Politics

17 Sep 2020, 12:06 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar told the press on Tuesday that the government had unanimously and without debate endorsed a response to the EU Commission's draft opinion on the rule of law situation in Slovenia, after it came under renewed criticism in the press for its stance on the rule of law in the country.

Logar's statement comes after the newspaper Delo reported that the Commission's draft report on the rule of law in Slovenia is relatively favourable. However, the paper says the government paints the situation in a considerably more negative light in the document sent to Brussels.

The response was drawn up at the Foreign Ministry, according to unofficial information, and endorsed by the government at a correspondence session on Friday.

The government points out that Eurostat data do not back the Commission's arguments about greater efficiency of Slovenia's state attorneys, according to Delo. Moreover, the government is critical of the draft urging additional financial and human resources for the judiciary.

The government also criticises the media, in particular what it sees as "activists of the political struggle" who are not investigative journalists, and points to an above-average number of those who are employed as artists and journalists in Slovenia.

The Commission's draft report meanwhile says that there are no appropriate measures regulating a conflict of interest in media in the country, for example between political parties and media owners, which appears to be a reference to media controlled by the ruling Democrats (SDS).

Meanwhile, the government believes the Commission has overlooked the issue of ethical pluralism in post-transitional societies.

The response to the draft opinion also mentions suspected abuse of the anti-graft watchdog for political purposes, says Delo.

Violations of the rights to defence have occurred during the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) procedures, claims the government, adding that such seemingly minor shortcomings led to serious political consequences in the past, such as the toppling of a government.

The KPK responded by dismissing the allegations, highlighting that the watchdog was an independent body that was not and would not be influenced by individual political interests. It moreover said that the government had not acquainted it with the response.

Logar, speaking at a press conference after hosting his counterparts from the informal Central 5 (C5) initiative, said that there was still room for improvement in tackling corruption in Slovenia. The government will do all it can to speed up procedures against major acts of corruption, he said.

Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič said that the Commission's draft opinion was an opportunity for dialogue on the actual state of judiciary within Slovenia.

The minister said that she had endorsed the report, which she sees as a stepping stone to dialogue between Slovenia and the Commission as well as a set of guidelines for the country to improve its judicial system.

She said the government's response was produced by the Foreign Ministry in line with set methodology and agreements at the EU level.

A task force reviewing and presenting the situation in judiciary is in the works at the Justice Ministry, she said. It will feature representatives of the Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry "as well as perhaps external experts".

Kozlovič said that the contents of the report and of the government's response were not yet publicly revealed. The EU draft opinion indicated that the report would be "positive to a certain extent", but "it is not favourable at all".

In May, when Logar's comments attached to a report filed by Slovenia for the Commission's first annual rule of law report sparked strong reactions, Kozlovič said that Logar's letter was not the government's position and that her stance on the situation was positive.

In the wake of the government's latest response to the Commission's report, opposition parties said today that they had not been acquainted with the response since it was an internal document.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) warned that this was not Logar's first letter to besmirch the reputation of Slovenia's judiciary abroad.

The Left expects the latest report to resemble the May letter as part of distraction tactics of the current government.

The Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) said that Slovenia respected the rule of law, though this did not mean the situation could not be improved.

Slovenia received the Commission's draft report on the rule of law in the country in late August. Unofficially, a report for all member states will be released on 30 September.

The EU General Affairs Council is expected to debate the situation this autumn, with the report striving to strengthen dialogue between member states and EU institutions, and shared understanding of the rule of law, including with respect to the candidates for EU membership.

16 Sep 2020, 17:35 PM

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Contents

123 New Cases; Hospitals Increase Capacity; Newspapers, Magazines Allowed in Salons Again

Record 123 new Covid-19 cases confirmed in 3,123 tests on Tuesday

STA, 16 September - A record 123 new Covid-19 cases were discovered in Slovenia on Tuesday as 3,123 persons were tested for the coronavirus, the second highest testing figure to date. There were no deaths, but the number of active cases has risen to 975, shows the official data, released on Wednesday.

The number of hospitalised patients is up by 12 to 61 and the number of those in intensive care by one to 11. Officials announced the Celje general hospital will now become the fourth hospital to admit infected patients.

The number of total cases since the first one was confirmed on 4 March stands at 3,954 and the number of deaths at 135, with the last one recorded almost two weeks ago.

The government's coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin said at today's daily briefing that 48 Tuesday cases had been locally transmitted, only two cases had been imported, while the sources of infection for 20 cases remained unknown.

The number of infections of unknown origin has been falling, which Kacin finds encouraging. He believes it is a result of "citizens heeding our calls to be honest and cooperate with epidemiologists".

Pivka, a small municipality in south-west, which saw a spike in new cases on Sunday and tightened nation-wide protective measures on Monday, currently has 18 infected residents, Mayor Rober Smrdelj said at today's briefing.

He said a special line is being planned for Pivka residents suspecting to be infected to call to speed up access to GP and testing.

Civil Protection head for the Notranjska region Sandi Curk said last evening new cases in Pivka were recorded at the primary school and the food-processing company Pivka Perutninarstvo, both of which are the municipality's hotspots.

