Last Week in Slovenia: 5 - 11 June 2020

By , 13 Jun 2020, 11:20 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 5 - 11 June 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, 5 June
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Seven EU members, the Visegrad four - Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, and Estonia, Latvia and Slovenia, addressed a letter to the European Commission expressing their resolute opposition to compulsory relocation of migrants among EU countries. Slovenia joining the group is seen as a significant shift in policy.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs argued at a videoconference of the EU's Justice and Home Affairs Council that the epidemiological situation of third countries and reciprocity must be taken into account to the largest possible extent when opening the EU's borders. Slovenia is keen to open borders to citizens from the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - A Jesenice primary school year-two class was placed under quarantine for two weeks after one of the pupils tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The pupil's mum, a nurse at the Jesenice general hospital, tested positive the day before. A small cluster of cases subsequently developed there, with at least one hospital patient contracting coronavirus.
        LJUBLJANA - Commenting on current mass protests and widespread unrest in the US, US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda C. Blanchard said that those responsible for the death of George Floyd would be held accountable. "None are above the law, and those responsible for this tragedy will face justice," Blanchard was quoted as saying in a press release.
        LJUBLJANA - The Health Ministry ordered "extraordinary systemic oversight" at eleven care homes around the country to establish whether the elderly received adequate medical treatment during the Covid-19 epidemic. The oversight will be carried out by the Medical Chamber and the Chamber of Nurses and Midwives.
        LJUBLJANA - While the government has estimated that the third stimulus package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus fallout will cost the budget around one billion euro, the Fiscal Council said its first estimate was only EUR 561 million or 1.2% of Slovenia's GDP. The central bank later estimated the stimulus effect of three legislative packages at 5% of GDP.

        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will open its border with Italy very soon, Foreign Minister Anže Logar said as he hosted his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio for the first meeting in person after several video calls during the epidemic. Though not naming a date, Logar repeated several times that he looked forward to 15 June with optimism.
        KOČEVSKI ROG - Victims of summary executions conducted after WWII were remembered with a ceremony in Kočevski Rog, an area in south Slovenia where multiple mass graves have been discovered. Prime Minister Janez Janša and President Borut Pahor delivered keynote addresses.

SUNDAY, 7 June
        LJUBLJANA - A poll commissioned by the private broadcaster Nova24TV showed the ruling Democratic Party (SDS) topping the party ratings with a nine-percentage-point lead. The SDS polled at 23.6% and the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) at 15%, followed by the fellow opposition Social Democrats (SD), at 9.2%.
        CELJE - The magazine Demokracija reported that the headquarters of the local committee of the ruling SDS in Celje had been defaced by insulting graffiti, reading 'Orban d.o.o.' (Orban Ltd), and 'We don't want Hungarian dictatorship'. The word 'Fascists' was written with chalk on the pavement in front of the building.

MONDAY, 8 June
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's central bank forecast that Slovenia's economy is to contract by 6.5% this year before it bounces back to 4.9% growth in 2021 and 3.6% in 2022. In line with the two alternative scenarios that factor in the gravity of the coronavirus crisis, the economy would contract by just 4% this year and expand by over 7% in the next two years; or contract by 10% this year, followed by stagnation in 2021 and a slow recovery in 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia fully opened its borders to nationals of 14 more countries. Apart from neighbouring Austria, Croatia and Hungary, the list now also includes Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland. Citizens of other EU and Schengen zone countries are still subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival unless they fall under one of what are now 16 exemptions.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Social Democrats (SD) announced a motion of no confidence in Interior Minister Aleš Hojs after the ministry overturned a ban of a concert by Marko Perković Thompson, a Croatian singer glorifying the fascist Ustasha regime. The other three left-leaning opposition parties declared support for the ouster. The concert organiser decided against holding the concert in the near future, quoting the ban on gatherings of more than 200 people.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar held a virtual meeting with his North Macedonian counterpart Nikola Dimitrov to call for further enhancement of bilateral relations and discuss the current situation and efforts of both countries related to fighting the Covid-19 pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian and Italian defence ministers, Matej Tonin and Lorenzo Guerini, praised bilateral cooperation in defence and explored the potential for its further strengthening in a video call. They also discussed close cooperation within NATO and shared a view the two countries cooperated successfully in international missions and operations.
        LJUBLJANA - Support for the ruling Democrats (SDS) grew by two percentage points and a half to 18.8% in the past month, whereas the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) lost two percentage points to 11.8% in the latest Mediana poll for the newspaper Delo.
        LJUBLJANA - Three coalition parties filed legislative changes under which children who skipped mandatory vaccinations could not be enrolled in publicly-funded kindergartens and schools, and those without all mandatory shots could not work in healthcare or at care homes or study and train for these professions. The changes would allow exceptions for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's exports dropped by 28.8% in April on the year before, the sharpest contraction since 2008, while imports plummeted by 41.2%, the Statistics Office said. The trend was driven by a decline in car trade, which shrank by about three-quarters compared to last April.
        LJUBLJANA - State secretaries from Slovenia, Portugal and Germany discussed the priorities of the countries' successive stints chairing the EU Council in a videoconference, agreeing those would be strongly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. PM Janez Janša also indicated this in his an address to a meeting of ambassadors of EU countries, Western Balkans and Turkey, held as part of Croatia's EU presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - The next summit of the Brdo-Brijuni Process of cooperation in the Western Balkans, marking the 10th anniversary of the initiative, will take place on 29 June at Brdo, the office of President Borut Pahor said, noting that chances were good that the leaders of all the participating countries - Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo - would attend.
        LJUBLJANA - Chinese Ambassador to Slovenia Wang Shunqing told the STA a new opportunity to deepen the relations between Slovenia and China will be the 17+1 initiative summit in Beijing. Wang expects that the good bilateral relations, which were confirmed by the visit by Foreign Minister Wang Yi last December, will continue under the Janez Janša government. The ambassador also hopes Slovenia will be pragmatic in picking 5G technology.
        LJUBLJANA - The four left-leaning opposition parties filed an ouster motion against Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, their second against a minister since the Janez Janša government was sworn in in mid-March, over the ministry's decision to override a ban on a concert by controversial Croatian singer Marko Perković Thompson.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj assessed the estimate of funds Slovenia is to receive as part of the EU's anti-coronavirus measures - around EUR 5 billion - as "adequate" and expressed hope the European Commission will stick to these estimates.

