Politics

03 Mar 2020, 16:04 PM

STA, 3 March 2020 - Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša addressed the National Assembly ahead of the vote to appoint him prime minister-designate, stressing that the four parties entering a new coalition would focus on what brought them together. He said he would seek consensus while tackling challenges, adding that the opposition was also invited to cooperation.

 Janša, who in addition to the SDS has secured support of the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), presented the guidelines of the future four-party coalition ahead of Tuesday's secret ballot.

He said that in the coalition agreement, the parties had used the current situation in Slovenia - the fact that the outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has caused a government crisis with his resignation, as reference point.

According to Janša, the parties have agreed on a coalition contract which would also be the basis for the government programme, to be presented along with the minister line-up when and if he is confirmed as PM-designate.

As the new government has only two years left before the new election, the term will be a "compromise on the solutions which all coalition partners agree on", with the things that bring the parties together being emphasised.

When addressing challenges, the parties will try to reach agreement by looking for consensus, Janša said, adding that he would also invite the opposition and the two minority MPs to participate in the creation of solutions.

"Our door for cooperation for the common good stays open to everybody else as well. We exclude nobody," he said.

Janša noted that the main guideline of the new government was that Slovenia could do much better with measures which did not require additional financial investments, including debureaucratisation and decentralisation.

"There is a segment in the administrative part of the public sector which employs too many people, including quality staff," he said, suggesting that a "certain reassignment" should be made as businesses lacked quality staff.

Janša said that the number of regulations had increased ten-fold since 1992, resulting in an unconstitutional situation in which a citizen "is allowed to do only what is expressly prescribed". The excessive bureaucracy also generates huge state administration costs and protracts procedures.

As for decentralisation of Slovenia, he said that the emerging coalition had pledged that new institutions, if established, would be located outside the capital.

An ambition for the next term is to distribute certain institutions currently located in Ljubljana around the country, he said, adding that provinces should also be established so that the state is better organised when it came to investing EU funds.

Among the measures which require a considerable financial investment, Janša mentioned a public pension support fund, with the population ageing being a strategic problem. He admitted that these problems could not be solved in one term.

"But it is time to establish a fund which would absorb the remaining state assets and manage them with a profit for the benefit of the generation which has created these assets," so that pensions in the future are no longer an exclusive cost for the working population.

While speaking of demographics, Janša touched on migration, saying that those who came to Slovenia, if invited, were welcome, and if they were in trouble, they would also be helped.

"But they cannot expect that we will accept their habits, their manner of behaviour, their culture, but we justifiably expect that they will accept ours."

Janša also announced measures to create a better environment for economic growth, as this is a permanent basis for prosperity. He added that public education and healthcare needed competition, which ensured quality.

"Slovenia will never replace public education and healthcare with a private system, like some countries have, but it needs to be said that neither of the two would work if it is a given, if there is no competition and if there is no possibility of choice."

Janša believes that problems in healthcare are solvable, but not without some order being made there and without the wage system being changed, upgraded. This is also true for some other sub-systems, he added.

He noted that not only highly qualified experts, but highly profitable companies too were leaving Slovenia, and that many more would follow suit if competitive conditions were not created at home.

Janša believes that certain contribution rates would have to be raised, including for health insurance and long-term care. "But this raise will be unnoticed if we create more, if economic growth is higher, if we eliminate all these obstacles."

Turning to security, he said that the current structure of the defence system did not allow for its basic task, national defence, to be performed.

"If nothing changes, in two years we will not even be able to bluff," Janša said, adding that for this reason it was necessary to at least temporarily reintroduce mandatory conscription and military service.

As for international challenges, he pointed to Slovenia's presidency of the EU in the second half of 2021, and added that Brexit was a "strategic catastrophe for the EU, by far the largest since its formation", and that it was not time for experiments.

While large countries are pushing for the decision-making system in the EU to be changed, the Lisbon Treaty enables small countries to win equality, especially if they are skilful enough and if they are able to rally around common interests, Janša concluded.

