Last Week in Slovenia: 4 - 10 December, 2020

By , 12 Dec 2020, 13:23 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 4 - 10 December, 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, 4 December
        WASHINGTON, US - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed Slovenia's decision to declare the Hezbollah Shia Islamist movement a terrorist organisation earlier this week. Slovenia is rejecting the false differentiation between its political and military wings, he said.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor made a renewed appeal for cross-party effort to break out of the crisis, as he addressed a ceremony ahead of the 30th anniversary of a cross-party agreement on the independence referendum.
        LJUBLJANA - STA staff representatives urged the government as the agency's sole owner to provide, in line with the law, the material conditions for their journalistic work and for their autonomy after the Government Communication Office suspended its funding.
        LJUBLJANA - Jelko Kacin, one of the STA founders as the information minister in the early 1990s, stressed the importance of the agency in the face of the suspension of its funding. "Its role and media mission to the benefit of Slovenia are extremely important and irreplaceable," he said in an interview with the newspaper Večer.
        LJUBLJANA - Pergam, a trade union association, asked the Constitutional Court to examine a communicable diseases act provision which make it possible to limit the right of healthcare staff to strike. The court was also asked to check a decree which prevents healthcare staff from taking paid days off during the epidemic.
        ILIRSKA BISTRICA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs presented two ideas to protect Slovenia's southern border with Croatia against illegal migration after a plan to activate soldiers by giving them police powers was recently rejected in parliament. One option is to change the border surveillance act to allow Financial Administration staff and various inspectors to be deployed on the border, and the other is cooperation with Italy and Hungary in police patrols.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Catholic bishops addressed a letter to PM Janez Janša saying they expect the government to lift the ban on religious services amid the Covid-19 epidemic. They also expect the government not to disproportionately limit religious freedom.
        NAZARJE - BSH Hišni Aparati, a Slovenian subsidiary of the Bosch group, was this week declared the winner of the Factory of the Year competition in the category of best large-scale mass producer in Europe. The competition is a collaboration of A.T. Kearney and the German business magazine Produktion, which was launched in 1992.

SATURDAY, 5 December
        LJUBLJANA - Karl Erjavec, 60, returned to politics after winning the leadership contest in the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) to start his fifth term as DeSUS leader. His return after less than a year-long break raised expectations of some that the party could leave the Janez Janša government.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Culture Committee urged the government to immediately pay the overdue liabilities to the STA and stop smearing the agency. It also urged the STA to provide the Government Communication Office with the requested documents.

SUNDAY, 6 December
        LJUBLJANA - New decrees on measures to stem the Covid-19 epidemic entered into force, with no substantial changes, as restrictions on gatherings, movement and sale of goods remained in force. The decrees had to be re-published in the Official Gazette as the Constitutional Court ruled the extension of distance learning was invalid because it was not published in the Official Gazette.

MONDAY, 7 December
        TEL AVIV, Israel - PM Janez Janša started an official two-day visit to Israel by meeting the representatives of Israel's innovation sector. He labelled the working meeting as an opportunity for a developmental breakthrough for Slovenian know-how and entrepreneurship. He also had dinner with Slovenia's Honorary Consul Eival Gilady and Israel-Slovenia Chamber of Commerce representatives.
        WASHINGTON, US - The foreign ministers of Slovenia and the US, Anže Logar and Mike Pompeo, launched a new, upgraded form of structured bilateral dialogue. Logar stressed the importance of this strategic dialogue and said it would continue with the next US administration.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Institute of Public Health announced the head of its Centre for Communicable Diseases, Mario Fafangel, had quit the Health Ministry task force advising the government on measures to fight Covid-19. Fafangel explained his reasons to Health Minister Tomaž Gantar, but would not share them with the public.
        LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Craft and Small Business called on the government to open small businesses and the services sector as the closure had not resulted in an improved epidemiological situation. It also warned of a rise in undeclared work.
        LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry assessed that the Slovenian economy had suffered between EUR 440 million and EUR 600 million in damage in the second wave of the coronavirus epidemic between the end of September and end of November.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously passed a bill reducing the financial obligations of municipalities by shifting several major outlays, for example health insurance premiums for the unemployed, onto the state budget. The bill was originally tabled by the previous government in December 2019 but was then expanded.
        LJUBLJANA - Karl Erjavec said he did not intend to become a minister in the Janez Janša government after he was elected the leader of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS). He informed PM Janez Janša of this while still a candidate for DeSUS leader.
        STRASBOURG, France - Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović wrote a letter to Prime Minister Janez Janša, urging him to immediately reintroduce funding to the STA and expressing concern that the suspension of public funding could jeopardise the agency's future.

