Politics

11 Jul 2019, 18:57 PM

STA, 11 July 2019 - The 24th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide was commemorated in Slovenia on Thursday, with senior officials calling for a Europe of peace so that such horrendous atrocities would never happen again.

The National Assembly observed a minute's silence, with Speaker Dejan Židan stressing it was our task not to forget this horrible crime.

Bosnian Serb forces killed more than 8,300 Muslims on 11 July, a few days after taking over Srebrenica, a town under UN protection.

"It is our task to reject any attempt at diminishing the crime, denying the indisputable fact that it was a genocide and rationalising the motives for it."

He stressed the promise "never again" was all too easily made and all too often broken, also consciously.

Today the international community remembers with horror the broken promise it made at the end of WWII as one of its worst mistakes, which will remain a black stain on the soul of the entire Western civilisation, Židan said at the commemoration in parliament.

A news report from 1996

He warned that today's unjust inequalities and pressing social challenges posed a threat to freedom again.

But it is our moral duty to stand up to it and remember that Europe's years of peace cannot be taken for granted, said the parliamentary speaker.

Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said in a release that since 1995, 11 July had been a day of a painful memory of the Srebrenica genocide victims.

He believes commemorating them is a moral duty and a means of never forgetting the Srebrenica tragedy. "Forgiving does not mean forgetting."

Stressing the perpetrators must be punished, he said Srebreica was a reminder of where militant nationalism, hostile populism and the rhetoric based on inciting harted against other nations led.

The anniversary is also a reminder to act in a preventive manner so that Europe remains a place of peace where human rights and the rule of law are respected, he said.

"It is this kind of Europe and region that Slovenia advocates. It advocates Bosnia and Herzegovina which is part of a Europe of peace and which is a country of progress and prosperity," Cerar pointed out.

The genocide was also remembered by NGOs Averroes and Burrial Is Not Taboo in Ljubljana's City Square under the auspices of Mufti Nedžad Grabus and Mayor Zoran Janković, where a minute of silence was observed and an excerpt read from The Story of Srebrenica: A Novel about the War in Bosnia by Bosnian Isnam Taljić (1954-2017).

11 Jul 2019, 11:15 AM

STA, 10 July 2019 - The National Assembly passed on Wednesday the controversial government-sponsored changes to the law on the financing and organisation of education which alter the way in which the state funds private primary schools.

The bill was backed in a 42:36 vote despite criticism, also among some coalition parties, that it falls short of implementing a constitutional court decision on 100% state funding of publicly approved curricula at private primary schools.

It sets down the state fully financing publicly approved curricula at private primary schools, but any publicly approved curricular content considered above-standard (pre- and after-school classes etc) will be exempted from state funding.

Since both programmes are now funded 85%, the new legislation means the amount of public funds received by private primary schools will drop.

The bill has been strongly criticised by two centre-right opposition parties and by parents of the children going to half a dozen private primaries for not providing 100% funding as ordered by the court in December 2014.

It has also been criticised by the government and parliament's legal services, which warned it could be unconstitutional, noting it would worsen the legal position of private primary schools with parents paying more for their children's education.

But the new financing regime will not apply to those who are already in primary school. It will only start applying to those who start primary school in the 2020/2021 school year.

The changes were backed by four of the five coalition parties with the help of the opposition Left and both minority MPs.

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) abstained, while the opposition Democrats (SDS), New Slovenia (NSi) and National Party (SNS) voted against.

Defending his bill after the vote, Education Minister Jernej Pikalo of the Social Democrats (SD) said parliament "draw a clear line between private and public education".

He said this concept had already been set down in the 1995 White Paper on Education, and had now only been confirmed in parliament.

"It is not about whether I'm happy or not. My key task is to try to improve the education system," he said, adding he was not worried about a constitutional review.

Stressing many laws are sent to the Constitutional Court, Pikalo said "this is a normal process in a democracy ... Every branch of power has its own tasks and does its part of the job".

