministers said they supported effective control of the EU's external borders and a comprehensive solution to the migration issue at the EU level.

The Salzburg Forum, meeting in Vienna in November, will thus discuss initiatives for a more efficient asylum and migration policy.

A message needs to be sent out that illegal migrations and human smuggling do not pay off, the Austrian minister stressed, adding that this applied to the Balkan route as well as other routes in the Mediterranean.

Poklukar acknowledged that illegal migrations have been increasing for four years, but he said there was "no cause for concern". "Slovenia is a safe country and Slovenian police are managing the situation."

As Poklukar noted, Slovenian police had apprehended roughly 9,800 illegal migrants so far this year, with the majority returned to Croatia; Austria, meanwhile returned only 62 persons to Slovenia.

"This data shows that Slovenia conducts effective control of its southern border."

Both officials also commented on the threat by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that he will open Turkey's borders and let Syrian refugees into Europe.

Peschorn said "announcements are commonplace in polit
On the sidelines of the visit, he decorated two Slovenian police officers wiics, but it is always important what happens," but stressed that the situation on the Turkish-Greek border would inform Austria's decision on whether to extent police checks.

Poklukar said that the 2016 deal the EU struck with Turkey in 2016 helped significantly reduce migrations from Syria and the Middle East. Slovenia's position is that the deal is very important.

16 Sep 2019, 10:33 AM

STA, 16 September 2019 - Indian President Ram Nath Kovind will be in Ljubljana on Monday as the first Indian president to visit the country. He will be received with military honours by President Borut Pahor, will have a working lunch with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and meet parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.

Following the reception ceremony in Congress Square, Kovind will lay a wreath at the monument to victims of wars, after which the presidents will hold talks behind closed doors.

Talks between Slovenian and Indian delegations will be attended by Foreign Minister Miro Cerar, after which several cooperation agreements will be signed. The presidents will hold a joint press conference just before noon.

Kovind will also have a working lunch with Šarec and meet Židan in the afternoon.

This will be followed by a Slovenian-Indian business conference, one of the key events organised as part of the visit. The conference, organised by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), will see the signing of a cooperation memorandum.

Before dinner, to be hosted by Pahor, the two presidents will visit the Ljubljana-based International Centre for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE), where they will unveil a Bench of Friendship.

Official portrait of Shri Ram Nath Kovind, President of India Wikimedia.jpg

Official portrait of Shri Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, Wikipedia

Background to the visit

STA, 14 September 2019 - Ram Nath Kovind, the president of India, will pay his first official visit to Slovenia on Monday for talks with his host, President Borut Pahor. The pair is to discuss bilateral cooperation, the priorities of Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of 2021, and the situation in India. A business forum will also be held.

Cooperation between Slovenia and India is versatile and also has a legal basis, but the presidential visit is to further enhance these ties, especially political dialogue and business cooperation, according to Pahor's office.

The two countries traditionally have good relations. Pahor paid an official visit to the country with a strong business delegation in 2011 at the invitation of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Pahor and Kovind are also expected to express strong support for multilateralism under the sponsorship of the UN, and discuss the situation in India and the wider region of South Asia. Cooperation between India and the EU will also be on the agenda.

India is Slovenia's third most important foreign trade partner in Asia after China and South Korea. Bilateral trade in 2018 was the highest in the last five years, reaching EUR 361 million or 34% more than in 2017.

Slovenian and Indian companies have recently set up several join ventures specialising in car parts, construction materials and abrasives.

Kovind will be accompanied by a business delegation, compiled by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), which will attend the Slovenian-Indian business forum.

Several agreements are expected to be signed as part of the forum, which will be a continuation of efforts for cooperation initiated during a visit by a Slovenian delegation from transport and logistics in Mumbai and Chennai this April.

Pahor and Kovind will also unveil a bench of friendship in front of the Ljubljana-based International Center for Promotion of Enterprises (ICPE).

