The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 December
STA, 13 December 2019 - Much like Europe's responsibility for developments during the war in former Yugoslavia is being discussed today, the horrors that refugees are experiencing now will surface in the years to come, the left-wing weekly Mladina says on Friday. The story will be told by people who will be fully integrated into European society, it notes.
"It's winter, a time when we become aware of refugees again. It has been so since 2015. That is when tents collapse because of snow and sleeping outdoors means sickness and death.
"When winter comes, we see footage of children and adults freezing in camps - this year the media and humanitarian workers were attracted by the Vučjak camp in Bihać, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Last year it was Lesbos, Greece. In 2016 it was the Calais camp in France," editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says.
Every year, this prompts people and countries to join forces and help this one particular camp - this year, it is Vučjak - to make Europeans feel a little bit better. "But in fact nothing has changed. There are plenty other tents and camps."
According to Repovž, everyone knows what is happening in Bosnia-Herzegovina. "We know very well that Vučjak was abandoned because European countries have 'paid' Bosnia-Herzegovina to make this disgrace go away."
"We know exactly what is happening along our wire and around it. We know exactly what Croatian police are doing. We know exactly what the situation is in Greece. We know what is going on in Macedonia."
And this is the story we will not be able to get away from. It will be told in the future by different people, completely integrated into our society, from a basketball star, writer, to perhaps a popular TV anchor or a leading doctor, perhaps a minister.
They will speak about the millions living in camps, including hundreds of thousands of children growing up without education, without basic necessities and in total misery, closed in fact and under the supervision of guards, Repovž says.
Their peers will listen to these stories and they will suddenly see their countries in a completely different light, and they will want to talk about it, Repovž says under the headline “Past Always Catches Up With You”.
STA, 12 December 2019 - The right-wing weekly Demokracija accuses leftists of hypocrisy when it comes to climate change. It says the UN climate change meeting in Madrid is "not only a get-together of harmful tragic comedians, it is also a meeting of characters more bizarre than even Graham Chapman could imagine".
The magazine highlights people like US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who liberally uses her private jet, and entrepreneur Elon Musk, "a hypocritical bird" who left US President Donald Trump's advisory board after Trump abandoned the Paris climate agreement but "flies so much each year he could circle the Earth six times and each of his SpaceX rockets uses over 130,00 litres of fossil fuel".
"These people, who do not trigger even minimum moral outrage on the left, trade in and get rich off apocalyptic climate change stories - naturally under the UN banner," says editor-in-chief Jože Biščak, who goes on to accuse the UN and its various climate change endeavours of attempts to "create a global centrally managed society that would control all facets of life of each individual in the world".
Nevertheless, Demokracija, which is co-owned by the climate change-denying Democratic Party (SDS), still sees hope. An increasing number of people are sceptical about climate change and turnout at climate conferences is declining, says the commentary “Haydn's Symphony No. 45 in Madrid”.
All our posts in this series are here
STA, 13 December - Slovenia ranks 13th in the latest Global Sustainable Competitiveness Index compiled by Solability, a sustainability think tank based in Switzerland and South Korea, among a total of 180 countries.
Slovenia scored 53.8 points, and fared best in terms of governance efficiency, trailing only Ireland and the Czech Republic.
Governance efficiency measures the results of core state areas and investments - infrastructure, market and employment structure, and the provision of a framework for sustained and sustainable wealth generation.
In the field of intellectual capital - the capability to generate wealth and jobs through innovation and value-added industries in the globalised markets - Slovenia ranks 13th.
Its ranking in social capital - health, security, freedom, equality and life satisfaction within a country - is 14th.
Slovenia meanwhile performed much worse in terms of resource management - the efficiency of using available resources as a measurement of operational competitiveness - placing 84th among the 180 countries.
It fared the worst in natural capital - the given natural environment, including the availability of resources, and the level of the depletion of those resources, placing 94th.
The index for 2019 is topped by the Nordic countries - Sweden is first with 60.6 points, followed by Finland, Iceland, Denmark and Switzerland. Placed at the bottom of the list are Yemen, Haiti and The Bahamas.
