Last Week in Slovenia: 16 - 22 July 2021

By , 24 Jul 2021, 09:40 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 16 - 22 July 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, 16 July
        LJUBLJANA - Mark Boris Andrijanič, a 38-year-old law graduate who has worked for Uber, was appointed minister without portfolio for digital transformation in a 45:44 vote in parliament, pledging to work for digitalisation to become a national priority and a project uniting Slovenia's society and politics. A new Digital Transformation Office he will head was founded on 22 July.
        LJUBLJANA - The upper chamber of parliament vetoed amendments to the audiovisual services act whose core provision is a 6% levy on content providers to finance a new fund for the production of domestic content. This was the second veto against a government-sponsored act in less than a week.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU justice ministers held an informal meeting discussing the use of AI in judicial proceedings, with Slovenia's Marjan Dikaučič saying the debate centred around the need to put in place safety mechanisms to protect fundamental rights and freedoms. Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said the Commission's goal was to protect fundamental rights of European citizens, including in law enforcement and judiciary. Reynders also made a renewed appeal for Slovenia to appoint European delegated prosecutors, indicating action unless the government acted very soon.
        LJUBLJANA - Wrapping up a high-level online conference on innovative solutions for a resilient healthcare system, which featured the health ministers of Slovenia, Portugal and Germany, Slovenia's Janez Poklukar said the EU's trio presidency were working to finalise negotiations on three draft regulations that form the basis of the EU Health Union in a bid to coordinate the regulations in trialogue with other EU institutions as soon as possible.
        LJUBLJANA - A new batch of government-sponsored vouchers became available to all Slovenian residents. Unlike the holiday-at-home vouchers issued last year, they can be used to pay for a variety of services and goods in tourism, hospitality, sports and culture. At EUR 100 for adults and EUR 50 for those under 18, the vouchers are valued at a combined EUR 192.2 million.
        BORDEAUX, France - Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious) won stage 19 of the Tour de France from Mourenx to Libourne after attacking 25km from the finish in his second win and the fifth for Slovenian riders at this year's Tour.

        LJUBLJANA - Europa Cantat, a major international festival dedicated to choral music, got under way in with a concert featuring Slovenian and foreign vocalists at Cankarjev Dom arts centre, bringing a blend of various music genres.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office reported Slovenia recording the highest positive net migration since 2008 last year as almost 18,400 people more moved in than out. Part of the reason for the increase is administrative changes in the population register.

SUNDAY, 18 July
        PARIS, France - Tadej Pogačar, the 22-old Slovenian UAE Team Emirates rider, won the 108th Tour de France to become the youngest double winner of the world's most prestigious cycling race and only the ninth rider with back-to-back wins. He also won the white jersey for the best young rider and the polka dot jersey for the top mountain climber.
        LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Top seed Tamara Zidanšek, the French Open semi-finalist, won the WTA Lousanne Open beating France's Clara Burel in the finals after a good two hours 4:6, 7:6 (5) and 6:1 for what is her first-ever WTA tournament victory.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry put forward for adoption by the government a regulation banning the sale of several single-use plastic items such as plastic cutlery, straws and plates in line with the EU regulation that was supposed to be transposed by 3 July.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia earmarked EUR 10.72 billion (22.2% of GDP) for various social security programmes in 2019, up 6.2% over 2018, with the bulk spent on the elderly, where pensions are also included, and on diseases and healthcare, according to the Statistics Office.

MONDAY, 19 July
        LJUBLJANA - The Infrastructure Ministry issued an energy permit for the construction of the second unit of the Krško nuclear power station in what Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said was a "kick-start of the broadest possible public debate". Details such as the estimated price, time frame and choice of technology are not known yet. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry backed the plans.
        CERKLJE OB KRKI - A ceremony at the Prilozje air strip near the town of Metlika in south-east marked the first Slovenia-Israel Friendship Day in memory of the joint struggle against Nazism and Fascism in WWII. The event, addressed by President Borut Pahor and Israeli Ambassador Eyal Sela, marked the centenary of the birth of Israeli hero and poet Hannah Szenes, who parachuted into the Bela Krajina region on a mission during WWII in a heroic story that Pahor said linked the two nations.
        LJUBLJANA - Responding to revelations by foreign media that governments had used hacking spyware sold by the Israeli NSO Group to target journalists, activists and political opponents, Matjaž Nemec, the chair of the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission, confirmed the commission had received first hints of potential abuse of spyware in Slovenia as early as last year, but said it was not clear what type of software was involved. He said the commission became even more attentive when PM Janez Janša visited Israel last December. He reportedly met NSO officials.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU ministers in charge of research agreed that Europe needed a common research area as they met for an informal meeting under Slovenia's EU presidency to discuss revitalising the European Research Area, and the role of international cooperation to promote research and innovation.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - EU agriculture ministers meeting under Slovenia's presidency for the first time unanimously endorsed an action plan aiming for at least 25% of agricultural land to be under organic farming by 2030 in a decision hailed by Minister Jože Podgoršek as being one of the priorities of Slovenia's presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that rapid antigen tests will no longer be available free of charge to everyone from 23 August but only to those who cannot get vaccinated for health reasons and for groups such as users of health services, care home residents, prisoners or asylum and safe home residents.
        LJUBLJANA - The State Prosecution Council urged the government to take a decision on the appointment of 12 candidates for state prosecutors put forward by the previous justice minister between last September and June as soon as possible, pointing to staff shortages created by the government's "unprompt and selective decision-making".
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court rejected an opposition-sponsored motion challenging the inadmissibility of a referendum on EUR 780 million investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces in 2021-2026 as declared by parliament in November 2020.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest Vox Populi poll, commissioned by the dailies Dnevnik and Večer, showed the voter approval rating for the Janez Janša government hitting a record low, with nearly 72% disapproving of its work. The ruling Democrats (SDS) nevertheless remain in the lead, on 18.2%, ahead of the opposition Social Democrats (SD) on 12.7%.