Slovenia opened an embassy in new Delhi in 2002 but sent its first ambassador to the country, Janez Premože, only in September 2009.

India in turn opened its residential embassy in Ljubljana in March 2008, when Indian Foreign Minister Ananda Sharma paid a visit.

The first Slovenian president to pay an official visit to India was Janez Drnovšek in January 2007. He attended an international conference marking the 100th anniversary of the Mathama Ghandi peace movement in New Delhi and met top officials.

In February 2004, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel visited.

More recent exchanges include a working visit by President Danilo Türk in February 2010, a visit by Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec in 2013 and a multi-day visit by National Assembly Speaker Milan Brglez two years later.

All our stories on Slovenia and India are here

14 Sep 2019, 12:03 PM

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

Mladina: Energy sector suffers from excessive pay

STA, 13 September 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the government does not want to make order in the energy sector and reduce the excessive wages there as the sector is highly politicised, with each political party having their piece of the pie.

"The world of energy in Slovenia is a distinctively political matter. The entire sector could be called a small political paradise," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline EUR 100,000 a Month.

According to him, energy should be a competitive business in which the state does not and must not have any connection, because otherwise it does not function under the economic principles.

"It is supposed to be a serious business, with competition, market, large players, fierce fights for every consumer. But it is not. In reality, it is a completely state-owned system, but excluded enough from the state that the public sector rules do not apply to it."

At the same time, it is included in the state enough that politics can influence it. When it comes to distributing influence in the energy sector, political parties are able to make agreements and they cooperate well.

"There is a code of silence among parties and each new party which enters the government quickly gets its own 'energy district'," Repovž adds.

As energy companies in Slovenia are mainly public companies, it would be right if they get completely subordinated to the rules of public sector "in the field of wages for starts. Slovenia has one unusual feature: the highest wages are not paid out in the banking sector, but in energy."

However, Mladina does not believe that the current government has the courage or even the intention to do something about that. "It seems that a majority has already forgotten about their high-flying election promises," concludes the commentary.

Demokracija: Slovenia should learn from Estonia

STA, 12 September - The right-wing weekly Demokracija praises Estonia for its break with Communism, while Slovenia opted for a gradual transition and never really broke with the regime. "Communism was an occupation and Slovenia will not be able to step out of its shadow by ignoring its remnants. The snake needs to be decapitated or it will bring us down once more."

The weekly comments on Thursday on an interview Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid gave the broadcaster TV Slovenija last week in which she specifically said that the country had been occupied by the Soviet Union and did not join the union willingly.

Slovenia and Estonia are similar in many ways, sharing similar fates after World War II. "Both had been occupied, in both countries the Communists first killed most of the bourgeois intelligentsia, industrials and entrepreneurs, and sent the rest to labour camps."

In both countries, power was in the hands of foreigners: in Slovenia in the hands of Serbs and in Estonia in the hands of Russians. They experienced Communist dictatorship and the countries stagnated for half a century.

But after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the independence of the two countries, their ways diverged. Slovenia opted for a gradual transition to market economy and never got rid of its socialist mindset, while Estonia broke off with Socialism overnight.

Slovenia could learn a lot from Estonia. The latter was a much poorer country when it became independent, but is now on Slovenia's tail, the paper says under the headline Why Estonia Became E-stonia.

The different mindsets were the most pronounced in the 2008 crisis, when Slovenia decided for Keynesian measures, while Estonia let the market sort itself out.

Although unemployment in Estonia was higher than in Slovenia during the crisis, the levels are similar now. But Estonia's debt amounts to only 8% of GDP, while Slovenia's is at over 70% of GDP.

