Ljubljana related

19 Sep 2020, 11:03 AM

STA, 19 September 2020 - Slovenia has made face masks mandatory outdoors as of Saturday in cases when it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres.

The government issued the new decree on Friday evening with the addendum that it would made a biweekly assessment of whether the measure is still necessary.

The decision comes after a sharp spike in new infections, with triple-digit increases in new cases for most of this week.

In indoor public places, masks have been mandatory since the first wave of the epidemic in spring. That part of the rule has now been tightened, including in schools, where students and teachers have so far been required to wear masks only in common areas.

Under the decree, students up to grade 6 of primary school are not required to wear masks in the classroom, while teachers have to wear them only if they cannot maintain a 2-metre physical distance from students in class.

From grade 7, both students and teachers must wear masks at all times unless they can maintain a 1.5-metre physical distance. In many classrooms, maintaining a physical distance is not possible.

The original plan involved making masks mandatory for kindergarten teachers as well, but strong backlash from the public appears to have convinced the government to backtrack.

Even the new mask rule in schools appears likely to provoke protests, judging by reactions by teacher and parent association to the government's preliminary announcement.

18 Sep 2020, 18:03 PM

Jump to new mask rules

STA, 18 September 2020 - The number of new coronavirus infections reached a new all-time high in Slovenia on Thursday, as 137 out of 3,557 tests came back positive, the government said on Twitter on Friday. The number of active cases is also at a record high of 1,116. Sixty-seven Covid-19 patients are meanwhile in hospital, eleven in intensive care.

Three people were discharged from hospital, while four people infected with coronavirus died, putting the national death toll at 140, the government said.

According to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the number of total confirmed cases now stands at 4,195 and 194,970 tests have been performed since early March.

Government spokesman Jelko Kacin told the press later in the day that only two Thursday cases had been imported, and that the number of cases of local origin was double the number of cases of unknown origin.

Two persons who died yesterday are related to a care home in the northern region of Koroška, one of whom died at the UKC Ljubljana hospital. The identity of the other two deceased persons has not been revealed.

The coronavirus spokesman also announced two government decrees, to be adopted at today's correspondence session, including the one tightening rules for wearing face masks in outdoor places frequented by many people and at schools.

Asked by a journalist whether people should also wear masks while walking in crowded streets, like Čopova Street in Ljubljana, he said: "I will be walking along Čopova with a mask."

Kacin added that employers should also start purchasing devices for taking temperatures of employees, and that bars and restaurants would have to cancel some events as working hours would be limited to between 6am and 10pm.

He said that some other measures were also on the table, including further limiting the number of people for public gatherings from the current ten to six, but this will certainly not happen in the next two or three days.

Meanwhile, the Educations Ministry also published the numbers for infections at schools and kindergartens.

On Thursday, there were nine confirmed cases among employees in kindergartens, 46 among employees in primary schools and seven among staff in secondary schools.

One kindergarten child was infected as well, as were 55 primary school children and 23 secondary school students.

Also quarantined were 31 kindergarten staff along with 31 children, 133 employees at primary schools along with 208 children, and 16 employees at secondary schools where 82 pupils had to stay at home just like their infected classmates.

The ministry said that data after the third week of school did not suggest a shift was needed from the current model, which has children attending lesson in class, albeit with protective measures.

Schools, kindergartens shocked by new mask rules

STA, 18 September 2020 - Schools and kindergartens are upset by the new rules making face masks obligatory in classroom for teachers and children from 7th class, and for kindergarten teachers. The SVIZ trade union of teachers criticised the new measures as absolutely unacceptable and impossible to implement.

SVIZ head Branimir Štrukelj told the STA on Friday their phones had been ringing off the hook today, with teachers and other school and kindergarten staff warning that talking with a face mask for six hours was impossible. The new rule is particularly unacceptable for kindergartens, he said.

The Association of Slovenian Kindergartens said it was extremely surprised by the government's decision. According to its head Janja Bogataj, the government has made the decision without consulting kindergartens and without any kind of consideration about the consequences. "We don't know how we will be able to conduct the pedagogic process," she told the STA.

"I cannot imagine a kindergarten teacher signing songs, staging a play, dancing, exercising and at the same time comforting a child and offering them emotional support if the child will only see their eyes but no other facial expressions," she added.