TUESDAY, 20 July
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In its second Rule of Law Report, the European Commission raised concerns over delays in Slovenia in the appointment of state prosecutors and the country's two European delegated prosecutors, as well as about deteriorating media freedom and pluralism in the country. Presenting the report, Commission Vice President Vera Jourova and Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders called on the Slovenian authorities to ensure a stable financing of the STA. Reynders pointed to potential measures over non-appointment of European delegated prosecutors come autumn.
        LJUBLJANA - Anže Erbežnik stepped down as a state secretary at the Justice Ministry after less than a month on the job. He later said the reason was that he could not perform his duties with due respect for EU law, rule of law and human rights. He accused Minister Marjan Dikaučič of lacking a basic knowledge of EU law. Dikaučič denied the claims as fabrications, implying Erbežnik was more interested in self-promotion than the ministry's reputation.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU environment ministers conducted a preliminary exchange of opinions on Fit for 55, the EU's new energy and climate package, at an informal ministerial with Slovenia's Minister Andrej Vizjak saying the package was seen as a good basis for talks. The ministers also discussed preparations for the UN climate conference COP26 in Glasgow in November with Vizjak pledging Slovenia would work for the conference to achieve concrete results.
        PRAGUE, Czechia - The coronavirus pandemic topped the agenda as foreign ministers of the Central 5 group - Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary - met. They also discussed the Western Balkans, Eastern Partnership and Belarus. Anže Logar lauded vaccine solidarity and said Slovenia's EU presidency was focused on developing the European Health Union and boosting the EU's strategic autonomy.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia logged 111 coronavirus cases, the first time after 15 June that the daily rise in infections passed 100. This was after sequencing showed the Delta variant had become the prevailing strain of the virus in the country. The National Institute of Public Health estimates there are now 838 active cases in the country. The 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents is at 40.
        LJUBLJANA - Uroš Novak, one of the two deputy heads of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, sent a letter of resignation to President Borut Pahor in which he cited new professional challenges as the reason for the step. His five-year term would have ended in less than two years.
        LJUBLJANA - The Jewish Cultural Centre Ljubljana and the German Embassy signed an agreement under which the German government will provide EUR 25,000 as part of a EUR 1.2 million renovation project that will see the centre's synagogue reopen for worship in late autumn.
        LJUBLJANA - The Muslim community celebrated Eid al-Adha with a ceremony at the Muslim Cultural Centre in Ljubljana. Leading the prayer, Mufti Nevzet Porić stressed the importance of vaccination and personal responsibility.

        WASHINGTON, US - US President Joe Biden nominated prominent Columbia lawyer Jamie L. Harpootlian to be ambassador to Slovenia. She is the wife of South Carolina senator, Democrat Dick Harpootlian, who is not planning to give up his seat to accompany his wife to Slovenia. The new ambassador will succeed Lynda Blanchard, who tendered her resignation after Donald Trump lost the election to Biden.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - A new proposal for a global framework for biodiversity after 2020 was in the focus of the closing day of the informal meeting of EU environment ministers. Minister Andrej Vizjak said "the time is to stop the trend of declining biodiversity," adding: "ambitious global objectives should be set to contribute to preserving nature, protecting 30% of global land and oceans by 2030 and restoring degraded ecosystems."
        LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court granted the STA's request to stay the implementation of a regulation adopted by the government in June that introduces detailed rules governing the public service provided by the STA. This was a day after the Government Communication Office sent a final draft of the agreement based on that regulation to the STA with the expectation the agency sign it, having taken into account none of the agency's main remarks.
        NASSAU, the Bahamas - Slovenian freediver Alenka Artnik further improved the constant weight world record she set three days earlier by plunging as far as 122 metres deep at the Vertical Blue competition in the Bahamas.

        LJUBLJANA - The government added cross-border workers to the list of exceptions for quarantine-free entry to Slovenia if they do not have a Covid certificate. The exception, effective as of 23 July, will apply to workers who live up to ten kilometres from the national border.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU ministers in charge of competitiveness debated the future of Europe's textile and energy-intensive industries at an informal meeting focusing on how these industries can transition to a circular economy.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided Slovenia will donate equipment to Lithuania to help it stem the flow of illegal migrations from Belarus. Lithuania will get ten kilometres of fence, plus power generators, blankets and ready-made meals.
        LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit established that remedial measures that were taken by the government and the Agency for Commodity Reserves on the basis of the court's audit of the efficiency of purchases of personal protective and medical equipment had been satisfactory.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Electoral Commission dismissed allegations about voter suppression during the new waters act referendum campaign. Claims that the commission is responsible for issues with informing care home residents, mail voting and early voting stems from false understanding of referendum rules, it said.
        LJUBLJANA - The government appointed two non-executive directors at the Bank Assets Management Company, lawyer Franci Matoz and businessman Gregor Planteu. They will replace Franc Dover, who stepped down effective from 21 July, and Marko Tišma, who started out as non-executive director in 2018 and was dismissed.

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