A series of stories on the new coalition is here

03 Mar 2020, 14:17 PM

STA, 2 March 2020 - Miro Cerar, Slovenia's outgoing foreign minister, announced on Monday he was quitting the party he founded, saying the Modern Centre (SMC) lost its face after joining a coalition led by Janez Janša, the leader of the right-wing Democratic Party (SDS).

Speaking in parliament, Cerar said he did not wish to be party member any longer, let alone "an honorary member of a party that has ended up without honour".

Cerar had been staunchly opposed to the SMC joining a Janša-led coalition since before the 2018 general election, but the party changed its mind under its new leader Zdravko Počivalšek.

However, despite his decision "in principle not to take part in the Janša government, I seriously considered Zdravko Počivalšek's proposal to head the National Assembly".

"The SMC could thus protect the principle of the division of power and serve as a liberal corrective to a right-wing government."

Cerar said that he had been encouraged by many within and outside the SMC to bid for the post of the speaker, but that after his discussion with Počivalšek last night he realised "it's all manipulation, empty rhetoric and private ambitions of individuals."

Meanwhile, Počivalšek suggested his decision not to put Cerar forward as candidate for the speaker under the Janša government was the reason behind Cerar's quitting the party.

Unofficially, the candidate for the post is Igor Zorčič, the leader of the SMC faction in parliament.

Cerar said that by opting to join the Janša-led coalition, the party had lost credibility to implement its founding values.

He said the party leadership did not see beyond themselves, not even as far as party members, let alone as far as their voters.

Cerar, a jurist and constitutional law expert, founded the SMC shortly before the 2014 election, leading it to victory and going on to serve as prime minister until 2018.

After the party's poor showing in the following general and EU elections, he stepped down as SMC leader, handing over to Počivalšek in September 2019.

Cerar said SMC MPs had forgotten not only who invited them to the project, but mainly who elected them, so he urged them to start thinking with their own heads.

"If this doesn't happen I appeal to party members who want to remain true to the SMC's founding values, democracy, rule of law, human rights and the freethinking liberal stance not to betray those values and leave the party that no longer deserves to be called Modern Centre Party".

"The SMC long ceased to be the party of Miro Cerar, and sadly even the Modern Centre Party, unless modernity is understood as following the latest fashion and turning the way the wind blows," he said.

Cerar would not say whether he will return to serve as MP after his ministerial job ends.

Looking back on the past six years as party leader, PM and party member, Cerar admitted that he may have made some mistakes.

"What hurts the most is that I was wrong about certain people that I proposed for senior positions: from ministers to the head of the deputy faction and others," he said.

In response, Počivalšek said that he had set out the situation in the party to Cerar; unofficial information suggests that they met on Friday morning and again on Sunday evening.

He said that after a long period of turbulence the party needed to undergo a consolidation, which he said could not happen if the party kept returning into the past.

This is why he told Cerar that he would not put him forward for the speaker once he returned to parliament, a decision that Počivalšek said was hard but required for the party to go forward.

Počivalšek, who has served as economy minister in the governments of Marjan Šarec and Miro Cerar, said that the SMC was keeping its social, liberal and sustainable profile.

03 Mar 2020, 10:20 AM

STA, 27 February 2020 - The outgoing government endorsed on Thursday the National Energy and Climate Plan, a set of energy policy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030. The document, which will now be sent to Brussels, is "realistically ambitious", said Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek.

The plan, which was revised after its draft was met with criticism from both industry and environmental NGOs, will serve as the basis for Slovenia's long-term climate strategy.

The government called it "a key step towards a climate-neutral Slovenia until 2050" on Twitter today.

Bratušek told the press after today's cabinet session that the goal was to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, improve energy efficiency by at least 35% and have at least 27% of energy come from renewable energy sources.

The outgoing minister announced that investment into research and development would reach 3% of GDP, of which 1% would be public funds.

These are the minimal goals that Slovenia has to meet until 2030 if it is to avoid sanctions, Bratušek said, adding that the document adopted today also clearly showed how these goals would be achieved.

If Slovenia fails to raise its share of renewable energy to 25%, it will have to pay a fine of some EUR 10 million as early as next year.

