Politics

22 May 2020, 21:26 PM

Thursday, 21 May, the Levica MP Violeta Tomič received an envelope containing white powder to her home address. A subsequent test showed no presence of harmful substance in the envelope. Two people who came in contact with the mail had to wait for the final results of its contents in quarantine.

Tomič informed the public about the event via her Facebook account, stating that she called police immediately after opening the envelope.

I expected a visit by a police officer, who I thought would make a record or some similar routine. But since it’s a potentially life threatening event, three fire engines and three police cars suddenly appeared under my window! The street has been closed down, neighbours can’t get home, while I am together with my family, dog and cat locked into quarantine. Such is the protocol I was told.

The highly strung person who sent the package should next time ask themselves, who it really is that they are harming. How many people had to waste time with investigating at my home, analyzing the substance and search for fingerprints instead of concluding the day in peace. After all – how much do these kind of actions cost the state – would it not be better for everyone if this money were spent on something useful?

Tomič also stated that she would like to pass on to the perpetrator that if this action was designed to scare her, they did not succeed.

Unfortunately I’ve already got used to threats and insults and neither will letters with powders discourage me from my work and my political beliefs. On the contrary, such actions only strengthen my confidence that we must resist with all our might the policy of hatred that rules us.

22 May 2020, 13:29 PM

STA, 22 May 2020 - Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, Prime Minister Janez Janša pointed out that tourism was the mainstay of Slovenia's economy and announced that the season would kick off on 1 June. He assured that holidaying in Slovenia would be safe in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, adding the country strived for lifting border restrictions.

The BBC News show highlighted that Slovenia was the first country in Europe to declare the end of the coronavirus epidemic.

Janša told the show that Slovenia was striving to ensure all the tourism facilities would be safe. He pointed out that all the guests would be treated in line with public health guidelines.

To make sure that the country is a safe holiday destination, the coronavirus will have to be eradicated, he said, highlighting that in the past two weeks Slovenia recorded only one or zero cases of infection with coronavirus on a daily basis. The confirmed cases can be isolated, he added.

"The epidemic in Slovenia is now under total control," Janša said in a conversation which he shared on his Twitter on Friday.

"Slovenia will do everything that holidays in Slovenia will be totally safe," he highlighted, adding that safety measures will have to be heeded.

Almost 90% of tourism facilities which are available during normal times will be welcoming guests during the so-called new normality as well, he said, pointing out that nightclubs were still off-limits.

The prime minister confirmed that Slovenia was discussing with its neighbouring countries to lift the border restrictions on its internal EU borders in mid-June after deciding to lift almost all restrictions on the border with Croatia.

Slovenia is also closely monitoring the epidemiological status in the neighbouring countries; Italy could represent a risk, however the situation in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region, the Italian region closest to the border with Slovenia, has been promising, according to Janša.

"I think that our region will be the first to lift the border restrictions which will especially help the touristic season to be safe as much as possible," he said and invited people to visit Slovenia. "Welcome to Slovenia, it's a safe country."

22 May 2020, 10:19 AM

STA, 21 May 2020 - After the Supreme Court quashed a guilty ruling in a defamation case brought against PM Janez Janša by a journalist over an insulting tweet, the Celje Higher Court has rejected Janša's appeal in a separate case filed against him by the other journalist mentioned in the controversial tweet.

The Celje Court has rejected Janša's appeal in the defamation case brought against him by RTV Slovenija journalist Evgenija Carl in which he was ordered to pay EUR 6,000 in damages for calling her a "washed-up prostitute" on Twitter.

The court thus upheld a previous ruling by the Velenje Local Court, and ordered Janša to also pay for the legal costs in the amount of EUR 513.

Carl brought the defamation suit over Janša's Twitter post in March 2016 reading "the FB page of the public house is offering cheap services by washed up prostitutes Evgenija C. and Mojca P.Š. One for 30 euros, the other for 35. #PimpMilan".

The Celje Higher Court said that Carl was not a prostitute but a respectable and professional journalist with a long career in journalism. The tweet affected her very much and caused her emotional pain.

