STA, 22 July 2019 - The Chinese owners of airport operator Aerodrom Maribor have put up signs to limit access to Maribor airport, which is currently managed by DRI, a state-owned company, media reported on Monday.
This is the latest twist in the story of Maribor Airport, whose management was handed over to DRI, the state-owned consulting and engineering company specialised in infrastructure projects, in early June.
The government decided for the move after the Chinese-backed Aerodrom Maribor announced in January it was invoking a six-month notice and terminating the 15-year lease agreement it signed in 2017 due to delays in a planned expansion of the airport's runway.
DRI got the operating licence last week, so the airport reopened last Friday after being closed for a day.
But today, signs saying Private Property, No Trespassing, No Parking appeared at the entrance to the parking area.
The Infrastructure Ministry told the STA that the easement in the area of Maribor airport, owned by Aerodrom Maribor, was settled in the land register and that any disputes over the matter would be settled in court.
The ministry assessed that "the Chinese owners who unilaterally pulled out of the lease agreement for no apparent reason are doing this to hinder the operations of Maribor airport and are implementing their interests at Slovenia's expense".
DRI meanwhile told the STA today the signs did not disrupt the airport's operations.
DRI is to manage the airport until the end of 2020 or until the Infrastructure Ministry finds a long-term solution.
The ministry denied in a press release last week claims that Aerodrom Maribor terminated the lease agreement due to delays in the planned expansion of the airport's runway.
It added no deadlines or any other conditions for the state had been set in the 2017 agreement.
The project entails changes to the spatial plan for the area, which is a lengthy procedure and can take several years, it noted.
The Chinese-backed firm SHS Aviation bought Aerodrom Maribor at the beginning of 2017 from Delavska Hranilnica savings bank, signing a 15-year lease agreement with the state.
It made huge announcements when it took over, but few of its plans came to fruition and the airport has been languishing, serving only a handful of charter flights and subsisting mostly on revenue from pilot training.
STA, 26 June 2019 - An international symposium on the Dragon 4 initiative started in Slovenia on Tuesday and will last until Friday. The meeting aims to strengthen European-Chinese cooperation by developing opportunities for using space imaging for various purposes, including in agriculture and to address climate change.
The initiative by the European Space Agency (ESA), the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology and the National Remote Sensing Center of China (NRSCC) has brought together some 600 scientists.
"Cooperation is producing results which provide prosperity for society in China as well as Europe," Karl Bergquist, who is in charge of ESA international cooperation, told the STA on the margins of the symposium.
He added that the project was focused on coming up with ways to use satellite data for better environmental monitoring, thus providing more efficient strategies for reducing carbon emissions and mitigation pollution.
The NRSCC head Wang Oi'an said that cooperation had been very beneficial for China, adding that the country provided a training program for young scientists every year and enabled them to be part of exchange programs.
The project was initiated in 2004 and includes four phases, each lasting four years. The 2016-2020 period of the fourth phase, Dragon 4, is coming to an end, so it is expected that Dragon 5 strategies and targets will be set down during the Ljubljana meeting, said Bergquist and Wang.
There will be 28 collaboration projects presented, which includes some 250 participants. The event will also feature workshops discussing atmosphere and climate, the state of oceans and coastal areas, hydrology, mitigating natural disasters consequences, ecosystems, smart cities and agriculture.
Economy Ministry State Secretary Aleš Cantarutti stressed the significance of Slovenia hosting the symposium since the country was thus improving its status within the ESA and providing networking opportunities for its institutions.
"It's important that the symposium is in Slovenia, where we're hosting more than 200 scientists, so that Slovenian institutions and companies have an opportunity to establish new connections and get acquainted with the state of the art of the global scientific sphere in this area," he told the STA.
Cantarutti added that space observation was extremely important for Slovenia, including in agriculture and hydrology, highlighting that the country is expected to launch two small satellites into orbit on 9 September.
One of them is called Nemo-HD, which will weight about 65 kg and will be able to provide high-resolution remote sensing imagery as well as capture high-quality video footages.
The other one, called Tristat, will weigh only some 5 kg and will be designed to observe Earth through short-wave infrared multispectral imaging.
Wang and Cantarutti pointed out that the significance of European-Chinese cooperation had been already highlighted by Slovenian Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and his Chinese counterpart Wang Zhigang, when the pair met in April during Počivalšek's visit to China.
The state secretary added that the ministry would draw up a pair of laws on space activity this year and start developing a national space strategy as well as prepare for renewing associated membership of the ESA The ministry expects Slovenia to become a full-fledged member of the agency in 2021.
