Last Week in Slovenia: 15 - 21 May, 2020

By , 23 May 2020, 08:25 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 15 - 21 May, 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, 15 May
        LJUBLJANA - A decree entered into force that allowed EU residents to cross into Slovenia from Austria, Italy and Hungary at pre-determined checkpoints without restrictions. The decree was subsequently amended so that only citizens of EU and Schengen zone countries with which bilateral technical agreements are reached will be allowed to cross without restriction. Meanwhile, Slovenians who own real estate in Croatia queued for hours to cross the border as quarantine upon return to Slovenia was abolished.
        PTUJ - Meeting for talks, President Borut Pahor and his Croatian counterpart Zoran Milanović praised what they labelled as excellent cooperation between the two countries in their response to the coronavirus pandemic and easing of travel restrictions.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition heaped criticism on the government over its decision to declare the end of the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia as of 31 May, saying that the move had been motivated by financial reasons. Similar concern was expressed by trade unions, while employers welcomed the decision but warned the measures to help businesses should be expanded.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and his Greek counterpart Katerina Sakellaropoulou underscored the importance of the EU's unity as they discussed the response to the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout in a videoconference. The Greek president congratulated Slovenia on declaring an end of the epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Marking Slovenian Army Day in memory of the 29th anniversary since training of first Slovenian soldiers started, President Borut Pahor as the supreme commander stressed the importance of the Slovenian Armed Forces, in particular in the face of a changing world. Defence Minster Matej Tonin announced efforts to secure more funding, while the army launched a media campaign in en effort have more people enlist. In a written address on the occasion, PM Janez Janša blamed former governments for the army's problems.
        LJUBLJANA - Supporting a revival of the Middle East peace process as EU foreign ministers discussed the issue, Slovenia's Anže Logar called for strengthening the EU's dialogue with all key players, Israel, Palestine, the US and relevant Arab countries, to implement the common interest of lasting peace and stability in the region.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar held a meeting with his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod by videolink for talks on bilateral relations, response to the crisis provoked by the coronavirus pandemic and EU affairs. The pair called for enhancing bilateral cooperation further.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry marked the 65th anniversary of the Austrian State Treaty by underscoring that Slovenia is an indisputable signatory to the treaty as a successor to the former Yugoslavia, one of the original signatories. In a letter to his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg, FM Anže Logar called for full implementation of Article 7, which deals with the rights of the Slovenian minority.
        LJUBLJANA - The government opted to close an agreement with the UN Office for Project Services on the delivery of the Japanese anti-influenza medicine called favipiravir for clinical trials in treatment of Covid-19 patients. Slovenia is one of the first countries worldwide to get the medicine, known commercially as Avigan, which is not available on the market yet.
        KRANJ - Telecoms equipment maker Iskratel launched a test network featuring 5G technology at its production facility in cooperation with Telekom Slovenije to explore new business models.
        LJUBLJANA - Despite the ban on public gatherings, several thousand took part in anti-government bicycle protests in Slovenian cities for the fourth week running. The biggest protest was held in Ljubljana.

        ORMOŽ - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs and Croatian counterpart Davor Božinović met for talks on the easing of restrictions on travel across the border, on illegal migration and Croatia's bid to join the Schengen zone.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and Lojze Peterle, prime minister of the DEMOS government (1990-92), urged cooperation and putting divisions aside as they marked the 30th anniversary since the government which led Slovenia to independence was endorsed in parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - In an interview with the newspaper Dnevnik, Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec revealed that an infrastructure fund was in the making to finance investments into railways and roads, which would bring some EUR 180 million a year.
        LJUBLJANA - Data from the Financial Administration showed that Slovenia's revenue from VAT in March, when most shops closed as Slovenia went into lockdown on 16 March, dropped to EUR 187 million, down nearly 30% over February and 19% over March 2019. Overall tax revenue collected in April dropped by a quarter to EUR 1.2 billion.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and his counterparts from eleven other EU countries signed an appeal to the EU stating their joint interest in introducing a plan to revive the car industry, one of the EU sectors that has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