Štrukelj believes the government's decision is merely transferring responsibility to schools and kindergartens. "This will have to stop, because we are close to the boiling point and we will present demands regarding additional staff in a few days."

Additional support staff will also be needed, as cooks and cleaners wearing masks are starting to suffer from burnout, he said.

If the authorities do not heed the demands, other measures will follow, Štrukelj announced.

Headteachers at schools and kindergartens have received no specific instructions yet regarding the regime that is to be introduced on Monday.

The principal of the Celje Center secondary chool, Gregor Deleja, told the STA that they only had information from the media.

"We would particularly like definitions of exceptions, as students and employees with asthma and other health problems would allegedly not need to wear masks," he said.

Education Minister Simona Kustec said today the ministry would send a set of instructions about the new measures to schools and kindergartens today.

She believes the new rules are not much different from the ones in place now, saying they were "nothing dramatic". "We all wear masks, we all know what distances we need to keep".

The minister said these were soft measures aimed at providing additional security so that schools and kindergartens did not become hotspots and that schools cloud remain open.

Asked who proposed the new rules, Kustec said the decision had been made by the government, which had been making decisions in cooperation with its advisory task force of epidemiologists.

Another issue is sufficient supply of masks for the staff and students.

Mojce Mihelič, the headteacher of the Ljubljana Danila Kumer primary school, is concerned how temperature screenings will be conducted in the morning when thousands of students and employees are entering school.

Lea Vidmar from the Šturje primary school in Ajdovščina finds the measures unacceptable for both teachers and students. "It is bad enough that students must be in the same classroom for so many hours, and now we will impose additions restrictions on them with masks."

The headteacher said the school had been cooperating with the municipality well, so it would provide them with masks and thermometers.

The parents' association said no detailed research had been conducted about parents' views on the new mask rules. But parents are wondering how 13- and 14-year-olds will be able to learn in classrom in a quality way while wearing masks, the association said.

18 Sep 2020, 11:53 AM

STA, 17 September 2020 - The government has prepared the draft of a new anti-corona stimulus package. Unofficial information suggests the furlough scheme will be extended for some industries, universal basic income brought back for sole traders and the health system shored up.

Information obtained by the STA shows that the furlough scheme, whose last possible extension under current law expires at the end of September, will be extended until the end of the year.

Employers in tourism, events industries and coach transportation who have seen their revenue decline by over 30% over last year would be eligible.

The government also appears ready to head appeals by freelancers, many of whom have complained for months that they have not received sufficient aid since the three-month income support scheme expires in June.

The latest proposal involves a universal basic income for the self-employed who cannot perform their activities or whose business has declined by over 40% on last year.

From October through December they would be eligible for a EUR 700 universal basic income plus a waiver of social security contributions.

When a self-employed person would be ordered to quarantine, they would receive an income support of EUR 350.

The parents of children up to grade 5 who are ordered to quarantine would be entitled to a compensation equalling 80% of pay.

Several measures reportedly target the health system, most notably a provision under which additional funding would be secured for a special tender for specific health services where waiting times are currently the longest.

The national budget would finance one-month reserve of personal protective equipment for all public health institutions.

Health and social workers who work directly with Covid-19 patients would get a special 50% hourly bonus, according to the proposal.

The blueprint represent what would be the fifth omnibus legislative package designed to help the economy recover from coronavirus.

According to plans, social partners will be briefed about the plan at a session of the Economic and Social Council on Friday.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries. All our stories on coronavirus and SloveniaCan I transit Slovenia? Find out from the police...

18 Sep 2020, 08:49 AM

Yesterday the UK released the following message for Britons travelling in Slovenia, and Slovenes heading to the UK - any updates will be found on the official site.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) advises against all non-essential travel to Slovenia, based on the current assessment of COVID-19 risks in the country.

The FCDO is not advising those already travelling in Slovenia to leave at this time. Travellers should follow the advice of the local authorities on how best to protect themselves and others, including any measures that they bring in to control the virus.

If you are returning to the UK from Slovenia on or after 4am on 19 September, you will need to self-isolate on your return (unless you are exempt). Check the latest guidance for EnglandNorthern IrelandScotland and Wales.

The FCDO is not advising you to cut short your visit. You should contact your tour operator or airline if you have any questions about your return journey.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries. All our stories on coronavirus and SloveniaCan I transit Slovenia? Find out from the police...

