Last Week in Slovenia: 20-26 March 2020

By , 27 Mar 2020, 20:01 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 20-26 March 2020 wordcloud.com

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

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FRIDAY, 20 March
        LJUBLJANA - Sweeping lockdown measures came into effect in Slovenia with the movement and gathering of people in public places banned until further notice with exemptions that allow society to function. This was as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose to 341.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament passed the first package of laws aimed at mitigating the impact of the coronavirus crisis, including subsidised pay for temporarily laid-off workers, credit payment and tax duty deferrals for companies, as well as trade restrictions for agriculture and food products. One act gives the government complete discretion in the use of budget funds approved for purposes not deemed part of legally binding tasks.
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec assured the public that there was enough basic foodstuffs in Slovenia for a few months with backup plans in place in case of disruption to existing food supply chains. She indicated the possibility of occasional problems in supply of imported fresh fruit and vegetables.
        LJUBLJANA - Facing a strike threat in protest against an emergency decree forcing grocery stores to be open from 8am to 8pm, the government pushed the closing time to 6pm, as demanded by the trade union of shop assistants. The restrictions do not apply to smaller retailers.
        LJUBLJANA - To ease the impact of the coronavirus fallout, the government issued a decree suspending certain contributions on electricity bills that will result in about 20% lower cost of power for households and small businesses until 31 May.
        LJUBLJANA - The governing council of the National Public Health Institute appointed Ivan Eržen acting director after the government relieved Nina Pirnat of her duties and moved her to the Health Ministry's Healthcare Directorate, unofficially due to her handling of the coronavirus outbreak.
        LJUBLJANA - Only days after being appointed, Miro Petek was dismissed as acting director of the Government Communication Office and replaced by Uroš Urbanija, a former STA home desk editor, who also worked as editor at the public broadcaster's news web portal MMC RTV Slovenija and commercial broadcaster Planet TV.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Centre of Excellence for Biosensors, Instrumentation and Process Control joined efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine in cooperation with Slovenian and international companies, research institutes and universities. Its head Matjaž Peterko said development could take between less than a year and a few years.

SATURDAY, 21 March
        LJUBLJANA/ŠMARJE PRI JELŠAH - The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country rose by 42 to 383 with a total of 12,162 tests performed. Prime Minister Janez Janša visited the town of Šmarje pri Jelšah, the site of the second largest outbreak in the country, where the nursing home became a major hotspot.
        LJUBLJANA - Jelko Kacin, the spokesman for the government coronavirus crisis response unit, threatened that a ban would be imposed restricting people's movement to their municipality, a plan later shelved because of a low number of violations of existing lockdown measures.
        LJUBLJANA - Public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, the Journalists' Association (DNS) and the Journalists' Trade Union condemned a Twitter post by Prime Minister Janez Janša in which he accused TV Slovenija of lying after running an interview with a trade unionist who expressed indignation about the pay rise for ministers and state secretaries. The government later announced a 30% cut in public office holders' pay during the epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - After the first week of school closure due to the Covid-19 epidemic, Education Minister Simona Kustec found that remote schooling was going very well while problems of some 700 students without access to computer or internet were being addressed.

SUNDAY, 22 March
        LJUBLJANA/METLIKA - Slovenia recorded a second coronavirus fatality as the number of confirmed cases rose by 31 in the past day to 414. Health Minister Tomaž Gantar said that both patients who had died were in their 90s and had underlying health issues. The latest fatality was an elderly woman from the Metlika nursing home, like the man who died just over a week earlier. Visiting the facility, PM Janez Janša pledged an all out effort to supply enough protective equipment.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia sent emergency relief aid to Croatia in response to the neighbouring country's appeal for help via the European civil protection mechanism after a magnitude 5.3 earthquake hit the capital of Zagreb in the morning. Slovenia dispatched ten tents equipped to accommodate up to 80 people with 60 beds and 60 sleeping bags and 20 heating devices, valued at EUR 107,000.
        KLAGENFURT/GRAZ, Austria, KRŠKO - The Krško Nuclear Power Station (NEK) reported that a preventive examination of systems and equipment had not detected any damage or impact on operations caused by a severe earthquake in Zagreb that was felt in Slovenia as well. The Nuclear Safety Administration said the power station, situated near the border with Croatia and hence close to the earthquake's epicentre, operated normally. Meanwhile, several Austrian politicians reiterated their calls for the closure of Slovenia's sole nuclear power plant.