The number of all infected workers at Pivka Perutninarstvo has risen from 18 to 38, the company said today, adding that some had fallen ill while already in quarantine.

Production at the poultry processing-company nevertheless runs smoothly, and tests have shown there is no risk of the virus being transmitted from people to food.

The situation at the elderly home in Črneče in Koroška region, north, has also not stabilised yet, with 16 cases confirmed so far, of which 12 in residents.

Director Srečko Mlačnik told the STA all the infected cases are from the same unit, with two of the infected residents being taken to hospital.

The unit - now classified as a grey zone - is separated from the rest of the care home, while the ten infected residents are accommodated at the red zone.

The four infected employees are self-isolating, so Mlačnik fears a lack of staff at what is the biggest home for the elderly in Koroška, with 263 beds.

The spread of the novel coronavirus has meanwhile calmed down at another hotspot, the Danica Vogrinec Home for the Elderly in Maribor, north-east, where a Covid-19 outbreak took place at the start of last week.

There are now 42 infected persons, of whom 25 residents and 17 staff, but director Marko Slavič said that only one in 200 tests performed this week came back positive.

"We are happy to note a downward trend in new infections," he said on Wednesday.

However, since 30 staff have been quarantined, the care home's Tabor unit lacks more than half of its staff, who are now working in extremely hard conditions.

Meanwhile, Adolf Lukanovič, a doctor who recovered from a severe form of Covid-19 in spring, presented his experience with the disease.

He said he had spent 900 hours or 37.5 days connected to a ventilator after he was admitted to hospital on 9 March and his condition quickly worsened.

The former medical director of UKC Ljubljana's Gynaecology Clinic said the disease should not be underestimated, adding it made him sad to see some politicise the the epidemic and claim it was made up.

Back to the contents

As Covid-19 cases rise, hospitals ramping up admission capacity

STA, 16 September 2020 - Slovenian hospitals have had to quickly ramp up their capacity for admitting coronavirus patients as the number of those hospitalised with Covid-19 more than doubled in less than a week to 61, of whom 11 are in intensive care. The Celje general hospital will now become the fourth hospital to admit infected patients.

Covid-19 patients are currently treated at the university medical centres in Ljubljana and Maribor, and at the Golnik Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases.

The hospital in Celje is expected to start admitting patients on Thursday providing two intensive care beds, five beds for those with mild symptoms and 19 beds in a "grey zone" for patients with suspected but not yet confirmed infections.

The total number of hospitalisations is still well below the 100-plus peak recorded in late March and early April, but given the surge of new cases - a record 123 were confirmed yesterday - it is expected that hospital admissions will spike as well.

And while the majority of new cases were in the younger population in the summer, older people are starting to account for a rising share of overall infections.

Jelko Kacin, the government's spokesman for Covid-19, yesterday said that the number of patients was likely to start increasing significantly in the second half of September.

The current situation is however different than it was during the first wave of the epidemic, as many currently in hospital are non-symptomatic patients that have been temporarily moved to hospital from nursing homes.

This is in line a decision made in early summer to help nursing homes that suffer outbreaks better organise their work by relocating asymptomatic patients to hospital.

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Newspapers, magazines again available at catering, beauty establishments

STA, 16 September 2020 - Restaurants, bars, hairdresser's and beauty salons are again allowed to offer their clients newspapers and magazines on the premises, as the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) lifted the ban in early September.

NIJZ nevertheless says there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus from browsing through papers and magazines, especially if the epidemiological situation is not good. However, it is significantly reduced if hygiene protocols are strictly observed.

Clients are also advised to wear a face mask while browsing or reading, they must be notified of the risk of infection and provided instructions about basic precaution measures.

The lifting of the ban comes despite the ongoing sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, which started on 8 September, and after some newspaper companies had been warning for months that the measures was "disproportionate".

Commenting on the lifting of the ban, the newspaper Delo said today that NIJZ had not notified anyone the measure had been lifted, whereas newspaper companies had witnessed many subscription cancellations due to the ban.

NIJZ admitted it had not informed anyone, saying there were so many different recommendations so everyone should check for the latest information for their line of business.

Restaurants, bars, hairdresser's and beauty parlours were allowed to reopen when the nation-wide lockdown, imposed in mid- March, was significantly eased on 4 May.

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16 Sep 2020, 12:08 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - The coalition partners appear to have agreed the outlines of a new Demographic Fund, which would manage state assets and provide an extra source of financing of public pensions. The bulk of partially or wholly state-owned companies would come under the control of the new entity.

The fund will own all assets currently held by the Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), the bad bank, the para-state DSU and KAD funds, the pension insurer Modra Zavarovalnica and the stake in insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav currently held by the public pension insurer ZPIZ.

DARS, the national motorway company, will not be transferred to the Demographic Fund, although that might yet change, Robert Polnar, MP for the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), told the press after a coalition meeting on Tuesday.

The assets to be managed by the Demographic Fund are currently valued at EUR 8.5 billion. Together with DARS, that would climb to EUR 11.5 billion.

According to current plans, 40% of dividends and 60% of proceeds from the sale of stock would be retained so that the assets under management grow in the long term. 40% of the dividends would finance public pensions, while the rest would go towards financing family policies and construction of nursing homes.