As reflected by the vote, today's parliamentary debate brought no convergence of stances on the legislation.

The Left's Miha Kordiš, however, explained the party had decided to support the bill "because it does not improve the status of private schools".

The party believes that public money should be spent on public schools, and that the Constitution should be changed to draw a clear line between private and public.

Tomaž Lisec of the SDS accused the supporters of the bill of cutting the funds for private primary schools, thus causing discrimination "because of leftist ideology".

Gregor Perič of the SMC said "the bill is far from what we should do".

His party colleague Igor Zorčič added that "if the court said the 85% funding is too low for private schools, we cannot pass a bill which further cuts the funds".

Jožef Horvat of the NSi believes the rule of law is at stake in this case. "If the legislator was not able to change a simple article in four and a half years to implement the court decision, then we have a problem with the rule of law."

He noted that only 0.84% of primary school children go to private schools, so another EUR 300,000 spent on them would be no problem for the national budget.

Aljaž Kovačič of the Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) assessed the court decision was not that straightforward as some would like to think, but said the LMŠ trusted Pikalo that the bill implemented it.

Supporting the bill, Maša Kociper of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) wondered whether it was reasonable that a mere "nine Constitutional Court judges decide on the most vital social issues".

Matej Tonin (NSi), on the other hand, reiterated his view that the court should first annul the new law and then implement its decision from 2014 itself.

Disappointment was also expressed by the parents of the children going to private schools.

They hope the bill will be vetoed by the upper chamber and then voted down when it is put to a revote in the lower chamber, where it will need at least 46 votes.

Marko Balažic of the United Parents civil initiative warned the bill would introduce elitism, as many parents could not afford to pay the school fee any more.

The school fee for the publicly approved curriculum will more than double, with the cost of the above-standard curriculum also rising, he said.

Balažic said that Prime Minister Marjan Šarec had sacrificed the rule of law for the survival of the ruling coalition.

All our stories on education in Slovenia are here

10 Jul 2019, 18:13 PM

STA, 10 July 2019 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar reiterated that Slovenia would recognize Palestine as part of a smaller group of EU countries after a meeting with his Palestinian counterpart Riad Malki in Ljubljana on Wednesday, confirming the continuation of existing efforts aimed at recognizing Palestinian independence.

"We will continue with activities designed to form a smaller group of EU member states as soon as possible which would along with Slovenia recognize Palestine as an independent country," said Cerar.

"We haven't abandoned this plan of ours; it's still the main aim of our foreign policy," the minister pointed out.

According to Malki, Palestinians are looking forward to Slovenia's recognition. "We know there is the will to do that, but they are probably waiting for the right moment. We hope this moment will arrive soon," said the head of Palestinian diplomacy.

Cerar told Malki that Slovenia would continue to support Palestine within international organisations and assist it with financial and humanitarian aid.

The pair discussed the Palestinian-Israeli relations and the regional situation as well.

According to Cerar, Slovenia supports all initiatives aimed at dissolving tensions between Israel and the Gaza strip, which is under the protection of the UN and Egypt, as well as the continuation of the intra-Palestinian reconciliation process.

The Slovenian minister also called for restarting the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Slovenia, as an active EU member, advocates that the only solution (for this conflict) is a solution of two states - within the borders set in 1967 and with Jerusalem as the capital if the two sides do not agree on something else," highlighted Cerar.

According to him, Slovenia wishes that the suffering of the Palestinian nation would cease as soon as possible.

Malki said that Palestinians were striving for a peace agreement with Israel through direct political negotiations. He also expressed hope that the agreement would be reached soon.

The minister urged Israel to recognize the right of the Palestinian nation to self-determination and independence and enter into political negotiations, based on the two-state solution, with Palestine.

Malki highlighted that for Palestinians the continuation of Israeli occupation was unacceptable, which is why they were willing to respond to all Israeli security concerns.