17 Sep 2020, 17:33 PM

STA, 17 September 2020 - A total of 12,230 Slovenian residents died in the first seven months of the year, which is 0.8% less than in the same period last year, the Statistics Office has reported. The number of deceased persons on the monthly basis was higher only in April and June.

More than 4,000 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Slovenia so far, and 136 persons have died of Covid-19, but the epidemic has apparently not resulted in higher death figures in the first seven months year-on-year.

In the period, January was the month when most Slovenian residents died (1,971), and July was the month with the lowest number of deaths (1,566).

On the other hand, 10,617 children were born in Slovenia in the first seven months, which is 5.3% more than in the same period in 2019, preliminary data from the Statistics Office show.

Last year, a total of 2,.588 Slovenian residents died, which was 0.5% more than in 2018. Men died at the average age of 73.2, and women at the average age of 82.1.

A boy born in 2020 may meanwhile expect to live to the age of 78.5, while the life expectancy for girls is 84.2.

More on this data

17 Sep 2020, 15:59 PM

Jump to the new rules

STA, 17 September 2020 - A total of 3,070 tests for the novel coronavirus were performed in Slovenia on Wednesday, resulting in 104 confirmed positive cases, the fourth-highest daily figure so far. One fatality was recorded, bringing the overall death toll to 136, the latest government figures show. The number of active cases has exceeded 1,000 for the first time.

A total of 62 persons were in Slovenian hospitals yesterday for Covid-19, 11 of them requiring intensive care. One person was discharged from hospital, the government said on Twitter.

Among the newly confirmed infected persons, three are employees in care homes and eight are healthcare workers, while no new infections were confirmed among residents of care homes.

According to the tracker site covid-19.sledilnik.org, the number of total confirmed cases has exceeded 4,000, and the number of active cases has exceeded 1,000, standing at 1,026.

This is the first time that the number of active cases has cracked 1,000, while the peak number during the first wave was 609, recorded on 3 April. In the second wave, this number was exceeded on 9 September, the tracker site shows.

The municipality of Ljubljana accounts for the most of yesterday's cases (29), and there are currently 205 active cases in the capital.

Age-wise, most new infections (26) were recorded in the 35-44 age group, followed by the 45-54 age group (21), and the 25-34 age group (15).

A total of 191,413 tests for the novel coronavirus have been performed so far in Slovenia, the nation of two million people.

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries. All our stories on coronavirus and SloveniaCan I transit Slovenia? Find out from the police...

Govt announces stricter mask rules, temperature screenings, bar curfew

STA, 17 September 2020 - Responding to a sharp rise in new Covid-19 cases, the government has tightened rules for wearing face masks outdoors and at schools, introduced temperature screenings at the workplace and limited opening hours or bars and restaurants, conavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin told the press after Thursday's government session.

Wearing masks in the open-air will apply as of Saturday at places frequented by many people such as marketplaces and city centres.

The compulsory face mask wearing in the classroom will apply to primary school children from 7th class on, who now wear them only in shared school areas.

The rule will also apply to secondary school pupils and students, as well as to teachers in all classes, including at kindergartens.

"The assessment of the epidemiological situation shows this measure could significantly contribute to schools continuing to function without any special disturbances."

As of next week, changes to working hours of bars and restaurants will enter into force, expectedly to be limited to between 6am and 10pm, Kacin also said.

The OZS chamber of small business expressed opposition to this measure yesterday, arguing such curbs would further aggravate the situation in this line of business.

The OZS believes that closing bars and restaurants at 10pm will result in more uncontrolled socialising as people find alternative meeting places where they will not necessarily observe the recommended precautionary measures.

The government also decided today that upon entering their workplace, workers as well as visitors will have to have their body temperature taken, but it is not yet known when the measure will kick in.

The government also plans to change legislation to allow workers being on a sick leave for up to three days without having to visit the doctor.

Also in the pipeline are changes governing entry to Slovenia should the coronavirus situation escalate in neighbouring and other countries.

The government is also working on measures that would be put in place after the EU reaches a deal on the movement of people within the union, said Kacin.

The agreement could entail switching from quarantine to testing to be able to travel within the EU and could be reached in the middle of next week.

The government moreover prepared several measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus that would be implemented if the number of new cases continues to rise.