The fund's supervisory board will have 13 members, four appointed by the government and nine at the proposal of deputy groups. The supervisors will appoint a three-member management board.

Polnar said the proposal would now be put to the Economic and Social Council and was expected to be on the parliament's agenda before the end of the year.

The Demographic Fund is one of the biggest projects undertaken by the government, and the no. 1 priority for the DeSUS.

It has been under consideration for nearly a decade but successive governments have failed to agree its exact make-up.

In this government, the question which assets will be transferred to the fund and who will name the supervisory were reportedly the most problematic issues.

Coalition partners emphasised that the main points have now been agreed and said the relevant law was on track for passage by the end of the year.

Jožef Horvat of New Slovenia (NSi) welcomed the decision to spend a portion of the funds on family policies, while the Modern Centre Party's (SMC) Janja Sluga said SMC's warnings that it was necessary to be careful not to financially burden infrastructure companies had been heeded.

The opposition expressed some reservations even as said it had not yet been acquainted with all the details.

The Social Democrats (SD) suspect that the fund will not help finance pensions, rather it will be "another agency for selling assets," according to deputy group leader Matjaž Han.

The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said it was against channelling funds into anything else except pensions.

All out stories about demographics in Slovenia

15 Sep 2020, 17:07 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - The foreign ministers of Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed at a Central 5 (C5) meeting in Slovenia on Tuesday that the members of the informal initiative will regularly coordinate their measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Coordination meetings would be held every two weeks via videoconference at the level of police commissioners, Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar said.

According to him, the ministers also agreed that the European Commission should create a joint mechanism for measures and standards in the event of an increasing number of infections.

"Our governments are facing the difficult task of limiting the most risky cases in terms of further spreading as much as possible," said Logar, adding that a renewed closure of all borders was not an option for the time being.

But "countries must do their homework", and "a system which would be predictable in advance needs to be created so that measures which affect people on both sides of the border need not be taken," the Slovenian foreign minister added.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that the Central European countries had the shared goal of not getting into a situation similar to that in March and April, when borders around Europe had been mostly closed.

"We must show that we have learned something in recent months," said Schallenberg, whose country borders eight countries.

Schallenberg added that cooperation of the Central European countries was very important as a second wave of Covid-19 was about to start. "We are a closely connected economic area," he said, adding that the economy must continue functioning.

Tomaš Petriček, the minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, pointed to the importance of informing other countries of upcoming Covid-19 measures in advance, including because of work migrants and trade.

Asked about migrations and the the fire in the Moria migrant centre on the Greek island of Lesbos, Schallenberg and Petriček agreed that the debate on migration did not divide the Central European countries.

"All of us here agree that Greece will not be left high and dry, we will help it," said the Austrian minister, while his Czech colleague added that "a compromise will be found".

The ministers also discussed the situation in Belarus, and talks on the topic will be continued over the working lunch, Logar said, while Petriček added that a coordinated response of the EU to the crisis in Belarus had been endorsed.

Slovakia's Ivan Korčok added that the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels next Monday would need to send a clear signal to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the violence and start dialogue with the opposition.

"We are shocked with the developments in Belarus," said Korčok, labelling as unacceptable that people are getting beaten and that people who think differently are punished. He also expects that sanctions will be introduced against Belarus.

According to a press release from the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, part of the talks was dedicated to economic matters, with focus being on possibilities of integration of regional infrastructure and connectivity.

Cooperation within various forums and platforms was also on the agenda, as the five Central European countries participate in the Three Seas Initiative, which looks to strengthen cooperation in Central and East Europe.

As for EU topics, the ministers welcomed the consensus on the next multi-year budget and the recovery fund, which will enable the member states' economies to address the pandemic and other challenges such as digitalisation and climate change, the ministry said.

This was the third meeting of the initiative, which also includes Hungary, but was held without Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is paying a visit to the US.

15 Sep 2020, 12:55 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - Slovenia's coronavirus case count passed the 3,800 mark after 82 more people tested positive on Monday, just as the number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19 rose by ten to 50, fresh data from the government show.

Ten Covid-19 patients are being treated in intensive care, one more than the day before.

The latest cases come from 2,247 tests for Sars-CoV-2. Since the start of the pandemic, Slovenia has carried out 185,220 tests.

The country has so far confirmed 3,831 coronavirus cases, of which 907 remain active, according to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

There have been 135 Covid-19-related deaths, with no fatalities for more than ten days now.

Nurses in Maribor catch coronavirus, shortage of health staff on horizon

STA, 15 September 2020 - Eleven infections were confirmed among UKC Maribor staff at the weekend and around 30 more employees are self-isolating. This leaves the second largest hospital with a shortage of staff, while the number of patients with severe Covid-19 symptoms is increasing. Director Vojko Flis says this is worrying.

Ten nurses and one physiotherapist at the internal medicine clinic got infected from two patients brought in from the Danica Vogrinec Home for the Elderly, one of the hotspots in the country. They were taken to hospital due to an emergency which was however not related to Covid-19.

There are no doctors among the infected staff, but testing continues. Still, UKC Maribor's internal medicine clinic is now working at two-third capacity, Flis told the press in Maribor on Tuesday.

