Last Week in Slovenia: 19-25 March, 2021

By , 27 Mar 2021, 13:00 PM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 19-25 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, 19 March
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša and speakers of both houses of parliament, Igor Zorčič and Alojz Kovšca, got vaccinated with the AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab to boost the public's confidence in the vaccine following a brief suspension of its use in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - The motion to oust Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj, brought by four centre-left opposition parties, was defeated by 44 votes to 38, following a 17-hour debate that focused on the minister's handling of the Covid-19 outbreak in care homes.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša met representatives of the Islamic Community to discuss interreligious and intercultural dialogue "as a pillar of trust-based relations among members of different religions and cultures" and the community's activity during the epidemic.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium/THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs listed a comprehensive EU migration policy, stronger Schengen zone, high degree of security in the bloc, and Western Balkans as the top priorities of Slovenia's presidency of the EU after two days of meetings with senior Belgian, Dutch and EU officials in preparations for the presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - The government included military projects worth 170 million into the development plan, including modernisation of the military communication and information system, overhaul of the Ljubljana barracks, purchase of a tactical-transport aircraft and upgrade of the Bell helicopter fleet.
        LJUBLJANA - Bernardin Akitoby, chief of the IMF mission for Slovenia, said the institution's forecast for Slovenia's economic growth for 2021 was being downgraded from 5.2% to 3.7%, in 2022 the economy is to grow by 4.5% to return to the pre-pandemic growth level.
        LJUBLJANA - Energy company Petrol reported a 30% decline in sales revenue and net profit for 2020, at EUR 3 billion and EUR 72.3 million, respectively, a deterioration blamed on the Covid-19 pandemic.
        BERLIN, Germany - Slovenian composer Petra Strahovnik, a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of The Hague, won the Art Prize for music from the Academy of Arts in Berlin. In her work, Strahovnik discusses themes from social margins, such as autism, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and ADHD.

SATURDAY, 20 March
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor spoke over the phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to mark ten years since the countries signed a strategic partnership agreement that they said had accelerated economic cooperation and deepened political dialogue. They also discussed EU-Turkey relations with Pahor urging "dialogue and a constructive resolution of issues in the East Mediterranean".
        MARIBOR - Five and a half months after resigning as the leader of the Pensioners' Party amidst an ethics scandal, Aleksandra Pivec, a former agriculture minister, founded a new party, Our Land. The inaugural congress heard the party would pursue a policy of "forging ties, dialogue, cooperation and higher level of political culture".

SUNDAY, 21 March
        NIZHNY TAGIL, Russia - Nika Križnar won silver in the women's Ski Jumping World Cup event to reclaim the yellow bib of the overall leader.
        LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland - Meta Hrovat placed third in the women's giant slalom at the World Cup finale in her second podium of the season to end 9th in the overall giant slalom standings and 25th in the overall standings as Slovenia's best female skier this season.

MONDAY, 22 March
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia and five other EU member states presented at a session of the EU foreign ministers a non-paper on Bosnia-Herzegovina urging the EU to retain a focus on the country.
        LJUBLJANA - Appearing in questions time in parliament, Prime Minister Janez Janša argued it would make little sense for Slovenia to opt to register the Russian Sputnik V vaccine past the European Medicines Agency because the local regulator's procedure would take longer than EMA's. He also noted that the Russian vaccine was in short supply.
        LJUBLJANA - Commenting on the stalled appointment of delegated EU prosecutors, Prime Minister Janez Janša told MPs the government was considering changing the appointment procedure because it relegated the government to the role of a "mail carrier".
        LJUBLJANA - Hospitality establishments in the Primorsko-Notranjska were allowed to serve customers outdoors after the region joined Posavje and South-East Slovenia in yellow tier of coronavirus restrictions.
        LJUBLJANA - World Water Day was headlined by calls by experts and officials against rash solutions that could jeopardise the constitutional right to clean drinking water, in the light of amendments to the waters act that would loosen the rules for water protection areas. An amendment allowing construction of manufacturing facilities which use hazardous materials in water protected areas was later withdrawn, but not the one allowing construction of public infrastructure in coastal areas.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek told an informal session of EU ministers for competitiveness Slovenia was in favour of the concept of strategic autonomy in the EU as an opportunity to reduce the bloc's reliance on third-country suppliers, but it must be balanced against the need for an open economy and compliance with the rules of free trade.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor met representatives of the Slovenian minority in Italy to discuss the progress in the restitution of National Hall in Trieste to the minority and the minority's efforts for political representation at the national level.