"If a single Israeli soldier remains on the Palestinian territory, that would indicate the continuation of the Israeli occupation and would be unacceptable," said Malki.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abas even suggested the presence of a third party, mentioning NATO. Thus Israeli concerns would be addressed and Palestine protected against possible Israeli army invasions, said the Palestinian minister.

Malki also condemned Israel's efforts to annex individual parts of the West Bank, attempts which had been encouraged by the recent actions of the US administration such as the recognizing of the illegal annexation of Syrian Golan Heights.

Cerar highlighted that Slovenia allocated its biggest humanitarian donation so far to Palestine - half a million euro for installing a water desalination plant in Gaza. The rest of the financial aid (EUR 70 million) will be earmarked by the EU Commission.

Slovenia's aid includes providing rehabilitation and psychosocial support to victims of the Gaza-Israel conflict.

The Ljubljana URI Soča rehabilitation centre has treated more than 100 children from the conflict region in the past decade, while some 300 of them have been treated in Gaza as part of a joint project of the centre and ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) organisation, said the Foreign Ministry.

Slovenia is also setting up a rehabilitation centre for the West Bank and Gaza victims at the Bethlehem hospital Harmalah in cooperation with the ITF organisation and the URI centre. The country has contributed EUR 165,000 for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for the 2018-2020 period as well.

The Palestinian minister thanked Slovenia for its political and victim rehabilitation support. "Slovenia has a very special place in our hearts," he said.

Along with Cerar he called for strengthening Palestinian-Slovenian cooperation including in economy, tourism, education and culture. "All of these forms of cooperation strengthen the good friendly relations are are a form of aid and support to the Palestinian nation," said Cerar.

Malki, who had visited Slovenia twice before, was also scheduled to meet Speaker Dejan Židan, the Foreign Policy Committee chair Matjaž Nemec and the head of the Palestinian-Slovenian friendship group Matej T. Vatovec.

Židan highlighted Slovenia's strong affection towards Palestine, especially in terms of understating the meaning of the right to self-determination.

He expressed support and advised persistence in Palestine's efforts for independence, saying its recognition can speed up the peace process, the parliament's press service wrote.

The pair moreover expressed the importance of multilateral cooperation, which Malki noted was particularly important for giving small countries security and a sense of being protected by the global system and its agreed rules.

10 Jul 2019, 11:36 AM

STA, 9 July 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has dismissed ideas by senior Italian officials that a fence should be erected on the Slovenian-Italian border, telling the National Assembly that such proposals had to be interpreted "in the domestic policy context".

"In talks with the Italian government we will state that there are no reasons for the border, this is clear from the numbers ... Italy is not threatened by Slovenia's inactivity, and we will substantiate that," he said.

Šarec made the comment when he was quizzed by opposition MPs in parliament on Tuesday about the recent launch of mixed police patrols on the border, their implication being that the beefed up controls are the result of Slovenia's failure to properly protect the Schengen border.

Stressing that the number of persons Italy returned to Slovenia had dropped by 17% in the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year, Šarec said Slovenian police were doing all they could to protect the Schengen border and curb illegal migrations.

Border patrols are "not a measure that would squeeze Slovenia out of the Schengen zone," as Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims claimed, as Italy has such cooperation with all of its neighbours and Slovenia also had such mixed patrols on its other borders, according to Šarec.

New Slovenia (NSi) deputy Jernej Vrtovec wondered why Slovenia had proposed mixed patrols, labelling it an admission of its inability to control the Schengen border. But Šarec stressed that it was not the government that had proposed joint patrols, this was the result of an agreement at the level of both police forces.

For Šarec, the key thing to dam migrations is for Frontex, the EU's border agency, to be deployed on Croatia's borders with Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia.

Overall, border control is "a serious issue that the new EU Commission will have to tackle with all seriousness... Migrations will be with us for years to come ... the EU is not active in tackling these issues," he said, adding: "Schengen is de facto not working anymore."

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini recently suggested Italy might erect a fence on its border with Slovenia if joint police patrols do not suffice to stop migrations, raising fears of a return to border checks that would severely disrupt life along the border.