MONDAY, 23 March
        LJUBLJANA - A 67-year-old man with multiple underlying conditions died at the infectious diseases department at the UKC Ljubljana hospital in the third coronavirus-related death in the country as the number of confirmed cases rose by 28 in a day to 442. As many as 13,812 tests were conducted, as rules changed to expand testing to persons older than 60, those with other risk conditions and those with immunodeficiency disorders even if they only have mild symptoms.
        LJUBLJANA - After halving its economic growth forecast for Slovenia for 2020 to 1.5% less than a fortnight ago, the government economic think-tank IMAD projected a 6-8% contraction in the country's GDP due the worsening coronavirus crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) found 93% of the companies surveyed had serious difficulties due to the coronavirus pandemic and its ramifications, with 40% expecting a more than 70% drop in revenue in March, a further 18% expect to halve their revenue and as many project a fall of at least 30%. The chamber estimated a stimulus package of between EUR 2-4 billion was needed to avert an economic and social crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar revealed following a videoconference with his EU counterparts that more than 1,000 Slovenians were still looking to get repatriated amid the travel restrictions across the globe prompted by the pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - A public opinion poll conducted for the commercial broadcaster POP TV before the lockdown measures, put the voter approval rating for the government at 45.4% and the ruling Democrats (SDS) in the lead among parties on 20%.
        LJUBLJANA - Jernej Pintar, director of the Ljubljana Technology Park, told the newspaper Finance that several groups of engineers were developing various types of ventilators to meet the demand among a growing number of Covid-19 patients; the first prototypes were turned on the day before after development of several versions started over a week ago.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Social Democrats (SD) announced that MP Franc Trček, who left the opposition Left after the National Assembly appointed the Janez Janša cabinet, was joining their deputy faction, which hence members eleven deputies in the 90-strong lower chamber.

TUESDAY, 24 March
        LJUBLJANA - The government presented a package of economic stimulus measures worth roughly EUR 2 billion designed to protect jobs and keep society in general functioning through the crisis. The measures, yet to be hashed out in the form of legislation, include loan guarantees for companies, purchase of claims to companies, co-financing of social contributions, temporary basic income for the self-employed and a one-off allowance for pensioners. Matej Lahovnik, the economist who heads a special task force of economists and executives advising the government on the measures, said this was the biggest stimulus ever in Slovenian history. PM Janez Janša and Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj assured the public that the funds to finance the package were sufficient, with reliable sources available to tap into. Both the opposition and businesses welcomed the package.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded the fourth coronavirus-related death as an elderly woman died at the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the coronavirus epidemic in the country. The woman had multiple underlying chronic conditions and died "at a very advanced age". The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Slovenia was up by 38 in a day to 480.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia issued EUR 850 million worth of three-year bonds and increased by EUR 250 million the existing 10-year bond issue due in March 2029. The newspaper Finance reported that the required yield on the three-year bond is 0.253% and 0.695% on the nine-year debt.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan welcomed the decision of EU European affairs ministers who agreed via videoconference to let Albania and North Macedonia begin accession talks after a series of setbacks. Dovžan said the step was a vital political signal for the region indicating a path to EU membership. He also stressed the importance of the EU's practical approach in tackling other open issues in the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - The Agency for Public Legal Records (AJPES) said that 779 sole proprietors had closed shop due to coronavirus-related measures between 1 and 20 March, which is 44% more than in the same period last year, 48% more than had been the case for 1-20 February and 29% more than in the 1-20 January period.
        LJUBLJANA - Fresh police data showed an increase in the flow of illegal migrants across the Slovenian border despite the coronavirus pandemic, a trend attributed to warmer weather. Last week alone, 234 migrants were recorded, but no one tested positive for the novel virus. Slovenian police recorded 1,165 cases of people crossing the border illegally in the first two months of the year, an increase of 80% compared with the same period a year ago.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Večer reported that former Istrabenz CEO Igor Bavčar and former Laško CEO Boško Šrot were allegedly among some 130 prisoners who were released early as a result of efforts to stem the coronavirus spread.
        LJUBLJANA - Due to plummeting of global oil prices amid the Russia-Saudi price war and the coronavirus turmoil, administered fuel prices in Slovenia slumped to a multi-year low. The price of regular sold at service stations outside the motorway network fell 17.6 cents to EUR 1.029 per litre, the lowest since May 2009, and diesel was down 12.9 cents to EUR 1.017, the lowest since March 2016.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) chairman Bogdan Gabrovec welcomed the decision to postpone the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, saying that common sense had prevailed. The OKS called on the government to include sport in its measures to mitigate the crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian basketball player Luka Dončić, one of the key players of the Dallas Mavericks and former member of Real Madrid, was named to the EuroLeague's 2010-2020 All-Decade Team, as a third pick after Spanish Juan Carlos Navarro and American Kyle Hines.

