Last Week in Slovenia: 5 - 12 March, 2021

By , 13 Mar 2021, 14:15 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 5 - 12 March, 2021

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What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

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FRIDAY, 5 March
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Parliament's Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group held a virtual public discussion on media freedom in Slovenia featuring representatives from Slovenia and the European Commission. Group members expressed concern about the situation and their expectations for the Commission to take action. Before the debate, a European Parliament policy department service compiled an in-depth document on the situation in Slovenia.
        SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - President Borut Pahor announced a donation of 4,800 Covid-19 vaccine shots to be delivered to the country next week, as he visited the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Its chairman Milorad Dodik said Slovenia had again showed its solidarity with and support for Bosnia-Herzegovina.
        LJUBLJANA - Data from the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) obtained by the media showed that one out of three positive rapid antigen tests have been proved false through the more reliable PCR tests after 13 February.
        VATICAN CITY, Vatican - Pope Francis appointed priest of the Maribor Archdiocese Maksimilijan Matjaž as the new Celje bishop. Succeeding Stanislav Lipovšek, who stepped down in 2018 after turning 75, Matjaž has so far been a professor of Biblical studies at the Ljubljana Faculty of Theology.
        ROME, Italy - The Italian Agriculture Ministry addressed a letter to the European Commission opposing Slovenia's draft regulation on the quality of vinegar and acetic acid dilute, which also defines balsamic vinegar. The countries have until 3 June to provide any additional explanations.
        KOPER - The Italian Union, an association of the Italian ethnic minority in Slovenia, urged the government to reconsider imposing new border restrictions in a bid to prevent the import of new coronavirus variants, warning of the impact the step would have on cross-border cooperation.
        LJUBLJANA - Banks and savings banks in Slovenia received until the end of February a total of 28,485 applications under the government's scheme that enables borrowers to request a deferral of loan payments. More than 85% of the applications have been approved, with total exposure amounting to EUR 2.6 billion, the central bank said.
        LJUBLJANA - The insurance group Sava said it had generated EUR 674.9 million in operating revenue in 2020, up 15.5% compared to 2019, while net profit increased by 12.3% to EUR 56.4 million, according to the unaudited results.
        LJUBLJANA - SKB Banka posted a net profit of EUR 34.85 million last year, down 35.6% compared to 2019, in what is largely a consequence of the Covid-19 epidemic that affected all areas of operation of the banking group.
        PORTOROŽ - Spa operator Terme Čatež confirmed that it had sold Marina Portorož but would not disclose the buyer. The media said the buyer came from Japan and the price was below EUR 15 million.

        WASHINGTON, US - The US Department of State told the STA it was monitoring threats against journalists and the integrity of public media in Slovenia closely. Freedom of the press is a fundamental principal of democracy, and the US is looking forward to continuing to partner with Slovenia to promote the open exchange of ideas, it said.
        LJUBLJANA - Police Commissioner Anton Olaj told the newspaper Delo there were indications some police investigations had been politically motivated. He noted that the success of criminal procedure depended most on prosecution. He agrees with the opposition's demand to set up a parliamentary inquiry into alleged political pressure on the police.
        TORUN, Poland - Tina Šutej won silver in the women's pole vault at the European Athletics Indoor Championship, jumping over 4.70 metres to match her best season result. It was the first medal for Slovenia in twelve years at European indoor championships.
        ZREČE - Slovenia's veteran snowboarder Žan Košir won the Snowboard World Cup parallel giant slalom event only days after a disappointing performance by the home favourite at the World Championships at the same venue.

SUNDAY, 7 March
        LJUBLJANA - The Health Ministry, the Government Communication Office and the National Institute of Public Health said they were preparing a Covid-19 vaccination promotion campaign for specific target groups. A website on the vaccination is being set up and a campaign on social networks will be held under the hashtag "CepimoSe" (Let's get vaccinated).
        LJUBLJANA - The latest public opinion poll commissioned by commercial broadcaster Nova24TV showed the senior coalition Democrats (SDS) enjoying 19% support, followed by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) with 12.1%.

