STA, 11 May 2019 - Following a push from the Traffic Safety Agency and a number of NGOs to lower the permitted alcohol level for drivers, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar expressed his disagreement with this proposal on Friday. He believes that the existing rules are good and that Slovenia should address alcohol-related issues as a broad social problem.
The minister was asked about his position on the proposal at the sidelines of a business conference in Portorož last night organised by the Chamber of Craft and Small Business (OZS), which has previously expressed opposition to the proposal.
The OZS believes that the initiative would damage the country's tourism industry and worsen the situation of hospitality businesses, already aggravated by several restrictive acts, including the new ban on trans fats and the tobacco act.
The alcohol limit for drivers in Slovenia is 0.05% of alcohol per litre of exhaled air, while the agency wants it to be reduced to 0.02%.
The proposal has been backed by a number of NGOs, many of which see it as the first step to gradually lowering it to 0.00%.
"Problems related to alcohol are not only limited to the roads. This is a general social problem that requires serious conversation. But I believe that current legislation is not bad," said Poklukar.
"Let's think whether this change is really necessary. I'm for 0.05%," he added, according to a press release released by his ministry today.
He also said that for the first time ever the number of road casualties dropped to below 100 last year.
If you enjoy gin then what better way to turn your habit into a hobby than to explore the world beyond the big names, and if you’d like a good excuse to restock your liquor shelf with intriguing bottles and varied tastes then consider entering the world of Slovenian gin
To the ill-informed this might seem like a risky proposal – what would Slovenians know about gin? But this would be a mistake akin to dismissing Japanese whisky or Californian wine. More so, perhaps, as Slovenia not only has the climate and knowledge needed to produce the drink, but a long history of working with juniper berries, producing a native spirit known as brinjevec (sometimes brinavec).
Brina is the Slovenian name for the berry that gives gin, along with various other botanicals – each producer using their own selection – its distinctive taste, and here we’ll note that botanicals, distillation and restorative liqueurs are also all part of the country’s cultural heritage. And gin, if not quite in the DNA, is certainly in the bloodstream of a growing number of Slovenians.
We thus present part one of a brief guide to of the bigger names in domestic gin production, the ones you might find in good liquor stores and bars across the country, and soon, perhaps, abroad.
Berryshka, based in Dolenjske Toplice, is family firm that started in 1950 producing essential oils. While this remains the core business, the company has long applied its expertise in extraction and distillation to other products, including a range of spirits and fruit liqueurs, with drinks that are low in sugar, come with no artificial colours or additives, and are made using natural spring water. These liqueurs are based on natural flavours such as cherry, aronia, walnut, blackcurrant, blackberry, blueberry, and juniper – the berry that gives gin its distinctive taste. Berryshka juniper products currently include a brinjevec – marketed as brandy and sold in both original and oak-barrel aged varieties – and two gins. London Gin Berryshka follows the traditions of the most popular gin, with a neutral alcohol flavoured with juniper berries, angelica, iris, cinnamon, liquorice, cardamom, anise, cumin, lemon, and coriander, while the while the more distinctive BrinGin Berryshka has the alcohol provided by juniper distillate, producing a drink that can be savoured neat, or enjoyed with the usual mixers. You can find Berryshka’s liquers and chocolates in many stores, but for the full experience you’re welcome to visit the factory, which also produces handmade chocolates, an experience that could easily be combined with a trip to Novo mesto, or the nearby hot springs. Find out more the company’s website.
Brin Gin is the work of Erik Sarkič, a third-generation brinjevec producer who grew up with a deep background in junipers and distillation. The move to gin was thus natural one, opening up new markets for the family business, and arguably making better use of the berries, since a litre of brinjevec requires around 8 kg of them, while the same amount of gin gains it’s more subtle flavour from just 20 g. In his mission to dive deeper into the flavour profile of the juniper Berry Erik is supported by Matevž Kmet, a biochemist who works as a consultant for the firm and has the air of a mad scientist, or at least a man for whom the greater the challenge, the more exciting it is to consider. Together Erik and Matevž dream up new products and then work to make their dreams become reality. One of these, still in the experimental stage, includes an alcohol-free gin, for those who love the taste of a good G&T but want to maintain a clear head. Another is what’s intended to be the world’s best, and most expensive, gin – with production of this now completed, and the launch only waiting on the perfect bottle to be found. Finally, Erik and Matevž are also working on a product that will be made entirely of juniper, including a juniper wood bottle. You can keep up with the latest developments, and order a bottle online, here.