They concern public transport services, shops, pharmacies, post offices, banks and healthcare establishments in a bid to protect vulnerable groups, said Kacin.

The Infrastructure Ministry is for instance working on a regulation to allow certain vulnerable groups to use public transport in dedicated hours.

The measure would be introduced when the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) assessed public transport was no longer safe, the spokesperson explained.

The number of people allowed to assemble could also be further limited, from the current ten to expectedly six, as some countries have already done, said Kacin.

It has not yet been decided when the measure would be implemented.

The government also issued a number of recommendations, ranging from distance work and organising public events without catering to doing shopping only when really needed and postponing parties or celebrations of various anniversaries.

17 Sep 2020, 12:12 PM

STA, 13 September 2020 - The Covid-19 epidemic has greatly affected small businesses. The biggest changes, according to respondents in a survey by Mastercard, were in orders. Many also face liquidity problems, payment delays, difficulties in supplying materials, and changing customer expectations regarding prices.

As many as seven out of ten small businesses said that they face liquidity problems as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic at least occasionally, and 36% of them were already looking for credit options to overcome their problems.

When asked about how they plan to overcome liquidity problems, the opinions were divided - 23% would opt for a loan, 27% for a credit card limit, and half of the respondents are still undecided.

When asked about changes and adjustments to their operations, two-thirds of respondents said they had bought masks, disinfectants and other protective equipment, and just under a third had obtained financial assistance from the state.

Many also sought the advice of their peers and others in the industry, and almost a fifth attended online seminars and trainings, according to a survey of 459 members of the Chamber of Trade Craft and Small Business of Slovenia, conducted by Mediana in August.

Thirteen percent of the respondents decided to establish new or supplement existing sales channels, and only 7% said they had added new payment options.

The study has shown that more and more customers demand the option to pay by card. As many as one-fifth of the respondents said that customers had called in advance and enquired about the possibility of paying by card, and three out of ten customers actually refused the service because it was not possible.

16 Sep 2020, 17:35 PM

The latest statistics on coronavirus and Slovenia, and the latest police news on red, green and yellow list countries. All our stories on coronavirus and SloveniaCan I transit Slovenia? Find out from the police...

Contents

123 New Cases; Hospitals Increase Capacity; Newspapers, Magazines Allowed in Salons Again

Record 123 new Covid-19 cases confirmed in 3,123 tests on Tuesday

STA, 16 September - A record 123 new Covid-19 cases were discovered in Slovenia on Tuesday as 3,123 persons were tested for the coronavirus, the second highest testing figure to date. There were no deaths, but the number of active cases has risen to 975, shows the official data, released on Wednesday.

The number of hospitalised patients is up by 12 to 61 and the number of those in intensive care by one to 11. Officials announced the Celje general hospital will now become the fourth hospital to admit infected patients.

The number of total cases since the first one was confirmed on 4 March stands at 3,954 and the number of deaths at 135, with the last one recorded almost two weeks ago.

The government's coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin said at today's daily briefing that 48 Tuesday cases had been locally transmitted, only two cases had been imported, while the sources of infection for 20 cases remained unknown.

The number of infections of unknown origin has been falling, which Kacin finds encouraging. He believes it is a result of "citizens heeding our calls to be honest and cooperate with epidemiologists".

Pivka, a small municipality in south-west, which saw a spike in new cases on Sunday and tightened nation-wide protective measures on Monday, currently has 18 infected residents, Mayor Rober Smrdelj said at today's briefing.

He said a special line is being planned for Pivka residents suspecting to be infected to call to speed up access to GP and testing.

Civil Protection head for the Notranjska region Sandi Curk said last evening new cases in Pivka were recorded at the primary school and the food-processing company Pivka Perutninarstvo, both of which are the municipality's hotspots.

The number of all infected workers at Pivka Perutninarstvo has risen from 18 to 38, the company said today, adding that some had fallen ill while already in quarantine.

Production at the poultry processing-company nevertheless runs smoothly, and tests have shown there is no risk of the virus being transmitted from people to food.

The situation at the elderly home in Črneče in Koroška region, north, has also not stabilised yet, with 16 cases confirmed so far, of which 12 in residents.

Director Srečko Mlačnik told the STA all the infected cases are from the same unit, with two of the infected residents being taken to hospital.