STA, 12 June 2019 - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek met Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng on the final day of her visit to China to talk about Slovenia's geostrategic advantages in light of China's plans to upgrade links to Europe.
According to a press release from the Infrastructure Ministry, Bratušek also met the management of Cosco, one of the world's biggest shipping companies which has stakes in several European ports, including a 100% stake in the container terminal of the Piraeus port in Greece.
Cosco, which is a state-owned company, is also a major partner for Slovenia's sole maritime port, Koper.
Bratušek put in her word for boosting that cooperation, and presented plans to build a second track connecting the port inland.
The CEO of the port operator Luka Koper, Dimitrij Zadel, who accompanied the minister, presented the company's development potential and investment plans.
The minister tweeted that the construction of the second track between Koper and Divača, and investment in extension of port piers would increase the joint potential of the port and Slovenia, "so stable partners are important for our companies".
Bratušek also visited the Slovenian Embassy in Beijing and met Transport Minister Li. They discussed the advantages of Slovenia's geostrategic position in Central and Eastern Europe.
China has been dedicating considerable attention to transport infrastructure within the 17+1 initiative for cooperation with the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the Belt and Road initiative, or the new Silk Road to boost transport links with Europe.
Li thanked Bratušek for Slovenia's active participation in both initiatives, noting the country's geostrategic location. He called for enhancing cooperation between the two countries. Bratušek invited her counterpart to visit Slovenia.
Earlier this week, Bratušek visited the China - CEEC Investment and Trade Expo fair in Ningbo, meeting Chinese Vice-Prime Minister Hu Chunhua at the forum of representatives of the participating countries. She also met former long-serving Transport Minister Jang Huantang.
Apart from Luka Koper, several other Slovenian companies were showcased at the Ningbo fair, including the Slovenian railways operator Slovenske Železnice, postal company Pošta Slovenije, logistic companies Intereuropa, Adria Kombi and d OmniOpti.
STA, 10 June 2019 - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek has set out the advantages of the new railway connecting Slovenia's sole maritime port as she addressed China - CEEC Investment and Trade Expo fair in China.
Na Forumu predstavnikov držav, ki sodelujejo na mednarodni razstavi CEEC Expo sem se srečala s podpredsednikom vlade Kitajske Hu Chunhuajem in nagovorila ministre sodelujočih držav. Izpostavila sem projekt gradnje 2. tira, ki bo povečal konkurenčno naše Luke Koper. @mzi_rs ???? pic.twitter.com/PbjgLc6um4— Alenka Bratušek (@ABratusek) June 9, 2019
According to a statement from her ministry, Bratušek addressed ministers and other senior officials of the countries participating in the fair in Ningbo, underscoring the importance of the emerging modern-day Silk Road that would create closer transport links between Asia and European countries.
She noted the EUR 1 billion-plus project to build a second rail track between the Koper port and the tail junction in Divača in inland Slovenia, which she said would further increase the port's competitive advantage.
The minister said the project would cut the journey travelled by ships from Asia to Europe by five to eight days compared to north European ports, which would reduce not only costs but also the impact on the environment.
[Kitajska ??] Iz Šanghaja do Pekinga 1.500 kilometrov z vlakom na sestanek z ministrom za promet. Hitrost vožnje do 350 km/h! ?⚡️ #gradimo #povzujemo #železnice #vlaki @mzi_rs #Slovenija ?? pic.twitter.com/54AuvXo2W9— Alenka Bratušek (@ABratusek) June 10, 2019
Bratušek also visited the exhibition ground of the Slovenian companies showcased at the China - CEEC Expo fair, the port operator Luka Koper, the Slovenian railways operator Slovenske Železnice, postal company Pošta Slovenije, logistic companies Intereuropa, Adria Kombi and OmniOpti.
At the forum of representatives of the participating countries, the Slovenian minister met Chinese Vice-Prime Minister Hu Chunhua. Accompanied by Luka Koper CEO Dimitrij Zadel, Bratušek also visited the Ningbo port, one of the world's largest.
The minister also addressed mayors of cities as part of the 17+1 initiative including China, the Central and East European countries and Greece, and met the leaderships of the Zheijiang province and the Ningbo city.
Bratušek will also visit Beijing where she will meet Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng.
STA, 25 April 2019 - Household appliances maker Gorenje expects to lay off 270 people as the group undergoes reorganisation following a recent change in ownership. The newspaper Večer meanwhile learnt from the in-house trade union that 1,720 people would be sacked, of which 1,450 would be offered new contracts.