"The situation is rather unpredictable, and unmanageable when it comes to infections getting into the hospital," he said, stressing a large number of infections in the Maribor area made preventing the virus from entering the hospital very hard.

UKC Maribor reintroduced a unit for Covid-19 treatment in mid-July after it had it up and running during the first wave of epidemic, which formally ended on 31 May.

Flis said some new measures will have to be put in place if severely ill Covid-19 patients continue to arrive, including a single entry point to the hospital.

New beds for Covid-19 patients only will also have to be provided.

UKC Maribor expects to provide up to ten more beds for coronavirus intensive care. Once they are full, the Celje Hospital would start receiving Covid-19 patients.

There are currently 20 Covid-19 patients at UKC Maribor and another three in intensive care who require ventilation.

Since additional beds entail staff reorganisation, this affects the hospital's regular treatments. "We have a problem with staff, rather than space," said Flis.

UKC Ljubljana's department of infectious diseases will meanwhile activate plan B if the number of Covid-19 patients continues to rise.

This means non-coronavirus patients from two units and the main intensive care unit for non-coronavirus patients would be moved to another location in Ljubljana.

Having four Covid-19 patients and six with other diseases in intensive care "means our intensive care unit is full", Mateja Logar from the clinic said in Ljubljana on Monday.

The department's other units meanwhile had 15 Covid-19 patients and another 40 with other infectious diseases yesterday.

However, Covid-19 patients represent less than 1% of all hospitalised patients at UKC Ljubljana, the country's largest hospital.

So even if the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations rises, the hospital wants to keep the level of health services for the other patients at the same level as now.

"Today we proposed to the health minister some measures to provide staff for units where Covid-19 patients are treated or processed," UKC Ljubljana director general Janez Poklukar said yesterday.

Speaking at Tuesday's daily coronavirus briefing, the government's spokesperson Jelko Kacin labelled the epidemiological situation as serious.

He announced everything should be ready by Thursday so that the government could take additional measures, should it assess they were needed.

The national healthcare system is gearing up to launch the fourth unit for Covid-19 treatments, he said.

Apart from UKC Ljubljana and UKC Maribor, the Golnik University Clinic is currently also accepting coronavirus patients, but Covid-19 units are running out of beds.

A considerably larger number of hospitalisations is likely as early as the second half of September, said Kacin, warning the virus was also spreading in work environments, pointing to Maribor's Danica Vogrinec Home for the Elderly, the Braslovče Primary School, food-processing company Pivka Perutninarstvo, UKC Maribor and UKC Ljubljana.

UKC Ljubljana told the STA it had six infections among its staff over the past week. However, none of them caught the virus at work.

Anti-corona measures hurting Slovenia's transport

STA, 15 September 2020 - The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a major drop in Slovenia's transport. July saw a 39% decrease in ships year-on-year and zero cruise ships. Only six passengers visited Slovenia by sea, less than 1% compared to the same period last year. Ljubljana airport experienced a 90% plunge in passenger traffic.

The port of Koper, Slovenia's sole port, saw a drop in cargo volume - roughly a million tonnes of cargo were transshipped in July, down almost 35% year-on-year, said the Statistics Office on Tuesday, adding that the precaution measures had had an impact on bus and air traffic as well.

Almost two million passengers used city buses in July, a 43% decrease compared to the same month in 2019. Meanwhile, some 710,200 used intercity and international connections, down 29% year-on-year.

About 21,000 passengers passed through Ljubljana airport in July, as much as 90% fewer year-on-year. Cargo traffic at the airport was also down by 15%.

On the other hand, roads seemed to have been busier in July, with the number of new vehicles on the rise. Vehicles hitting the road for the first time in July were up by 3% year-on-year to 12,800. Among them, some 6,400 were new passenger cars, a 7% increase compared to July 2019.

15 Sep 2020, 12:02 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - Primorska Reunification Day is a holiday which expresses respect for generations of people from Primorska and gratitude to them for their national pride, resilience, resistance against Italianisation and Fascism and for their loyalty to Slovenian identity, Prime Minister Janez Janša said in a message issued on the public holiday.

The holiday, observed on 15 September, does not connect only the people of the western Primorska region but the entire nation, Janša said in the message.

"We are celebrating the power of survival of the nation, which history put through a number of ordeals. Today's holiday is also a holiday of love of the homeland."

It is thanks to many Primorska patriotic organisations and individuals that the region remained committed to Slovenia throughout history, Janša added.

"Their work, efforts, sacrifice and fight for Slovenian identity significantly contributed to Primorska being returned to the homeland on 15 September 1947, when the peace treaty with Italy was implemented.

"This partly remedied the injustice ... that the 1915 Pact of London brought on us," he said in reference to a secret treaty between Italy and the Triple Entente.

The treaty lured Italy into World War One on the Allied side with a promise of getting large areas of the Austria-Hungary Empire after the war.

Janša recalled that due to the Treaty of London, Primorska became part of Italy under the 1920 Treaty of Rapallo after WWI.

He said the Rapallo border cut not only a large area with some 300,000 residents from Slovenia but also an enormous patriotic and intellectual potential.

