Last Week in Slovenia: 17 - 23 January 2020

By , 24 Jan 2020, 17:59 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 17 - 23 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, 17 January
        LJUBLJANA - European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said it was urgent for all EU members to work together in tackling migrations. She said a new EU pact on migration and asylum should bring a fresh start in this field. Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said Slovenia was ready to debate new concepts and had been constructive all along.
        LJUBLJANA - The Infrastructure Ministry said that the EU Commission would provide technical assistance in bringing about a green transition in Slovenia's mining regions. The country is also expected to reap the benefits of the emerging EUR 7.5 billion Just Transition Fund, where it should be entitled to roughly EUR 92 million.
        LJUBLJANA - More than two dozen companies from Slovenia, China, Turkey and several other countries submitted bids for the principal construction works on the new rail section from Divača to Koper, kicking off what promises to be a fierce contest for an estimated EUR 700 million. The bidders include some of the biggest construction companies in the world.
        LJUBLJANA - Croatian Ambassador to Slovenia Boris Grigić highlighted the importance of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans as he addressed Slovenian MPs to present Croatia's EU presidency's priorities in the first half of 2020. He said that the region would be brought closer to the EU when the desire and will for the enlargement was again stressed.
        LJUBLJANA - Representatives of small business complained at a meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec that their demands remained unmet, with PM assuring them the government was working on solving their problems. Branko Meh, the head of the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS), noted that small business represented 99.3% of the Slovenian economy.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry announced it was looking for a sustainable solution after Hungary had decided to stop importing sewage sludge, including from Slovenia. Minister Simon Zajc announced more concrete plans would be presented soon, adding that Slovenia was striving to become self-sufficient in this field.

SATURDAY, 18 January
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec surprisingly defeated Defence Minister Karl Erjavec for the presidency of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), prompting Erjavec to announce his resignation as minister and withdrawal from public life. The option of a government reshuffle arising after these developments was ruled out as Pivec and PM Marjan Šarec met after her landslide win.
        BERLIN, Germany - Slovenia's agriculture delegation talked about providing support to the Western Balkans countries in their EU enlargement efforts with the region's representatives as it attended the International Green Week agricultural trade show. They discussed assistance in implementation of EU regulations in particular.

SUNDAY, 19 January
        LJUBLJANA - Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina told a memorial ceremony that the unimaginable horrors and hardship of that time must not be forgotten, urging standing up to hatred and xenophobia. President Borut Pahor said young generations should be reminded where hatred leads.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended a ministerial meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In his address, Cerar pledged Slovenia's continued commitment to preserving the awareness and historical records of the Holocaust, genocide against the Roma and persecution of other victims.

MONDAY, 20 January
        LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry released a white paper on defence under which Slovenia's defence budget is to reach 2% of GDP, a NATO target, by 2035. The document also implies that unless the national army manages to attract more members, Slovenia would have to consider reintroducing conscription. At a subsequent debate at the National Council a number of concerns were raised, above all about plans to increase the number of soldiers and lack of focus on technological development.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said that Slovenia was willing to cooperate in a changed Operation Sophia to the best of its abilities and stressed that the country was seen as a reliable partner. His statements came after EU foreign ministers decided on upgrading the bloc's military operation in the Mediterranean by shifting its focus from migrants to the arms embargo on Libya.
        LJUBLJANA - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad announced that twenty-one Venezuelans of Slovenian descent who asked for repatriation had already arrived in Slovenia. Of some 50 persons who asked for repatriation, 29 have been granted the status, while some of the applications are still being processed and are expected to be granted.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor was presented with the credentials of five new ambassadors, among them the new Ambassador of Russia, Timur Rafailovic Eyvazov, Italian Carlo Campanile and Australian Richard Travers Sadleir.
        LJUBLJANA - A poll run by Dnevnik and Večer showed that a majority of Slovenians (over 54%) are in favour of the pull-out of troops from Iraq in the wake of Iran's attack on two airbases there. It also demonstrated strong backing for Slovenia's NATO membership. The strongest support for the pull-out was registered among leftist voters and youths.
        LJUBLJANA - The party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) continued to lead the field in the latest Vox Populi poll, albeit with a slightly narrower margin ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS). The LMŠ slipped back 0.8 percentage points from the month before to 19.4% as the SDS gained 0.3 points to 16.9%, shows the poll, conducted by Ninamedia for Dnevnik and Večer.
        LJUBLJANA - Data from the Slovenian Bank Association showed that the number of loans approved by banks in Slovenia in November and December plummeted. The number of consumer loans dropped by around 60% over October and the number of housing loans by around 40%. The association said the surge was most probably a result of the central bank's announcement of the new lending curbs, which kicked in on 1 November.
TUESDAY, 21 January
        DAVOS, Switzerland - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans was key to the region's stabilisation and transformation, as he spoke at a panel on resuming strategic dialogue in the region at the World Economic Forum. He reiterated Slovenia's disappointment with the EU's failure to launch accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania.
        LJUBLJANA - NLB bank asked the Constitutional Court to review tighter restrictions on lending imposed by the central bank in November. The bank expressed the belief that its request would be a matter of priority for the court because of the "radical effect" the measures had on the quality of Slovenians' lives.
        CELJE - The Trade Union of Police Officers (SPS) announced they planned to stage a four-hour token strike on 3 February over the government's failure to fully implement commitments, agreed pay rises and promotions that had been made in the December 2018 agreement that had ended a protracted strike.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - After her first meeting with European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira, Slovenia's new Development and EU Cohesion Policy Minister Angelika Mlinar said that Slovenia had gone from below-average to above-average in drawing of EU funds at the end of last year. The EU Commission withdrew its warning that payments to Slovenia may be suspended due to problems with the IT system used in the process.
        LJUBLJANA - The Finance Ministry confirmed that State Secretary Metod Dragonja would retire in March. The business newspaper Finance alleged that Dragonja was leaving mainly due to disagreements over the plans to extend the life of the Bank Assets Management Company and general disagreements with Alenka Bratušek, the leader of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), the political faction he belongs to.