TUESDAY, 8 December
        JERUSALEM, Israel - Prime Minister Janez Janša discussed with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu the strengthening of bilateral cooperation, particularly in innovation. Netanyahu said Janša's visit was an opportunity for a new beginning in relations. He thanked Janša for declaring the Hezbollah movement a terrorist organisation and for expressing support for Israel in international forums.
        WASHINGTON, US - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec signed a memorandum of understanding on strategic civilian nuclear cooperation with the US. In the memorandum, the two countries express a desire for deeper bilateral strategic ties, which would improve energy security, increase prosperity and strengthen political and economic ties.
        LJUBLJANA - With the epidemic plateauing for several weeks, Health Minister Tomaž Gantar, backed by chief Covid-19 adviser Bojana Beović, proposed a temporary full lockdown of all non-essential activity in the country only to be countered by Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, who upheld demands by business associations for a gradual reopening of businesses with stricter measures.
        LJUBLJANA - Four centre-left coalition parties turned to the Constitutional Court after the National Assembly last week declared a referendum on EUR 780 million in planned defence investments inadmissible. The Left, Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Social Democrats (SD) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) want the court to abrogate both the parliament's decision on the inadmissibility of the referendum and the defence spending law.
        LJUBLJANA - The repatriation of ethnic-Slovenian residents of Venezuela was suspended in March following the outbreak of coronavirus, but it was re-launched in autumn, when 13 persons arrived in Slovenia, the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad announced. A total of 36 persons have been repatriated so far.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Soldiers' Trade Union urged members to authorise a law firm to bring damages suits against singer Jadranka Juras and director Dejan Babosek over their comments about the Slovenian Armed Force members and the guard of honour, respectively, as well as against the public broadcaster for airing the contentious statements.
        LJUBLJANA - The STA supervisory board called on the government to take necessary steps to resume regular financing of the STA for the public service it performs after concluding, based on a legal opinion commissioned by the STA management, that the Government Communication Office had no legal basis to arbitrarily suspend financing.

WEDNESDAY, 9 December
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The government decided that the bulk of coronavirus restrictions will remain in force but the government may opt for easing on Saturday following consultations with hospital directors and business officials. The only substantive change is that from Saturday only surgical or washable face masks will have to be warn in indoor and outdoor public spaces. Loose fitting coverings such as scarves or bandannas will no longer suffice.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The government added Germany to Slovenia's red list of Covid-19 unsafe countries and regions, as well as the whole of the UK and Estonia starting from Saturday. Meeting for a weekly session, the government also moved Ireland and Iceland from the red to the orange list.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee gave the Infrastructure Ministry the green light to launch negotiations with Hungary on the neighbouring country's participation in the Koper-Divača rail investment.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor said politicians in Slovenia should end political uncertainly as soon as possible and enhance trust. It should be made clear whether the government still has a majority support in parliament and then all energy should focus on the fight against the epidemic, he said.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The government adopted changes to the international protection act to promote fast and effective procedures. The proposed solutions are also aimed at preventing abuses of the system of international protection, the Interior Ministry said.
        LJUBLJANA - The government gave its go-ahead to the Defence Ministry's proposal to promote Brigadier General Robert Glavaš, the chief of the general staff, to the rank of major general. Glavaš meets skills-based conditions for the promotion, while he will fully meet the formal requirements on 17 December when two years will have passed since his last promotion in rank.
        LJUBLJANA - As the coronavirus epidemic takes its toll among nurses and care workers, with many being exhausted, their trade union threatened with a strike. A major issue seems to be the fact that the majority of employers in health care and social care have not yet paid out the bonuses for working in an emergency and for additional workload.
        LJUBLJANA - The Government Office for Legislation issued an opinion on the suspension of the STA financing by the Government Communication Office, saying this could only be the ultimate penalty, as a stoppage of public service would be unlawful. It also said the law secures the STA independence, also from the government.
        LJUBLJANA - On International Anti-Corruption Day, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption launched an integrity project aimed at strengthening integrity through all levels of the education system and society. Endorsing the project, President Borut Pahor said raising awareness and education about fighting corruption was key to boosting trust in society.
THURSDAY, 10 December
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Prime Minister Janez Janša welcomed the rule of law compromise put to EU leaders as "very good". If it gets the green light, it will provide adequate rule of law protection of all EU financial mechanisms as well as the recovery funds, he said on arrival at the EU summit.
        LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit has found that Banka Slovenije was only partly successful in its oversight of banks' capital adequacy and the management of loan risks in 2008-2013. It also found it to be unsuccessful in introducing emergency measures during the bank bailout.
        ROME, Italy - The Slovenian and Italian foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Luigi di Maio, met to discuss exclusive economic zones that Italy and Croatia intend to declare in the Adriatic Sea. They agreed that they would hold a trilateral meeting on the topic with Croatian counterpart Goran Grlić Radman as soon as possible.
        LJUBLJANA - Following consultations with parliamentary deputy groups, President Borut Pahor announced he would nominate Maja Brkan for Slovenia's judge on the General Court of the European Union. Extra consultations are however needed on candidates for the EU Court of Justice.
        LJUBLJANA - The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) remains in the government coalition but will examine the possibility of closer cooperation with the Modern Centre Party's (SMC) deputy group, DeSUS deputy group leader Franc Jurša said. A task force was to be set up with the SMC to study the potential for cooperation between the two deputy groups.
        LJUBLJANA - The defence ministers of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia held an online meeting at the initiative of Germany. Germany's Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Joao Gomes Cravinho from Portugal and Slovenia's Matej Tonin discussed strategic decisions, cooperation between the EU and NATO, and the importance of transatlantic cooperation.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's exports totalled EUR 3.2 billion in October, up by 2.1% on the same month in 2019. Imports meanwhile fell by 8.5% to EUR 2.9 billion, creating a surplus of EUR 0.2 billion, the Statistics Office said.


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