It added that Carl was well known for her moral traits and professionalism and therefore a respectable person, which was why the EUR 6,000 in damages was an appropriate financial compensation for her emotional pain.

The other journalist mentioned in the tweet, Mojca Šetinc Pašek, a journalist and editor with TV Slovenija, also sued Janša and both journalists brought criminal charges against him.

But at the beginning of the month, the Supreme Court quashed a ruling that ordered Janša to pay EUR 6,000 to Šetinc Pašek, arguing that like Janša, she was a public figure, for whom "the boundaries of permissible criticism are broader than with private persons".

Šetinc Pašek described the judgement as "outright scandalous", and announced she would take her case to the Constitutional Court.

In the criminal procedure Janša was sentenced to a three-month suspended sentence by the Celje District Court in November 2018, but the Celje Higher Court ordered a retrial last year.

21 May 2020, 20:04 PM

STA, 21 May - The third emergency law designed to mitigate the consequences of the Covid-19 epidemic is worth approximately EUR 1 billion and the government would like it to take effect on 1 June. Most of the funds will subsidise short-time work and roughly a third of the money is for tourist vouchers. Below is a short review of the measures it brings.

SHORT-WORK SUBSIDIES SCHEME

If an employee's work week (the standard is 40 hours) is shortened, the government will provide funds to pay them a wage compensation for the partial idling, but only from five to 20 hours per week.

Firms set up before 13 March 2020 (first day of epidemic) that will are unable to provide at least 90% of the workload for at least 10% of their workers are eligible.

Firms which receive more than 50% of funds directly or indirectly from the state or municipal budgets cannot apply.

The employer taking part in the scheme is obliged not to lay off the workers partly idled or a lager number of other workers while taking part in the scheme and also a month after it.

The measure will be in place from 1 June to 31 December.

PARTIAL WAGE COMPENSATION FOR IDLED WORKERS

For idled workers, companies will get funds for 80% of the unemployment benefit they would be entitled to if jobless, but not more than the highest possible unemployment benefit.

The measure will apply only to employers whose main line of business is tourism or hospitality and to farms which are also engaged in activities beyond pure farming, for example tourism farms.

The measure also covers venues for cultural events, gaming, as well as inter-city and other road transport.

To be eligible, a company's revenue in 2020 must be by more than 10% lower due to the epidemic than it was in 2019.

The measure will be in place until the end of June.

TOURIST VOUCHERS

Those who had permanent residence in Slovenia on 13 March 2020 will get a tourist voucher to spend on accommodation in Slovenia.

Those born in 2002 at the latest will receive a EUR 200 voucher, minors will get EUR 50 vouchers.

Companies providing accommodation such as hotels and other holiday facilities, including camping sites, will be eligible to accept the vouchers, which will be valid until the end of 2020.

FINANCIAL INCENTIVES

Financial incentives in the form of grants and loans to co-finance the loss of income in tourism and hospitality, provide support for manufacturing in the affected border areas, encourage digitalisation of companies and to invest in development projects.

Micro, small and medium-sized companies which are entitled to state aid, and large companies affected by the pandemic will be eligible.

RELAXED CONDITIONS FOR INVESTMENT INCENTIVES

In line with the law on the promotion of investments, the value of the investment for which a state incentive can be granted remains EUR 1 million for manufacturing and EUR 500,000 for services and R&D, but the number of jobs the investment has to bring three years after completion will be lowered.

Investors investing in Slovenia will be eligible.

The measure will be in place until 30 June 2021.