WEDNESDAY, 22 January
        JERUSALEM, Israel - President Borut Pahor arrived in Jerusalem to take part in the World Holocaust Forum, marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. He met his counterpart Reuven Rivlin, with whom he agreed that awareness was key if the world wanted to avoid the same atrocities again. The pair said that relations between the countries were built on firm foundations and a true friendship. The next day Pahor attended the ceremony at the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance centre, where he laid a wreath.
        DAVOS, Switzerland - Attending the World Economic Forum, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec participated in a debate on bringing artificial intelligence (AI) closer to the public sector. Artificial intelligence has the potential to serve humanity and benefit individuals and society, he highlighted, adding that cooperation and respecting human rights were key in tapping AI potential.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar discussed with MPs on the Foreign Policy Committee the situation in Libya and Iran and the recent annulment of the 1946 verdict against a collaborationist Slovenian general. Cerar commended the EU's determination to boost its diplomatic efforts for Libya. As for Iran, he said the EU was still making efforts to preserve the Iran nuclear deal.
        LJUBLJANA - Nada Drobne Popović was appointed for full term as CEO of the energy group Petrol after she shifted from chief supervisor to acting CEO following the resignation of the Tomaž Berločnik-led management at the end of October. She was given 21 days to form her management team.
        VELENJE - The household appliances maker Gorenje, owned by the Chinese conglomerate Hisense, announced that it would streamline its production by reducing the number employees in support services in production by 176 in different ways by mid-April due to "poor business results". The in-house trade union expressed concern, expecting the total number of dismissals to be rather high.
        LJUBLJANA - The EU officials said at a meeting with the national task force for the management of brown bear, wolf and lynx that the key goal of European policies was cohabitation with large carnivores, thus nipping in the bud Slovenia's efforts to convince the EU Commission to loosen rules on the protection of large carnivores when animal populations are booming.
        MALMÖ, Sweden - The Slovenian men's handball team made it among the top four teams at the European championships after finishing second in the main round Group II play. Slovenia attained their first goal at the tournament - a berth in one of the three qualifying tournaments for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
THURSDAY, 23 January
        LJUBLJANA - Adria Airways operating licences were auctioned off to Air Adriatic, a newly established company owned by Slovenian developer and fruit importer Izet Rastoder, at the asking price of EUR 45,000. Receiver Janez Pustatičnik said that there were three bidders, "the asking price was accepted and there was no bidding".
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar urged the Defence Ministry to send Slovenia's six soldiers back to Iraq as soon as possible, or else the country's reputation will suffer. The Defence Ministry responded that the soldiers were ready to go back "as planned". Earlier, it was said they would return no later than 1 February.
        JERUSALEM, Israel - President Borut Pahor held talks with his Italian counterpart Sergio Matterella focusing on the future of the EU and current issues that the bloc faces, including Brexit, the Western Balkans and migrations. The pair agreed that broader dialogue was needed for taking on these challenges.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia ranked 35th among 180 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index rankings for 2019, up one spot from the year before, making no major progress since 2012. TI Slovenia said the country's score was below the EU and OECD averages, highlighting there was an absence of any systemic measures to make the fight against corruption in Slovenia more efficient.
        LJUBLJANA - Robert Strayer, the US deputy assistant secretary for cyber and international communications and information policy, was in Slovenia to raise concerns about the security aspect in deciding about 5G technology providers, suggesting providers from China could not be trusted.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to formally seek a UNESCO listing of famed architect Jože Plečnik's (1872-1952) works in the capital Ljubljana after an earlier joint bid with the Czech Republic was abandoned. All of Plečnik's major works in Ljubljana will be nominated for the world heritage list, except for the dilapidated Bežigrad Stadium.

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