The company, which employs a total of just over 4,200 people, and has recently been taken over by Chinese Hisense, said in a statement following the report by Večer that reduction staff in support services would be achieved through attrition.
Nonetheless, layoffs will not be avoided if the company will determine that there is no more need for a certain position.
The trade union meanwhile said it was willing to use any measure to fight layoffs and has called a press conference for tomorrow. It also refused to take part in talks about redundancy criteria, scheduled for today.
Nevertheless, Gorenje expects a new organisation scheme to be adopted in the first half of May. The next step will be to finalise the redundancies list and adopt a plan of action.
The trade union strongly opposes any moves toward redundancies since it believes the employees are not responsible for the company's poor business results.
It wants the company's management to take responsibility for the poor performance by initiating a procedure investigating liability of individual top managers.
Gorenje generated almost EUR 1.2bn in sales revenue last year, a 1.7% decrease compared to 2017. In 2018 the company sustained some EUR 37m in net loss, while it brought in a profit the previous year.
STA, 25 April 2019 - Economic Development and Technology Minister Zdravko Počivalšek met Chinese Minister of Science and Technology Wang Zhang in Beijing on Thursday. He moreover addressed the 2019 Belt and Road Forum, underlining that Slovenia was an open, high-tech partner economy.
A press release from the Economy Ministry quoted Počivalšek as saying that China appreciated the attendance of politicians at events such as the Belt and Road summit that started today.
Počivalšek noted at the sidelines of the event that a number of bilateral meetings of Slovenian and Chinese politicians had taken place over the past 26 years, which is reflected in traditionally good relations and strong business ties.
Meetings taking place as part of the 16+1 initiative of Central and Eastern European countries and China boost Slovenia's visibility and open doors for Slovenian companies, he added.
Počivalšek proposed to Wang that the countries sign a memorandum on cooperation in technology and innovation. He said that China considered Slovenia to be a credible partner in innovation. "We must seize this opportunity for our companies."
Počivalšek arrived in China on Tuesday, visiting the headquarters of Haisense and meeting representatives of the Liaoning Shenyang province yesterday.
STA, 24 April 2019 - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek visited the headquarters of Hisense, the owner of household appliances maker Gorenje, on Wednesday, the second day of his visit to China. He said Hisense would get the government's support in simplifying procedures and having its investments approved in Slovenia.
Počivalšek was received by Hisense group vice president Tang Yeguo and the delegation visited the manufacturing plant for cooling devices and the showroom, the company said in a press release.
Počivalšek's five day trip to China aims at boosting business ties. He is scheduled to meet the representatives of Liaoning Shenyang, where automotive maker TPV is to launch a new facility.
Slovenia has improved its visibility in China over the past five years, which is reflected in the continuous growth of trade between the countries, the Economy Ministry said in a press release.
China is Slovenia's most important trade partner in Asia and 13th overall, ranking before Russia and the US.
Nearly 12,600 Slovenian companies imported from China last year, while 475 exported to China, generating EUR 1.3bn, 11.8% more than the year before.
All our stories on Slovenia and China are here
STA, 23 April 2019 - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek will start a multi-day visit to China on Tuesday designed to strengthen economic relations between the two countries as well as Slovenia's role in the Belt and Road Initiative.
Počivalšek will present the government's action plans for potential investors and the situation in Slovenian business. Tourism cooperation will also be on the agenda.
The minister will visit the headquarters of the Chinese appliance and electronics manufacturer Hisense, the owner of the Slovenian white goods maker Gorenje.
He will meet with representatives of the local authorities in the province Liaoning Shenyang, where the Slovenian automotive supplier TPV would like to launch a production facility.
Počivalšek will attend the second Belt and Road Initiative Forum, addressing participants at the silk road innovation conference.
China is Slovenia's leading trading partner in Asia, listed as 13th among the country's top trading partners, ahead of Russia and the US, said the Economy Ministry, adding that Slovenia is particularly supportive of hi-tech projects.
More than 12,500 Chinese companies exported to Slovenia last year, while almost 500 Slovenian companies traded with China. Bilateral trade in goods increased by almost 12% year-on-year, amounting to EUR 1.3bn.
The scope of Slovenia's investment in China is on the rise as well, currently estimated at EUR 45m, as over 30 Slovenian companies have affiliates in China.
In Slovenia, there are roughly 110 companies in 100% Chinese ownership and 23 companies with mixed Chinese ownership, according to Economy Ministry data.