All our posts in this series are here

14 Sep 2019, 10:40 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.

This summary was prepared by the STA:

FRIDAY, 6 September
        LJUBLJANA - Representatives of all three branches of government taking part in a debate on the state of the rule of law in Slovenia agreed that the separation of powers was key for the implementation of the rule of law. Judges were critical of interference in the judiciary and failure to implement Constitutional Court rulings.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest banking group, NLB saw its half-year-net profit fall by 10% year-on-year to EUR 94.3 million despite higher interest and non-interest income. Profit before impairments and provisions was up 13% to EUR 116 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The German-owned Slovenian carrier Adria Airways reached a deal with pilots to prevent a series of strikes that were due to begin in two days, agreeing a draft of a new collective bargaining agreement, which now needs to be endorsed by members of the pilots' trade union.
        LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek denied the allegation that she personally interfered in a procedure to appoint the CEO of SODO, the state-owned electricity distribution system operator, while defending the government's decision on 14 August to change the SODO articles of association so that the supervisory board needs the government's consent to appoint or dismiss the CEO.
        BILBAO, Spain - Slovenia proved a cycling tour superpower as Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) won the 13th stage of the Vuelta ahead of Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), who increased the overall lead. In the all-Slovenian finish on the hellishly steep final climb, Pogačar won his second stage victory to advance to the 3rd spot overall and put on the best young rider's white jersey.

SATURDAY, 7 September
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign companies accounted for 5.6% of all companies in Slovenia in 2017 but created over 27% of value added, roughly on a par with 2016. These companies employed almost 26% of all workers, and allocated 39% of their expenses in Slovenia for R&D, the Statistics Office's data show.

SUNDAY, 8 September
        ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar - Pope Francis visited Akamasoa, a village founded by the Slovenian missionary Pedro Opeka in Madagascar as part of his south African tour, meeting Opeka and several other Church dignitaries along with several thousand people.
        METLIKA - Several thousand firefighters and other visitors gathered to celebrate the 150th anniversary of organised firefighting in Slovenia. In his keynote, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, himself a volunteer firefighter, stressed that the umbrella Firefighters' Union was the biggest humanitarian organisation in the country.
        PODLESJE - A mass and commemoration were held on the site of a short-lived forced-labour camp near Kočevje at which post-war Communist authorities interned women. It was in operation from July 1949 and October the same year and held 800 women and girls, either suspected of having been associated with the anti-Communist Home Guards or deemed politically dangerous.

MONDAY, 9 September
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Coalition party officials and government members conducted the last joint debate on the budget for 2020 and 2021 before the government submits budget documents to parliament. Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said the government would wait until a fresh economic outlook is released on 19 September. Public spending in 2020 is capped at EUR 10.45 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - National Assembly Speaker Dejan Židan hosted his Latvian counterpart Inara Murniece for talks, after which the pair called for a strong and effective EU where the voice of each member counts. The Latvian speaker, who also met President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, thanked Slovenia for taking part in NATO's Enhanced Forward Presence mission in Latvia.
        LJUBLJANA - A poll by Delo gave the government an average rating of 2.96 on a 1-5 scale in September, up from 2.91 in August and 2.16 when it took office a year ago. The improvement in the government rating was also reflected in higher ratings for PM Marjan Šarec's LMŠ party, which gained more than two points to 18.9%, over 5 points ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia exported EUR 3.962 billion worth of goods in July, the highest monthly value on record as the trade surplus hit a record level of EUR 937 million. Merchandise exports were 46.3% higher than in July 2018 and imports rose by 16.4% to EUR 3.025 billion, the Statistics Office reported.
        LJUBLJANA - Lek, a subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis, inaugurated new development laboratories at the Slovenia development centre in Ljubljana. Valued at EUR 7.5 million, the investment will allow development sterile solid dosage forms to treat cancer patients.
        VRHNIKA - The Environment Ministry annulled the August decision by the building inspectorate which forced hazardous waste treatment company Kemis to suspend its operations. Kemis can resume business, while the inspectorate need to decide on the matter again.
        LJUBLJANA - History of Love (Zgodovina Ljubezni), a meditative drama by Sonja Prosenc, was picked as Slovenia's candidate for the nomination for the 2020 Academy Award for Best International Feature Film by a judging panel of the Association of Slovenian Filmmakers.
        LJUBLJANA - The national football team scored a third consecutive win in the qualifiers for the 2020 Euro by defeating Israel at home 3:2 to advance to second place in Group G behind the leading Poland, whom they beat 2:0 in Ljubljana on 6 September.