The plan preserves the country's nuclear power facilities in the current size although with less use of fossil fuels and more renewable energy sources, in particular solar and wind, and adds waste co-incineration.

Following criticism by the state-owned power utility HSE and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) that the draft plan did not involve new hydro plants on the central Sava river, the final version includes plans for further use of hydro energy.

Analyses of alternatives to hydro and the role of hydro energy use in meeting Slovenia's goal of becoming climate neural by 2050 are also planned.

As for a new reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Station (NEK), the document says that a decision on a potential construction should be made by 2027 at the latest.

A decision will also have to be made on the extension of the lifespan for the existing reactor, which expires in 2023. "This is why we must make sure that it will be able to function by 2043 as planned," Bratušek said.

Coal use has not been tackled yet and is to be resolved in Slovenia's Energy Concept until 2060.

Slovenia was obligated to adopt the Energy and Climate Plan and forward it to the European Commission under the EU regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action if it wants to draw cohesion funds in 2021-2027.

The GZS welcomed the new version of the plan yesterday, but still voiced some concerns, especially regarding GDP growth estimates. The GZS believes economic growth is underestimated in the document and subsequently also the total energy consumption.

A 30% share of renewable energy sources is still beyond reach for industry as there are no assurances that green sources of energy will be available, said the GZS, which also called for a compensation scheme for indirect emissions, which all EU countries bar Slovenia and Romania have.

02 Mar 2020, 19:04 PM

STA, 2 March 2020 - As the coronavirus outbreak is spreading in the neighbouring countries, Slovenian officials faced questions on Monday as to whether testing for the virus should be expanded considering no one has yet tested positive.

The outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec defended action taken by the authorities over the coronavirus scare in questions time when challenged by Iva Dimic, the deputy for New Slovenia (NSi), who said the government did not realise the seriousness of the threat until the virus claimed first lives in Italy.

Šarec rejected her claim, listing measures taken and assuring her that there were plans how to respond to first infections or a potential outbreak. He also noted that Slovenia had not detected any coronavirus infections yet.

However, Dimic wondered whether all the necessary tests were being taken, commenting that it was odd Slovenia had not had any positive case yet.

She offered the example of a family that wanted to have their child tested after a holiday in Italy, but was told that would be unnecessary as long as the children were not coughing.

"It's experts who are responsible for testing, with coordination running through the Health Ministry. If people want to get tested this should be available to them," Šarec said.

The question also came up as the parliamentary Health Committee continued its session about Slovenia's preparedness for a potential coronavirus outbreak.

Alenka Jeraj, a deputy for the Democratic Party (SDS), wanted to know why the country was not conducting preventive tests on those who returned from the virus-hit areas even if they were in good health.

"Isn't it better for their safety that they should learn as soon as possible whether they might be ill so they get treatment as soon as possible," wondered Jeraj.

She criticised the fact that "only about 200 tests" for the novel coronavirus had been conducted in the country.

Nina Pirnat, director of the National Institute of Public Health, said that it made no sense taking swabs from healthy people; negative smear tests could give them a false sense of security should they fall ill later.

"The important thing is to take swabs from sick people," said Pirnat.

Meanwhile, committee chair Franc Trček from the Left commented that France was capable of testing 'only' 300 people a day.

Miroslav Petrovec, the chair of the Institute of Microbiology and Immunology in Ljubljana, rejected the speculations that test kits in Slovenia may be faulty or inferior.

"I strongly reject speculations about the absence of cases in Slovenia being the result of faulty tests. This is pure conjecture and disinformation," he said, adding that Slovenia was among the first European countries to get testing kits.

He said every person with clinical symptoms was being tested, but "it is an illusion to test everyone with symptoms of the common cold in wintertime."

Slovenia has not yet had the first confirmed coronavirus case. Health authorities tested 255 persons by Monday afternoon with all results negative.

All our stories on coronavirus and Slovenia are here

02 Mar 2020, 12:03 PM

STA, 1 March 2020 - Slovenian authorities say they are prepared for a possible increase in migrations after Turkey decided to open its borders with Greece claiming it can no longer cope with a new migrant wave from Syria.

