Last Week in Slovenia: 19-25 June, 2020

By , 27 Jun 2020, 13:32 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 19-25 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, 19 June
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša underlined that the EU must come to an agreement on the coronavirus recovery plan before the summer break, as he addressed his counterparts in a video-conferenced summit. Delays would have detrimental effects on financial markets, he said, adding a week "may mean billions".
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission approved Slovenia's plan to redistribute EUR 275 million in cohesion funds to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus epidemic in the country. The funds will be spent in healthcare, programmes for SMEs, job preservation, protection of vulnerable groups and digitalisation of education.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar agreed with his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba over the phone that bilateral cooperation should be strengthened. Apart from discussing preparations for a potential second wave of the pandemic, the pair also touched on the security and humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
        CERKLJE OB KRKI - A ceremony was held at the army airport Cerklje ob Krki to mark the conclusion of Leap 2020, the biggest military exercise this year. According to Defence Minister Matej Tonin, the exercise showed the Slovenian army is alive and well, and at the country's disposal.
        LJUBLJANA - Anti-government protesters again took to the streets across Slovenia. In Ljubljana, some of the protesters entered the square outside the Parliament House, which had been fenced off completely, to read the Constitution. They were physically removed by riot police. Police, who estimated the number of protesters in Ljubljana at around 7,000, fined 27 attendants and 30 more were ID-ed.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian employers submitted requests for short-time work subsidies for 20,556 employees just a week after the scheme designed to help businesses weather the crisis came into effect, showed data by the Employment Service.
        LJUBLJANA - After a sharp drop in April amid the coronavirus lockdown, Slovenia's consumer confidence improved in June for the second month, rising by 9 percentage points compared to May, but still remaining 16 points below the long-term average. The indicator is now 29 points lower than in June 2019 and 26 points lower than last year's average.
        LJUBLJANA - The general meeting of Russian-owned steel maker SIJ unanimously decided to leave the entire least year's distributable profit of EUR 108.6 million undistributed.

        LJUBLJANA - Arguing "security situations are multiplying", Police Commissioner Anton Travner told the newspaper Dnevnik he saw no reason why the military would not operate in the country's interior, not just along the border. A day later, Chief of the General Staff, Brigadier-General Robert Glavaš argued for TV Slovenija not only against the use of the army inland but also against extending the army's powers on the border. He said the army had sufficient powers to help police on the border under existing legislation.
        LJUBLJANA - In his first longer comment on the new Janez Janša government, former President Milan Kučan told the newspaper Delo that some Slovenian politicians thought Slovenia should be turned into a "second republic" and that some elements of it could already be seen. Reversing Janša's use of the boiling frog fable, he said Slovenians could suddenly "wake up in boiling water, in a different country and a different system".
        LJUBLJANA - After the Slovenian Competition Protection Agency extended a Mercator shares confiscation to enforce a EUR 53.9 million anti-trust fine on Agrokor, the Ljubljana Local Court reduced the fine to EUR 1 million, the newspaper Dnevnik reported. The seizure of 70% of the Slovenian retailer's shares from the Croatian group has been among the obstacles preventing Mercator's transfer to Agrokor's successor Fortenova.

SUNDAY, 21 June
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry said Slovenia had had four diplomats vying for EU delegation heads around the world within the bloc's diplomatic service, but none managed to get nominated. The diplomats had applied for the posts of EU delegation head in Egypt, Iceland, Malaysia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Kosovo, the Foreign Ministry said, but did not name them. The ministry blames the failure to secure a high-level post on the failure of the ministry's previous leadership to lobby for the candidates.

MONDAY, 22 June
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia saw a surge in coronavirus cases as 13 out of 984 tests came back positive, the highest number of daily infections since 24 April. Six out of the 13 infections were imported and a further five were related to the imported cases. Mario Fafangel, the chief epidemiologist at the National Institute of Public Health, said Slovenia's epidemiological situation remained good. While the numbers were lower in the following days, the government reintroduced compulsory mask wearing in public indoor places and on public transport from 25 June.
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The grand chamber of the European Court of Justice held a hearing in a suit the European Commission had brought against Slovenia for accessing ECB documents as part of a police investigation at Slovenia's central bank regarding Slovenia's 2013 bank bailout. Slovenia's agent labelled the hearing "very positive" for the country.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg said after meeting in Ljubljana that they would do everything in their power so that the shared border was not closed again due to Covid-19.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša received Apostolic Nuncio Jean-Marie Speich. The pair confirmed the importance of ties between Slovenia and the Holy See. The confirmation of good relations came in the light of two approaching anniversaries: 30 years since the Holy See became the first country to recognise Slovenia's independence and 30 years since Slovenia and the Vatican signed a bilateral agreement on legal issues.
        LJUBLJANA - Companies in Slovenia generated EUR 4.625 billion in net profit last year, a 10% increase on 2018. Revenue was up 4% to EUR 103.892 billion, the Agency for Legal Records reported, assessing the economy was better prepared better for the crisis than for the crisis slightly over 10 years ago.