        LJUBLJANA - The OECD presented its latest forecast for Slovenia, expecting a 7.8% drop in GDP this year, or as much as 9.1% in the event of a second wave of coronavirus infections. For 2021, the OECD expects that Slovenia's economy will grow by 4.5%, or by 1.5% in the event of another Covid-19 outbreak.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Coalition partners agreed that a bill on the establishment of a demographic fund is to be drafted in the coming weeks, and discussed in parliament no later than September. All state assets would be transferred onto the new fund.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar announced his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg would visit Slovenia on 22 June. Logar also told the Foreign Policy Committee that he believes there are no sound reasons for Austria to continue with border checks it introduced five years ago.
        LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec called for a greater involvement of regional construction companies in the EUR 1 billion-plus project of the new Koper-Divača rail track after the state-run company managing the project, 2TDK, decided to enter negotiations with ten of the 15 bidders that responded to an international call to tender for the main construction work, including several Chinese and Turkish companies, aside from builders from Slovenia, Italy, Austria and Switzerland.
        LJUBLJANA - Alojz Kovšca was re-elected the president of the National Council, as members of the upper chamber of parliament met half way into their five-year term to elect its leadership. Kovšca, serving since December 2017, was the only candidate for the top job at the upper chamber.
        LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek looked on track to surviving the ouster motion filed against him by four opposition parties over opaque ventilator and PPE purchases at a marathon debate. The coalition backed him, speaking of an unjustified political attack on a minister who did well in chaotic conditions, while the opposition spoke of war profiteering.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša responded to an appeal by European Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni for explanation over the dismissal of the Statistics Office's director, by tweeting that the government had replaced a "political appointee as Statistics Office head with an expert with 30 years of experience in this Office" and that he hoped this was the last time the commissioner played a political game for Slovenian left. SocDems' leader and MEP Tanja Fajon said this damaged Slovenia's reputation.
        LJUBLJANA - Nearly two weeks before the first oral hearing is scheduled at the European Court of Justice in a lawsuit the European Commission has brought against Slovenia over a 2016 seizure of European Central Bank documents, PM Janez Janša moved to have the Commission withdraw the lawsuit. While media reported of his proposal for a settlement, Janša said he checked whether the Commission would drop the suit.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Armed Forces and Defence Minister Matej Tonin came under significant pressure over an incident that reportedly happened on the border with Italy in May in which a civilian was stopped at gunpoint by two Slovenian soldiers, who patrolled the area looking for illegal migrants. The army vowed to help investigate the case.
        LJUBLJANA - After a week and a half of no new Covid-19 fatality and only six patients still in hospital the government decided to further ease coronavirus restrictions, so public gatherings of up to 500 people, including at sports events, will be allowed as of 15 June, and international public road and railway transport will also resume soon.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided Slovenia will accept four unaccompanied minors, under 10 years, seeking asylum to help divide the asylum burden between Greece and EU members.

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