TUESDAY, 10 September
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - President-elect of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen announced the distribution of posts in the new commission, assigning the crisis management portfolio to Slovenia's commissioner-designate Janez Lenarčič. First political reactions indicate the portfolio is perceived as lightweight, although the opposition Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Janša said it was one of the hardest and most thankless because it involved dealing with the controversial issue of migration.
        MOSCOW, Russia - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec paid an official visit to Russia with a sizeable government and business delegation. After talks, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev suggested Slovenia should help in the restructuring of now mostly Russian-owned Croatian conglomerate Agrokor and its Slovenian subsidiary, the retailer Mercator. Šarec also attended the unveiling of a monument to Slovenian soldiers who perished on Russian soil in both world wars. Accompanying Šarec, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar commented that the visit was important from the economic aspect, but he did not think it would affect Slovenia's relations with the US or the EU.
        MOSCOW, Russia - The energy company Petrol signed cooperation contracts with Russia's T Plus Grupa and Schneider Electric on the sidelines of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's visit. The projects will focus on optimisation of district heating.
        CELJE - The 52nd International Trade Fair got under way, hosting more than 1,500 exhibitors from over 30 countries and almost all continents until 15 September. A sizeable delegation came from Montenegro, this year's partner country, headed by Economy Minister Dragica Sekulić.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest survey by temping agency Manpower put Slovenia's seasonally-adjusted net employment outlook for the final quarter of the years at 17%, one of the most upbeat forecasts in the region and level with a year ago.
        KOPER - The 34th Vilenica International Literary Festival got under way with an event featuring the Vilenica Prize winner Dragan Velikić, one of the most esteemed Serbian authors, and the Slovenian author in focus, rebel poet Esad Babačić. The festival brought together more than 20 authors from 15 countries.

WEDNESDAY, 11 September
        LJUBLJANA - A group of 28 scholars urged President Borut Pahor to resign or be impeached over his comments at the Bled Strategic Forum which suggested that Turkey and Ukraine should not count on full-fledged EU membership. Pahor's office said the stance on a special status of Turkey and Ukraine within the EU had been known at home and abroad for several years, while Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated that Slovenia supported Turkey's accession to the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Defence Committee green-lighted the national security strategy resolution for the plenary discussion, but passed an amendment of the opposition Democrats (SDS) to throw out a provision granting additional powers to the SOVA intelligence service.
        LJUBLJANA - The government and public sector trade unions launched a fresh round of talks aimed at reforming the public sector pay system toward a more performance-based remuneration system. One of the government's proposals is that employees could get up to 30% higher pay based on performance, but it would also slow down their promotion to higher pay brackets, which is now all but automatic.
        LJUBLJANA - The EU's statistics office Eurostat projected that Slovenia's population will decrease by 13% to below 1.8 million in 2100. Almost a third of the population is projected to be aged 65 or older at the end of the century.

