Last Week in Slovenia: 10 - 16 January, 2020

By , 18 Jan 2020, 10:25 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 10 - 16 January, 2020

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

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FRIDAY, 10 January
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor defended Slovenia's decision to evacuate troops from Iraq following an attack by Iran on the Erbil airbase where the six soldiers were stationed, saying a sovereign country had the right to assess whether its soldiers were safe or not. He said the evacuation was merely an early rotation of the team deployed to Erbil to train the Kurdish fighters. In another statement on 15 January, he said the temporary withdrawal would not tarnish Slovenia's reputation in the international community.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar called on the EU to play a greater role in the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East as EU foreign ministers held an emergency session. He also reiterated Slovenia's commitment to remain a partner in the fight against IS and continue training Iraqi security forces.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian central bank initiated a Constitutional Court challenge against a law that would require it to cover all repayments to those who lost their investments during the banking sector bailout in 2013. The law was passed in late-2019 and provides easier access to recourse for roughly 100,000 potential plaintiffs, both shareholders and holders of junior bonds, wiped out on instruction from the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - Public Administration Minister Rudi Medved tried to reassure the public that concerns about health risks related to 5G technology were given due attention. But while he deems the concerns legitimate, he also said Slovenia needed 5G as he addressed the press after a protest against the technology.

SATURDAY, 11 January
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec criticised the way Slovenian military instructors had been pulled out of Iraq earlier in the week. "The last thing we wanted was media hype," he said on Twitter in reference to Defence Minister Karl Erjavec and President Borut Pahor, supreme commander of the Armed Forces, deciding to bring home Slovenia's six instructors stationed in Erbil after Iran's rocket attack of their base.
        ADELBODEN, Switzerland - Skier Žan Kranjec won the giant slalom FIS World Cup Alpine Skiing race in Adelboden, taking the lead in the giant slalom rankings.
        DRESDEN, Germany - Cross-country skier Anamarija Lampič won silver in the sprint event of FIS Cross-Country event in Dresden, taking the lead in the cross country sprint rankings.
        LJUBLJANA - Renault's Clio, one of the best selling cars in Slovenia since its launch in 1990, was declared the Slovenian car of 2020, in a competition organised by the Slovenian automotive media for the 28th time.

SUNDAY, 12 January
        LJUBLJANA - Janez Janša, leader of the opposition Democrats (SDS), told TV Slovenija in a rare interview that the Marjan Šarec government coalition was "clinically dead". Since the current balance of power in parliament makes it impossible to build a strong alternative majority, he thinks an early election is likely. Opposition New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin confirmed on 13 January his party was taking part in talks on a potential new coalition, which were ongoing at all times, but all coalition parties later denied being involved in any specific talks.

MONDAY, 13 January
        LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc responded to calls for Slovenia to declare a state of climate emergency by saying that "concrete measures are more important than declaring a climate crisis". He believes it should be first determined if a majority in parliament supports the measures that would have to be taken if a climate emergency is declared.
        LJUBLJANA - Five hospitals must return a total of EUR 4.9 million in restructuring funds they received from the state in 2017 to get out of the red because the funds were not spent within the deadline, which was however set retroactively, the newspaper Delo reported. While the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology has already returned the money, the other four hospitals intend to use all legal means to keep the money.
        KRŠKO - Power utility group GEN, part of which is Slovenia's only N-plant NEK, reported EUR 2.2 billion in revenue and EUR 48 million in net profit in 2019. Investments totalled EUR 100 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Austria's Human Rights Ombudsman Werner Amon, who is also secretary general of the International Ombudsman Institute, visited Slovenia to meet his counterpart Peter Svetina. The pair discussed ways of strengthening cooperation between ombudsmen in Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry gave out its first environmental award, honouring maritime pilot Andrej Gorup, who prevented an environmental disaster in April 2019 by re-routing a Swedish oil tanker heading towards the port of Koper with an alarming speed.
        LJUBLJANA - Some 84,350 new cars and vans were sold in Slovenia in 2019, a 1% drop over 2018. Volkswagen dominated the market, followed by Renault and Škoda, shows data released by the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce.

