Last Week in Slovenia: 10-16 July, 2020

By , 18 Jul 2020, 11:15 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 10-16 July, 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, 10 July
        OTOČEC - In a meeting focusing exclusively on the countries' efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, the prime ministers of Slovenia and Croatia, Janez Janša and Andrej Plenković, agreed epidemiologists would be in contact about the situation on a daily basis. Plenković assured Slovenian tourists they were safe in Croatia, while Janša commended Croatia on its efforts to contain the virus.
        OTOČEC - PM Janez Janša told TV Slovenija he was a realist about the border dispute with Croatia and that the two countries would be able to take a step forward here once Croatia had an approximate plan for solving its border issue with other neighbours.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša said he had asked Aleš Hojs to reconsider his decision to step down as interior minister. He told a TV interview Slovenia needed an interior minister who is operational 24 hours a day. Hojs later said he would rethink his decision and definitely stay on until he faces a no-confidence vote in parliament, presumably in September.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian agreed in a phone call to boost political dialogue in anticipation of the countries' successive spells at the presidency of the Council of the EU. Logar also expressed Slovenia's interest in enhancing the existing strategic partnership with France.
        LJUBLJANA - New Slovenia (NSi) MP Jožef Horvat revealed that his personal data kept by the police had been accessed on several occasions between November 2019 and May 2020. While he alleges he was under a kind of police surveillance under the Marjan Šarec government, police officials explained that police officers could access such files only for the purpose of doing their job. Several other MPs came forward with the same accusation, as did Foreign Minister Anže Logar.
        LJUBLJANA - After the management of the state-run motorway company DARS resigned, the supervisory board appointed a new management board, with vice-president of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) Valentin Hajdinjak becoming the new CEO. DARS said the management stepped down by mutual agreement.

        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša rejected claims by the State Prosecutors' Council that he was undermining state prosecutors' independence by protesting with the state prosecutor general about the absence of prosecution targeting anti-government protesters who use the slogan "Death to Janšism". Janša said prosecutors needed to observe the general instructions on criminal prosecution policy drawn up by the body in charge of this.
        NOVO MESTO - Cavers exploring the karst caves in the Kočevski Rog woods in south-eastern Slovenia have found what appears to be another mass grave in what is an area containing the remains of several thousand people killed in summary executions after the end of World War II. The chair of the government commission for mass graves, Jože Dežman, said that the chasm contains the remains of at least 35 people, while dozens more are expected to be exhumed.
        LJUBLJANA - The CEO of railways operator Slovenske Železnice told the STA the company planned to lay off 1,000 people this year, reducing total headcount to 6,000. He also said Slovenia needed a long-term infrastructure fund.

SUNDAY, 12 July
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša became the target of criticism after implying on Twitter that the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred had post-WWII summary executions been adequately condemned. Oslobođenje, a leading Bosnian newspaper, wondered whether the statement was "an attempt to amnesty criminals who perpetrated one of the biggest genocides in this region", while Slobodna Bosna said it was a "morbid provocation not becoming of a statesman". Janša later defended his statements saying that as long as it is possible to kill with impunity in the name of one ideology and be condemned when doing it in the name of another ideology, genocides will happen in the world.

MONDAY, 13 July
        TRIESTE/BASOVIZZA, Italy - National Hall, a Slovenian centre in the heart of Trieste, was formally handed over to the Slovenian minority in Italy. A document on its ownership transfer was signed at an event attended by the Slovenian and Italian presidents, Borut Pahor and Sergio Mattarella, exactly 100 years after it was torched by Fascists. Before the ceremony the presidents laid wreaths at two memorials in Basovizza, one to the 1930 Slovenian victims of Fascism and the other to the Italian victims of post-WWII killings.
        LJUBLJANA - The coronavirus contact tracing app, which Slovenia will develop using the German open source solution, will be voluntary for everyone, Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik announced. The government previously sought to make installing the app mandatory for those with confirmed infections and those sent into quarantine.
        LJUBLJANA - During questions time in parliament, PM Janez Janša said it was necessary to depoliticise the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), saying that the NBI "was set up as a political project carrying a great burden of corruption from the get-go". He also suggested the NBI investigator cherry-picked their cases and were "outside the system".
        LJUBLJANA - The Infrastructure Ministry is drawing up changes that will allow ride hailing services through a digital platform in the manner provided by US giant Uber. Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec expects the government to discuss the proposal in the autumn.

