Last Week in Slovenia: 12 - 18 November, 2021

By , 20 Nov 2021, 08:32 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 12 - 18 November, 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, 12 November
        NOVO MESTO - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek warned that a potential new lockdown would cause the state to go bankrupt as the government paid a visit to south-east Slovenia. He said the Covid crisis was not over yet, so everyone should join forces to find solutions as "there will be no more state aid".
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided that primary and secondary school students will start self-testing on school premises on 17 November, as it delayed the start of this by two days. Testing will be carried out three times a week.
        KOPER - The supervisory board of the state-owned port operator Luka Koper appointed only one new member of the management board for a five-year term, unanimously confirming Robert Rožac, who currently serves as state secretary at the Environment Ministry, while failing to appoint one additional member of the board and its chairman.
        MARIBOR - The supervisory board of electricity distributor Elektro Maribor dismissed chairman Boris Sovič, in what is the third major staffing decision in state-owned energy firms in two weeks. Sovič, an ex-Social Democrat (SD) mayor of Maribor who had served as the company's chairman since 2012, rejected all the arguments for his dismissal.
        LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec rejected claims he was involved in the ousting of several directors of state-owned energy firms. He said staffing was in the exclusive domain of supervisory boards and Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), while corporate governance rules precluded direct political influence on staffing.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The EU home affairs ministers hosted by Slovenia's Aleš Hojs at a virtual conference expressed in a joint statement their political support for finding appropriate tools for uncovering and investigating sexual abuse of children.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission decided to open infringement proceedings against Slovenia to ensure correct transposition of EU rules on combating terrorism. The country has now two months to respond to the formal notice from Brussels, or else faces receiving a reasoned opinion.
        LJUBLJANA - The chair of the parliamentary commission investigating suspicion of political interference in police, Rudi Medved from the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), said the commission would send an intermediary report to the National Assembly confirming the suspicion of political pressure on police.
        PARIS, France - President Borut Pahor attended a high-level meeting marking the 75th anniversary of UNESCO and held talks with the organisation's director general Audrey Azoulay. He said in his address that UNESCO had a pioneering role in searching for solutions to the world's most pressing problems and challenges.
        MUNICH, Germany - Slovenian biologist and environmental activist Andreja Slameršek received this year's Wolfgang Staab Prize for Nature Conservation, which is given out by the German Schweisfurth Foundation. She was honoured for helping to stop several planned power stations that would destroy unique ecosystems along the rivers Mura and Sava.
        LJUBLJANA - A network of civil society and non-governmental organisations that is forming the Voice of the People initiative started its election campaign at the anti-government protest, presenting ten out of its hundred demands with which it plans to confront political parties ahead of the general election.
SATURDAY, 13 November
        PARIS, France - President Borut Pahor bestowed the Golden Order of Merit, one of the highest Slovenian state decorations, on Czech-French writer Milan Kundera. Kundera was honoured for having raised his voice for Slovenia's independence and for his outstanding contribution to understanding turbulent times in Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - With hospitals under tremendous pressure from increasing numbers of Covid patients, the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and Red Cross Slovenia announced they would help out with volunteer work and equipment.

SUNDAY, 14 November
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry said that significant progress had been made at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, while further efforts would be needed to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Climatologist Lučka Kajfež Bogataj meanwhile said the deal reached at the summit was just another disappointment in terms of reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while noting the progress in providing financial assistance to the most vulnerable countries and halting deforestation.
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - President Borut Pahor met Jean-Claude Juncker, former president of the European Commission and long-serving prime minister of Luxembourg, and current Prime Minister Xavier Bettel as he paid a visit to Luxembourg.
        LJUBLJANA - On Slovenian Sign Language Day, calls were made for a more inclusive society and accessibility of all areas of life for the deaf and hard of hearing, as well as for systemic development of the sign language. The human rights ombudsman called on the authorities to draft regulations to put the rights of such persons in practice.
        KRANJ - Škofja Loka Passion Play, staged by the Prešeren Theatre Kranj and directed by Jernej Lorenci, received the Šeligo Prize for the best production at the 51st Week of Slovenian Drama, while also receiving the audience's choice award and the awards for actors.
        LECH, Austria - Andreja Slokar won the Alpine Ski World Cup parallel giant slalom event to take the overall lead in the competition. This is the first career win for Slokar and also the first win ever for Slovenia in parallel giant slalom.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia beat Cyprus 2:1 to wrap up the qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup in the fourth spot in Group H. Slovenia finished the qualifiers at 14 points from ten matches, the same as the third-placed Slovakia.