Treaty_of_Rapallo.png

Source, and more details, Wikipedia

"The Primorska Slovenians found themselves in a hostile environment. The Slovenian language was forbidden, the abolishment of Slovenian associations was designed to suppress Slovenian culture and Slovenian spirit. But Slovenian books found a way to Slovenian homes and Slovenian songs and Slovenian words did not disappear. The people of Primorska did not give in."

Turning to the Slovenian ethnic minority in Italy, he said it had made efforts for years to get back the National Hall in Trieste, which finally happened this year.

Janša sees that as proof that perseverance and a strong national consciousness can bear fruit if they pursue the right goals.

He said the restitution of the National Hall and the reconciliation gestures by the Slovenian and Italian presidents were "a commendable act of reconciliation and of coming closer between Slovenians and Italians".

The prime minister believes this is a reflection of common European values of solidarity and co-existence and a step towards removing the burdens of the past.

National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič issued a similar message about the resilience and loyalty of the Primorska people, noting the holiday connects all Slovenians and sends out the messages of tolerance, respect and cooperation.

He said the holiday was declared 15 years ago to remember events, including the rise of Fascism, which had severely affected the Primorska Slovenians and Slovenia and which had a major impact on later developments.

Zorčič stressed that the people of Primorska were among the first in Europe to put on an organised resistance against Italianisation and Fascism, considerably contributing to the defeat of Fascism.

He said today Slovenia was a part of a community of equal European nations where it helps create the future, values and goals, building good relations and new connections with neighbours and other European partners.

President Borut Pahor opened the door of Presidential Palace on the occasion, hosting the youth from the town Ankaran, where this year's Primorska Day celebrations were held on Saturday.

He recalled that 100 years ago, Primorska people were pushed out of their homeland, but "our grandfathers and fathers were united in resisting the Fascists, who wanted to deprive them of their language, culture and identity".

The united people of Primorska then returned to their homeland after WWII and united Slovenians founded their own state in 1991, Pahor pointed out.

He believes the lesson for today's period of uncertainty is that one will overcome the crisis much easier if working together despite possible differences.

14 Sep 2020, 13:50 PM

STA, 14 September 2020 - Slovenia has recorded 47 new coronavirus infections from 1,110 tests performed on Sunday, less than half the figure the day before as testing typically slows down during the weekend. However, a public health chief has warned the country's contagion curve is in a phase of growth with the basic reproduction number at 1.4.

The latest figures from the government show the number of Covid-19 hospitalisations has risen to 40 despite six being discharged home. Nine of the patients require intensive treatment.

No Covid-19-related fatalities were reported, which leaves the overall death toll at 135.

The latest cases bring the national case count to 3,749, with 866 remaining active cases, according to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org.

Milan Krek, director of the National Institute of Public Health, has revealed that Slovenia's R0, the figure showing the average number of people infected by one infectious individual, has risen to 1.4.

Commenting on the outbreak for RTV Slovenija on Sunday, Krek said Slovenia could see the number of daily infections rise to 165 in the coming days.

Slovenia is already a "red country", having exceeded 40 infections per 100,000 residents in a fortnight, he said in a reference to the colour-coded map Slovenia keeps for other countries.

He reckons the curve of infections will "flatten when we start truly abiding by the recommendations and measures that have been known for a while".

With Covid-19 hospitalisations increasing, he warned the situation at hospitals reflects the state of infections ten or 14 days ago when Slovenia had 18 to 40 infections a day.

"You can imagine what will happen in 14 days," considering almost 100 infections had been confirmed on Saturday.

As the need for hospital beds increases, Krek warned that this could affect beds intended for other patients and reduce access to some health services.

Meanwhile, Bojana Beović, the government's chief Covid-19 adviser, announced a more "radical" approach to crack down on private parties of more than ten people, telling POP TV last night that oversight and fining would be stepped up.

14 Sep 2020, 12:06 PM

STA, 14 September 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša told the Austrian TV ORF that Slovenia had no intention of committing to any fixed alliances such as the Visegrad Group. Instead, he stressed the importance of cooperation among neighbouring countries.

"We feel no need to say that we will always support a country or a group of countries within the EU. We always look at what is good for our citizens, who elected us," Janša was quoted as saying in the interview by the Austrian press agency APA.

The prime minister also stressed the importance of neighbourly relations, which he said had proved crucial during the Covid-19 pandemic. "In extraordinary times we know exactly who we can rely on."

Referring to restrictions and closing of the borders during the epidemic, Janša said the situation seemed like Europe had returned to the dark ages and that bilateral cooperation with neighbouring countries had been essential.

Janša rejected criticism of the planned new media legislation that would cut the revenue of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, saying this would be a "minimal re-distribution" of funds that would benefit regional media which are struggling because of strong centralisation in Slovenia.

Janša said his critics wanted to hide behind the EU in order to preserve their monopoly, which they had been holding on to since communism. Since virtually nobody in Europe speaks Slovenian, this is a "battle for interpretation", he told ORF correspondent Christian Wehrschütz.

"I always say: whoever wants to pass judgements about the political situation in Slovenia should come to Slovenia and learn Slovenian or at least find a credible person to talk to," Janša said in the interview, which was conducted in Slovenian.