VARIOUS OTHER MEASURES

  1. Financial engineering measures to finance companies in the road transport industry for which the state will allocate EUR 10 million in 2020 and the state-owned SID Bank EUR 25 million.
  2. Financial aid for managers of ski lifts, ranging from EUR 1,000 to EUR 12,200 per lift.
  3. Valid contracts and agreements on coach transport that could not be partially or fully provided during the epidemic can be extended until September 2021 without a public tender.
  4. The Farmland and Forest Fund may write off or reduce the compensation for building title, and reduce the prices of farmland it has leased out, until the end of 2020. The fund can gratuitously lease out farmland at risk of spontaneous afforestation for 10 years.
  5. Relaxation of requirements for building greenhouses on lower-value farmland, priority treatment of requests for the exploitation of geothermal energy in greenhouses.
  6. Permits for seasonal work in agriculture may be extended to 150 days.
  7. A wage compensation for disabled workers will rise by 10% of the minimum wage.
  8. Organisers of sport events will receive a voucher corresponding to the price of a ticket for an event they could not carry out due to the pandemic.
  9. Members of Civil Protection and others helping in the anti-coronavirus efforts will get a EUR 30 daily allowance for working in hazardous conditions.
20 May 2020, 12:42 PM

STA, 19 May 2020 - The Financial Administration (FURS) collected EUR 1.2 billion in April, which is 25% less than in the same month last year, the drop being attributed to the slowdown of business due to the coronavirus epidemic. A 4% drop in collected taxes and other levies was already recorded in March, half of which was affected by the anti-epidemic measures.

FURS collected EUR 573 million in taxes last month, which is over two-fifths less than in April 2019. The amount of income tax collected was down by 55%, which includes an almost 80% drop in corporate income tax collected.

The drop in the collected value added tax (VAT) in the month in which a majority of shops were closed was somewhat smaller, with EUR 228.1 million in VAT being poured in the national budget, or 35.5% less than in the same month last year.

While the amount of the collected VAT was growing in the first two months of the year, it dropped by almost 30% in March compared to February to EUR 187 million. It increased again in April but did not reach the February level.

As more shops were being gradually opened, with those with the surface of up to 400 sq metres being opened on May and all shops being opened as of Monday, a growth in the collected VAT on the monthly level is expected in May.

FURS also collected EUR 390 million in social security contributions in April, which is more than a third less than in March and in February, reflecting the situation on the labour market.

By last week, the number of the unemployed person increased to more than 90,000, and the steepest growth was recorded in the first half of April.

In the first four months of the year, FURS collected a total of EUR 5.5 billion, which is EUR 298.8 million or 5.2% less than in the same period in 2019. Tax revenue was down by 12.7% to EUR 2.8 billion, and social security contributions by 3.5% to EUR 2.2 billion.

20 May 2020, 10:40 AM

STA, 19 May 2020 - PM Janez Janša has welcomed a German-French proposal for the EU to set up a 500 billion euro fund to restart the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic. However, he believes an even more ambitious approach would be needed to address a crisis of such proportions. He also discussed it with his Italian and Austrians counterparts.

Germany and France proposed on Monday that EUR 500 billion be raised in public markets to fund, through grants, the EU sectors and regions where the impact of the coronavirus has been most star stark.

"It is a good step forward. 500 billion euro is indeed macroeconomically relevant number, but more ambitious approach would be welcome for this scale of a symmetric crisis.

"Now we need a swift agreement on the multi-year financial framework and a recovery fund as a package," Janša said in response to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen's welcoming the German-French idea.

Janša also announced on Twitter that he had discussed the proposed relief fund and the EU's multi-year budget with the Italian and Austrian prime ministers, Giuseppe Conte and Sebastian Kurz.

"We agreed that in order to overcome the crisis and help companies and families, we need an ambition proposal by the European Commission.

"This is of vital importance for the EU and the common market to fully recover," the Slovenian prime minister tweeted after speaking with Conte.

Earlier in the day, Conte also took to Twitter saying the German-French proposal was an important step in the direction Italy had proposed.

The talk with Chancellor Kurz also focussed on "border opening and experiences from the fight with the coronavirus, where Slovenia and Austria are among the most successful countries", Janša tweeted.

However Kurz does not seem to be eager to relax border checks on the border with Slovenia, which is part of the EU's internal borders, while Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed earlier today that they would reopen their borders in mid-June.

Kurz is also reserved about the idea for a 500 billion euro fund, announcing that Austria would come up with a counter-proposal with another three countries (Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden) for a fund based not on grants but on loans.

Janša had meanwhile promoted the idea of coronabonds with which the EU as a whole would finance the ramifications of the pandemic.