MONDAY, 15 November
        LJUBLJANA - Asked in parliament about corruption and allegations that mafia is running the country, PM Janez Janša told the MPs that Slovenia's main problems today stemmed from "UDBA-mafia or, as is the newly-established term, parallel mechanisms managing large parts of systems and sub-systems without elections and without legitimacy."
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša assured MPs that the government was not supporting tax avoidance as he commented on controversial statements made by a minister of one of his previous governments in a conversation with a powerful business executive 14 years ago. He said taxes were not at the heart of the matter, and noted that he did not support calls for tax avoidance.
        LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - As part of his visit to Luxembourg, President Borut Pahor met President of the Chamber of Deputies Fernand Etgen and Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. Confirming the excellent relations between the two countries, the officials shared similar views on the EU's core values, including the rule of law and media freedom.
        LJUBLJANA - The centre-left opposition filed for an emergency session of the parliamentary Public Finance Oversight Commission over what they described as unprecedented political staffing in the energy industry. Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec responded by saying that corporate management rules in Slovenia prevented politics from such interference.
        GENEVA, Switzerland - Attending a virtual WHO summit on evidence-based policy making in health, Health Minister Janez Poklukar presented Slovenia's experience in implementing "effective and innovative evidence-based" measures in different phases of the Covid-19 epidemic.
        LJUBLJANA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption said it would launch an inquiry after receiving a report that Neffat Law Firm was contracted to draft amendments to the construction act. The report also said that the firm represented Branko Simonovič, a DeSUS MP who would be able to use these amendments to legalise a house he has illegally built on the coast. Simonovič denied the allegations.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - EU agriculture ministers adopted decisions on a new EU strategy for forests until 2030, stressing the importance of forests in combating climate change and biodiversity loss. Slovenia's Jože Podgoršek described the decisions as a great achievement of the Slovenian EU presidency.
        LJUBLJANA - The steel group SIJ said it had increased its sales revenue by 34.2% to EUR 714.6 million in the first nine months of the year, while EBITDA reached EUR 73.5 million. Almost EUR 41.5 million was channelled into investment in the January-September period.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest Vox Populi survey gave the ruling Democrats (SDS) 17% of respondent support, followed by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) at 13.9% and the Left at 8.1%. The share of undecided voters increased to almost a third.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana city council endorsed a revised budget for this year, under which the municipality will end 2021 with a EUR 5.3 million deficit instead of a EUR 1.2 million surplus. Revenue was set at EUR 390 million and expenditure at EUR 395 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The police said that a 17-year search for a 61-year-old fugitive sentenced for fraud was over as the woman was recently found and arrested in Ghana in cooperation with foreign security authorities. The Slovenian was extradited from the African country to Slovenia on 13 November and taken to the Ig prison.

TUESDAY, 16 November
        LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Boštjan Poklukar announced that hospitals had secured the full planned intensive care capacity for Covid-19 patients, meaning 288 beds, adding that state of extreme emergency would be declared in healthcare if the number of ICU patients exceeded this figure.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Defence Minister Matej Tonin said Slovenia "must be pleased" with the EU's Strategic Compass, a shared vision for EU security and defence, after EU defence ministers debated the draft document. The first responses to the document, prepared by the presiding trio involving Slovenia, are good and confirm that the direction is right, but some details are yet to be hashed out, he said.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - A delegation of the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) that visited Slovenia on a fact-finding mission in mid-October expresses deep concern over the climate of hostility and deep polarisation in Slovenia in a draft report.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs called for stronger cooperation between the police forces of EU member states and Western Balkan countries as he addressed a meeting of the board of the EU border agency Frontex. "The Western Balkans is undoubtedly a priority partner, but ... cooperation must be mutual and each partner must contribute their fair share."
        LJUBLJANA - A group of Slovenian NGOs called on the government in its capacity as the EU presiding country to launch in-depth discussion on the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border. It pointed to violations of human rights along the EU's eastern border and expressed deep concern over migrants being prevented from accessing asylum and international protection.
        LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec said Slovenia was counting on nuclear in its energy transition since renewable sources alone would not suffice to cover the production shortfall once coal was phased out given that the country had missed many opportunities already.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - EU ministers in charge of tourism agreed at a virtual informal meeting that the green and digital transition must form the core of the tourism sector's post-pandemic recovery if the sector is to be put on a sustainable footing. Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek noted the ministers had the same general positions on recovery.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The Slovenian EU presidency said it had achieved progress in some of the key dossiers in negotiations with the European Parliament on legislation in areas such as health and digitalisation. It hopes for further progress by the end of the year, including on the minimum wage.
        LJUBLJANA - Petra Grah Lazar, the acting director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), has been named full-fledged director on a temporary basis. The appointment is based on recent changes to the act on the organisation of police, which critics say would emaciate the police unit specialised in white-collar crime.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's top officials received booster shots of coronavirus vaccines nearly nine months after they received their first shots in the early stages of the vaccination campaign. A total of 176,740 people in Slovenia have so far received booster shots, just over 8% of the entire population and roughly a third of those aged 70 or more.
        NOVA GORICA - Danijel Bešič Loredan, the head of the Nova Gorica general hospital's orthopaedic ward, saw his contract terminated due to his opposition to moving patients from his ward to expand the hospital's capacities for Covid-19 patients.
        LJUBLJANA - The government relieved Tomi Rumpf of his duties as the director of the Commodity Reserves Agency, as Rumpf recently tendered his resignation, and appointed Andrej Kužner as the acting director. Rumpf had tendered his resignation on 11 November.
        MIRNA - Atlantic Grupa, a Croatian multinational that owns Slovenian food producer Droga Kolinska, sold its production facility in the Slovenian town of Mirna to Austrian baby food company Gittis Naturprodukte as it continues divesting its non-core businesses.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian police force got its first hybrid patrol vehicles which officials said would reduce noise pollution in settled areas and contribute to cleaner environment. A total of 56 new vehicles were formally handed over to the police at a ceremony at the Tacen Police Academy compound.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana city council extended by five years the contract for the Bežigrad Sport Park project, which includes renovation of the dilapidated landmark stadium designed by Jože Plečnik. The contractors have welcomed the decision, while a civil initiative opposing the project said private interest had outweighed public interest.

WEDNESDAY, 17 November
        ROME, Italy - Defence Minister Matej Tonin signed an agreement on the purchase of a Spartan C-27J transport aircraft with his Italian counterpart Lorenzo Guerini. The Defence Ministry said the value of the agreement was roughly EUR 72 million, where the basic price of the aircraft was EUR 48 million and the additional modules were valued at EUR 11 million. The aircraft is expected to arrive in Slovenia in about a year and a half.
        LJUBLJANA - Mandatory self-testing of students in primary and secondary schools got off to a largely problem-free start. Reports from schools suggested the vast majority of parents consented to testing and only a small percentage of parents decided to switch to remote schooling in protest.
        LJUBLJANA - Police Commissioner Anton Olaj dismissed allegations of political staffing in the force after a trade union complained that recently adopted legislation had resulted in a "purge" in the top echelons of the police force. Olaj confirmed though that the terms of more than a hundred staff in total had ended in line with the new law.
        LJUBLJANA - Maja Pak, the long-serving director of the Slovenian Tourist Board, stepped down citing differences in views with Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek over the management of the organisation. Počivalšek thanked Pak for her effort but did not specify what the divergence of opinions was.
        LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry denied media reports that it had commissioned a law firm to draft amendments to the construction act and that they were tailored to allow an MP from the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) to legalise his house on the coast. The Chamber of Architecture and Spatial Planning meanwhile denied the ministry's claim it had initiated the changes.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Speakers at the European Tourism Forum agreed that while there were reasons for the European tourism sector to be optimistic after a good summer season, there was still a long way until full recovery, noting that the sector must become more resilient, sustainable and digitalised.
        LJUBLJANA - Triglav Group, Slovenia's largest insurer, said its net profit in the first three quarters of the year increased by 48% on the same period a year ago to EUR 75.2 million as consolidated gross written premium rose by 10% to EUR 1.06 billion. The group expects to trump the initially planned annual profit target, with the figure to amount to EUR 115-125 million.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest semi-annual report by the Surveying and Mapping Authority (GURS) shows the prices of apartments and houses rising rapidly since the real estate market started recovering in March. In the first half of the year, they rose by around 8% year-on-year, the highest six-month growth since the 2008 real estate crisis.