13 Sep 2020, 11:00 AM

STA, 12 September 2020 - President Borut Pahor has reiterated his concerns about a potential failure of parliament to implement an electoral reform as ordered by the Constitutional Court, saying that "from the moment of elections onwards, we will no longer be talking about coronavirus and other topics but only about whether we have a legal and legitimate leadership".

"It is true that this will not be the end of the world, but it could perhaps be the beginning of the end of formal democracy in Slovenia," Pahor told the STA, feeling Slovenia would regress to the period before the "political spring" that led to independence.

"Perhaps these are harsh words, but it is my duty to warn about his, not only as president but also as somebody who realises, in the light of the country's 30th anniversary, that we existentially depend on democracy."

The president has continued stressing that 21 December this year is the reform deadline set in a 2018 ruling by the Constitutional Court which said major discrepancies among population sizes in electoral districts no longer guaranteed the one person-one vote principle.

After parliament was three votes short earlier this year - the solution was rejected by the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) and junior coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) - of scrapping the districts and introducing a preferential vote, parliament is expected to now focus on a redrawing of districts.

While the particular interests of parties threaten to complicate this redrawing, "things are also harder because we've been pushed into a corner, having only one option". He urged MPs to hurry up and, crucially, first come to an agreement on what kind of a discrepancies among municipalities would still be acceptable.

Pahor believes "there is currently hardly a bigger political challenge than adopting electoral legislation" and he does not find solace in statements claiming there will be no disaster if elections are held in line with the existing legislation.

"In the end, constitutional jurists acknowledge it is possible to think this way as a last resort, but this is the last resort and it constitutes an unreasonable risk."

Pahor, who is also puzzled by the passive attitude of the civil society to this issue, said that "if we do not have even the basic belief that we elected MPs via a legal system, we will completely erode people's trust in the political system".

Pahor expects that an appeal after such an election is almost inevitable, as he does not count on parties showing responsibility and accepting the result. "What is more, this is not just their problem. The election can be challenged by anybody, any voter," he stressed.

As for why it is taking so long, he acknowledged there had been some tactical play among the political parties, he however categorically rejected the possibility of somebody delaying things in order to intentionally push Slovenia into a non-democratic state.

"Were somebody to do that, they would incur the wrath of God. This would mean they are blind politically. Nobody will win if Slovenian politics fails to change electoral legislation," he said, while warning against an accumulation of issues amid the Covid-19 crisis.

13 Sep 2020, 10:48 AM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 11 September 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Janša creating chaos, offering impressions without content

STA, 11 September 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina is critical in its latest editorial of what it sees as a policy of hollow impressions pursued by Janez Janša-led governments. It argues Janša is all about chaos, in which he can pursue an ideological agenda, while true content in terms of effective measures is absent.

Accusing Janša of scaremongering during the refugee crisis and during the last financial crisis, Mladina editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that similar behaviour can be witnessed again in the fight against coronavirus.

"A lot of wind, and above all a large number of measures that create the impression of a government working around the clock, moving from one extreme to the other, closing municipal borders and all the way to a dramatic end of the epidemic and the flypast by US aircraft," Repovž says under Chaos.

He goes on to list a number of crucial measures against Covid-19, saying they have all remained unimplemented, all the way down to the quarantine orders, which are still without legal validity.

The government has also failed to convince people that masks are effective, Repovž argues, saying officials often do not wear them, including not Janez Janša when receiving Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz with whom he moreover shook hands.

"We are not saying that the situation is alarming at this point. But one thing is clear: the good results of the fight against coronavirus are mostly the result of responsible behaviour on the part of the residents of this country. They are really tough and patient, having had to observe the double-faced behaviour of politicians for months."

Reporter: Police force politicised

STA, 7 September 2020 - "The police force has been more or less politicised under every government," says the right-wing weekly Reporter on Monday, arguing that if the police were truly independent and professional, then they would be more successful in cracking white-collar crime and corruption.

However, only a few thieves have been caught among those who were stealing and capitalising on the transition period, "but nothing happened to the rest, who had good connections, including political ones".

The editor-in-chief Silverster Šurla notes in the editorial that the Janez Janša government has replaced a number of persons holding top posts, just like any other government, including in the tax office, police, military and the intelligence agencies.

"The new government has not yet taken complete control over the police though, particularly not in case of the elite National Bureau of Investigation," says Reporter, pointing out that information about what is going on at the Interior Ministry and police is leaked to media almost daily.

The police should be independent of politics, but that has not been seen in Slovenia yet and probably would not be ever since the force is a major tool for the authorities, either left-wing or right-wing.

Since Slovenia's independence, there have been a number of cases of political interferences in the work of the police, either to drag the procedures or to speed them up. "However, it is true that the police have been longer and more controlled by the political left than the right."

Both sides of the aisle are finger pointing and proclaiming efforts to depoliticise the police when they are ruling though, says the editorial under the headline Danger in the House at the End.