"We are ready for a possible increase in illegal crossings of the national border. We have a variety of activities and measures available that we will adjust to the situation on the ground," the Interior Ministry said Saturday evening.

The ministry said it was monitoring the situation in the region and exchanging information with countries in the region on an ongoing basis, stressing that police were in control of the situation.

Police said they were exchanging information with other countries and making adjustments as necessary.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised fears of a renewed surge in migrations along the Balkan route after announcing Turkey was opening its borders towards Europe.

Reports by global media suggest thousands of migrants have already crossed into the EU and are en route north.

02 Mar 2020, 09:52 AM

STA, 29 February 2020 - If endorsed in parliament, the Janez Janša centre-right coalition government is planning to overhaul the public sector pay system to make it more performance-based, as well as reform justice legislation.

The coalition would like to establish order in the public administration by setting up central databases of all employees and their responsibilities and of all state-owned assets.

It plans to reorganise and streamline various state offices, bodies and services, and reduce costs by introducing paperless administration and reducing costs of outsourcing.

The savings are to go toward rewarding above-preforming employees. The pay system is to stimulate above-average achievers by pegging part of pay to performance.

The coalition agreement calls for stepping up digitalisation of the public administration, courts and the whole country.

Plans in the judiciary include making court rulings fully public and giving judges on panels the option to pass dissenting opinions, part of a long-standing centre-right agenda to improve the transparency of the judiciary.

The coalition would like to put in place a system in which courts of higher instance would in fact rule on cases rather than return them for retrial to courts of lower instance.

As things currently stand, higher courts rarely weigh in on the substance matter of cases and most often just uphold them or order retrials while focusing on technicalities.

Judges' work would be appraised by court presidents rather than the Judicial Council, while the head of the prosecution service would have to sign their name on rejected criminal complaints.

The plans also include establishing specialised courts to handle the gravest forms of organised corporate crime and gross damage to public funds.

The coalition has pledged to examine the option to introduce a trial period for judges, and to make assignment of cases to judges coincidental.

Both priorities reflect long-standing qualms by the Democrats (SDS), the senior partner in the incoming coalition, who have made several attempts to change the rules so as to make judges more accountable for their work and believe the current system of assigning cases is marred in corruption.

This is part of a series on the new government’s plans, with the whole set here

02 Mar 2020, 09:47 AM

STA, 29 February 2020 - Like several ruling coalitions before it, the incoming centre-right coalition is promising to deal with red tape and create conditions conducive to business, and step up infrastructure and energy projects.

The coalition agreement lists measures such as reducing red tape for acquiring development permits, simplifying public procurement procedures and those for hiring foreign labour force, and "rationalising" demands on company reporting.

The coalition would like to enforce responsible management of state assets by imposing clear goals on managements and supervisory boards at state-owned companies and holding under-achievers to account.

It pledges to decentralise the country and to promote balanced regional development, as well as reform housing policy to increase the fund of rental housing for youth and young families.

The coalition agreement also places emphasis on investment in infrastructure and information infrastructure with plans to speed up modernisation of the rail infrastructure and expand the motorway network, while making public passenger transportation system friendlier and more affordable.

The plans include measures to reduce congestions, and CO2 emissions, and replacing the motorway toll stickers for cars with electronic vignettes.

The coalition will examine the possibility of transferring 2TDK, the state-owned company managing the Koper-Divača rail project, to the national rail operator.

One of the goals is energy self-sufficiency with a view to Slovenia's long-term energy independence.

Consensus will be sought of Slovenia's long-term energy concept, to ensure responsible resource management and cleaner energy sources to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

This includes exploitation of nuclear and tackling exploitation of geothermal energy. The only concrete energy project set out is the construction of the Mokrice hydro power station on the Sava.

The coalition is more reserved about plans for tax changes. It does plan to further reduce tax on business performance bonuses, increase the threshold for entrepreneurs eligible for flat-tax rate and form a competitive excise policy for oil products.

The coalition agreement does not mention plans to return VAT to pre-crisis rates or reduce personal income tax, both of which the Democratic Party (SDS) as the senior coalition partner have advocated in the past.