DTG (Dry Tergeste Gin) also takes its own approach to the classic spirit, and is yet another small producer showing that the Slovenian tradition of brinjevec means the country is well positioned to become home to a variety of boutique gin brands, all of which are worthy of a place on your shelf. The name refers to Tergeste, or Trst (or, you must, Trieste), and Martin Žužek Kres, an anthropologist by training who developed the drink, wants his products to reflect the history of the land. However, DTG doesn’t just have a story to tell, but also a product that distinguishes itself from other gins in a number of ways. For one, it avoids the use of grain alcohol to give the drink its kick, and instead relies on alcohol produced from the juniper berry, mixed with a unique coffee cherry brandy. Coffee cherries are the fruit that grow around and protect coffee beans, and contain both caffeine and antioxidants. Their use in gin doesn’t produce a coffee-flavoured drink, but does give an interesting taste that can be enjoyed neat, without ice, or with mixers. In a sign of how quickly the Slovenian gin scene is set to evolve, the company has three new products that are still in development, but which I was lucky enough to taste at a recent event, and these will add to the flagship drink’s flavour profile with the use of spruce, thyme, and wild mint. Look out for DTG in stores, or order a bottle online.
All the parts of this series can be found here
STA, 11 March 2019 - Several cases of drunk driving by members of the Slovenian police force as well as one by a state prosecutor have been making headlines in recent weeks. While such cases are set to be on the decline, they have now grabbed public attention for including very senior members.
The first prominent case reverberated in early February, as Maribor Criminal Police head Robert Munda was caught driving off duty with 0.51 of milligrams of alcohol per litre of breath, more than double the 0.24 mg/L legal limit.
This was preceded by a case at the end of January when a member of the criminal police crashed into a traffic light in Ljubljana, also during his free time but allegedly with an alcohol level of 0.97 mg/L.
Even more excessive, allegedly involving four-times the legal limit, was the case of a drunk driving district state prosecutor, unofficially Anica Šoštarič from Murska Sobota, who was caught at the end of February.
Meanwhile, the most recent case of a senior representative of the hand of justice driving under the influence was reported today and unofficially includes the head of the Operation and Communication Centre at the Kranj Police Administration Jože Pasar.
According to POP TV, Pasar was involved in an accident on 16 February while speeding and drunk driving with an alcohol level of 0.62 mg/L. He has been issued a pre-termination warning notice.
Disciplinary proceedings are said to have also been introduced in the remaining cases, but no dismissals have been reported.
Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar has told the newspaper Večer that the police force has 8,152 employees and that these are not immune to inappropriate behaviour.
She stressed that "unlike some other institutions, we have mechanisms in place to discover this and penalise, tackle it ... there are no taboo topics with regard to this in the police".
Bobnar added that such cases have been on the decline and that the recent weeks have created a distorted impression.
"For instance: the police discovered 13,000 people driving under the influence last year. There were nine police officers among them ... The year before, the figure was ten and in 2016 it was 20," she said.
All our lifestyle stories are here
STA, 6 March 2019 - A campaign urging people to abstain from alcohol for the next 40 days until Easter started on Wednesday for the 14th year running, reminding the public of the dangers of alcohol consumption.
The campaign, instigated by Slovenian Caritas, the Slovenian Traffic Safety Agency, and the prevention organisation Med.Over.Net Institute, is running under the slogan "For a responsible drinking culture".
It encourages a responsible attitude towards drinking "at home, on the roads, at work, in company or wherever", secretary general of Slovenian Caritas Cveto Uršič told reporters.
The campaign, coinciding with the Catholic period of Lent, supports everybody who is suffering due to the negative effects of alcohol consumption such as violence, accidents, or health problems.
Uršič pointed out the "extremely cruel" statistics in terms of alcohol consumption. At least 1,000 people on average die every year because of alcohol-related reasons. In the last five years, drink driving caused 7,907 traffic accidents in Slovenia, 157 deaths and 732 gravely injured.
"Alcohol often leads to domestic violence, workplace violence, and bullying. It can also result in unemployment and poverty or is caused by them," Uršič said.
The representative of Med.Over.Net Institution, Andreja Verovšek, stressed that giving up alcohol was a decision demanding a lot of persistence and support.
According to the National Institute of Public Health's (NIJZ) data, almost half of Slovenians between 25 and 64 years of age (43%) consume too much alcohol, crossing the recommended consumption limit.
Alcohol-related costs to Slovenia's health system for the period between 2012 and 2016 are estimated at EUR 147m per year. Including all other related costs, such as the ones caused by accidents and domestic violence, the estimate rises to EUR 228m.
The ambassador of this year's campaign, journalist and presenter Igor E. Bergant, said the campaign raised awareness of a major social problem, as well as sent a positive message of educating instead of judging.
He stressed the importance of a zero-tolerance policy while driving or working, and the importance of being a role model for children. Bergant also acknowledged that Slovenia's stance on alcohol consumption had always been over-tolerant and therefore problematic.
Slovenian Caritas has included older pupils of primary schools and high school students in the campaign, inviting them to contribute to the prevention project with their own ideas and creations. They were encouraged to consider maintaining relationships, health, prosperity, and fun without alcohol and other drugs.
All our stories about alcohol abuse and Slovenia can be found here
STA, 15 January 2019 - Slovenian traffic statistics have been improving rapidly in recent years, but despite the advances - the annual number of road deaths dropped below 100 for the first time in 2018 - there are some persistent problems, drink driving chief among them. Change appears to be on the horizon.