While the right has taken the announcement as evidence of Slovenia's failings, politicians on the left have started urging the government to take action to prevent such a scenario from unfolding.

Social Democrat (SD) deputy Matjaž Nemec thus urged Šarec today to take the initiative and invite the prime ministers of all countries on the Western Balkan migration route, including Italy and Austria, to jointly tackle the issue.

But others think Italy will do as it likes regardless of what Slovenia does.

Robert Polnar, an MP for the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said Italy's measures would probably be harsher than the measures Slovenia is adopting.

And Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, said Salvini was "playing his game" in order to win the election in Italy.

"What the Slovenian right is doing, and partially the government by starting to announce drones and fencing ... is acquiescing to this game... Our politicians are dancing to Sallvini's tune, Mesec said on the margins of the plenary today.

09 Jul 2019, 10:12 AM

STA, 8 July 2019 - Slovenian President Borut Pahor and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed a rise in illegal migrations on the Balkan route as they held a bilateral meeting in Sarajevo on Monday on the sidelines of a SE Europe cooperation event.

Pahor told Erdogan about the recent rise in the number of migrants entering Slovenia illegally from Croatia, Pahor's office said in a release.

Erdogan in turn outlined Turkey's plans about the four million refugees in Turkey, complaining the EU was not fully meeting its financial commitments related to them.

The two presidents are worried that the situation in the Middle East could worsen, and hope that a diplomatic solution will be found to the Iran nuclear deal issue.

Bilateral relations were another topic on the agenda, with Pahor and Erdogan sharing a view there were many opportunities to further develop and deepen political dialogue and economic cooperation.

Pahor met Erdogan before a working dinner of the South-East European Cooperation Process (SEECP) summit, which brings Bosnia-Herzegovina's SEECP presidency to an end.

The Slovenian president had decided to attend the summit due to enhanced dialogue with all Western Balkan leaders and as a sign of support for Bosnia.

The summit will draw to a close on Tuesday with a plenary session and the adoption of a closing declaration.

However, Bosnia will not formally hand its presidency over as planned since Kosovo has sent any representative to the summit in protest of Bosnia's treatment of its representatives.h

08 Jul 2019, 17:24 PM

STA, 8 July 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said on Monday that security on Slovenia's southern border would be beefed up, including with new equipment such as drones, after meeting with Ilirska Bistrica officials and civil society representatives to discuss the situation on the border with Croatia.

Šarec, visiting the south-western town along with Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar and Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar, said that he understood locals' feelings of unease about the situation.

Ilirska Bistrica Mayor Emil Rojc pointed out that the number of illegal border crossings had doubled since Poklukar's first visit to the area.

"We've never said there was no migration issue," said the prime minister, adding that the need for strengthening border controls had been acknowledged.

Šarec announced the expected arrival of additional soldiers to the area as well as the deployment of new police equipment, including border patrol drones, and expansion of the border fence.

However, Šarec also said that Slovenia's border patrol had been effective in meeting set expectations and that "we cannot settle for various forms of fear-mongering, which are sometimes politically-motivated as well".

Šarec will also visit the Kostel and Črnomlje municipalities later today.

06 Jul 2019, 10:57 AM

STA, 5 July 2019 - The city councils of all four coastal municipalities have urged authorities to present them within a month a timeline of activities to find a new, safe water source for Slovenian Istria.

Koper, Piran, Izola and Ankaran councillors met on Friday after almost 11,000 litres of kerosene spilled as a train derailed in a tunnel on the Koper-bound railway near Hrastovlje, south-west.

The spill is a threat to the Rižana water source, the only source of drinking water for Slovenia's coast. The greatest threat is heavy rain, which could make kerosene penetrate further into the soil and underground water.

The councillors are worried the state cannot guarantee the coast the constitutionally guaranteed right to drinking water if the Rižana source is contaminated.

They thus demand that all the necessary measures are taken and implemented to prevent the pollution of the only water source for Slovenian Istria.