This is part of a series on the new government’s plans, with the whole set here

01 Mar 2020, 11:26 AM

STA, 28 February 2020 - The security apparatus of the state will be a major priority for the incoming centre-right coalition, according to the coalition agreement, which suggests asylum procedures will be tightened, the police force strengthened, and army conscription reintroduced.

The agreement makes "efficient protection of the state border" the no. 1 priority in the chapter on security and defence. Asylum procedures will be "consistently respected" and "mandatory integration of foreigners" instituted.

The priorities are broadly in line with the agenda of the Democrats (SDS), who have long advocated a tougher stance on migrations and called for stronger border security.

The police force gets several mentions, with the coalition pledging to "sort out the situation in the police" and "sort out the status, staffing and operation of the police". Consideration will also be given to the re-establishment of a secondary school for police officers, which was shut down in 1999 and transformed into a police academy.

While other details have not been disclosed, some media have speculated that a thorough overhaul of the police may be in the works. The speculation is borne out by a point from the SDS's election platform from 2018, which states that "during the transition from the former totalitarian regime to a democratic society, the criminal police has not been entirely purged by ideologically blinded officers".

One major priority that has captured the imagination of the public is the idea to gradually phase in conscription military service, which was abolished in 2003 and replaced with a professional force; the idea was floated by the SDS in January and was immediately endorsed by the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), one of the partners in the emerging four-way coalition.

The army has for years had problems enlisting enough soldiers and some see conscription as a good way of increasing the potential pool of professional soldiers.

Critics say introducing conscription will not improve the performance of the military until there is sufficient funding since the conscription system is potentially even costlier than a professional military. Some have also questioned whether conscription makes sense from a military perspective given the advanced technological requirements of modern warfare.

The incoming government also plans to develop cyber-defence capabilities and beef up measures to protect critical infrastructure.

This is the first in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

01 Mar 2020, 10:56 AM

STA, 29 February 2020 - The likely new government plans to tackle housing issues among the young and problems stemming from population ageing, according to the social affairs chapter of the coalition agreement. It does not intend to change pension rights though.

The incoming centre-right government vows to set up a housing scheme for young families and build rental flats, the top pledge of the 19-point Youth, Family, Pensions and Social Affairs chapter of the agreement.

It plans to re-introduce a scheme under which families with two or more children enrolled in public kindergarten simultaneously would only pay for the first child, a policy that had been put in place by the first Janez Janša government in 2008 and was later abandoned due to austerity measures.

Family-friendly policies, designed to boost the country's birth rate, include plans to introduce a universal child allowance and incentives promoting "greater enrolment of all children in kindergartens at least a year before starting school".

The document does not mention implementing a Constitutional Court decision mandating equal funding of private and public primary schools, however Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), the party expected to lead the coalition, has said that it goes without saying the parties would also implement any Constitutional Court ruling regardless of whether it is specifically mentioned in the agreement.

Tackling population ageing, the emerging four-party coalition intends to establish a public pension support fund as well as a government demographic office, both headquartered in Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city - initiatives that may be considered as steps towards decentralisation.

The coalition also plans to reform social transfers to prevent abuse of the system and integrate recipients of social benefits who are able to work into the community work placement scheme.

The minimum amount of a full pension is to be gradually brought nearer the poverty threshold, "depending on economic growth and budget capacities". To preserve the existing pension ratios, other pensions would be raised as well.

Addressing the shortage of nursing homes, the coalition pledges to complete the construction of a couple of such facilities as well as build at least five new nursing homes.

It also intends to carry out additional pension increases on top of regular annual pension indexation, assuming GDP growth reaches certain thresholds.

The coalition also promises to provide the chance of spa or climatic treatment for war victims and veterans.

This is the second in a series on the new government’s plans, to be posted in the next few days, with the whole set here

29 Feb 2020, 14:00 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 28 February 2020

Mladina: Public will keep a close eye on Janša

STA, 28 February 2020 – The left-wing weekly Mladina puts the pending power shift in Slovenia in the context of a nationalist-populist wave that gripped Europe in 2015. It issues a scathing criticism of the Democrats (SDS) and those about to enable a Janez Janša government, saying they are foolish to think Janša has changed his ways and that the Slovenian public will stand by quietly.