SUNDAY, 17 May
        LJUBLJANA - The Association of Veterans of the War for Slovenia marked the 30th anniversary of the rejection of an order to disarm Slovenian military units during independence efforts and the formation of the Tactical Line.
        SLOVENSKA BISTRICA - Some 50 members of the self-styled home guard calling themselves Štajerska Guard made a visit to the local police station demanding explanations why the police made a call to the owner of a plot where the militia held its camp. In response to calls for action from the opposition, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs asked the police commissioner to compile a report on the incident.
        LJUBLJANA - A poll by Mediana showed 38% of respondents saying Slovenia should have waited for developments in other countries before declaring the end of the coronavirus epidemic, against 27% who thought the reverse.

MONDAY, 18 May
        LJUBLJANA - The bulk of lockdown restrictions were lifted as children up to the age nine returned to schools and kindergartens, along with final-year secondary school students. All shops were allowed to reopen, including shopping malls, and bars and eateries were allowed to serve their patrons indoor as well. The ban on gatherings of up to 50 persons was also lifted. Social distancing still needs to be observed.
        LJUBLJANA - Croatia became the first country Slovenia put on a list of countries whose nationals may cross the border without limitations after the National Institute of Public Health assessed the coronavirus situation was similar in both countries. Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek discussed border reopening with the corresponding Hungarian and Austrian ministers, saying the goal was to reopen borders with neighbouring countries in early June. In a videoconference with EU counterparts, Foreign Minister Anže Logar said Slovenia was ready to welcome EU tourists in the coming weeks.
        LJUBLJANA - In an interview broadcast by Nova24TV, Prime Minister Janez Janša projected that Slovenia's economy would rebound to the pre-crisis level within a year provided his government stayed in office and correct measures were taken.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian automotive industry said it was seeing its worst crisis yet due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a 60% drop in production in April and a 50% fall in May. It urged a follow-up on stimulus measures to prevent job losses and bankruptcies.
        LJUBLJANA - The ruling coalition's majority in parliament was reduced to 46 out of 90 seats after MP Gregor Židan defected from the Modern Centre Party (SMC) to join the opposition Social Democrats (SD). This was three days after Jani Möderndorfer left the SMC for the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ).
        LJUBLJANA - The Vox Populi poll for the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer had the senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS) firmly in the lead at 22.1%, compared to 22.5% in April, as the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) in second gained 2.4 percentage points to 12.2%. The approval rating for the government fell to 47.3% from 65%.
        LJUBLJANA - The Interior Ministry reported having received 563 applications for asylum from January to the end of April, which compares to 1,111 at the same period last year.
        LJUBLJANA - Marko Elsner, one of the greatest Slovenian football players of all time, died at the age of 60 after battling a severe illness for several years.

        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša welcomed a German-French proposal for the EU to set up a EUR 500 billion fund to restart the economy after the Covid-19 pandemic, but said an even more ambitious approach would be needed given the extent of the crisis. Janša also discussed the issue with his Italian and Austrians counterparts.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar spoke about cooperation in the efforts to deal with the fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic in a videoconference with counterparts from Western Balkan countries, their neighbours in the EU and high EU representatives. He noted the importance of European solidarity, cooperation in the region and its close cooperation with the EU.
        TRIESTE, Italy - The Trieste-based newspaper Il Piccolo reported that the National Hall, which used to be the hub of Slovenian cultural life in the town, would be symbolically returned to the Slovenian community there at a ceremony marking the 100th anniversary of the building's arson before its ownership was formally transferred to the community, a process that could take several years.
        NOVO MESTO - Revoz, the Slovenian subsidiary of the French car maker Renault, confirmed it was scrapping the plans to resume night shift due to a fall in global demand provoked by the coronavirus pandemic as a result of which over 400 jobs will be lost, mostly agency workers.
        HRASTNIK - Glass maker Steklarna Hrastnik announced plans to reduce its 700-strong workforce by almost a tenth by September, having recorded a severe contraction of demand.
        LJUBLJANA - Insurance group Sava posted a first-quarter net profit of EUR 10.3 million, down 5.6% year-on-year, as higher reinsurance claims and lower investment returns affected the bottom line despite a 17.3% increase in gross written premiums.
        LJUBLJANA - The energy group Gen-I reported record sales of 83.4 terawatt-hours of electricity for 2019 as revenue topped EUR 2.2 billion for a third year in a row. Net profit rose by 16% to exceed EUR 15 million for the first time ever.