The unit - now classified as a grey zone - is separated from the rest of the care home, while the ten infected residents are accommodated at the red zone.

The four infected employees are self-isolating, so Mlačnik fears a lack of staff at what is the biggest home for the elderly in Koroška, with 263 beds.

The spread of the novel coronavirus has meanwhile calmed down at another hotspot, the Danica Vogrinec Home for the Elderly in Maribor, north-east, where a Covid-19 outbreak took place at the start of last week.

There are now 42 infected persons, of whom 25 residents and 17 staff, but director Marko Slavič said that only one in 200 tests performed this week came back positive.

"We are happy to note a downward trend in new infections," he said on Wednesday.

However, since 30 staff have been quarantined, the care home's Tabor unit lacks more than half of its staff, who are now working in extremely hard conditions.

Meanwhile, Adolf Lukanovič, a doctor who recovered from a severe form of Covid-19 in spring, presented his experience with the disease.

He said he had spent 900 hours or 37.5 days connected to a ventilator after he was admitted to hospital on 9 March and his condition quickly worsened.

The former medical director of UKC Ljubljana's Gynaecology Clinic said the disease should not be underestimated, adding it made him sad to see some politicise the the epidemic and claim it was made up.

Back to the contents

As Covid-19 cases rise, hospitals ramping up admission capacity

STA, 16 September 2020 - Slovenian hospitals have had to quickly ramp up their capacity for admitting coronavirus patients as the number of those hospitalised with Covid-19 more than doubled in less than a week to 61, of whom 11 are in intensive care. The Celje general hospital will now become the fourth hospital to admit infected patients.

Covid-19 patients are currently treated at the university medical centres in Ljubljana and Maribor, and at the Golnik Clinic of Respiratory and Allergic Diseases.

The hospital in Celje is expected to start admitting patients on Thursday providing two intensive care beds, five beds for those with mild symptoms and 19 beds in a "grey zone" for patients with suspected but not yet confirmed infections.

The total number of hospitalisations is still well below the 100-plus peak recorded in late March and early April, but given the surge of new cases - a record 123 were confirmed yesterday - it is expected that hospital admissions will spike as well.

And while the majority of new cases were in the younger population in the summer, older people are starting to account for a rising share of overall infections.

Jelko Kacin, the government's spokesman for Covid-19, yesterday said that the number of patients was likely to start increasing significantly in the second half of September.

The current situation is however different than it was during the first wave of the epidemic, as many currently in hospital are non-symptomatic patients that have been temporarily moved to hospital from nursing homes.

This is in line a decision made in early summer to help nursing homes that suffer outbreaks better organise their work by relocating asymptomatic patients to hospital.

Back to the contents

Newspapers, magazines again available at catering, beauty establishments

STA, 16 September 2020 - Restaurants, bars, hairdresser's and beauty salons are again allowed to offer their clients newspapers and magazines on the premises, as the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) lifted the ban in early September.

NIJZ nevertheless says there is a risk of contracting the coronavirus from browsing through papers and magazines, especially if the epidemiological situation is not good. However, it is significantly reduced if hygiene protocols are strictly observed.

Clients are also advised to wear a face mask while browsing or reading, they must be notified of the risk of infection and provided instructions about basic precaution measures.

The lifting of the ban comes despite the ongoing sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, which started on 8 September, and after some newspaper companies had been warning for months that the measures was "disproportionate".

Commenting on the lifting of the ban, the newspaper Delo said today that NIJZ had not notified anyone the measure had been lifted, whereas newspaper companies had witnessed many subscription cancellations due to the ban.

NIJZ admitted it had not informed anyone, saying there were so many different recommendations so everyone should check for the latest information for their line of business.

Restaurants, bars, hairdresser's and beauty parlours were allowed to reopen when the nation-wide lockdown, imposed in mid- March, was significantly eased on 4 May.

Back to the contents

16 Sep 2020, 13:14 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - The Slovenian music industry, one of the businesses worst hit by Covid-19, has come up with a set of proposals it wants the government to include in its next anti-corona package. Until all restrictions applying to concerts are lifted and beyond, the Music Industry Coalition ad-hoc group wants wage subsidies and a monthly basic income.

Events such as concerts are limited to 50 to 500 people while all strict recommendations must be respected as well, including social distancing.

There is also a requirement of an eight-metre distance between performers and the audience.