Supervision of the state in which railway and road infrastructure is in water areas, should be enhanced, the councillors decided.

The railway infrastructure in water areas should be maintained and modernised to avoid any problems with the rail tracks.

The authorities should also make sure that trains carrying dangerous cargo in water areas run at adequate speeds.

Finally, the state should take measures to minimise risks for similar incidents.

If these measures cannot be guaranteed, then the option should be studied to ban transport of dangerous substances through water areas until a new water source is found.

The councillors also tasked the mayors to prioritise efforts to find a new water source and expressed support for the state's efforts to build the second rail track between Koper and Divača.

The session, which Koper Mayor Aleš Bržan labelled "Istrian parliament", was also attended by government representatives.

Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Somin Zajc promised serious efforts would be made to find a new water source, announcing a meeting with Istrian mayors at the ministry's water directorate for next week.

Several possible water sources have been proposed in the past, so it is clear which ones could be suitable, but they will have to be studied again, he said.

While he could not give any detailed timeline, he said "we're probably not talking weeks or months, but a year or two".

To further protect the Rižana water source from kerosene pollution, a special protective foil was laid in the Hrastovlje tunnel on Wednesday after much of the contaminated material was removed earlier.

All our stories on water quality in Slovenia are here

05 Jul 2019, 18:36 PM

STA, 5 July 2019 - While protests are being held on Friday in the Slovenian-Italian border area against the planned border control measures, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini spoke on the phone with his Slovenian counterpart Boštjan Poklukar to discuss migration and enhancing cooperation in this field.

Poklukar and Salvini, who visited Trieste today for a port investment contract signing and to discuss border protection with Friuli Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga, welcomed the start of Slovenian-Italian police patrols on the border.

According to the press release from the Slovenian Interior Ministry, Poklukar noted that it was not the first time Slovenia responded to Italian proposals for joint operations.

The Slovenian minister pointed to the assistance by the Slovenian Armed Forces in the maritime operation Mare Nostrum with the Triglav patrol boat in 2013 and projects to transfer persons in need of international protection from Italy to Slovenia.

The Slovenian and Italian police forces launched joint border patrols on 1 July as a response to the increase in illegal migration. The measure is expected to be in force until the end of September.

The Slovenian Interior Ministry told the STA today that the initiative for the mixed patrols had come from the Italian police on 29 April. The Slovenian police agreed with the proposal and Poklukar presented it to the government.

Subsequently, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar presented it to his Italian counterpart Enzo Moavero Milanesi and both countries agreed to implement it.

The two countries' police commissioners discussed the planned cooperation in more detail at the sidelines of a conference of police commissioners in Rome, the ministry said.

Salvini reiterated yesterday that if the border patrols failed to serve the purpose, Italy would erect physical barriers on the border with Slovenia. "We will make the border with Slovenia impenetrable with all available means."

Poklukar stressed that Slovenia was protecting its border with Croatia effectively and that the situation was under control. He said that special attention should be paid to the entire Western Balkan migration route and take appropriate measures.

The Italian and Slovenian interior ministers agreed that they would meet in person soon to talk about the possibilities of further bilateral cooperation as well as cooperation with the countries in the region.

According to the Austrian press agency APA, Salvini also talked today about measures to beef up the control of the Balkan route with Croatian Interior Minister Davor Božinović.

The Italian press agency ANSA reported that Salvini said in Trieste today that "joint patrols by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are something we are establishing, and we will see what the results will be".

The police forces of the three countries are expected to also enhance cooperation in fighting trafficking of illegal migrants.

Asked about the joint Slovenian-Italian-Croatian patrols, the Slovenian Interior Ministry said it could not go into detail at this point.

Several protests are meanwhile being held or are to be held in the area on both sides of the border and on border crossings to express opposition to the idea and to call for open borders.

Some 50 people have gathered in the main square in Trieste to protest against Salvini's policy of closure of Italian sea ports for migrants. People are also protesting in other parts of Trieste as the minister is visiting the city.