The weight of the decision that MPs face next week as parliament will vote on the new government "is much bigger than they are willing to admit to themselves", the weekly's editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says in the commentary entitled The Public is Watching and Remembering.

"They are being calculated in their actions, but it seems they are not really aware they will carry the consequences of their decision for the rest of their lives," he says, arguing the MPs know very well what Janša's Democrats (SDS) are about.

Repovž equates the SDS with "hatred, a giant factory of lies, constant and grave elimination of those not sharing their views, overt racism and exclusion".

"Many people and institutions have for years been living under this pressure and this has left Slovenian democracy deeply wounded," Repovž says, speaking of year after year marked by inciting of hatred, attacks on scholars, culture workers, media, individual journalists.

"Of course there was also abuse of power, the circumvention of laws (for instance those governing the funding of parties from abroad), and last but not least corruption and all kinds of dodgy manoeuvres with cash, including the inability of the party's president to explain the origins of his."

Repovž says that statements by MPs and party leaders show they know exactly who they are putting in power and thus they also know what Slovenian society will go through because of their decision.

He argues that they may be trying to convince themselves that there will be no culture war and ideological attack on society this time around, but notes that these already started before the coalition agreement was signed and that there has been too much of this for any politician serious about democracy to swallow.

"There is one habit that Slovenian politicians are simply incapable of losing: they keep underestimating the public and treat citizens as small children that can be fooled with stupid tricks. Well, these citizens have shown too often now how they feel about this arrogant attitude of the elite and how to demonstrate this sentiment."

Reporter: "Deep state" wants Janša in power

STA, 24 February 2020 - Reporter, the right-leaning political magazine, believes the "deep state" is the force slotting the pieces together to result in a new Janez Janša government. "Janša is literally being gifted his third government by the deep state," it says in Monday's commentary.

Arguing that the Left, "the party most strongly led by the deep state", is the main reason why the Marjan Šarec government came crashing down, Reporter says that "if it was in the interest of old networks to prevent Janša's renewed ascent to power, they could probably have done that."

"Sometimes it is necessary to take a step back to then take two steps forward. The Communists had successfully deployed these tactics thirty years ago, during the change of political system and independence, when they temporarily gave up power so that two years later, dressed up as social democrats and liberals, they could return," the commentator says.

Now the deep state wants to let Janša carry out some urgent but unpopular measures, just like his government did eight years ago, counting on people rebelling for "a new episode of pan-Slovenian popular uprisings". Two years later, the left can then return to power even stronger, the paper says in Gift by the Deep State.

All our posts in this series are here, while all our stories on Janez Janša are here

29 Feb 2020, 12:30 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, 21 February
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Coming out of an EU summit dedicated to the bloc's next seven-year budget, which ended without an agreement, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said the European Commission had presented a technical proposal which recipients of the cohesion funds rejected because they saw it as a "provocation".
        STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar started a two-day visit to Sweden by meeting Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde and Speaker Andreas Norlen. Zhe officials stressed the importance of an EU future for Western Balkan countries, and discussed sustainable development as well as the EU's challenges.
        LJUBLJANA - Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar announced she would file a defamation complaint against Democrats (SDS) MP Žan Mahnič, the vice-chair of the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services (KNOVS), after he had accused her of lying about alleged spying on politicians by the police.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian banks generated a combined pre-tax profit of EUR 597.4 million last year, up 12.5% on the year before and the highest on record. Profit after tax rose by 8% to EUR 534.9 million, central bank figures show.

SATURDAY, 22 February
        MARIBOR - Two Slovenian passengers from the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess were flown home on a chartered flight, touching down in Maribor after being airlifted from Japan to Germany. The two, who will be in self-isolation at home for two weeks, were tested for the novel coronavirus at Maribor airport, and the results were negative.
        NEW YORK, US - Slovenia has advanced ten spots to place 21st in the 2020 Bloomberg Innovation Index, which is the greatest improvement among all 60 countries surveyed for the list. Slovenia scored a total of 73.93 points out of 100 possible, compared to 88.21 by the first-ranked Germany.