Statistics for 2018 show that excessive alcohol consumption was responsible for 22 of the 92 road casualties. This is down from roughly a third of alcohol-related deaths in previous years.
But police have found that all drunk drivers involved in accidents last year had very high blood alcohol content, which contrasts with the overall decline in blood alcohol content in random traffic checks.
This shows, according to traffic experts and driving instructors, that existing programmes for dealing with drunk drivers simply do not work for the worst repeat offenders.
Related: The drink driving limit in Slovenia
In mid-November, for example, police reported pulling over a driving school car. The trainee driver was breathalysed and was found to have been drinking.
Subsequent inquiries determined that he had already lost his licence twice, which is why he had to re-take the driving test.
Thousands lose their driving licence in Slovenia every year, many due to drink driving.
A total of nearly 6,300 licences were revoked in 2017, up from almost 4,300 in 2016, though down significantly from the early 2100s, when up to 9,000 licences were revoked annually.
But temporary revoking of a driving licence is merely the most radical measure, most drink drivers are just fined and get penalty points. Fines range from EUR 300 to EUR 1,200.
In total, those who lose their licence may end up paying up to EUR 3,000 to settle the fine and re-take the test (which may include additional practice hours with instructors). But the cost no longer appears to dissuade drivers from sitting behind the wheel drunk.
"For someone with 25 years of experience behind the wheel retaking the driving test is not the solution. Their problem is not that they lack knowledge. Such drivers would need different treatment," says Manuel Pungartnik, the head of the driving school at the automotive club AMZS.
In the past another major problem was the forging of licences. There was a huge scandal in Slovenia several years ago when dozens of driving instructors and officials were found to have colluded to issue forged licences; most of those who bought the licenses had lost them due to drink driving.
Moreover, penalty points are erased after two years and when the most severe cases of drink driving get to court, judges are restricted to official records of fines, which are available only for the last three years.
This means they do not get the full picture of a driver's past conduct when they decide whether and how they will be punished.
Saša Jevšnik, the head of the Traffic Safety Agency's department for drivers, says the agency might propose a change of the rulebook.
There might be a restriction on how many times a driver who lost their licence may retake the test, and drivers who cause accidents drunk may be sent to do community work to "face the consequences of their actions," she said.
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said after a recent meeting with a road safety NGO that her ministry would examine possible solutions to tackle drink driving, in particular repeat offenders.
"There should be no trouble finding political consensus," the ministry said.
STA, 3 January 2019 - Two police officers and a trainee from Kranj who had invited a teen friend to come along in their van while on night patrol last July have been dismissed in a final decision confirmed by a government commission, the newspaper Dnevnik reported on Thursday.
The case made headlines after the girl posted on Instagram recordings of her behind the wheel of a police van carrying smoking and boozing officers after a night shift on 11 July.
The video incriminated a 28-year-old head of the patrol and a 33-year-old police officer, as well as a 20-year-old trainee, who was allegedly the initiator of the idea.
The video shows that the girl was allowed to drive the van even though she did not have a driver's licence.
What is more, the recordings show that the police officers were drinking spirits and smoking.
"Everyone on the job is a bit drunk, but I'm being a good girl," was the comment she posted on her profile.
Further inquiries also showed that the patrol misreported on their duties that night, including making up a false story about breathalysing a driver.
The three saw their employment contracts with the police terminated in August and they were banned from performing police tasks, but the procedure was not yet final due to the possibility of appeal.
According to Dnevnik, the dismissals are now final as they have been confirmed by the government commission for appeals related to labour relations.
Tonight, November 22 2018, a concert will be held in Ljubljana featuring the Police Orchestra and Vlado Kreslin. The occasion for this special event? A seasonal reward for drivers who were stopped around the St. Martin’s Day (Martinovanje) celebrations and achieved 0.0 on a breathalyser test. It’s a timely reminder as the season for office parties and social drinking is approaching that death on the roads doesn’t take a vacation, and that in addition to your own drink driving behaviour it’s a good idea to keep an eye on friends and loved ones at this time of year, and to plan for one sober driver or a taxi if needed.
The various drink driving limits in Europe. Wikimedia, public domain
The legal limit for ordinary drivers is Slovenia is 50 mg of alcohol per 100 ml of blood or 0.24 milligrams of alcohol per litre of exhaled air, while for beginners, professional drivers and other special groups total sobriety is required at all times.
Ideally no drivers should drink, but as a ready reckoner 350 ml of beer, 150 ml of wine and 5 ml of spirits will keep you under the limit, while two such drinks will put most people under 70 at or over the threshold, with gender, time since the alcohol was consumed, and food in the stomach being additional factors that influence the results.
A round-up for some recent reports from the wonderful Republic of Slovenia Statistical Office (Statistični urad RS) and the National Institute of Public Health (Nacionalni inštitut za javno zdravje).
STA, 21 June 2018- Slovenia has launched a nation-wide project in an effort to reduce the risk of alcoholism in the country. The project targets people with risky drinking habits who have not yet developed alcoholism. Alcohol consumption per capita in Slovenia is among the highest in the world.