MONDAY, 8 March
        LJUBLJANA - After cases of the UK, South Africa and Nigeria variants of coronavirus were confirmed in Slovenia, a variant first detected in Brazil was confirmed as well. "The variant has been detected in the Maribor area, for the time being in three persons within a family with a negative epidemiological anamnesis," government's chief Covid-19 adviser Mateja Logar said.
        LJUBLJANA - Secondary school students in years 1-3 joined their final-year peers as secondary schools fully reopened under model C, meaning half of the class will be in school for a week while the other half will continue learning from home.
        LJUBLJANA - Bars and restaurants in two eastern regions, Posavje and South-east Slovenia, started serving food and drinks outdoor. Guests are served outdoors between 6am and 7pm and they have to leave the establishment by 7:30pm.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan held a conference call with Molly Montgomery, deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs at the US Department of State. The officials discussed preparations for Slovenia's EU presidency in the second half of the year.
        LJUBLJANA - Only one contractor has submitted a bid for a second part of the planned Koper-Divača rail section, 2TDK, the state-run company managing the project announced, as a consortium led by Slovenian Kolektor CPG valued the works on the Črni Kal-Koper section at EUR 224.75 million, excluding VAT.
        LJUBLJANA - Senior officials called for continued efforts to improve gender equality on International Women's Day, praising women's contribution to the battle against Covid-19. President Borut Pahor noted uncompleted efforts for equality and expressed his "special gratitude for the women's priceless contribution in coping with the Covid-19 epidemic".
        LJUBLJANA - A hospitality bill that has recently been sent into public consultation brings stricter rules for leasing flats and houses to tourists on platform such as Airbnb. Service providers will have to get registered, have an ID number, and obtain certain permits.
        LJUBLJANA - Tatjana Mlakar was appointed by parliament the new director general of the ZZZS public health insurer for a four-year term. She succeeds Marjan Sušelj, who has led ZZZS as acting head after his term expired on 2 March.

TUESDAY, 9 March
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša called on STA director Bojan Veselinovič to step down. "It is time for the director as a political tool of the extreme left to step down and take responsibility for his unlawful actions," Janša tweeted. The STA turned to the prime minister's office for explanation about which unlawful actions Janša was referring to, but the office would not comment. The Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists denounced Janša's call as unlawful interference in the STA's autonomy.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs rejected claims that protests in Slovenia were banned or that he was interfering in police work. He also told the STA in an interview that the gap between the European Commission and Slovenia's views on migration solidarity remained wide, and did not expect Slovenia could ensure much progress on it during its EU presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - FM Anže Logar talked with his Algerian counterpart Sabri Boukadoum over the telephone about ways to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries. They called for boosting political dialogue and economic cooperation and touched on regional issues, in particular the latest developments in Libya and the Sahel region.
        LJUBLJANA - The Government Strategic Council for De-bureaucratisation drew up a bill envisaging a cap on social security contributions, electronic sending of administrative mail and a registry of regulations. The bill would also increase powers of state secretaries. The ZSSS trade unions voiced concern about reduced legal safety and called for social dialogue.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Environment Committee adopted amendments to the water act changes under which hazardous substances could be used under certain condition by production facilities located in water protection areas. The opposition warned of harmful effects for water sources.
        LJUBLJANA - The government said it was launching a free-of-charge testing campaign near border crossings with Italy. Rapid antigen testing is available for commuters, students being schooled across the border and owners of property across the border.

        BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova pointed to continuous attempts to undermine the sustainable funding and the independence of the STA at an European Parliament debate on media freedom. Slovenian MEPs of the centre-right EPP Romana Tomc (SDS) and Franc Bogovič (SLS) rejected allegations about the Slovenian government exerting pressure on Slovenian media.
        SLOVENJ GRADEC - President Borut Pahor said he wished Slovenia were not the subject of debates in the European Parliament, in particular when it comes to freedom of the media. He said media freedom was "foundational to democratic life".
        LJUBLJANA - Karl Erjavec stepped down as president of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), saying it was no longer the party he led for 15 years. Until a new full-fledged leader is elected, the party will be headed by Anton Balažek, one of the two vice-presidents. Erjavec recently took a corporate job at telecoms equipment maker Iskratel, where he will advise the CEO on expansion to foreign markets.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The government extended the majority of coronavirus restrictions by another week as it prolonged the state of the epidemic by another 30 days as part of its weekly review of measures. The one relaxation the government opted for is allowing all construction services to reopen as of 15 March without the need for workers to be tested.
        LJUBLJANA - Supervisors of Telekom Slovenije appointed a new management board headed by CEO Cvetko Sršen, who comes to Telekom from postal operator Pošta Slovenije. He will be joined by another long-time Telekom employee Mitja Štular, and Tomaž Jontes, who has been with Telekom since 2002.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Justice Committee endorsed amendments to the act on the state prosecution that lay down the selection criteria for Slovenia's two members of the European Public Prosecutor's Office, amidst complaints by the opposition that the required level of knowledge of English was an unnecessary condition.
        LJUBLJANA - Kolektor CPG, which submitted the lowest bid for main works on the first section of the Koper-Divača rail track, was picked as the winner over a consortium led by Austria's Strabag. Kolektor CPG offered to build the Divača-Črni Kal section for EUR 403.6 million, almost EUR 60 million less than Strabag.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's energy group HSE and its subsidiary TEŠ reached a EUR 261 million out-of-court settlement with the US group General Electric as legal successor to French Alstom over the infamous TEŠ6 generator project, the cost of which has ballooned to EUR 1.4 billion amid allegations of corruption.
        CELJE - Chemical company Cinkarna Celje saw its net profit drop by 12% last year to EUR 18.95 million as revenue remained broadly flat with the year before at EUR 172.4 million, despite a drop in sale prices of titanium dioxide pigment, its main product.
        RIJEKA, Croatia - Chess player Laura Unuk became the first Slovenian woman to win the International Master title awarded by the international chess governing body FIDE, the second highest-ranking title in chess. Unuk won the title by bagging a victory at the chess tournament Mediterranean Flowers.
        LJUBLJANA - Vladimir Kukavica said he would step down as the director of the Foundation for Funding Disability and Humanitarian Organisations (FIHO) on 30 April, citing a lack of transparency at FIHO and some council members acting against the foundation's interests. The development comes after an unfavourable report from the anti-graft commission.

THURSDAY, 11 March
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia saw its average daily increase in coronavirus infections over the past seven days drop to 705 after another 860 people tested positive on Wednesday, 10 March. The situation in hospitals improved further with 453 Covid-19 patients hospitalised. However, officials expressed concern in view of the spread of the new, highly-virulent variants as an additional 155 cases of the UK strain had been confirmed in Slovenia in the past week.
        LJUBLJANA - Spanish FM Arancha Gonzalez Laya pledged her country's support for Slovenia's presidency of the EU Council in the second half of the year as she met her counterpart Anže Logar as part of an official visit. The pair also talked about resilience of the EU and migrations, which are among the presidency's priorities.
        MARIBOR - The newspaper Delo reported that the Maribor Higher Court had dismissed a damages claim by the ruling Democrats (SDS) against the state over the Patria defence corruption trial a second time in a retrial. The court told the paper the judgement had become final on 5 January. The SDS claimed over EUR 886,000 in pecuniary damages.
        ORMOŽ - The Italian group Safilo announced it would close its eyewear production plant in Slovenia in June to adjust production capacities to meet changing demand. A total of 557 workers will lose jobs. The development took both trade unions and the municipality of Ormož by surprise and came after Safilo closed two plants in Italy.
        LJUBLJANA - The new, 27-km railway line between the port of Koper and the Divača hub will cost EUR 1.126 billion, or 6.8% less than initially estimated, 2TDK, the state-owned company managing the country's largest infrastructure project, announced after it has updated the investment programmed from January 2019, when its price tag was EUR 1.194 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia Sovereign Holding (SSH), the manager of state assets, published a letter of intent for the takeover of spa operator Terme Olimija, in what is yet another step in the plan to create the State Hospitality Fund.
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed the appointment of Tomaž Ivešić as the new director of the Study Centre for National Reconciliation, following the resignation of Andreja Valič Zver, who had led the centre since its inception in 2008. Ivešić was appointed for a five-year term starting on 1 April.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Damjan Žugelj acting director of the Office for Money Laundering Prevention. He will take over on 15 March from Ivan Kopina, who resigned earlier this month after serving as acting director for nearly a year.
        KOPER - The logistics group Intereuropa saw its sales revenue drop by 6% year-on-year to EUR 150.7m in 2020, while net profit was down by 15% to EUR 3.6 million, shows the unaudited annual report.
        CANTERBURY, UK - Media reported that a court in the English town of Canterbury had sentenced at the end of February a Slovenian lorry driver caught smuggling drugs last April to 15 years in prison. A 50-year-old man was reportedly arrested in Dover after 81 kilos of cocaine and three kilos of heroin were found in his truck.

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