Last Week in Slovenia: 14 - 20 January, 2022

By , 22 Jan 2022, 08:04 AM Politics
Last Week in Slovenia: 14 - 20 January, 2022

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

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FRIDAY, 14 January
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Amendments to the income tax act and energy vouchers, along with measures to contain the coronavirus epidemic, will be the coalition's main priorities until the end of its term, coalition leaders said after a meeting. On income tax, PM Janez Janša said that the coalition might accept the opposition's referendum challenge after it sees whether it is possible to hold the vote on the day of the general election.
        LJUBLJANA - Appearing before the opposition-led parliamentary inquiry examining the government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic, PM Janez Janša discussed the verification of rapid antigen tests, payout of bonuses and legal basis for coronavirus measures, as well as the low vaccination rate, which he said was similar in all post-Communist countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The priorities of France's EU presidency were presented to the parliamentary committees for EU affairs and foreign policy, with Florence Ferrari, the French ambassador to Slovenia, thanking Slovenia for the work carried out during the last six months and praising the cooperation between the two countries during Slovenia's EU presidency.

SATURDAY, 15 January
        MUMBAI, India - Prime Minister Janez Janša told The Economic Times, an Indian newspaper, that Slovenia saw India as an "important global, indeed, strategic partner of Slovenia and the EU as a whole." He said the informal EU-India summit in May 2021 had "reinforced the EU-India strategic partnership, which is underpinned by the shared values of democracy, freedom, rule of law and respect for human rights."
        LJUBLJANA - Robert Golob, the former chairman of electricity trader Gen-I, told Večer it would be clear by the end of January if he would enter the election race and whether he would form a new party or have a go with one of the existing parties. He said he was in talks almost on a daily basis with representatives of various parties and movements.
        LJUBLJANA/BERLIN, Germany - Marking the 30th anniversary of Germany's recognition of Slovenian independence, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that this jubilee in German-Slovenian relations was an incentive "to continue to advocate European interests and values consistently and to shape our future in the EU together and in a positive way".

SUNDAY, 16 January
        LJUBLJANA/ZAGREB, Croatia - Croatian media reported that Slovenia and Croatia reached an agreement under which Slovenian fishers would be allowed to fish in the Gulf of Piran in the Croatian territorial waters as far south as Umag, and Croatian fishers in Slovenian waters as far north as Koper. Slovenia neither confirmed nor denied these reports.
        MARIBOR - Authorities successfully neutralised an unexploded WWII aerial bomb that was found in Maribor earlier this week. A part of Slovenia's second largest city had to be evacuated until roughly 1:30pm when sirens marked the end of danger.

MONDAY, 17 January
        LJUBLJANA - The ruling Democrats (SDS) and a new party that would be led by Robert Golob, the former CEO of energy company GEN-I, were neck-and-neck at 15.5% and 15.4%, respectively, in a Vox Populi survey Mediana carried out in the format of an exit poll for the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer.
        LJUBLJANA - Justice Minister Marjan Dikaučič highlighted the progress in the digitalisation of the justice system as he presented the achievements of Slovenia's EU presidency, while rating the presidency as a whole as "excellent" despite the delays in nominating Slovenia's European delegated prosecutors.
        LJUBLJANA - The challenges faced by Slovenian ethnic communities in neighbouring countries were discussed as the parliamentary Commission for Slovenians Abroad met at the behest of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which urged the government to draw up a new strategy of relations with Slovenians living outside of Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian police recorded 10,067 attempts at illegal crossing of the border last year, down 31% on 2020, while asylum applications rose substantially, official police statistics show.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia spent almost EUR 31.5 million on setting up fences and on other costs related to the increased surveillance of its border with Croatia between November 2015 and the end of 2020, as 85.5 kilometres of razor wire fences were installed along the border, and are now gradually being replaced by hard fencing.
        VELENJE - The Velenje municipality, home to the country's only functioning coal mine, rejected the coal exit year 2033 as "unrealistic" and called for a more ambitious jobs strategy. The trade union of coal miners expressed disappointment, describing the decision as "political, unprofessional and ill-conceived".
        BRNIK - Jože Pučnik Airport Ljubljana saw a total of around 422,000 passengers last year, up 46.4% compared to 2020, according to data released by the airport's German operator Fraport, which operates the Slovenian airport through its subsidiary Fraport Slovenija.
        LJUBLJANA - The Financial Administration last year collected EUR 19.2 billion in taxes and other levies, 18% more than in 2020, and 9.3% more than in 2019.
TUESDAY, 18 January
        LJUBLJANA - The number of new coronavirus cases reached an absolute record with as many as 12,286 coronavirus infections recorded since the start of the epidemic last year. Over 63% of PCR tests came back positive, as labs in the country became overwhelmed. Hospitalisations remain stable.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša revealed in an interview with the Indian broadcaster Doordarshan that Slovenia and Taiwan are working on "exchanging representatives" at the "same level that many EU countries already have". The Chinese Foreign Ministry described his statements as "dangerous", whereas the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry expressed "gratitude" for his "staunch support". Only a few days later, the Slovenian-Chinese Business Council reported that Slovenian companies in the Chinese market were already affected. The statement also triggered some strong reactions from the opposition while President Borut Pahor said Slovenia had consistently advocated a One-China principle, a principle the EU is also bound to.
        LJUBLJANA - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec reiterated his promise that the state would help the coal-mining regions through transition as he responded to misgivings aired by those dependent on the industry over the strategy to exit coal in 2033. Vrtovec said 2033 when Slovenia was to exit coal to generate power was an ambitious but also very realistic goal.
        LJUBLJANA - Marjan Divjak, who has served as director general of the Finance Ministry's treasury directorate since 2013, was forward by President Borut Pahor to succeed Primož Dolenc as one of four vice-governors of the Slovenian central bank.
        STRASBOURG, France - Roberta Metsola's election as European Parliament president was hailed by Slovenian MEPs from the ranks of her European family, the EPP, but also others as the Renew and S&D members expressed the expectation for her to represent the Parliament's common position on issues such as the right to abortion.
        LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Jože Podgoršek announced he would run in the general election on the slate of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi), saying that the party provided political stability. NSi president Matej Tonin said the NSi was open to experts and people who want to implement its platform.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Left opposes the idea floated by PM Janez Janša to hold a referendum on amendments to the income tax act along with the general election in April and is considering withdrawing its petition for such a referendum.
        LJUBLJANA - The Labour Committee rejected a proposal by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) and Left for an increase in the minimum wage beyond the 4.9% rise set by the labour minister for 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court sentenced orthopaedic surgeon Gregor Kavčič of the Novo Mesto hospital to three years in prison for accepting bribes from medical supplier Emporio Medical in exchange for having the company supply knee replacement products by Biomet to the Novo Mesto hospital. Kavčič plans to appeal.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ministry of Education, Science and Sport introduced a separate quota for the enrolment of Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship in universities in Slovenia. The separate quota had been advocated by Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch, who welcomed the change.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will be fielding a total of 41 athletes at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics. Based on the season so far, the women's and men's ski jumping teams are seen as having the best chance of winning an Olympic medal.