Slovenian politicians mostly against proposed border fence

STA, 5 July 2019 - Slovenian parliamentary parties and MEPs are critical of Italy's announcement it could set up "physical barriers" on the border with Slovenia if Slovenian-Italian border police patrols, introduced on 1 July, do not result in fewer illegal migrants. The patrols, on the other hand, continue to divide Slovenian politics.

Current developments in relations with Italy are "a total disaster" and proof that "our government is impotent security- and development-wise", opposition Democrat (SDS) MP Branko Grims told the press on Friday.

He believes the Bosnian-Croatian border should be properly protected, while Slovenia should properly protect its part of the Schengen border - its southern border with Croatia.

If that border was sealed, then Austria's and Italy's moves would be superfluous, said Grims, who believes the Slovenian police and the army, if it was given adequate powers, would have no problem protecting Slovenia's southern border.

The SDS's MEP Romana Tomc (EPP) meanwhile believes the announced fence on the border with Italy "presents a threat that Slovenia could become a migration pocket, which would undoubtedly worsen our security and seriously affect our economy".

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) believes a fence on the border inside the Schengen zone would be "unacceptable and un-European", and statistics do not corroborate it. What the EU needs is an effective supervision of its external borders.

The SMC believes the joint patrols are meant to build trust, with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's LMŠ noting they were about preventing the smuggling of illegal migrants and fighting against smugglers.

Meanwhile, both MEPs from the ruling LMŠ believe Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's announcement of a fence was meant foremost to appease Italian voters.

"Physical barriers in the Schengen area are unacceptable, they would be a major step backwards and a major attack on the EU's basic values," wrote MEPs Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe).

If the Italian government keeps insisting on the fence, Joveva and Grošelj intend to bring the issue up in the European Parliament, but certainly at their political grouping's meeting with Ursula von der Leyen, the candidate for the nee European Parliament president.

The same would be done by MEPs Ljudmila Novak (EPP/New Slovenia (NSi)) and Tanja Fajon (S&D/Social Democrats (SD)).

Fajon urged Slovenia's authorities to do all in their power for solidarity to re-emerge in Europe and for a common migration and asylum policy be formed.

Novak expects the Slovenian government to "immediately condemn such announcements" and do all in its power to stop illegal migrations on the border with Croatia.

She said the mixed patrols on the Slovenian-Italian border would be no problem had they not been fuelled by a rise in illegal migrations on the Croatian border.

The NSi, convinced the patrols are a mistake, demanded yesterday a session of the parliamentary foreign policy and interior policy committees to discuss them.

Its MP Jernej Vrtovec said never again wanted the Slovenians living on both sides of the border, which is a single economic and cultural area, to be divided with a wall or even a wire.

The trend of erecting barriers should worry the entire EU, said MP Matjaž Nemec of the coalition SD, as a fence on the Slovenian-Italian border would be a measure disproportionate with illegal crossings of the border.

Nemec also believes the dialogue between the Slovenian and Italian interior ministers, who spoke on the phone today, was no longer constructive.

He thus called on Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to start dialogue with the Italian prime minister.

Just like the SDS, Nemec believes the focus should be on the Croatian-Bosnian border as the outer EU border.

Saying the fence was no answer to the migrant issue, opposition Left MP Primož Siter said the rhetoric of Slovenia and Italy's right-wingers was the same.

"The only difference is that the Slovenian right has already got its wire [on the border with Croatia], while the Italian right is now calling for it."

Noting the EU lacked a common approach to illegal migrations, which forced each country to deal with them on its own, the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) said Italy was dealing with them in line with its nationalist policy.

However, DeSUS also said the Slovenian Interior Ministry and the Slovenian police were trying to relativise the issue of illegal migrations.

The coalition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) would rather boost the control of Slovenia's border with Croatia, where Italy and Austria could help in.

"The mixed police patrols on our western border are an un-European move, just as is Austria's border control on the northern border," the SAB told the STA.