THURSDAY, 12 September
        LJUBLJANA - The government's economic think-tank, IMAD, downgraded Slovenia's GDP growth forecast for 2019 by 0.6 points to 2.8% for 2019 and by 0.1 points to 3% for 2020. In response, Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj announced cuts in planned budget expenditure in 2019 and 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, started an official visit to Slovenia ahead of a two-day conference of the chiefs of defence from NATO member countries. Meeting Chief of the General Staff, Major General Alenka Ermenc, President Borut Pahor and PM Marjan Šarec, the officer commended Slovenia and its armed forces on their 15 years of contribution in support of the alliance's values and mission.
        LJUBLJANA - On the back of the news that the Supreme State Prosecution had asked the Constitutional Court to examine whether the parliamentary inquiry into prosecution of former Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler may be in breach of the constitutional provision of division of power, the Judicial Council said it would do the same, arguing that the legislative branch overstepped its powers.
        LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Dragica Hržica as chief environment ans spatial planning inspector, replacing her with Dragan Matić, a former MP of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC). Hržica's office had been criticised over its allegedly faulty oversight of waste processing facilities.
        LJUBLJANA - The commercial broadcaster POP TV said it had sacked a sports journalist after he was arrested by police on the border with Croatia on suspicion of smuggling illegal migrants to Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Despite slightly improving its economic freedom, Slovenia remained 67th among 162 countries in the latest Economic Freedom of the World report, compiled by the Canadian libertarian Fraser Institute.
        MARIBOR - Andrej E. Skubic won the Večernica Prize for best youth and children's book, conferred by the newspaper publisher Večer, for Grandma Does's Have Phone Any More, the second part of his book series Trio Golaznikus.
        LJUBLJANA - The Men's European Volleyball Championship got under way in Slovenia, one of four host countries. Slovenia hope to win the tournament, an improvement on the 2015 silver medal.

 

13 Sep 2019, 13:53 PM

STA, 12 September 2019 - Parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan received on Thursday Yang Chuantang, vice chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, for talks that focused on bilateral parliamentary cooperation.

The officials highlighted good bilateral relations that have grown stronger in recent years with the increased frequency of visits, the National Assembly said in a press release.

Acknowledging that cooperation has been particularly intense in agriculture, Židan and Yang said ties could be deepened in other fields as well, in particular in education and culture.

Yang said deep cooperation with the EU was very important for China, which sees Slovenia as an important partner in Western Balkans markets and in the Chinese-led Belt and Road initiative.

He also highlighted close political ties between the two countries and expressed satisfaction at increased trade, the National Assembly said.

Yang is paying a multi-day visit to Slovenia at the invitation of National Council President Alojz Kovšca and is also scheduled to hold talks with Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek.

All our stories on China and Slovenia are here

13 Sep 2019, 10:54 AM

STA, 12 September 2019 - The Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (IMAD) has downgraded its projection of Slovenia's gross domestic product (GDP) growth for this year to 2.8%, down 0.6 percentage points compared to its spring forecast, which will seriously affect government budget planning.

 The government's macroeconomic think tank has also downgraded by 0.1 points its GDP growth forecasts for 2020 and 2021, to 3% and 2.7%, respectively.

IMAD said the downgrade was the result of a slowdown in Slovenia's major trading partners, in particular Germany, which will affect exports and capital spending; consumer spending is expected to remain robust.

"Confidence indicators in the international environment have been deteriorating since the start of last year, which has had a negative impact on export orders and demand. The prospects until the end of the year are worse than we expected in spring," IMAD director Maja Bednaš said.

Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj noted at a press conference after the government session that the government had prepared the supplementary budget for 2019 based on the spring forecast, which had projected the economy growing at 3.4%.

The minister added that the new projection had been downgraded based on the second quarter of the year, when there had been major changes in inventories. The situation is expected to improve somewhat in the third and fourth quarters.

"Let me be clear and say that growth of either 2.8% or 3% is very solid economic growth, which is still more than double of the eurozone average," Bertoncelj said.

The minister stressed that the downgrade should be followed by appropriate measures. The government has already frozen the budget, with all major expenditures by ministries needing to get the stamp of approval from the Finance Ministry.

"I have called on the ministers to save money and cancel non-essential measures," said the minister, who believes that a part of the drop in the expected revenue could be compensated by austerity measures.

He added that the ministries had been saving money since last September. "I'm not talking about obligations under the law, but about non-essential measures. One needs to act responsibly these days and limit expenditure in this segment."

