Last Week in Slovenia: 18 - 24 October, 2019

By , 25 Oct 2019, 16:52 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 18 - 24 October, 2019

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

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FRIDAY, 18 October
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, speaking at the conclusion of the EU summit, said Slovenia opposed for the outgoing EU Commission to take a decision on Croatia's meeting the requirements to join the Schengen zone. This was after six of the eight Slovenian MEPs addressed an appeal calling for the new Commission to make that decision to Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen, outgoing Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and current and next president of the European Council.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Commenting on the EU summit's failure to greenlight the launch of accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said that an opportunity had been missed, that the damage was done now and that the EU's credibility in the region was shaken.
        NICOSIA, Cyprus - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar met his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides and Parliament Speaker Demetris Syllouris as part of an official visit for an exchange of views on topical developments in the EU, Mediterranean and the Middle East, and bilateral relations. Cerar was accompanied on the two-day visit by a business delegation.
        LJUBLJANA - A committee in support of Catalan leaders, set up at the initiative of former President Milan Kučan, philosopher and sociologist Spomenka Hribar, Ljubljana Faculty of Arts professor Rudi Rizman and former Foreign Minister Ivo Vajgl, held its maiden session to protest against the "draconian" prison sentences handed out to the nine independence leaders, as well as against the EU institutions' silence on the issue. The committee later sent a protest statement to Slovenian and European leaders.
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry announced that the chief of staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces, Major General Alenka Ermenc, withdrew her proposal to prosecute Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc, whom she had sacked as force commander in April, for commenting on her health. However, Ermenc will push ahead with legal action against the online tabloid Požareport, which was the first to report about her health.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Academy of Music launched a facsimile of a copy of Ludwig van Beethoven's manuscript of Symphony No. 6 containing the composer's handwritten corrections, allegedly Beethoven's present to the Philharmonic Society in Ljubljana in gratitude for being admitted as its honorary member in 1819. Kept by the National and University Library, the Ljubljana copy of the Pastoral Symphony is one of the two preserved copies of Beethoven's autograph score.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court held pre-trial hearings in an insurance fraud case that shocked Slovenia earlier this year involving a young woman who cut off her hand to claim insurance. The 21-year-old, Julija Adlešič, and her 29-year-old partner Sebastien Abramov, who allegedly persuaded her to saw off her hand, pleaded not guilty. They are both in custody.

SATURDAY, 19 October
        WASHINGTON, US - Central bank Governor Boštjan Vasle and Finance Ministry State Secretary Metod Dragonja, attending the annual meetings of the World Bank Group and the IMF, told reporters that Slovenia's economic condition was sound despite risks to the global economy. They did note the issue of high public debt, though.
        TRBOVLJE - Delo reported that Lafarge Cement, the Slovenian subsidiary of the Switzerland-headquartered multinational LafargeHolcim, asked for an environmental permit to resume cement grinding, storage and dispatch in Trbovlje at the beginning of next year. Lafarge Cement suspended operations in February 2015, having lost an environmental permit.

SUNDAY, 20 October
        LJUBLJANA - Voter approval rating for the Marjan Šarec government fell by 11.4 percentage points in the October Vox Populi poll commissioned by TV Slovenija and newspapers Dnevnik and Večer. The proportion of supporters and opponents is all but tied at 49.2% against 48.2%. Šarec's LMŠ party slid 3.2 points to 20.1% ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS), who lost 0.8 points to 14.7%.

MONDAY, 21 October
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said Slovenia's position on the British parliament's request for another postponement of Brexit was that "another delay would make sense" as long as it would justifiably contribute to an orderly Brexit.
        LJUBLJANA - Addressing parliament in questions time, PM Marjan Šarec said he was convinced a draft proposal amending Slovenia's electoral law by adopting the relative preferential vote would get enough support in parliament, also because voters had shown they were in support of such a vote.
        LJUBLJANA - Ex-Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler appeared as the first witness in the contentious parliamentary inquiry into the allegation that criminal prosecution against him was politically motivated. Kangler described the prosecution against him as a plot unthinkable in a law-ruled country, while the inquiry proposed parliamentary oversight of the Maribor police force. While the inquiry is being examined by the Constitutional Court, concern has also been raised by the OECD.
        BELGRADE, Serbia - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar met his Serbian counterpart Nebojša Stefanović at the outset of a two-day visit to Serbia for talks focused on bilateral relations, a spike in illegal migration and Serbia's EU integration. The next day the pair visited Slovenian-Serbian border police patrols at the Preševo crossing with North Macedonia aimed at stopping illegal migrants.
        KOPER - The police forces of Slovenia, Croatia, Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Europol dismantled a criminal ring smuggling illegal migrants to the EU through the Balkan countries. Ten persons, including four Slovenians, are charged for having smuggled at least 150 migrants across the border.
TUESDAY, 22 October
        LJUBLJANA - As the European Commission gave Croatia its go-ahead to enter the Schengen zone, PM Marjan Šarec labelled the decision political and regretted it was made right before the end of the Commission's term. He indicated Slovenia would act politically on the matter too. Slovenian diplomatic sources expressed belief that the country should veto Croatia's joining the passport-free zone. Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition Democratic Party (SDS) Janez Janša argued that Croatia's joining the Schengen zone was in Slovenia's strategic interest.
        TOKYO, Japan - President Borut Pahor started a two-day visit to Japan by attending Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony. The next day he met Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visited the High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation in Tsukuba, decorating director-general Masanori Yamauchi with the Order of Merit for his contribution to international promotion of Slovenian science.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Defence Minister Karl Erjavec met his Croatian counterpart Damir Krstičević with the pair lauding the countries' defence cooperation. Erjavec did not want to comment on whether Croatia was prepared for joining the Schengen area, saying this was not in his purview.
        LJUBLJANA - The government-sponsored bill designed to provide legal recourse for up to 100,000 potential plaintiffs - holders of subordinated bank liabilities wiped out in the 2013 bank bailout - was passed in a 46:34 vote. The central bank had announced a constitutional review.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council found the draft budgets for 2020 and 2021 in compliance with fiscal rules, but warned of risks because the financial impact of bills that are being adopted, including those pushed by the minority government's opposition partner, the Left, was not factored in. Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said not all the risks could be fully included in the budget documents.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament backed legislative changes that raise the minimum net hourly rate for student work from EUR 4.13 to EUR 4.56. The opposition Left, which initiated the raise, had been pushing for more, but failed to get the coalition's support because of concerns about the impact on businesses.
        LJUBLJANA - The foundation stone was laid for the construction of nearly 500 public rental flats in the Ljubljana Brdo borough. The EUR 57 million project is part of the national Housing Fund's project to build 1,500 rental flats to expanding its portfolio by 10,000 new flats by 2025.
        LJUBLJANA - Virs, the Lendava-based supplier of welding and cutting solutions, won the Golden Gazelle Award for the fastest-growing company in Slovenia, conferred by the newspaper publisher Dnevnik. It increased revenue almost fourfold in five years to EUR 8.2 million in 2018.