WEDNESDAY, 25 March
        VIENNA, Austria - Drago Jančar, arguably Slovenia's leading contemporary writer, won the Austrian State Prize for European Literature 2020. The life-time achievement award, handed out each year, comes with a check of EUR 25,000. "Taking an individual to penetratingly render understandable the delusions of our history: this is one of the big strengths of his literature," the jury wrote about the 71-year-old.
        LJUBLJANA - A fifth coronavirus-related death in Slovenia was confirmed as another resident died in the Šmarje pri Jelšah nursing home, one of the hotspots of the epidemic in the country. The number of people infected rose by 48, the largest daily increase, to 526, 73 of whom healthcare workers.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia reintroduced border checks with Austria at 13 checkpoints to restrict access to the country because of the coronavirus epidemic. The same rules already apply on the Italian border.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to wait before it formally proposes the activation of a legislative provision that gives the military limited police powers in controlling the border, saying it plans to consult parliamentary groups as a two-third majority is needed in parliament. The article's invocation had been endorsed by President Borut Pahor in his capacity of commander-in-chief of the Slovenian Armed Forces.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Nine EU leaders, including Slovenia's Prime Minister Janez Janša, called for eurozone countries to jointly issue debt, a coronabond, in order to fight the devastating impact of coronavirus on the European economies, in a letter to President of the European Council Charles Michel.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor endorsed the government action to contain the coronavirus outbreak in Slovenia as well as the EUR 2 billion stimulus package. In an interview broadcast on TV Slovenija, Pahor said the composition of the group of experts advising the government on the crisis measures inspired great confidence, and the measures themselves were a step in the right direction.
        LJUBLJANA - The first of two convoys designed to repatriate Serbian citizens stranded in Slovenia due to Serbia closing its borders to curb the coronavirus epidemic, including to its own citizens, headed for the country after the Slovenian government reached an agreement with Serbia to organise transport for around 400 Serbian citizens returning from other European countries. The other convoy left for Serbia on 26 March.
        LJUBLJANA - A major shipment of much needed personal protective equipment arrived in Slovenia from the Czech Republic as an increasing number of businesses were joining the effort to meet the needs. A plane carrying 25,700 surgical masks and 5,000 protective suits landed at Ljubljana airport. This was following the 23 March shipment of 125,000 surgical masks, 93,000 pairs of gloves, 856 Tyvek suits, 20,000 head covers and 2,550 shoe covers. Two companies in Slovenia launched protective face mask production.
        LJUBLJANA - The government's emergency response unit, set up on 13 March to help manage the response to the coronavirus crisis, was dissolved after all capacities attached to the unit had been taken over by the relevant ministries and their departments.
        LJUBLJANA - The government formally submitted to UNESCO the multi-national bid for placing the Lipizzan horse breeding and related practices on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Slovenian-led bid to include the tradition in the longer of the two UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Lists also includes Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Romania and Slovakia.

THURSDAY, 26 March
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša, National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič and National Council President Alojz Kovšca met to discuss the functioning of political institutions and joint action during the coronavirus crisis. They said action must be effective but also democratic so as to prevent a decline of trust in democratic institutions.
        LJUBLJANA - A resident of the Metlika nursing home died of complications caused by the new coronavirus, bringing the total number of Covid-19-related deaths in Slovenia to six. Total number of Covid-19 cases confirmed so far is 562, with a A total of 17,294 tests having been conducted.
        LJUBLJANA - The central bank said in its latest report that the banking system remained strong capital- and liquidity-wise but should now brace for a fast drop in profitability. A total of EUR 15.4 million in pre-tax profit for banks in Slovenia was reported for January, a 61% decrease year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey showed that Slovenians are still worried about the coronavirus epidemic, but an increasing number (57%) believe the situation is improving. Only a week ago, over 50% of those polled said the situation was getting worse.
        LJUBLJANA - The Manager Association said it had elected Medeja Lončar, the director of Siemens Slovenija and CEO of Siemens Hrvatska, its new president. Lončar, who is succeeding Aleksander Zalaznik after he served two three-year terms, has been among the leading entrepreneurs in Slovenia and Croatia and already served as the association's vice-president in the previous term.

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