        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a new economic stimulus package, which includes a subsidised short-time work scheme, vouchers for all citizens to be spent in tourism facilities in the country, and favourable liquidity loans. The package is worth around EUR 1 billion. To subsidise short-time work, Slovenia is to tap into the European Commission's SURE mechanism for EUR 900 million.
        LJUBLJANA - In reference to the new stimulus package, Prime Minister Janez Janša said in a video address to the nation that Slovenia's reputation as a safe and orderly country capable of protecting its citizens' health was the best recommendation both for tourism and investment.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted an emergency bill to facilitate investment seen as key to kick-start the economy. Investments worth EUR 500 million in total will get priority treatment in all procedures, including administrative and judicial procedures. As eligible investments Economy Minister Andrej Vizjak listed major roads and railway tracks, including Koper-Divača track, hydro power plants and the Ljubljana passenger terminal.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In a new set of recommendations issued to Slovenia as part of the European semester the European Commission called on the country to take all needed economic measures to support the recovery after the coronavirus epidemic, provide social protection, as well as resilient systems of healthcare and long-term care.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar told the Foreign Policy Committee that the reopening of borders with the neighbouring countries would depend on the epidemiological situation but that Slovenia would do all in its power to normalise the regime on its borders by 1 June.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar talked with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov about the Covid-19 pandemic and its fallout on the telephone. The pair also affirmed good bilateral relations.
        LJUBLJANA - Presenting the annual report on the judiciary, Supreme Court president Damijan Florjančič was upbeat, as the backlog of pending cases was reduced to 133,000. The courts received 839,000 cases and resolved roughly 850,000. Resultion time is also getting shorter. To tackle the backlog formed during the lockdown, court summer recess will be halved to two weeks.
        LJUBLJANA - Almost a decade after police opened their first inquiries into the case, the prosecution filed an indictment over the controversial EUR 1 billion-plus generator project at the Šoštanj coal-fired power plant at the Celje District Court. Unofficially, French company Alstom and the former TEŠ boss Uroš Rotnik are among those indicted.

        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's Covid-19 death toll rose to 105 by 20 May as daily number of new cases stayed had not increased by more than one for a week despite round 1,000 tests performed each day. The total by 20 May is 1,468 but only roughly 20 cases are estimated to remain active.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar urged close cooperation among EU members as they relax lockdown measures as he attended a meeting of ambassadors from EU countries accredited to Slovenia which was hosted by Croatian Ambassador to Slovenia Boris Grigić from the EU presiding country.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar held a phone conversation with his Canadian counterpart Francois-Philippe Champagne focusing on national measures to combat the coronavirus epidemic. The ministers emphasised the importance of cohesion and concerted action in transatlantic relations and in the international community in general.
        CELJE - 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 rejected Janša's appeal in a separate case filed against him by the other journalist mentioned in the controversial tweet. The claim is for damages worth EUR 6,000.
        LJUBLJANA - The ZZZS, the fund collecting and managing mandatory health insurance, expects a shortfall of EUR 129 million by the end of the year due to the Covid-19 epidemic. The fund would like the loss to be offset by the national budget, or else healthcare funding could be suspended in December.
        NOVO MESTO - Pharma group Krka Group saw its net sales revenue increase by 22% year-on-year to EUR 462.9 million in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic pushed up the demand for its products. Net profit was up 21% to EUR 85.2 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's consumer confidence somewhat improved in May, with the relevant index going up by five percentage points compared to April. It was however still 25 percentage points below the long-term average.

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