All our stories on Slovenia and China are here
The site Ex-Yu Aviation reports that Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport saw it’s third month in a row with rising passenger numbers, with the figures for March 2019 up 3% on a year before, and a total of 133,641 travellers served. In contrast, SHS Aviation, the Chinese-owned operator of Maribor Edvard Rusjan Airport, will end its involvement with the troubled airport on July 15 2019.
SHS, which had planned to make the airport a hub for Chinese tourists, signed a 15-year agreeement for the concession in March 2017. However, it has been unhappy with delays by the Slovenian government in agreeing a new zoning plan that would have enabled it to invest €600 million in a redevelopment project, as well as the rejection of requests for state aid.
Maribor Airport has been without any scheduled commercial flights since September 2018.
All our stories on air travel are here
STA, 12 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec highlighted the port of Koper as the closest link between Central and East Europe, and China as he addressed the eighth summit of China and 16 Central and East European countries in Croatia's Dubrovnik on Friday.
In line with the bill, courts will have to weigh whether Banka Slovenije, the central bank, correctly applied the law in ordering the bailout, and correctly estimated bank losses.
Plaintiffs will be able to launch proceedings within ten months after the law enters into force. Banka Slovenije will be the defendant and if it loses, it will have to settle the damages from its reserves. If those do not suffice, it will be able to borrow from the state.
Banka Slovenije opposes the bill, in particular the solution under which it would have to pay damages if the courts establish to the plaintiffs were wronged, arguing that this would lead to unlawful monetary financing.
The central bank believes the law should state clearly that it is not responsible to pay compensation for the damage. A similar position is held by the European Central Bank.
The government rushed to endorse the bill at yesterday's correspondence session because the upper chamber of parliament, the National Council, was also preparing a similar bill, which however envisages the state launching procedures against Banka Slovenije.
"We rushed it, because we wanted the legislative procedure to start as soon as possible. It is possible that we will be merging the bill with the National Council's legislative proposal," Finance Ministry State Secretary Metod Dragonja said yesterday.
The National Council adopted its proposal today, arguing the government's bill fell short of what had been asked by the Constitutional Court.
The upper chamber's president Alojz Kovšca stressed that excessive procedural costs would discourage potential plaintiffs from suing Banka Slovenije, which means effective legal protection had not been provided.
The National Council would have Banka Slovenije sued by the state and the burden of proof transferred to the central bank.
Kovšca announced cooperation in the adoption of the final act, but added it would be vetoed if it failed to provide a realistic solution.
The bill will go through a regular procedure in parliament and the government is counting on it to be passed in June or July.
In the three months after the passage, special virtual data rooms envisaged by the bill would be set up by the Securities Market Agency (ATVP) where Banka Slovenije will give all interested parties access to information.
Potential damages are estimated between zero and EUR 963.2m, which is how much liabilities were wiped out by the banks which were nationalised in 2013 and 2014, plus extra costs.
The Finance Ministry said in presenting the bill that Banka Slovenije had decided for the measures independently and therefore carried the responsibility and liability for potential damages.
The legislation based on which the measures were taken has been found to be in line with the Constitution, so it is Banka Slovenije and not the state which is responsible for the way the legislation was implemented, the ministry said.
The ministry took into account the central bank's remarks regarding the setting up of data rooms, which it claimed would be too expensive, so the bill envisages the setting up of virtual rooms by the ATVP with the ministry only providing one room where computers and software will be available for accessing data.
But the ATVP warned in a letter today that it lacked the necessary know-how, money and staff to set up the virtual data rooms, so it would have to outsource them, which would require additional funding and a lot more time than the envisaged three months.
The agency also said it had no resources to decide on the potential thousands of applications for access to the data rooms, so it proposes that Banka Slovenije or the Public Administration Ministry take over the task.
In line with the bill, the court will decide whether there are grounds to award damages to plaintiffs and also set the amount of the potential damages, whereas in the original proposal Banka Slovenije was to determine the amount of damages, pending final approval by the court.
All procedures will be handled by the Maribor District Court, where Banka Slovenije will have to prove that it had reasons for the wipe-out and that it takes into account remarks regarding access to information and data protection.
Slovenia spent roughly EUR 5.5bn bailing out and nationalising the three largest banks in the country (two small banks were wound down) in a process seen as saving the economy from ruin.
However, subsequent revelations cast doubt on the methods used to value bank assets, which in turn determined how much capital banks needed and to what extent junior creditors were affected.
All our stories about Slovenia and China are here