TUESDAY, 14 January
        JERUSALEM, Israel - The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticised the recent decision by the Slovenian Supreme Court to annul the 1946 conviction of Leon Rupnik, who headed the Provisional Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana. In a letter sent to the Slovenian ambassador to Israel, the centre said the "shameful decision constitutes a shocking distortion of the history of the Holocaust and a horrific insult to Rupnik's many victims and their families".
        LJUBLJANA - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad confirmed the first Venezuelans of Slovenian descent had already arrived in Slovenia as part of the largest repatriation project in the country, prompted by the Venezuela crisis. The office would not reveal any details, but the government set aside EUR 1.2 million for the project with 53 persons so far applying for resettlement.
        ABU DHABI, UAE - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended a ministerial of the Slovenian-sponsored Green Group initiative to discuss preparations for the Expo 2020 Dubai. He also met his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Thani Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, the minister of climate change and environment.
        LJUBLJANA - A higher court threw out the guilty verdict of radiologist Zoran Milošević over bribery because the case had become statute-barred following an appeal. Milošević had been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence of ten months for accepting a EUR 7,200 bribe in exchange for making sure UKC Ljubljana, the country's largest hospital, chose a specific company as the supplier of a medicinal device. Milošević is also the chief defendant in a separate trial related to the biggest health corruption case in the country's history.
        LJUBLJANA - Acclaimed playwright Simona Semenič won publisher Mladinska Knjiga's 10,000-euro Blue Bird Prize for the best as yet unpublished youth novel. Skrivno Društvo KRVZ (KRVZ Secret Society), to be released in April, tells a story about a group of friends and their adventures including dragons and secret maps.

WEDNESDAY, 15 January
        LJUBLJANA - Photographer Stojan Kerbler, 81, and ballet dancer and choreographer Milko Šparemblek, 91, were declared the winners of this year's Prešeren Prize for lifetime achievements in the arts. This is the first time the Prešeren Prize has been given to a photographer. The awards, togehter with six minor Prešeren Fund Prizes for achievements in the past three years will be conferred on 7 February, the eve of Culture Day.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec said there was no reason for his government to fall, as he responded to an assessment by opposition Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša that the coalition was clinically dead. While he admitted problems did exist, Šarec said "if all of us worked for the same goal, we would be able to solve many of these problems".
        LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec denied interfering in the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) pre-congress developments, and rejected the speculation that DeSUS leader Karel Erjavec's ministerial seat was at stake due to his awkward handling of troops' temporary withdrawal from Iraq.
        LJUBLJANA -, a Catholic civil society group dedicated to fighting against sexual abuse in the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church called for the resignation of Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore due to the church's persistent failure to tackle sexual abuse allegations. The Slovenian Bishops' Conference rejected the call, saying it was under Zore's chairmanship of the conference that the church had continued taking action against sexual abuse.
        LJUBLJANA - A group of five Eritrean citizens whose asylum applications were rejected in December staged a protest against what they believe is systematic rejection of Eritreans by state authorities, whose decisions suggest that Eritrea is a safe country while it is actually among the most repressive regimes in the world. The Interior Ministry rejected the allegations, saying all applications were treated individually and all personal circumstances of every applicant were considered.
        LJUBLJANA - Several hundred people turned up to protest in front of Government Palace over a provocative Christmas Eve Twitter post by Education Ministry State Secretary Jernej Štromajer that conservatives had interpreted as deriding Christmas and Christians. The protesters repeated their call for Štromajer's resignation.

THURSDAY, 16 January
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor completed a two-day round of consultations with parliamentary parties on the most suitable candidates for two Slovenian judges at the EU's General Court in Luxembourg. Klemen Podobnik and Jure Vidmar seem to enjoy the most support among deputy groups. Pahor will now have to send his nominations to parliament, where the candidates need to secure 46 votes to get appointed.
        LJUBLJANA - Unhappy with the government's slow tackling of waiting times in the public health system, the Medical Chamber drafted a bill to reduce them, which the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) filed to parliament a few days ago. The chamber's president Zdenka Čebašek-Travnik said the bill would enable the ZZZS public health insurer to temporarily commission all medical services providers, including private entities, to carry out additional medical services.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Left failed in its attempt to make the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee condemn the use of US military force in the Middle East and call on the government to express opposition to the US policy on Iran. Several MPs accused the Left at the session of attempting to score political points.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) tabled a legislative amendment to reinstate compulsory six-month military service to deter military threats, strengthen patriotism and improve the mental and physical fitness of the country's male population. The party says it has cross-partisan support.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia remains an attractive destination for Austrian investors; a survey of the representation of the Austrian economy in Slovenia, Advantage Austria Ljubljana, showed 75% of Austrian entrepreneurs believe the country will also be attractive for new investments this year, which is still much lower than the record-high of 91% from 2019.

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