Last Week in Slovenia: 25 Sept - 1 Oct, 2020

By , 03 Oct 2020, 13:14 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 25 Sept - 1 Oct, 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, 25 September

        SKOPJE, North Macedonia - President Borut Pahor urged for the EU to launch accession talks with North Macedonia without delay, as he met his counterpart Stevo Pendarovski at the outset of a two-day official visit. He reiterated Slovenia's support for North Macedonia's bid to join the EU and said Slovenia was in favour of bringing all countries in the region into the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar affirmed Slovenia's commitment to "enhanced and reformed multilateralism" as he delivered a virtual address to the Alliance for Multilateralism on the sidelines of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly. He said multilateralism needed to be based on trust, respect and international law.
        LJUBLJANA - MPs of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) formally requested that Prime Minister Janez Janša dismiss Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec, the former leader of their party. Jože Podgoršek, state secretary at the ministry, was proposed as her successor. Under agreement reached with other coalition partners on 29 September, Janša asked the National Assembly to dismiss Pivec. The vote will be taken next week.
        LJUBLJANA - Ivan Gale, who came forward with accusations of flawed procurement of medical supplies during the first wave of coronavirus, was reported to be facing losing his job at the Agency for Commodity Reserves. TV Slovenija reported that Gale was summoned by the agency's director Tomi Rumpf for an interview before he is handed a dismissal notice on suspicion that he closed detrimental contracts for PPE supply.
        LJUBLJANA - The recently unveiled deregulation plan was the main target of the 23rd protests against the government. A "Ministry of the Rich" banner was unveiled in front of the Ministry of Finance as Tea Jarc, the head of the trade union Mladi Plus, spoke about a tax reform that would mean lower taxes for the rich and public service cuts for everyone else.
        KOPER - Media reported that the Koper Higher Court had quashed a prison sentence against Igor Bavčar, the former CEO of Istrabenz, in a case related to a 2007 transaction involving shares of logistics company Intereuropa, and ordered a retrial.
        MURSKA SOBOTA - Author, actor and street theatre producer Andrej Rozman - Roza won the Večernica Prize for the best youth and children's book written in the past year. The jury said the collection marked Roza's "return to linguistic nonsense."

SATURDAY, 26 September
        LJUBLJANA - The 20th Ljubljana Pride Parade remained focused on the rights of LGBT+ persons, but the rally highlighted broader social rights that are seen as being at risk. Due to coronavirus restrictions, the event was held in the form of ten smaller rallies that then converged in front of Parliament House.

MONDAY, 28 September
        MADRID, Spain - FM Anže Logar met his Spanish counterpart Arancha Gonzalez Lay with the pair agreeing that the key to true and strong partnership was solidarity, connectivity and unity.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor discussed with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres via a video call the latest escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the situation in the Western Balkans and the Covid-19 pandemic. He pledged full support for the secretary general's efforts for the tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh to calm down.
        POZNAN, Poland - Attending an extended meeting of Visegrad Group agriculture ministers through Minister Aleksandra Pivec, Slovenia did not join a call reflecting the group's stance in favour of equalising common agriculture policy subsidies across the bloc. The meeting featured ministers from the Visegrad Group as well as Slovenia, Estonia, Croatia, Latvia, Bulgaria and Romania.
        LJUBLJANA - The 30th anniversary of constitutional amendments that severed key constitutional ties with Yugoslavia and were crucial on Slovenia's path to independence were marked with a ceremony at the Presidential Palace. President Borut Pahor urged a return to the bipartisan efforts seen in that period.
        LJUBLJANA - A Slovenian-Chinese business council was set up at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. More than 30 founding members decided for the move to create better conditions for strengthening ties between Slovenia and China, and help companies access the Chinese market.

TUESDAY, 29 September
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed the fifth stimulus package designed to help alleviate the consequences of the coronavirus crisis. There were no major changes compared to the previous version of the bill, which entails measures for healthcare, labour, social security, economy, education, justice, criminal sanctions, agriculture and infrastructure.
        LJUBLJANA - Travel restrictions for passengers arriving from countries which are not on its green list were loosened under a government decree. Passengers with a negative test no older than 48 hours and performed by a credible lab either in Slovenia, the EU or the Schengen zone, not longer have to quarantine. Passengers arriving from orange countries within the EU or the Schengen zone will not have to present a negative test to avoid quarantine.
        LJUBLJANA - The government ordered the Public Administration Ministry and the telecommunications market regulator to put in place rules on enhanced security of fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications networks. The regulator and the body in charge of information security will get additional powers to demand from operators that they ensure their networks are secure.
        LJUBLJANA - Addressing an AmCham event, PM Janez Janša said Slovenia had the potential to become one of the 15 most competitive countries in the world, which could be achieved by improving the support system for business, de-bureaucratisation and a more efficient public sector.
        LISBON, Portugal - Foreign minister Anže Logar and his Portuguese counterpart Augusto Santos Silva discussed their countries' upcoming stints at the presidency of the Council of the EU. The ministers agreed that both countries shared views on many European and international issues.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the defence act allowing some soldiers to stay on duty even after turning 45. Others will be employed by other state bodies without a pay cut.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed legislation that will close stores on Sundays and public holidays with the exception of small shops at places such as service stations, airports, train and bus stations and in hospitals, and small shops where the customers will be served by proprietors themselves with the assistance of students and pensioners.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed amendments to the state prosecution act under which a prosecutor's decision to dismiss charges for offences carrying more than three years in prison will have to be signed off by the head of the prosecution service. For offences carrying prison sentences of eight or more years, the head of the prosecution will need to consult two other prosecutors.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly confirmed a 2% rise in pensions that will go ahead in December, capping months of debates. The government provided assurances that the move was fiscally feasible.
        LJUBLJANA - Zvonko Černač, the minister for development and European cohesion policy, called for a flexible, simplified and goal-oriented approach to cohesion policy in the EU's next multi-annual financial framework, as he addressed a high-level debate hosted by the German EU presidency. He said national authorities knew best where the money is needed.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a set of changes to the communicable diseases act which aim to increase vaccination rate by making vaccination mandatory for kindergarten children to at least 95% from 93% at present.

