Last Week in Slovenia: 27 Nov - 3 Dec, 2020

By , 05 Dec 2020, 14:41 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 27 Nov - 3 Dec, 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, 27 November
        LJUBLJANA - In response to a referendum initiative launched by the opposition Left and SocDems against an act envisaging EUR 780 million in additional defence spending in 2021-2026, parliament adopted in a 51:33 vote a decree that declares such a referendum inadmissible. The Left said it would turn to the Constitutional Court.
        LJUBLJANA - The Health Ministry announced that a strategy for vaccination against Covid-19 would be ready within three weeks. Presenting some outlines, it said the plan was to first provide vaccination in care homes, for those over 60 with chronic conditions, and for staff in healthcare and critical infrastructure.
        LJUBLJANA - Taking part in a virtual ministerial of the Regional Forum of the Union for the Mediterranean, Foreign Minister Anže Logar expressed support for further strengthening of relations and cooperation as part of the alliance, and called for greater security, stability and development of the Mediterranean region.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation Gudlaugur Thor Thordarson discussed a number of topics via a video call, supporting a strong and united EU, and strong transatlantic ties.
        LJUBLJANA - After a break of a few weeks, the Friday anti-government protesters hit the streets of Ljubljana again, this time in cars, as public gatherings are banned. The police issued dozens of fines, including for illegal honking, and one protester filed a criminal complaint against the police force accusing it of unlawfully singling him out from the line of cars in what he said was abuse of police powers.
        VIENNA, Austria - The Austrian Service Abroad conferred this year's Austrian Holocaust Memorial Award on Slovenian Dušan Stefančič for his contribution to preserving the remembrance of the Holocaust. The 93-year-old survived six Nazi concentration camps.
        LJUBLJANA - Delo journalist Jožica Grgič won the lifetime achievement award given out annually by the Slovenian Journalist Association (DNS). The jury said that for Grgič, facts were more sacred than the Pope and that she understood them in a very broad context.
        LJUBLJANA - Reporter Boštjan Videmšek's book about climate change, Plan B, which he made together with photographer Matjaž Krivic, was declared the 2020 Book of the Year at the Slovenian Book Fair. Plan B took the pair around the globe to bring stories of unusual visionaries who are each in their own right fighting against the climate crisis.

MONDAY, 30 November
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's economy contracted by 2.6% year-on-year in real terms in the third quarter but seasonally-adjusted GDP increased by 12.4% from the quarter before, the Statistics Office said. Domestic consumption contracted by 5% annually and gross investment by 19.6%.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs reiterated dissatisfaction with Croatia's protection of the border as he took part in a debate on the future of the Schengen zone, hosted by the European Commission. He said Schengen's collapse did not start with the novel coronavirus but due to ineffective control of migration.
        LJUBLJANA - The government declared the Lebanon-based political party Hezbollah as a criminal and terrorist organisation that represents a threat to peace and security. The work of Hezbollah is intertwined with organised crime and terrorist or paramilitary activity at the global level, it said.
        LJUBLJANA - The government took note of the information from the Government Communication Office (UKOM) that it had not been able to implement the contract with the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) for 2020 and to conclude a contract for 2021. As a result the STA has not received the monthly payment for the performance of public service for October.
        LJUBLJANA - The supervisory board of Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) confirmed the annual asset management plan for 2021. The plan includes the acquisition of the Luxembourg-based York fund's 43% stake in Sava company in what is seen as a key step towards the planned state tourism holding.
        LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Tina Bregant from the post of state secretary at the Health Ministry upon proposal by Minister Tomaž Ganrat over loss of trust. It appointed Marija Magajna to replace her on 1 December.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian men's basketball team qualified for the 2022 Eurobasket with wins against Ukraine and Austria in a mini "bubble" tournament held in Ljubljana's Stožice Arena as part of the qualifying Group F. Slovenia will thus be defending their gold medal from the previous European championship in 2017.
        LJUBLJANA - Journalist and editor Ženja Leiler was appointed the new director of the Slovenian Cinematheque for a full, five-year term, starting on 1 December. She told the STA her priorities are enhancing the role of the institution in the public cultural space and raising the awareness of the importance of film heritage.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Sebastjan Eržen acting director of the Slovenian Book Agency as of 2 December. Eržen, who was first relieved of his duties as a member of the agency's council, will run the agency until a full-fledged director is appointed, but no longer than six months.