19 May 2020, 09:14 AM

STA, 18 May 2020 - The ruling coalition's majority in parliament has been reduced to 46 out of 90 seats after MP Gregor Židan defected from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) to the opposition Social Democrats (SD).

The latest defection was confirmed by SD deputy faction leader Matjaž Han, who said Židan had established he could perform his work better in accordance with the values of the SD deputy group.

Židan did not comment on his defection, with Han telling reporters on Monday that such decisions were difficult on individuals, which was why Židan would not be explaining himself to the media.

"But I believe he will be able to tell many more things still in the political arena through his actions and views," said Han.

Asked about the reasons for the move, Han noted that Židan had been a successful member of the Slovenian national football team, and that he had expressed his disappointment that some should "speak ill" of Slovenia and he did not want to be a member of such a team.

Židan is the second MP to leave the SMC after Jani Möderndorfer quit the party to join the ranks of the opposition faction of Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) on Friday.

SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek responded via Twitter with a pun on Židan's surname, which translates as jolly. "The jolly day for the sponsors of MP defections may be about to end," he tweeted.

However, the SMC deputy group expressed surprise by Židan's leaving "as he appeared to be comfortable within the new coalition".

The coalition faction regretted that individuals placed their own interests above common good, but also said that the departures "have contributed to the unity and determination of the remaining [SMC] deputies".

Židan was not elected to the National Assembly directly, but has been standing in as MP for Počivalšek since the latter was appointed economy minister.

Počivalšek served as economy minister in the Marjan Šarec minority government from 2018 until mid-March when his party helped form the Janez Janša government, where he continues in the same post.

The party's joining the centre-right government has prompted some members to quit, including the party founder Miro Cerar.

The SD deputy faction has increased its tally of seats at the National Assembly to 12, as the SMC's has been reduced to eight. The coalition of the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS now has 46 seats.

18 May 2020, 10:05 AM

STA, 18 May 2020 - About half of children in Slovenia will return to schools and kindergartens today as part of a major easing of quarantine restrictions in the country. Moreover, all shops will be allowed to open and bars and restaurants will be able to serve patrons indoors again, while most restrictions have been lifted for sports as well.

In a step that coincides with the government declaring the end of the epidemic last Thursday and a week after the relaunch of public transport, Slovenia is reopening kindergartens, primary schools for the first three grades and the final year, as well as secondary schools for final-year students.

Under instructions issued by the Education Ministry, up to 10-15 children are allowed to sit in a single classroom in primary and secondary schools, and up to 8-10 children in an individual kindergarten group.

All school employees and ninth-graders will be required to wear face masks, but the latter only outside their classroom.

Another major novelty is the almost full reopening of the hospitality and tourism sectors. The only facilities that must remain closed are accommodation facilities with over 30 rooms, accommodation for spa guests, wellness and fitness centres, pools and water parks.

The entire tourism industry has been shut down for two months in a bid to contain the epidemic and this is the first easing of restrictions in this sector.

All providers will have to abide by public health rules mandating a safe distance between guests and other safety precautions. Multi-bed rooms will for instance only be available to members of the same household.

Meanwhile, the decision to allow all stores to reopen will come as a relief in particular for large retailers, as smaller shops with up to 400 m2 of shopping area reopened two weeks ago.

Bars and restaurants were allowed to reopen on 4 May as well, but they could only serve outside. And while most operations will now be allowed to fully reopen, the ban continues for night clubs.

Protective measures remain in place, meaning the obligatory use of masks, hand disinfection and 1.5-metre distance in shops, while bar and restaurant guest will be able to take their masks off when seated.

A lot of extra work awaits clothing shops, where dressing rooms will need to be disinfected and aired after each customer and tried out clothing that is not bought set aside for two days.

Another key restriction being lifted is the ban on gatherings in public places. Up to 50 people are allowed to gather outdoors as of today, but only if the safety distance recommended by the health authorities can be secured. Concerts, parties and similar events for instance remain banned.

This means no spectators at sports events, which are also officially allowed again as of today, including in team sports. Moreover allowed again is practice and recreation in indoor facilities, the exceptions being fitness and wellness centres and swimming pools.