For 2020, the minister will reduce the amount of planned expenditure by EUR 100 million to EUR 10.35 billion. "The 2020 and 2021 budgets will be drafted in accordance with the fiscal rule," Bertoncelj added.

"I don't want to sound pessimistic. We have solid economic growth, we follow IMAD forecasts, but I expect that a correction might take place, and if necessary, we will adjust immediately."

The minister explained that the expected EUR 100 million cut would be made in a linear fashion, with each department losing around 1% of the funds.

Bertoncelj noted that the state budget returned to the black in August to record a surplus. A surplus of 0.8% of GDP is planned for next year, and a 1.2% surplus in 2021.

"It's important that we maintain the trend of budget surplus, further reduce general government debt and go for structural balance in these three years," he said, adding that this was also important for credit ratings.

Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said the IMAD downgrade had been expected and would require reducing budget expenditure, which the government will do to comply with the constitutional balanced-budget rule.

And although he said each department would have to sacrifice one percent of its budget, he indicated that generous social benefits would have to be restructured to make the budget more sustainable.

"Denmark has a high standard of welfare but our social transfers are 25% higher. We're absolutely going to have to change some things to survive in the long term," he told Radio Slovenija in an interview.

In his first reaction to the announcement, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek stressed that growth remained robust and was above the eurozone average.

He said he remained an optimist, since Slovenian companies are less indebted than they had been before the previous crisis, they are also more innovative and export-oriented.

13 Sep 2019, 09:49 AM

STA, 12 September 2019 - Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, started an official visit to Slovenia on Thursday, commending the country and its armed forces on their 15 years of contribution in support of the alliance's values and mission.

 The British air chief marshal will chair a conference of the chiefs of defence from NATO member countries as part of the NATO Military Committee, held in Slovenia on Friday and Saturday.

Sir Stuart was formally received by the chief of the general staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF), Major General Alenka Ermenc, with a guard of honour, after which he delivered a lecture to senior SAF staff.

According to a press release from the Defence Ministry, he described NATO as a flexible organisation, one continuously adapting to modern security challenges in order to be able to jointly make decisions, command and act, which he said made the alliance unique, effective and exceptional.

The alliance is strengthened and enriched by every joint task, "which is why Slovenia's experience makes us all richer", the officer was quoted as saying.

He noted the work of Slovenian Lieutenant Colonel Matjaž Bizjak, whom he decorated with a medal for his exceptional contribution in his work at the NATO Military Liaison Office in Belgrade.

The NATO official was also received by President Borut Pahor and Prime Minister Marjan Šarec today.

According to the president's office, Pahor and Peach talked about NATO's role in maintaining security and stability in the future, as well as about NATO's 70th anniversary and 15th anniversary of Slovenia's membership.

On the occasion, the senior most NATO military officer again acknowledged Slovenia's contribution to the alliance and praised Slovenian troops' engagement in missions abroad.

Peach thanked Pahor for Slovenia's hosting the NATO Military Committee's annual conference. In his capacity as the SAF supreme commander Pahor will address the chiefs of defence at Friday's dinner.

Pahor and Peach also talked about Slovenia's role in providing peace and security in the Western Balkans and the chief marshal inquired about the president's view of the situation in the region.

The conference of NATO's top military authority in Ljubljana on Friday and Saturday is expected to be attended by some 400 participants.

The Military Committee forms consensus-based advice to the North Atlantic Council and the Nuclear Planning Group on military policy and strategy, and provides guidance to the two strategic commanders - supreme allied commander Europe and supreme allied commander transformation.

As such, it is an essential link between the political decision-making process and the military structure of NATO.

NATO chiefs of defence meet three times a year. Two of these conferences take place in Brussels, while one each year is hosted by a member state.

The SAF takes it as a great honour to host the meeting in the year when NATO is observing its 70th anniversary, as well as 15 years since Slovenia joined the alliance.

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