TUESDAY, 1 December
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded 2,429 new coronavirus cases, the third highest daily increase since the start of the epidemic, as the test positivity rate hit 33.8%. Health experts said the increase in cases could be attributed to the introduction of rapid tests at health institutions and care homes, which are then double-checked with PCR tests.
        LJUBLJANA - The decision by the Government Communication Office (UKOM) to withhold the financing of STA due to the management's refusal to hand over various documents was met with protest. The management said the agency's future work was threatened, but pledged it would continue its mission. The opposition said the move amounted to an attack on media freedom, a point also raised by domestic and international organisations of journalists.
        LJUBLJANA - Public Administration Minister Boštjan Koritnik presented a redistricting proposal to amend the electoral law to implement a 2018 Constitutional Court ruling. The proposal will be sent to coalition deputy groups, which have not agreed on the matter yet. Koritnik said the proposal was based on the current law and introduced changes only in those parts that had been deemed problematic by the Constitutional Court.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj sought to alleviate concerns about the stall in the passage of the EU recovery package due to Poland and Hungary blocking the deal because of rule of law provisions. He believes a solution will be reached, while pointing to contingency plans.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Anže Logar commented on the latest NATO report by a group of experts or the so-called new wise men as he attended a meeting of allied foreign ministers where the document was presented. Logar said that proactive communication was the best guarantee for mutual solidarity and unity in NATO.
        LJUBLJANA - Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič held a video conference with European Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders focusing on plans for Slovenia's presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2021, challenges related to the European Public Prosecutor's Office, digitalisation of the justice system and justice cooperation.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH) approved the plan by the state-owned rail operator Slovenske Železnice to sign a strategic partnership between its cargo division and the Prague-based EP Holding, which will get a 49% stake in a joint venture in exchange for a capital injection reportedly in the EUR 60-100 million range. SSH said the goal was long-term growth and development of the transport and logistics activity.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenian MEP Romana Tomc (EPP/SDS) is this year's recipient of The Employment, Social Affairs & Regions Award by The Parliament Magazine. Tomc said the accolade was proof that Europe had not forgotten about its citizens in these difficult times and that efforts regarding social affairs, employment and demographic issues were vital.

WEDNESDAY, 2 December
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Anže Logar said Slovenia always acted in a European spirit and expected the same from European partners as he commented on intentions by Italy and Croatia to declare exclusive economic zones in the Adriatic Sea. He said this was a strategic issue that would be addressed in tolerant dialogue, not in the public square.
        LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar attended a video conference with EU counterparts discussing the current state of the coronavirus pandemic and the proposed EU strategy for a coronavirus vaccine. He stressed more cooperation and coordination was need at the EU level.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor said the STA was doing important work in the interest of the public, which was why its existence should not be jeopardised. He called on the government and the STA management to resolve issues that had resulted in suspended financing of the agency.
        LJUBLJANA - The winners of this year's Zois Prizes for lifetime achievement in science and research are researcher Tamara Lah Turnšek of the National Institute of Biology, who has discovered a protease enzyme, and University of Ljubljana professor emeritus Radovan Stanislav Pejovnik, credited with spearheading pioneering study into lithium batteries 30 years ago.
        LJUBLJANA - The state-run motorway company DARS announced it had received three bids in response to a tender to set up a system for electronic tolling of cars, which is to become operational in December 2021. The lowest bid, valuing the project at EUR 14 million, was submitted by the Slovenian company Iskratel in partnership with Hungarian ARH Informatics.

THURSDAY, 3 December
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a five-tier strategy for the relaxation of coronavirus restrictions. The relaxation of measures will hinge on the seven-day rolling average of daily infections and the number of Covid-patients in hospital. Restrictions will be lifted at pre-determined thresholds.
        LJUBLJANA - The government confirmed a Covid-19 vaccination strategy under which vaccination will be free of charge and available to all residents regardless of their health insurance status. Vaccines for around 50,000 residents are expected to be available in the first phase.
        LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar announced plans to launch mass testing before the end of the year. His ministry is purchasing half a million rapid antigen tests with another million to follow. The first delivery of the tests is expected by 11 December.
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court established that the temporary measures banning the gathering of people at educational establishments were extended with invalid government decisions. Its decision will take effect in three days to allow for organisational adjustments for the reopening of schools.
        LJUBLJANA - It was announced that Prime Minister Janez Janša will start an official two-day visit to Israel on 7 December. He is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Foreign Minister Anže Logar will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, DC on 7 December.
        LJUBLJANA - Feri Lainšček, a writer and poet from Slovenia's north-easternmost region, and Marko Mušič, an architect who has made a name for himself in Slovenia and throughout the former Yugoslavia, are the winners of the Prešeren Prizes for lifetime-achievement for 2021. The country's top accolades for artistic accomplishments will be presented on 7 February.
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed state aid worth EUR 5 million to Ljubljana airport operator Fraport Slovenija pending EU approval. The amount corresponds to about a third of the estimated damage the operator expects to suffer due to the pandemic.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia joined the Global Learning and Observation to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) programme, as part of which citizen scientists and students help scientists collect data for better understanding the environment. The agreement was signed by Education Minister Simona Kustec and US Ambassador Lynda Blanchard.
        LJUBLJANA - Primož Roglič won the 2020 Vélo d'Or award by the French cycling magazine Vélo Magazine, given annually to the cyclist considered to have performed the best over the year. The 31-year-old is the first Slovenian ever to win the award since its introduction in 1992.


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