The opposition National Party (SNS) believes the mixed patrols are nonsense.

Its leader Zmago Jelinčič criticised Foreign Minister Mira Cerar for having come up with the idea, wondering whether he tried to Italy's support for his bid to become a European commissioner.

Just like the SAB, Jelinčič believes Slovenia should have "double patrols" on the border with Croatia, which could also be mixed.

While MEP Fajon believes "there is absolutely no serious need for patrols on the border between Slovenia and Italy", MEP France Bogovič (EPP/SLS) welcomed them, but noted Slovenia should do more to protect its Schengen border with Croatia.

05 Jul 2019, 13:24 PM

STA, 5 July 2019 - The police continues to detect a rising trend in the number of illegal crossings of the Slovenian border, with the number standing at 5,345 in the first half of the year or 47.1% more than in the same period in 2018. There is an increasing number of illegal migrants from Pakistan, Algeria and Morocco.

The biggest number of illegal crossings of the borders in the first half of the year was processed by police officers from the Koper, Novo Mesto and Ljubljana police departments.

By the end of June, 2,718 of illegal migrants expressed the intention to ask for international protection, which is 7.5% less than in the first half of 2018 (2,355).

According to the latest report, migrants who express the intention to ask for international protection frequently continue on their way to their actual target countries after being accommodated in asylum centres.

In the first half of the year, police officers recorded 355 cases in which foreigners crossed an internal Schengen border to Slovenia without valid documents or permits, which is 13.2% less than in the same period in 2018.

Pakistanis accounted for the most of such illegal entries, while they also dominate the statistics of illegal crossings of the external Schengen border.

A majority of such cases were recorded on the Slovenian border with Italy (226). The police notes that this is a relatively small number of cases, with the number of illegal entries on the border with Italy having dropped.

A total of 2,178 third country nationals were denied entry at border crossings for failing to meet the conditions to enter Slovenia or other EU countries, which is 10.8% more than in the first half of 2018.

Most of them were rejected on the border crossings with Croatia, and the biggest number of them were citizens of Afghanistan, followed by citizens of the Balkan countries.

The number of foreigners who were processed because they were not permitted to reside in Slovenia or other EU countries increased by almost a third to 2,728.

A majority of the cases related to expired residency permits, mostly involving citizens of the Western Balkan countries. An increasing number of Moldovan citizens are also being processed for this reason, as a consequence of visa liberalisation.

Slovenian police officers returned a total of 3,534 foreigners to the authorities of neighbouring countries in the first half of the year (up from 1,174), most of them to the Croatian authorities.

Foreign authorities meanwhile returned 333 persons to Slovenia in this period, including 23 Slovenian citizens, the report says.

05 Jul 2019, 11:30 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 05 June 2019

Mladina: Eastern Europe did not deserve any key EU posts

STA, 5 July 2019 - The left-wing weekly Mladina says in its latest commentary that the countries from Eastern Europe have no business lamenting the fact that none of its representatives have been tipped to get one of the top four jobs in the EU, as they do not deserve any respect.

"In the days following the selection of the leading staff of the European Union for the next five years, it could also be heard in Slovenia how bad it is that there are no candidates from Eastern Europe for any of the posts.

"That it would be symbolic and good as a gesture of respect to the new members. Respect? Why? The Eastern European countries have been a great disappointment of Europe, turning out to be fascistic, nationalistic, introvert, narrow-minded and democratically immature fifteen or twenty years after the enlargement."

In the commentary headlined On the Right Side of History, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž wonders whether Poland, Hungary, Slovakia or Croatia deserve any respect, adding that "this Eastern Europe is nothing but a disappointment."

Last year, Slovenia escaped by a hair becoming a part of this part of Eastern Europe owing to the maturity of a majority of political parties and the clearly expressed will of the civil society, he adds.