MONDAY, 24 February
        LJUBLJANA - The Secretariat of the National Security Council met to discuss Slovenia's preparedness for a coronavirus outbreak in the wake of the first reported cases in Italy. Health authorities in Slovenia said no additional protective measures were needed and denied persistent rumours of patients testing positive for the virus in Slovenia.
        THESSALONIKI, Greece - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar urged Western Balkan countries to make reform headway as he addressed a high-level conference in Thessaloniki designed to push forward the stalled EU enlargement process to the region. Cerar highlighted "the need for in-depth reforms, in particular in rule of law and the fight against corruption and organised crime".
        LJUBLJANA - A protest was held in front of the UK Embassy in Ljubljana as Britain started hearing a US case requesting extradition of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange. Much like in other towns around the world, the protesters called for media freedom and the freedom of speech.

TUESDAY, 25 February
        LJUBLJANA - In a surprise move following a week of talks behind tightly closed doors, the top executive bodies of the Democrats (SDS), Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) confirmed they were forging a coalition led by SDS head Janez Janša. Outgoing Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said he was not surprised at the prospect of a new Janša government, which he saw from the start as one of the possible outcomes of his resignation.
        LJUBLJANA - Public institutions started taking precautionary measures to protect staff against coronavirus infections after first cases of the virus were confirmed in neighbouring Italy, Austria and Croatia, sparking fears of an outbreak in Slovenia. Schools started to cancel planned activities and field trips, while retailers reported increased footfall as shoppers grabbed by panic stocked up on essentials.
        MARIBOR - A company in Chinese ownership that used to lease the Maribor Airport plans to file a damage suit against the state after it terminated the lease in early 2019, whereupon the airport management was turned over to a state-owned consulting and engineering company. Aerodrom Maribor said it will demand EUR 2.1 million in damages plus costs and lost profits.

WEDNESDAY, 26 February
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor formally nominated Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), for prime minister after four parties reached an agreement to form a centre-right coalition. Janša said the coalition agreement showed the four parties were willing to seek compromise solutions and would work to tackle the most pressing issues that Slovenia faces.
        LJUBLJANA/BELGRADE, Serbia - The Slovenian NLB bank announced it had signed an agreement with the Serbian government to acquire the 83% state stake in the bank Komercijalna Banka. The deal worth EUR 387 million is pending regulatory approval and is expected to be finalised in the last quarter of the year. NLB's market share in Serbia by total assets will increase to over 12%.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia has made no progress in reforming long-term care. Some progress has been achieved in public procurement, and in labour market policies, and limited progress was detected in economic policies facilitating the transition to a low-carbon economy, shows a European Commission report.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Two Slovenian regions, Savinjska in the east and the central Zasavska region, were designated among a hundred EU regions eligible for financing from the EU fund for a fair green transition. They will be entitled to EUR 92 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Central Slovenia, one of Slovenia's 12 statistical regions, will get EUR 93 million in EU and state subsidies for 21 development projects under an agreement signed by regional officials with the government. Just over EUR 45 million of the total funding comes from EU cohesion funds, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said.

THURSDAY, 27 February
        OTOČEC - Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Croatia's Zoran Milanović called for the resolution of all open bilateral issues as they met just over a week after Milanović was sworn in. They urged the governments of both countries to work towards excellent relations in all fields.
        LJUBLJANA - The outgoing cabinet adopted measures to contain the new coronavirus in case it spreads to Slovenia. Most notably, it released strategic commodity reserves to ensure enough protective gear. The government however noted that borders with neighbouring countries would remain open since there was no reason for panic.
        LJUBLJANA - The outgoing government adopted the National Energy and Climate Plan, a set of energy policy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030. It called the document "a key step towards a climate-neutral Slovenia until 2050". Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said the goal was to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, improve energy efficiency by at least 35% and have at least 27% of energy come from renewable sources.

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