TUESDAY, 23 June
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Portuguese PM Antonio Costa agreed in a videoconference the EU and its member states must find solutions to the social crisis brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. They also confirmed the priorities for the trio's upcoming EU presidency, their main goal being Europe's quick economic and social recovery.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor's office announced that Pahor and Italian counterpart Sergio Mattarella would attend the 13 July return of National Hall in Trieste back to the Slovenian minority 100 years after being burnt down by Fascists. The pair will also lay wreaths at two memorials, one commemorating the Slovenian anti-fascists executed by Fascists in 1930 and the other the Italian victims of post-WWII killings by Partisans.
        ROME, Italy - In what was their second meeting in less than three weeks, Foreign Minister Anže Logar and Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio called for continued close bilateral cooperation in the tackling of the pandemic. After restrictions on the Slovenian-Italian border were lifted on 15 June for the citizens of both countries, the pair agreed that epidemiological trends at home as well as in other countries needed to be monitored closely.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign and Commonwealth Office announced Tiffany Sadler had been appointed the new UK ambassador to Slovenia to succeed Sophie Honey in September. Sadler has worked for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office since 1994 and was director for Tech Overhaul Programme three until 2019.
        LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak praised the planned European Climate Law as a key step in creating a stable investment environment in the EU, as he took part in a video-conferenced ministerial.
        LJUBLJANA - Veronika Simoniti, 52, won the 30th Kresnik Prize for best novel of the year for Ivana Before the Sea (Ivana pred Morjem). She became only the fourth woman to win the prestigious award, given out by publisher Delo. The novel tells multiple parallel stories happening in different periods to different generations in one family.

        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor addressed the state ceremony on the eve of Statehood Day in Ljubljana's Congress Square, urging acknowledging the role of democracy and dialogue in Slovenia's further development. The evening saw political divisions rise again with some boycotting the official ceremony and several thousand turning up for an alternative event in the nearby Prešeren Square shortly before the official festivity.
        LJUBLJANA - The government removed Montenegro and Luxembourg from the green list of Covid-19-safe countries from which arrivals face no restrictions, while adding Albania and Portugal to the list of red countries from where entry into Slovenia entails a mandatory two-week quarantine. New restrictions for all four countries apply from 25 June.
        LJUBLJANA - The government proposed extending the furlough scheme by at least a month until the end of July in amendments to the third stimulus package. Moreover, the changes provide the legal basis for a contact tracing app and for the government to assume the cost of quarantine again instead of companies. The government also further detailed the loan guarantee scheme to make it workable and tackle company liquidity problems.
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed and submitted to parliament a bill that would provide EUR 780 million for investment in the Slovenian Armed Forces between 2021 in 2026, the bulk for the acquisition of armoured personnel vehicles to set up a battalion battlegroup, plus an aircraft and two helicopters.
        LJUBLJANA - Members of the Slovenian Armed Forces serving in international operations and missions reported via video link to PM Janez Janša, who commended the commanders of contingents ahead of Statehood Day on keeping Slovenian soldiers safe and healthy at the time of increased risk due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - The Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development slightly upgraded its forecasts for Slovenia's economy for this year, now projecting a contraction of 7.6%, down from 8.1% forecast in May, to be followed by a 4.5% growth in 2021.
        LJUBLJANA - Addressing a Slovenian Bank Association conference on the impact of Covid-19 on the economy, Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said banks should presently focus not so much on their profitability but on helping preserve jobs and companies in general. "A long-term perspective is needed," he said.
        LJUBLJANA - About a month after Slovenia emerged from coronavirus lockdown, data released by the Statistics Office showed tourism suffered a severe blow during the epidemic. The number of overnight stays in the first five months was 58.8% lower than in the same period last year, while in May, there was a 96.5% drop in guests over May 2019.
        LJUBLJANA - Restrictions in place to fight the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia in April caused the biggest drop in revenue generated in the services sector since January 2000, when the Statistics Office first started recording service revenue data. Compared to March, revenue dropped by 19.5%, while year-on-year, it was down as much as 30.3%.
        LJUBLJANA - Business sentiment in Slovenia has grown for the second consecutive time in June, data released by the Statistics Office showed. The index increased by 8.7 percentage points (pp) to -24.0pp between May and June. Nevertheless, it was still 29.3pp lower than in June 2019 and 24.1pp lower than a years long average.
        LJUBLJANA - The prices of homes in Slovenia rose by 1.1% in the first quarter of the year over the previous one and by 5.5% year on year, but the number of transactions was lower and the number of used apartments sold was the lowest in the last five years, the Statistics Office said.

        LJUBLJANA, KAMNIK - Several events featuring state officials were held to mark Statehood Day, a public holiday. President Borut Pahor laid a wreath at the Monument to the Victims of All Wars in Congress Square and Defence Minister Matej Tonin attended a ceremony in Kamink.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The number of asylum requests filed in Slovenia increased by 33% to 3,820 last year, while the total increase in the EU was 11% to 738,425, showed an annual report published by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO). There were 530 unresolved applications in Slovenia at the end of last year, a 30% increase on 2018.

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