WEDNESDAY, 19 January
        LJUBLJANA - The EU integration of Western Balkan countries is important for the bloc's strategic position in the world. It is also an opportunity for Slovenian businesses, Foreign Minister Anže Logar told an event on the Balkans, noting Slovenian companies had a chance to take part in projects for which the European Commission set aside EUR 9 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - Due to a rising number of coronavirus infections in the country, Slovenia switched to a new quarantine regime, where employees in health, social affairs and education who were in contact with an infected person do not need to quarantine provided they test for coronavirus daily for a week and use a FFP2 face mask in the workplace. Similar rules apply for kindergarten children and students.
        LJUBLJANA - Overwhelmed with PCR test samples, the National Laboratory of Health, Environment and Food started sending part of them to Germany for analysis. From 3,000 to 4,000 samples are currently sent to the lab Eurofins, which processes them in 48 hours.
        STRASBOURG, France - The European Parliament endorsed Jorg Kristijan Petrovič, Slovenia's candidate for the European Court of Auditors in an non-binding vote.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Justice Committed endorsed in a 7:6 vote a bill sponsored by the National Party (SNS) that seeks to shorten or limit "unreasonably long pre-trial and criminal proceedings in white-collar crime cases" and could result in ongoing cases becoming statute-barred. The amendments were confirmed by coalition MPs despite criticism from the parliament's legal service, upper chamber of parliament and even the Justice Ministry.
        LJUBLJANA - MP Violeta Tomić resigned from the opposition Left. The party's executive committee said it decided not to field Tomić in the Ljubljana-Center district, the Left's heartland, whereupon she declined an offer to run in another district. It also quoted a "partial loss of trust".
        LJUBLJANA - The Voice of the People, an initiative of over 1,800 individuals and 100 civil society organisations, presented a list of 138 demands that they wish political parties take a position on in the run-up to the election day. They see this as a contribution to political discourse and voter turnout.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Council vetoed amendments to the act on special rights for minorities in education which would set a higher Italian language standard for staff working in Slovenian-Italian bilingual kindergartens and schools. The near-unanimous vote came after councillors said it was wrong for administrative staff to be subjected to the same strict requirements regarding Italian language skills as teachers.
        LJUBLJANA - The non-executive directors of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) appointed Finance Ministry State Secretary Kristina Šteblaj an executive director of the bad bank. She will join Matej Pirc and Andrej Lazar on 1 February, and will serve as a BAMC executive director until the end of the year.

THURSDAY, 20 January
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor formally informed the National Electoral Commission (DVK) that he will sign a presidential decree for a general election on 9 February, setting Sunday, 24 April, as the election date.
        LJUBLJANA - The supervisory board of the NLB bank appointed Hedvika Usenik, Antonio Argir and Andrej Lasič to the management board to expand it from three to six members. Their five-year terms will start after clearance from the banking regulator.
        LJUBLJANA - Ivan Simič, director general of Slovenia's Financial Administration, was appointed the chief of the supervisory board at Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), taking over on Friday.
        LJUBLJANA - The government decided to extend the administered pricing of heating oil through the regulation on the pricing of petroleum products that was introduced last year, under which the distributors' margin has been limited to a maximum of six cents per litre of heating oil.
        LJUBLJANA - The government's macroeconomic think thank IMAD presented its report on productivity in Slovenia which shows that there is progress, but it is not significant enough. Slovenia is lagging behind the top EU countries and is being caught up with by its rivals from Central and Eastern Europe.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted its negotiating position for pay talks with medical doctors, estimated at EUR 111.57 million annually. The negotiating position says that the top pay bracket for doctors could rise by six brackets to the 63rd under the public sector pay system.
        NOVA GORICA - Former CEO of brewer Pivovarna Laško, Boško Šrot, and his family business Atka-Prima were ordered to pay EUR 13 million in damages to fruit drinks producer Fructal over several deals dating back to 2008 and 2009/

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