TUESDAY, 23 March
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed a declaration on Slovenia's activities in EU institutions in 2021-2024. The main topics are improving the resilience of the EU to crises, green transition and the rule of law, which match the priorities of Slovenia's upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU. The opposition criticised the document for being too generalised.
        LJUBLJANA - Meeting the ambassadors of EU countries, President Borut Pahor said that the EU perspective had been the engine of Slovenia's efforts for democratisation and independence and was thus woven into the country's history. Today, the EU should be more united, efficient and closer to people, he said.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously passed changes to the pension legislation allowing for faster increase in pensions. The pension rate for persons with 40 years of pensionable service will be increased to 63.5% of the long-term average wage for both men and women.
        LONDON, UK - Ascent Resources announced it would initiate arbitration proceedings against Slovenia in a dispute over permits for the extraction of gas by means of hydraulic fracturing in Petišovci, after the state had failed to put forward a damages proposal. The company estimates the damage to be in excess of EUR 100 million.
        LJUBLJANA - Senior officials marked the 30th anniversary of Premik'91, a major military exercise that displayed a high level of organisation of the Slovenian Territorial Defence ahead of the declaration of independence. President Borut Pahor said the exercise had marked the true transformation of the Territorial Defence into the SAF, which had defended Slovenia's independence.

        LJUBLJANA - The government shortened the curfew from between 9pm and 6am to between 10pm and 5pm, and imposed a ban on movement into and out of Obalno-Kraška, Goriška and Koroška regions, which have the highest coronavirus infection rates. The government also decided that only negative PCR test result will be accepted to avoid quarantine on entering Slovenia, save for exceptions. Further restrictions are to be imposed following a cross-party meeting hosted by President Borut Pahor. This was after Slovenia entered a third wave of coronavirus with infections rising fast, with the 7-day new case count average rising to 882 and hospitalisations topping 500.
        LJUBLJANA - The government amended once again the national vaccination strategy, moving higher up on the list the age group of 60 and older, as well as the national Olympic team bound for Tokyo in the summer. The national coordinator of vaccination logistics, Jelko Kacin, said it was realistic to expect that 70% of Slovenia's population, or all adult residents, would be vaccinated by summer.
        LJUBLJANA/BRUSSELS, Belgium - The Foreign Ministry summoned Chinese Ambassador Wang Shunqing in response to sanctions imposed by China in retaliation for the EU's sanctions for its treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The ministry described China's measures as unacceptable and expressed concern about human rights violations in Xinjiang and about the legislative changes affecting Hong Kong's autonomy. In Brussels, Foreign Minister Anže Logar said China's actions contradicted the EU's fundamental values, and would not contribute to an EU-China partnership to boost investment cooperation.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Addressing reporters after a two-day meeting of NATO foreign ministers, Foreign Minister Anže Logar said Slovenia supported NATO's ambitious vision until 2030 as proposed by Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. As for the proposed strengthening of the common-funded budget, Logar said Slovenia shared the view of some other allies that detailed data should be obtained first.
        LJUBLJANA - The government extended until the end of June several measures to mitigate impact of Covid-19 on the population and businesses, including the universal basic income and partial reimbursement of a lost income for the self-employed during quarantine or inability to work due to force majeure or child care.
        LJUBLJANA - The Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis and Development (IMAD) upgraded its economic growth forecast for the country for this year to 4.6% from 4.3% in winter, to be followed by a 4.4% growth in 2022 and 3.3% in 2023.
        LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed an initiative for Slovenia to nominate beekeeping for the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
        LJUBLJANA - The national football team defeated Croatia 1:0 in a spectator-less opening qualifier for the 2022 World Cup in what was Slovenia's first ever win against the neighbouring country's side. Meanwhile, the under-21 team lost to Spain 0:3 at the outset of the he UEFA European Under-21 Championship co-hosted by Slovenia.

THURSDAY, 25 March
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Prime Minister Janez Janša and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen discussed preparations for Slovenia's upcoming presidency of the Council of the EU, both labelling the discussion as good and constructive.
        LJUBLJANA - Seven EU leaders, including Prime Minister Janez Janša, addressed a letter to the European Commission, voicing their concern over what they see as little room for member states' individual policy making, including in nuclear energy development, left by the bloc's efforts to reach climate targets.
        LJUBLJANA - The motion of no confidence in Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti, brought by four centre-left opposition parties fell three votes short of the required outright majority to pass. The debate, stretched to two days, focused on his response to the Covid crisis in culture and his attitude to the self-employed in the sector and to public media.
        LJUBLJANA - National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič and head of the deputy group of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) Janja Sluga gave a miss to a session of the party council in a clear indication of an imminent split. The reason was the appointment of the head of the Greens as an aide to Economy Minister and SMC leader Zdravko Počivalšek, which they see as his forging new alliances.
        LJUBLJANA - Former Health Minister Tomaž Gantar quit the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) after the plan to consolidate the party failed. Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek is no longer party member for failing to resign as minister after DeSUS quit the coalition.
        LJUBLJANA - Head of the Slovenian Hoteliers' Association, Gregor Jamnik, described the situation in the industry as disastrous, warning that the bulk of businesses were not generating any revenue and would depend on state aid for a while longer as the industry would not fully recover in a decade.
        NOVO MESTO - The Renault-owned car assembly plant Revoz suspended production of all of its models for two days due to shortages in electronic parts or chips, a global problem due to an increase in the use of electronic devices during the Covid-19 pandemic.
        PLANICA - Japan's Ryoyu Kobayashi won the first event of the Ski Jumping World Cup finals in Planica, ahead of Germany's Markus Eisenbichler and Karl Geiger. The best local was Bor Pavlovčič in fifth.

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