Slovenian Football Association (NZS) president Radenko Mijatović told the STA that the plan was to organise the first football games in the first or second week of June.

17 May 2020, 14:28 PM

STA, 17 May 2020 - While subsidies for part-time work worth up to EUR 1 billion are seen as a key feature of the emerging third coronavirus stimulus package, draft documents obtained by the STA also include measures such as vouchers for tourism, aid to ski lift operators, extended permits for foreign labour, as well as a solution for packaging waste issues.

The part-time work subsidies are expected to be provided for employers unable to secure at least a 90% workload for at least 10% of their employees. Subsidises for work conducted 20 to 36 hours a week would range between 459 and 112 euros. The support, co-funded with EU funds, would be available from 1 June onwards and until 30 November at most.

Another major segment of the third package is aid to tourism, one proposed measure being tourism vouchers in the value of 200 euros to be provide to everybody in regular employment as well as the self-employed.

The vouchers would be valid until 31 December this year or possibly 28 February 2021 and are expected to reduce a projected 60% to 70% contraction of the tourism sector to 40%. They are meant to cost the state up to EUR 200 million and are not conceived as a replacement for the holiday allowance.

Unlike other sectors, tourism and hospitality companies can moreover expect an extension of the support scheme that has had the state fully covering the 80% unemployment allowance for temporarily redundant workers.

Monthly basic income support could meanwhile be prolonged for farmers, while issues with securing foreign labour for seasonal work would be addressed with a prolongation of the labour permit validity from 90 to 150 days.

Also being proposed is a national mechanism for the monitoring of foreign direct investment, through which Slovenia would protect itself against takeovers of strategic industry.

Potential additional aid to companies includes extra efforts to secure favourable credit lines and possibly rent payments deferrals until July 2021 for business premises that could not be utilised during the lockdown.

A special injection is envisaged by the Infrastructure Ministry for ski lift operators, which could get between 1,000 and 12,000 euros.

Meanwhile, another measure found in the draft seeks to address continuing issues with packaging waste management through what seems to be the restoring of the temporary solution that had the state paying for the removal and processing of unattended to waste. The measure is expected to cost EUR 15 million this year.

16 May 2020, 16:07 PM

STA, 16 May 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša said there was no general opening of the border with Italy or Austria and Hungary. This can only be a measure taken by both sides, he tweeted on Saturday, the day when Italy announced it would open its borders on 3 June.

"Talks are still under way, an administrative basis is being drafted and will be adopted," Janša added.

He also stressed that heath restrictions still applied on the border with Croatia even if this Slovenian neighbour opened its borders for EU citizens on Sunday.

At its Thursday's session, the Slovenian government changed the measures applying to border crossing on Slovenia's external EU border and at check points on its internal EU borders.

Upon entering Slovenia, Slovenian citizens and citizens of other EU countries are no longer required to go into quarantine.

Croatia meanwhile relaxed entry into the country for EU citizens for business reasons as well as for personal reasons or if foreign citizens have booked a holiday.

At today's meeting in Slovenia, the Slovenian and Croatian interior ministers, Aleš Hojs and Davor Božinović, urged easier crossing of the border, but stressed that the health situation must be taken into consideration.

The pair confirmed that Slovenian citizens can enter Croatia as tourists, but must provide contact data to be contacted in case of a possible Covid-19 outbreak.

Hojs also said Slovenia was particularly interested in a similar easing with Austria. "I hope we'll manage to agree it in the coming days and weeks," he said after meeting Božinović.

Austria is gradually opening its borders, planning to open the border with Germany on 15 June. Tomorrow it is to open the border crossings with the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary so far closed.

Hungary opened its borders on 1 May for business travel from Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and South Korea.

16 May 2020, 15:23 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 15 March 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Janša's coalition partners are in tight spot

STA, 15 May 2020 - The left-wing weekly Mladina argues in Friday's editorial that the coalition partners of PM Janez Janša are genuinely shocked that Janša broke his promise that he will not bring up ideological topics. They risked a lot by joining this coalition, and now they are scared, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says under the headline Suffering Coalition Partners.