WEDNESDAY, 23 October
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a package of tax bills that reduce personal income tax while increasing taxes on capital gains and rental income and introducing a minimum corporate income tax rate of 7%. The government's aim was to reduce the tax burden of highly skilled workers, in order to attract such staff to Slovenia, while the Left insisted the reform would primary benefit the rich.
        LJUBLJANA - Chile Eboe-Osuji, the president of the International Criminal Court (ICC), held meetings with Foreign Minister Miro Cerar and Justice Minister Andreja Katič as part of a visit to Slovenia. They discussed the challenges of international criminal justice. Cerar pledged for Slovenia to remain a firm ally of the ICC and to promote its values in bilateral and international activities.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Delo reported that the government had put forward to Brussels three candidates for the post of Slovenia's prosecutor at the emerging European Public Prosecutor's Office; Jaka Brezigar, Tanja Frank Eler and Marjana Grašič.
        LJUBLJANA - The Trade Union of Pensioners and a civil initiative presented a petition, calling for a 7.2% extra indexation of pensions to compensate for the austerity measures that have affected pensioners since 2010. Signed by almost 14,000 people, the petition was handed to PM Marjan Šarec and parliamentary Speaker Dejan Židan.
        LJUBLJANA - Data from the central bank showed that Slovenia's inbound FDI stock increased by 8.6% in 2018 to EUR 15.2 billion, as outbound FDI stock rose by 1.6% to EUR 6.1 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana Music Academy marked its 80th anniversary and the centenary of higher music education with a ceremony at Cankarjev Dom. Dean Marko Vatovec told the STA in an interview that the academy had made great progress with its graduates a feature of Europe's leading orchestras.
THURSDAY, 24 October
        LJUBLJANA - The government as the founder and only shareholder of 2TDK approved a EUR 56 million recapitalisation for the company managing the Koper-Divača rail project in accordance with the relevant law. This will increase the company's share capital to EUR 77 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to recall Iztok Jarc as ambassador to Serbia and appoint him permanent representative to the EU, to succeed Janez Lenarčič, a European commissioner-designate.
        LJUBLJANA - The management of energy company Petrol headed by CEO Tomaž Berločnik agreed with the supervisory board to step down over differences in the company's strategy.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-run Farmland and Forest Fund confirmed that it had been ordered by the Ljubljana Higher Court to pay just over EUR 21 million in damages to the Ljubljana Archdiocese due to delays in denationalisation of forests, EUR 17 million of which it paid already.
        LJUBLJANA - David Tasić, a former journalist of the weekly Mladina who was one of the four political convicts in the 1988 JBTZ trial, a key event leading to Slovenia's independence, died aged 57. The quartet tried by a military court included Janez Janša, the long-serving leader of the Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted an annex to the agreement governing the scope of public healthcare services and their financing to allow an extra EUR 10 million worth of services to cut waiting times. The money will be secured by the Health Insurance Institute.
        LJUBLJANA - A report by the Mapping and Surveying Authority showed signs of stagnation in property prices in the first half of 2019, following three years of steep growth. Prices of flats are very close to the record levels in 2008, while prices of houses are lagging behind significantly.
        LJUBLJANA - A report from the Statistics Office showed that Slovenian households stepped up saving in 2018, recording a gross household saving rate of 12.6%, up 0.2 percentage points on 2017 and one of the highest in Europe.
        MARIBOR - Police revealed that they had dismantled a criminal ring that made an estimated EUR 1.3 million in illegal gains by smuggling at least 143 Chinese from China to Italy through Slovenia over the past year and a half. Of the four Slovenians and eight Chinese operating the ring, three are in detention and two in house arrest.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Writers' Association presented the EUR 1,000 Jenko Prize for best poetry collection from the past two years to Kaja Teržan for her second collection, Krog (The Circle).

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