All our posts in this series are here

12 Sep 2020, 11:29 AM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 4 September
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - PM Janez Janša dismissed at the annual meeting of Slovenian diplomats concerns Slovenia is drifting away from the EU's core countries, saying the "saga about a core Europe" was a false dilemma that testified lack of confidence. However, Slovenia does not have an inferiority complex, he added.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Slovenian and French FMs Anže Logar and Jean-Yves Le Drian coordinated the preparations of their respective countries for their upcoming EU presidencies in the second half of 2021 and first half of 2022, respectively, as Le Drian presented a vision for a more confident EU as a guest at the annual meeting of Slovenian diplomats. He also met with President Borut Pahor.
        LJUBLJANA - European People's Party (EPP) president Donald Tusk visited Slovenia to honour the 20th anniversary of the New Slovenia (NSi) party, underscoring that even though EU countries and EPP parties might pursue different interests, the EU's fundamental values such as freedom of speech, tolerance and the rule of law, were non-negotiable.
        LJUBLJANA - The New Slovenia (NSi) marked its 20th anniversary, with its head Matej Tonin labelling the party a bridge between the left and right. "I believe we can create a wave of cooperation together, which is to unite Slovenian politics," he said.
        RIJEKA, Croatia - The builder Kolektor Koling signed the latest in a series of high-value construction contracts in Croatia, this time for a EUR 35 million reconstruction of transport surfaces and rails at the port of Rijeka.
        LJUBLJANA - The telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije announced the sale of TS Media, a subsidiary running several online businesses, including the popular siol.net news portal.

SATURDAY, 5 September
        RAB, Croatia - The presidents of Slovenia and Croatia, Borut Pahor and Zoran Milanović, attended a ceremony honouring the victims of the Fascist concentration camp on the island of Rab. Pahor said the joint gesture "symbolised the importance of friendship and a shared awareness of the need to preserve memory, which should also serve as a warning".
        BLED - Matt Boyse, deputy assistant secretary at US Department of State's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, told the STA that relations between the US and Slovenia were becoming markedly stronger. He praised Slovenia's efforts in the Three Seas Initiative, expressing his belief its October summit would bring notable headway.

SUNDAY, 6 September
        PAU, France - Slovenian riders made history at the Tour de France as Tadej Pogačar won the 9th stage and Primož Roglič came in second to take the yellow jersey. The Jumbo-Visma rider has become the first Slovenian ever to claim the leader's jersey at the world's most prestigious cycling race, and is still holding the first place overall.
        BASOVIZZA, Italy - Four victims of Fascism, known among Slovenians as the Basovizza Heroes, were remembered with a ceremony at the site they were executed 90 years ago following a short trial before a Fascist court in Trieste. Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič told the ceremony the four had become a symbol of resistance to a murdering and oppressive regime and ideology that incited hatred and violence among people.
        STIČNA - PM Janez Janša remembered the spirit of cooperation and mutual trust between people of different political persuasions as he addressed a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of a secret meeting that set out plans for Slovenia's defence on breaking independent from Yugoslavia.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia defeated Moldova to secure first win in this year's UEFA Nations League after drawing with Greece two days earlier. Slovenia now rank second behind Greece in Group C3. The next games will be played in October against Kosovo and Moldova.

MONDAY, 7 September
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that the Information Commissioner had launched oversight of the police over "lack of clarity in expansion of police powers" related to measures to contain coronavirus. The privacy watchdog is looking whether police measures are warranted by law.
        LJUBLJANA - As the second week of school started with a number of groups of children in quarantine due to coronavirus cases detected among their classmates, the Education Ministry said it was developing an application which would contain all relevant information in one place. It is planning to start publishing data on a weekly basis soon.
        KLAGENFURT, Austria - A political group of the Slovenian minority in Austria urged the mayors of municipalities in the bilingual parts of the state of Carinthia to set up bilingual place names in 37 villages. SKUP called on the mayors to follow the example of another two municipalities, which decided in July to set up bilingual place names in 23 villages.
        LJUBLJANA - A landmark ruling by the Administrative Court was announced in which the right of NGOs to participate already in the preliminary stage of permit proceedings is asserted if they are able to prove an investment would have significant environmental impact.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Business Club (SBC) presented a set of proposals to fight the consequences of Covid-19. It wants the freezing of the minimum wage act provisions which will increase the minimum wage as of 1 January 2021, and the criteria for additional liquidity funds with state guarantee to be changed and the measure extended until next June.
        LJUBLJANA - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) dismissed an appeal lodged by two Roma families in June who alleged violations of basic human rights because of inadequate access to drinking water and sanitation.