It is funny, but everyone from New Slovenia (NSi) to the Modern Centre Party (SMC) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) is shocked by Janša's moves against the media, attacks on NGOs, his ministers' letters to the Council of Europe, European Commission and foreign media, and his undermining of the country's "entire immune system" from police to oversight over money laundering.

By joining this coalition, the parties risked a lot and they knew that what is happening now could happen. Yet Janša's sweet promises that they could make it were tempting.

The other option was bad and they picked what at least seemingly postponed their problems for two years.

They now admit that the cold shower came as early as the first government session. "Aggression, disrespect and cultural battle, it started immediately. But because of the crisis they kept quiet, hoping that the public will forget all about it because of the crisis. And that Janša will deal with 'his things' and then they will have peace."

Everyone was initially shocked because of coronavirus and because Janša became prime minister, Repovž says.

But this week, coalition partners started raising their voices. Very gently. Matej Tonin of the NSi erased his mildly critical tweet, but he did send out a signal. Aleksandra Pivec of DeSUS stated first criticism, and Janja Sluga of the SMC added some concern to her speeches.

Actually, the coalition partners are afraid. They know what they have got themselves into. At first they were afraid of their leader and they are also afraid of a potential election.

Their actions now show that they realise that Janša and his followers went too far in their spreading of hatred and revenge, and that there is no way back.

Janša's previous government was not swept away in 2013 by protesters but by coalition partners. Some of them knew this will be the end of their political career but did not care. Well, now the coalition partners are in the same tight spot.

They know they cannot uphold the politics that Janša is outlining because it runs contrary to their fundamental beliefs. But they also know he will not want to be distracted.

Reporter: The case for case unbiased journalism

STA, 11 May 2020 – The right-wing Reporter magazine argues in Monday's commentary that journalists should close ranks and fight political pressure no matter whether it comes from the left and the right, as it looks at attacks on the media, in particular a TV Slovenija show which reported about irregularities in the purchasing of personal protective equipment.

Making the case for unbiased reporting, Reporter's editor-in-chief Silvester Šurla says politicians tend to support media when their political opponents are under the spotlight but change tack when the spotlight shines on them.

"Our people are always spotless and as such untouchable. In a black-and-white world one knows in advance who the bad guys are and who the good guys are. The most fervent political supporters are not convinced by any fact, any document, any whistleblower."

The commentator says journalists should in principle always keep a professional distance, which is sadly not always the case in practice since journalists, politicians and ordinary people often see the role of the media through their own interests and political preferences.

"Journalists should be interested in the facts and they should do their job as politically impartially as possible, using the same standards for all political blocs, regardless of the editorial policy of their media."

"But there are few media in Slovenia that criticise both when that is necessary. Instead, we are witness to the utterly absurd and perverse situation of media that like to beat their chests for being 'on the frontlines of the service of the truth' having the strongest political bias. They were founded by politicians who use them as their fist, just like the Communist Party used to to," Šurla says about Nova24TV, which was founded by SDS politicians.

"Such partisan media are now at the frontlines of spewing bile on those who are trying to be independent of politics and are uncovering scandals of whichever government is in power, be it left or right. This is in reality the most hideous political and propaganda machinery disguised as media."

Turning to the Tarča (Target) news show, the commentator says that there had been no untouchables for the show, which had reported about scandals ranging from a 3D model of the Koper-Divača rail track in the Miro Cerar government to the construction of the Stožice sports complex in Ljubljana and the purchasing of egregiously priced stents at hospitals.

It quotes the authors of Tarča writing that those who had praised the show not long ago and demanded changes are now slinging mud at them, while those who dismissed the show as populist are now applauding.

"And we're back at 'us' and 'them', the perverted attitude of politics to the media in a democratic society. It is therefore high time that journalists close ranks and show solidarity with their Tarča colleagues and to clearly say that such pogroms must stop. Today they are on the stakes, tomorrow it will be us," the paper concludes in Today Tarča, Tomorrow You.

All our posts in this series are here

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