However, the group argues singing is no riskier than talking when it comes to contracting the virus, labelling the eight-metre measure "completely incomprehensible".

Until all the restrictions are lifted and for another three months after that, the group, set up in mid-August, proposes exemption from payment of social security contributions for the self-employed and 700 euro in monthly basic income.

For workers on permanent employment contracts, the state should pay all contributions and taxes, while furloughed workers should have their pay subsidised.

The proposals were drafted with the help of a survey which tried to find the extent to which coronavirus restrictions had affected the music and events industries.

The survey has shown that more than 90% of the respondents have had their income more than halved compared to last year, a condition for state aid in previous anti-corona legislation.

It has also shown that 57% of the industry's workers, among them many self-employed musicians, have been left without any aid since 1 June.

The Coalition estimates the music industry in Slovenia employs around 6,000 people, while the figure for the entire events industry is around 15,000.

Based of the information from concert organisers and from Eventim, which has a 50% share in ticket sales, the loss of income from concerts was estimated at EUR 150-180 million.

Matija Prezelj from the GIZ KOS association of concert organisers told the STA the vast majority of the industry had been left out of the first four stimulus packages.

However, the Economy Ministry has now acknowledged the problems and would propose measures drafted on the basis of the group's proposals be included in the new legislation, he said.

The group also proposes a timeline to gradually lift restrictive measures at concerts so that live events could run without any restrictions in the second half of 2021.

The Music Industry Coalition brings together independent musicians, their trade union and several other associations from the music and events industries, from artists to organisers and support staff.

15 Sep 2020, 17:07 PM

STA, 15 September 2020 - The foreign ministers of Slovenia, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia agreed at a Central 5 (C5) meeting in Slovenia on Tuesday that the members of the informal initiative will regularly coordinate their measures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Coordination meetings would be held every two weeks via videoconference at the level of police commissioners, Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar said.

According to him, the ministers also agreed that the European Commission should create a joint mechanism for measures and standards in the event of an increasing number of infections.

"Our governments are facing the difficult task of limiting the most risky cases in terms of further spreading as much as possible," said Logar, adding that a renewed closure of all borders was not an option for the time being.

But "countries must do their homework", and "a system which would be predictable in advance needs to be created so that measures which affect people on both sides of the border need not be taken," the Slovenian foreign minister added.

Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg said that the Central European countries had the shared goal of not getting into a situation similar to that in March and April, when borders around Europe had been mostly closed.

"We must show that we have learned something in recent months," said Schallenberg, whose country borders eight countries.

Schallenberg added that cooperation of the Central European countries was very important as a second wave of Covid-19 was about to start. "We are a closely connected economic area," he said, adding that the economy must continue functioning.

Tomaš Petriček, the minister of foreign affairs of the Czech Republic, pointed to the importance of informing other countries of upcoming Covid-19 measures in advance, including because of work migrants and trade.

Asked about migrations and the the fire in the Moria migrant centre on the Greek island of Lesbos, Schallenberg and Petriček agreed that the debate on migration did not divide the Central European countries.

"All of us here agree that Greece will not be left high and dry, we will help it," said the Austrian minister, while his Czech colleague added that "a compromise will be found".

The ministers also discussed the situation in Belarus, and talks on the topic will be continued over the working lunch, Logar said, while Petriček added that a coordinated response of the EU to the crisis in Belarus had been endorsed.

Slovakia's Ivan Korčok added that the meeting of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels next Monday would need to send a clear signal to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko to stop the violence and start dialogue with the opposition.

"We are shocked with the developments in Belarus," said Korčok, labelling as unacceptable that people are getting beaten and that people who think differently are punished. He also expects that sanctions will be introduced against Belarus.

According to a press release from the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, part of the talks was dedicated to economic matters, with focus being on possibilities of integration of regional infrastructure and connectivity.

Cooperation within various forums and platforms was also on the agenda, as the five Central European countries participate in the Three Seas Initiative, which looks to strengthen cooperation in Central and East Europe.

As for EU topics, the ministers welcomed the consensus on the next multi-year budget and the recovery fund, which will enable the member states' economies to address the pandemic and other challenges such as digitalisation and climate change, the ministry said.

This was the third meeting of the initiative, which also includes Hungary, but was held without Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto, who is paying a visit to the US.

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