TUESDAY, 14 July
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly formally initiated a parliamentary inquiry into the procurement of medical and personal protective equipment before and during the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia. The move comes at the request of the coalition, which wants to determine political responsibility of public office holders as of 1 February, a period which includes the last month and a half of the previous government's term.
        LJUBLJANA - Wrapping up a discussion on the situation in Slovenian care homes during the Covid-19 epidemic, the parliamentary committees on health and social affairs urged the government to provide nursing hospitals and improve conditions at care homes. The committees dismissed all the proposals tabled by the opposition Left which would proclaim that Slovenia did not successfully protect care home residents during the epidemic and that the ministries should amend the strategy on fighting the coronavirus in these facilities.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Slovenia and Croatia confirmed revised programmes for the decommissioning of the Krško nuclear power station and the storage of radwaste, as the ministers in charge of energy chaired a session of the intergovernmental commission on the management of the jointly-owned power station. The revised programmes reflect the decision to extend the plant's operation by 20 years beyond its originally planned shutdown in 2023, and the decision that each country will build its own radwaste repository.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament appointed tax expert Ivan Simič and former long-serving chairman of insurer Grawe Božo Emeršič as supervisors of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), the custodian of state assets. The pair will join the other three supervisors for five years after the terms of Duško Kos and Damjan Belič expires on 17 July.
        VELENJE - Home appliances maker Hisense Gorenje decided not to lay off several hundred production workers as originally planned. It will instead employ soft methods to reduce the workforce, since orders have grown in recent weeks and June was the first profitable month this year. The in-house trade union welcomed the latest development.
        LJUBLJANA - Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina handed his office's annual report for 2019 to PM Janez Janša and Speaker Igor Zorčič, urging politicians to take action so that the ombudsman's recommendations are implemented. The report makes nearly 160 concrete recommendations to a variety of state bodies and expresses concern that as many as 200 recommendations made by Svetina's predecessors are yet to be implemented.

        LJUBLJANA - Several hundred journalists and media workers gathered to protest against a media reform planned by the government in front of the National Assembly, where the parliamentary Culture Committee discussed changes to three media laws that were broadly condemned by key domestic and international groups. Following outcry from the likes of the European Broadcasting Union, CoE human rights commissioner and the European Federation of Journalists, the government decided to extent the public debate until 5 September, even as government officials suggested at the committee debate they were not willing to change the main tenets of the plan.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission discussed a report which shows that the 7 May incident in which two Slovenian soldiers stopped a civilian in the woods near the border with Italy had happened and had not been orchestrated. The incident was not orchestrated and the two hikers were not members of the Antifa terrorist organisation as alleged by Prime Minister Janez Janša, commission chair Matjaž Nemec of the opposition SocDems said.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia voiced disappointment with the latest proposal to cut the EU's 2021-2017 budget to EUR 1.074 trillion and would like more money to be allocated for cohesion funds, according to Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan, who took part in a video meeting of ministers in charge of EU affairs. He urged a prompt deal on the recovery funding.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court decided to stay legislation allowing construction projects to be sped up in part also by restricting the powers of environmental NGOs in the process of environmental permit procedures. The court was petitioned by several NGOs.

        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed at first reading a bill that would provide EUR 780 million for investment in the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) 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. The coalition was in favour, while the left opposition was against or abstained.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly was expected to pass legislation that would close all but the smallest shops on Sunday but ended up merely sending the bill into third reading. This defers the final decision to September at the earliest. The government does not support the bill.
        LJUBLJANA - Four hospitals will receive coronavirus patients from nursing homes in order to make it easier for nursing homes to organise, the Health Ministry announced, in what marks a change from how such patients were treated during the first wave of the epidemic. A total of 50 beds will be available at special nursing departments at both university medical centres in Ljubljana and Maribor and the general hospitals in Novo Mesto and Nova Gorica.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of new infections remained steady throughout the week with 19 reported for Wednesday for a total of 121 in the last seven days. The number of people in hospital rose by two to 18, with one patient in intensive care. No new deaths due to Covid-1' have been reported since 31 May.
        LJUBLJANA - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch urged the Austrian minister in charge of ethnic minorities, Susanna Raab, to take action after Grafenstein, a municipality in Carinthia, recently decided to effectively abolish bilingual education. The decision is being examined by Carinthia's regional office for constitutional affairs.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian museums and galleries recorded a financial shortfall of around EUR 650,000 due to coronavirus restrictions. The revenue loss will be impossible to offset, said the Slovenian Museum Association

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