WEDNESDAY, 30 September
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission raised several issues in its Rule of Law Report for Slovenia, expressing concern about a lack of resources for key independent bodies like the corruption watchdog and networks regulator, and pressure exerted on journalists through lawsuits and online harassment. The Foreign Ministry said the report was relatively favourable, while the opposition said it was worrying Slovenia was nearing the countries which did not respect the rule of law.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia reached a new record in daily coronavirus cases, as 203 tested positive in a total of 3,391 tests. The share of positive tests was 5.99%, lower than in earlier days but still at a level deemed worryingly high.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The government adopted budget proposals for the next two years under which the pandemic-driven deficit is projected to decrease from 9.2% of GDP this year to 5.6% in 2021 and 3.1% in 2022. Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj said the budgets were "development-oriented" with investment funding increasing significantly.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted amendments to the foreigners act to tighten provisions on residence permits and reintroduce solutions that would provide for the triggering of a special regime in the event of a massive influx of illegal migrants seeking asylum. The proposal includes similar solutions to those planned under controversial amendments passed in 2017 that were quashed by the Constitutional Court.
        VIENNA, Austria - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg discussed preparations for the upcoming centenary of the Carinthia plebiscite and the position of the Slovenian ethnic minority in Austria. EU topics, including the new migration pact, were also on the agenda.
        NEW YORK, US - President Borut Pahor said the high rate of decline in biodiversity was a serious threat to life on Earth and undermined human progress, as he addressed the UN Biodiversity Summit via videolink. He reaffirmed Slovenia's commitment to mitigation efforts.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor wrapped up the first round of consultations with deputy groups as he prepares to nominate a candidate for a Constitutional Court judge. He announced that Anže Erbežnik, a professor at the Nova Gorica-based European Faculty of Law, had the best chances of getting the required support in parliament. Arjana Brezigar Masten is the likely candidate for a vice-governor post at the central bank.
        LJUBLJANA - Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik and representatives of municipalities signed an agreement that raises the lump sum which municipalities receive per resident from the state. The budget transfer, which was raised from EUR 589 to EUR 624 in April under the new government, will be EUR 628 in 2021 and 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - Janez Žlak, currently serving as executive director for energy and environment at the energy company Petrol, was appointed new chairman of Slovenian Sovereign Holding, which manages over EUR 10 billion worth of state equity stakes. Žlak will succeed Gabrijel Škof, who resigned in July.
        LJUBLJANA - Telecommunications company Telekom Slovenije announced that the sale of Planet TV to Hungarian media company TV2 Media had been finalised. The purchase consideration is EUR 5 million, but Telekom also provided a capital injection via a debt to equity conversion before finalising the transaction.
        LJUBLJANA - Germany added the northern Koroška region to its list of Covid-19 high-risk areas after doing the same a week ago for the western region of Primorsko-Notranjska. Switzerland put the entire country on its quarantine list effective on 29 September.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Gallery launched an exhibition of the Prague Castle Picture Gallery masterpieces. The rare European art collection features paintings from Titian, Rubens and Holbein the Younger and is a result of Emperor Rudolf II's zeal for collecting.

THURSDAY, 1 October
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša was formally indicted of abuse of office over a property sale carried out in 2005. Janša is one of the three persons indicted in a case that case revolves around a plot of land in the Trenta Valley that he sold in 2005 and which was subsequently resold several times, in what the prosecution believes was a chain of related transactions that ended up unlawfully benefiting him.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Prime Minister Janez Janša arrived at the EU summit hopeful that the EU would be able to mount a united show of solidarity with Greece and Cyprus in their dispute with Turkey. As for Belarus, he was hopeful that EU leaders would be capable of supporting the democratic desires of the people of Belarus.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor pointed to the need to accelerate attaining women's rights as he addressed an online UN summit marking the 25th anniversary of the historic Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. He acknowledged there was still much room for improvement,
        LJUBLJANA - An initiative for Slovenia to notify its legal succession to the Austrian State Treaty was filed to parliament, just days before the centenary of the Carinthian plebiscite, which left a portion of Slovenians in Austria after WWI. The initiative is spearheaded by legal expert Ivan Kristan and sociologist Niko Toš.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court stopped legal proceedings in the case of Leon Rupnik, a Nazi collaborationist general, Dnevnik reported. The court made the decision based on the criminal procedure act, which says legal procedures stop if the defendant dies.
        LJUBLJANA - Fuel prices in Slovenia became fully deregulated as the decree on administered prices for regular petrol and diesel at service stations outside motorways and expressways expired and was been extended by the government.
        LONDON, UK - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development forecast a 7.5% contraction of Slovenia's GDP in 2020, a downgrade of two percentage points from May. Partial recovery is expected in 2021 when the economy is projected to grow by 3.5%, which compares to 5% in the May forecast.
        LJUBLJANA - Delo reported that the prosecution dismissed in late August charges over the sale of a plot by the state-owned bad bank to Japanese-owned Swiss company Lonstroff for an elastomer plant in Logatec. The complaints targeted Janez Škrubej, a former executive director of the bad bank, Peter Weber, Lonstroff Slovenia director, and Vlado Petek, director of the real estate firm Svet Re.

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