        LJUBLJANA/MURSKA SOBOTA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption said it was looking into the purchase of two biogas plants in eastern Slovenia in the aftermath of media reports suggesting the board chairman of the bad bank may have been in a conflict of interest. The Bank Assets Management Company then denied the allegations, saying that the relevant decision was taken before the chairman's time at the bad bank.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest trade union association, ZSSS, announced it had filed a complaint against the state with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) alleging violation of a relevant convention over absence of regulation that would allow notification of most occupational diseases.
        LJUBLJANA - On International Students' Day, the Slovenian Student Organisation pointed to what it sees as an unenviable position of the current generation of students due to the Covid-19 epidemic and consequences of the measures to stem it. Statistics Office data show that 48.6% of Slovenians aged 19 to 24 study, which makes Slovenia an EU leader.
        KOPER - After 26 years of service, Slovenia's oldest police boat made its final sail off the Koper coast before it is consigned to a museum. Built in Italy in 1994, the P-111 boat will be moved to the Park of Military History in Pivka.

THURSDAY, 18 November
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed investment-oriented budget documents for the next two years under which the deficit is to be reduced from EUR 4 billion this year to EUR 2.47 billion or 4.6% of GDP in 2022 and EUR 1.52 billion or 2.6% of GDP in 2023. Centre-left opposition MPs and the Fiscal Council have expressed doubt this is realistic.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to put forward Tanja Frank Eler and Matej Oštir for Slovenia's two European delegated prosecutors. However, according to the government's decree, their appointment is temporary, in force until the national appointment procedure is concluded. Boštjan Valenčič, the head of the Association of State Prosecutors, meanwhile told TV Slovenija that the procedure had been wrapped up, adding that "the state prosecution act does not recognise the concept of the interim".
        LJUBLJANA - The breakdown of the talks on the EU-Switzerland cooperation agreement and other possible options for strengthening cooperation topped the agenda in a meeting between FM Anže Logar and his Swiss counterpart Ignazio Cassis. Cassis said the cooperation agreement was too big a step forward for Switzerland, which wanted to focus on smaller steps for the time being. Logar said the Slovenian presidency would do everything in its power to "restore trust".
        LJUBLJANA - The latest official data showed that more than 3,660 people tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, slightly up on a weekly basis, as nearly 40% of the PCR tests came back positive. The 7-day average of new cases rose from the day before by 44 to 3,269, while the 14-day cumulative incidence per 100,000 people fell by 40 to 2,153. The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients increased slightly to 1,104, including 253 in intensive care units. 24 people died of Covid-19, the largest number since late January.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Parliament will discuss at its plenary session next Wednesday the rule of law in Slovenia, and the delay in the appointment of European delegated prosecutors. A resolution is planned that the Parliament will vote on in December, according to the agenda of the session. The situation in Slovenia will also be discussed by the Parliament's LIBE committee based on a fact-finding mission report. The latter session was supposed to take place on 18 November but was then pushed back to 29 November.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed the bill changing the penal code to introduce prosecution of suspects who have threatened the country's senior officials or their relatives ex officio, without the injured party initiating proceedings.
        LJUBLJANA - The Italian Army plans to help Slovenia with up to 30 doctors and nurses as the country battles an increasing number of Covid-19 patients. The Italian Army healthcare workers will be joining the medical teams of the Slovenian Armed Forces, who started helping hospitals at the beginning of the week, the Defence Ministry said.
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor attended a session of the Judicial Council, focussing on the passing of the 2022 budget bill, which cuts funding to some independent state institutions. Pahor said the way in which budget funding had been reduced could be seen as efforts to weaken these institutions. He said he would strive to raise the issue with those in charge and call for a solution, the president's office said.
        NOVO MESTO - The drug maker Krka reported a group net profit of EUR 240.1 million for the first nine months of 2021, a year-on-year increase of 14% and the highest nine-month profit in the company's history, on the back of revenue that increased by 1% to EUR 1.18 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Press Agency (STA) confirmed receiving EUR 676,000 from the Government Communication Office (UKOM) for public services performed between January and April, as part of a broader deal on the restoration of public funding for this year. The amount had been disputed by UKOM for months and the STA sought recourse in court.
        LJUBLJANA - After a brutal attack on judge Daniela Ružič in front of her home near Maribor in June 2019, her partner at the time is now facing charges of attempted murder, according to media reports. Ružič and the man were in the process of splitting up at the time. It had been originally speculated that the judge might have been attacked in relation to her work.

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