TUESDAY, 8 September
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for a joint approach to coronavirus and to illegal migration as they held a meeting, at which they agreed a full lockdown should be avoided this autumn. Turning to illegal migration, Janša called for a strengthening of border protection, a joint EU approach and assistance to the countries that could be hit the hardest.
        LJUBLJANA - Several MPs of the LMŠ party of the former PM Marjan Šarec self-isolated after coming into a contact with a person who had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Šarec said four LMŠ MPs had been issued quarantine orders, with two more self-isolating as a precaution.
        TRIESTE, Italy - The Trieste-based Slovenian newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported that Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese had announced Italy would not close small border crossings with Slovenia to fight to increased migration, but would instead bolster the presence of the military and police in the border area.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission gave its go-ahead for an EUR 80 million investment out of the cohesion fund to co-finance the new rail section from Divača to Koper, which is valued at EUR 1.194 billion. The funds will be spent on building a tunnel and two viaducts supporting the track.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Finance Committee backed a proposal for a 2% rise in pensions in December regardless of the amount of GDP growth in the past year, which would come at the cost of EUR 94 million. The government has not yet taken a position on the proposal, however it appears to have been agreed within the ruling coalition.
        LJUBLJANA - The Gorenje Group said it generated a net loss of EUR 55.2 million last year, down from 2018's EUR 111.2 million, while revenue rose by 4% to EUR 1.23 billion. The group said the loss was largely a result of poor performance in the first quarter when the volume of sales was rather low. The group expects to post a profit this year.
        
WEDNESDAY, 9 September
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The General Court of the EU dismissed Slovenia's appeal to annul the European Commission delegated regulation of May 2017 to allow Croatian wine producers to use Teran, the name of a red wine protected by Slovenia, on their wine labels. Slovenia, which had the wine grown in the region of Kras recognised as a protected designation of origin, challenged the delegated regulation in September 2017. The decision was met with frustration and blame game at home.
        LJUBLJANA - Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Aleksandra Pivec resigned despite previously vowing to fight efforts by the party's council to unseat her over mixing official and private business on two trips to western Slovenia. She announced, however, that she would run for chairmanship again when the party holds an election congress, until which the party will be led by Tomaž Gantar, the health minister.
        LJUBLJANA - The government announced that 78 new coronavirus cases had been detected from 2,560 tests carried out a day earlier, an absolute daily record for the numbers of new cases and daily tests since the first case was recorded in the country on 4 March. As many as 590 cases were active.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar said he wanted to overhaul Slovenia's foreign policy within a year "given the geostrategic changes and the new dynamic of relations in the global arena". Slovenia's foreign policy should become more confident and active, and stronger transatlantic relations are also a priority, said Logar.
        LONDON, UK - The UK-based company Ascent Resources was revealed to have formally begun procedures to start an investor dispute against Slovenia at international arbitration for taking measures to protect its groundwater from fracking, the NGO Friends of the Earth announced.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry unveiled the long-awaited draft climate strategy until 2050. The centrepiece of the document is zero net emissions or climate neutrality by the target year. The use of coal is planned to be reduced by 60% by 2030 compared to 2005, and a decision on a new generator at the NEK power plant is to be made by 2027.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office said that Slovenia's exports amounted to EUR 2.94 billion in July, a 2.9% year-on-year decrease, while imports were down by 10.9% to EUR 2.74 billion, which made for the second highest external trade surplus in a decade.
        POSTOJNA - The operator of the Postojna Cave said it was forced to lay off a number of employees as it grapples with a 83% drop in visit due to the corona crisis and looks to secure long-term sustainability of operation. The newspaper Primorske Novice reported that up to 60 out of the 174 employees are to be sacked.
        IG - Slovenia's Equality Rights Ombudsman found that prisoners in the country's sole incarceration facility for women were discriminated against compared to their male counterparts in Slovenia's largest prison when it comes to visitors, private and intimate contacts, phone calls and electronic communication.

THURSDAY, 10 September
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that Slovenia would cut mandatory quarantine imposed on arrivals from Covid-19 risky countries from 14 to 10 days starting from Sunday, a decision that was taken on the proposal of the expert government advisory group. Some exemptions for family visits or funerals in Slovenia were also loosened.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Health Committee unanimously endorsed amendments to the act on communicable diseases under which unvaccinated children would be barred from public or publicly financed kindergartens.
        LJUBLJANA - Responding to a growing number of illegal migrants entering Slovenia from Croatia, six police departments along the border said they would enhance border surveillance. Officers will be preventing, detecting and processing instances of illegal crossing of the border until 18 September.
        BREŽICE - The government commission for concealed mass graves began work on a site of summary execution at Mostec near Brežice, so far discovering the remains of at least 139 victims believed to have been executed between May and October 1945.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council expressed reservations about the proposed supplementary budget for this year and the revised budget framework for 2020-2022. Even though Slovenia is allowed to depart from mid-term budgetary objectives, it said some expenditure was either not sufficiently transparent or projected to grow at an excessive pace.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to open an honorary consulate in Brno, the Czech Republic, and appointed businesswoman Andrea Ungerova the honorary consul. The consulate is to help Slovenian companies enhance business ties with Czech partners.
        LJUBLJANA - Croatian poet Sibila Petlevska won this year's Vilenica Crystal, an award the Vilenica International Literary Festival gives to one of the authors featured in the festival's anthology. The jury described the work of the 56-year-old Petlevska as combining a rich imagination, distinct voice and subdued yet vivacious playfulness.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office said Slovenia recorded the third consecutive monthly rise in industrial output in July. Up 8%, the output is however still below pre-Covid-19 levels and was 4.6% lower than in July 2019. The last time output was up year-on-year was February.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia advanced five places to 62nd among 162 countries in an economic freedom report published by the libertarian institutes Visio from Slovenia and Fraser from Canada. Slovenia remains one spot behind Croatia.

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