Referring to Marjan Šarec being appointed prime minister in a minority government, the commentator says that with Janez Janša of the opposition Democrats (SDS) in power, "today we would be a part of the problem and one of the countries which were pushed out from the so-called core Europe this week."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron played out a game which exposed the Eastern European nationalists, including Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, whose mouths are otherwise full of Europe.

"What is being formed is not automatically a Europe which we would like. We will perhaps get some headaches. But nevertheless, we are watching an attempt at stemming the growth of populism. This is good. Slovenia has fortunately found itself on the right side."

This is so because Slovenia has a normal, democratic government, and partly because it has the euro, and because Šarec, like Macron, became a liberal on the European scale at the right moment. "We have no serious influence on the developments, but we are on the right side of history. It could have been completely different."

Demokracija: New media legislation introduces censorship

STA, 4 July 2019 – Left-leaning politicians in Slovenia have no sense of responsibility and show no respect for the rule of law, the right-wing weekly Demokracija says in its latest editorial. They set the boundaries for what is allowed and now, with the new media bill, they will also decide on what constitutes hate speech, says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak.

According to the draft media bill, a state official called the media inspector will decide on what constitutes media-sponsored inciting of hatred and intolerance.

This person will be able to order a media outlet to remove certain content and even slap it with a fine.

"This is not only an inadmissible interference with the autonomous editorial policy but an interference with the freedom of speech from the position of political power," says Biščak.

It is not surprising that the Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS) welcomed this form of censorship.

First, it welcomed it because it will directly decide on what is appropriate and what is inappropriate content and second, because the DNS has shown many times it could not care less about media freedom.

Most recently it illustrated this by supporting Prime Minister Marjan Šarec's call to state-owned companies not to advertise in certain media outlets.

"It is more than obvious that Slovenia is again or (still) deeply in the Communist totalitarian system that tramples on human rights, of which the freedom of speech is the most important," Biščak says, adding that the deep state does not even bother to hide this anymore.

"The question is whether liberation from these chains is even possible in a peaceful way," concludes the commentary headlined In the Beginning Was the Word.

All our posts in this series can be found here, while you can keep up-to-date on Slovenia politics here, and find the daily headlines here

03 Jul 2019, 19:44 PM

STA, 3 July 2019 - Several monuments to WWII resistance members in Ljubljana's city centre have been vandalised. Police are investigating the incident, in which at least three monuments were sprayed with orange graffiti carrying political messages. President Borut Pahor and Culture Ministry condemned the act and called for tolerance.

Anti-revolutionary and anti-Yugoslavian messages were sprayed onto the 1975 Monument to the Revolution in Republic Square, while the statues of Partisan resistance leader Boris Kidrič (1912-1953) and Toni Mrlak, the pilot of a helicopter that was shot down over Ljubljana during the independence war, were in parts sprayed with orange.

"Vandalising monuments is not freedom of expression but a threat to it," Pahor tweeted, expressing hope that the authorities would investigate this and similar cases and act accordingly.

He called for tolerance that "allows us to present our views freely, while also considering the views and dignity of others.

The Culture Ministry also strongly condemned the incident, noting that the monuments of national and local importance were already being cleaned.

"The contents of the graffiti shows that this is more than just vandalism but enticing of intolerance and hatred," MEP Milan Brglez, former parliamentary speaker, wrote on Facebook.

The incident was also strongly condemned by the coalition Social Democrats (SD), who forwarded the photos of the vandalised monuments to the media.

It said it was "more than obvious" that the incident had been organised. The party said that nobody, regardless of their belief, had the right to vandalise joint monuments that serve as a reminder of the lessons of the past.

The SD said that although the memories of the recent history are very painful to some, vandalism would not bring them peace or unity.

This was echoed by the Left, which said that the monuments that were vandalised represented the achievements of the post-war Yugoslavia, which include workers, housing and social rights. This is also the time when the foundations of the modern public health and education system were laid, it noted.

This is not the first case of vandalism in the city centre. The 2013 monument to the victims of all wars in Congress Square has been vandalised four times already.

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