STA, 6 December 2019 - Following years of efforts by researchers, a project was launched to design the first monitoring of the most important wild pollinators - wild bees - in Slovenia. Their role has long been neglected even if they are more effective pollinators than honeybees. Slovenian scientists would like to better understand them, and to do that they will apply machine learning methods.
Pollinators are key to both agriculture and the preservation of natural ecosystems. Although honeybees used to be considered the most important pollinators, it has become clear that it is crucial to have a variety of pollinators; wild pollinators such as bumblebees are for instance more efficient pollinators than honeybees.
Due to their short tongue, honeybees tend to avoid blossoms with a longer neck, which are pollinated by bumblebees. Bumblebees are particularly important for plants which require blossom shaking to be pollinated, for instance key crops such as tomatoes and blueberries, and another 16,000 plants. They are also indispensable for plants with very deep blossoms, which honeybees cannot pollinate with their short tongue, said Danilo Bevk from the National Institute of Biology.
Bumblebees are also special in that they fly around in bad weather, which is quite often the case when fruit trees are blossoming in the spring. "This is one of the reasons why we could say that they are the most important wild pollinators, although others, such as solitary bees, flower flies or butterflies are also important," said Bevk.
While beekeeping is a very popular pastime in Slovenia, bumblebee-keeping is much less widespread, with only slightly more than 180 people keeping bumblebees in their gardens. One of them is Janez Grad, a doctor of mathematics and retired professor emeritus of computer science of the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics, who has had bumblebees in his garden behind his home for 35 years.
Every year about seven species of bumblebees find their home in his garden. "Queen bumblebees fly back to their hives after hibernation, just like swallows come back to their nest," said Grad.
Bumblebee hives in Grad's garden are empty in the autumn, as the animals go into hibernation, which usually lasts seven months. Only bumblebee queens from the past season survive winter, having dug into soil in the woods, away from people, animals and light, hibernating until early spring when new bumblebee families, worker bees, male bees and new bumblebee queens emerge.
The development of a bumblebee family depends on weather. If spring arrives early, new bumblebee families can appear at the end of February. But an early and warm spring followed by a cold spell disaster. In this case bumblebee queens leave their nest, leaving behind their brood. Once they return after the cold spell is over, it is often too late. This year May was cold and rainy, which Grad, one of the greatest experts on bumblebees in Slovenia, said would be felt next year.
Climate change is one of the most serious threats to bumblebees and will affect the majority of bumblebees in Europe. Researchers expect that as a result of anticipated climate changes, almost half of all bumblebee species could lose 50-80% of their territory by 2100, said Bevk.
"However, for some species changes will be an opportunity. A Mediterranean bumblebee spread here a decade ago probably due to climate change. Climate change will of course have a negative impact on pollination, so it is even more important to preserve a high degree of diversity of pollinators."
Various diseases, and some birds which eat bumblebee queens in spring, are another threat to bumblebees. However, Grad said that people are enemy No. 1 of bumblebees, destroying their habitat with intensive agriculture, frequent and early grass cutting, and with the use of pesticides.
Sixty-eight species of bumblebees have been discovered in Europe, of which a quarter are at risk of extinction. Half the populations are in decline, Bevk explained. There are 35 species in Slovenia, and while some of them have not been noticed for quite a while, their extinction cannot be proved because there has been no wild bee monitoring in Slovenia yet.
In November, after five years of efforts by researchers, a project was launched to design the monitoring of wild bees - solitary bees and bumblebees - in Slovenia.
"The project aims to develop a methodology of wild bee monitoring, launch test monitoring at selected locations, assess the situation of wild bees and draft guidelines for sustainable monitoring of wild pollinators in Slovenia," explained Bevk.
The National Institute of Biology, which is in charge of the project, believes this will enable them to gather hard data about the movement of bumblebee and solitary bee populations in our country, which is of key importance in designing adequate measures to protect and monitor the efficiency of these important pollinators. Regular monitoring could make Slovenia a leader in this field in Europe, the institute said.
An important contribution to better understand bumblebees has been made over the past few years by researchers from the Jožef Stefan Institute's department for intelligent systems, which has been researching buzz sound and temperature in close collaboration with Professor Grad.
Grad contacted the Jožef Stefan Institute a few years ago asking for help in analysing the bumblebee buzz which he had recorded in previous seasons, explained researcher Anton Gradišek. With the help of Grad's recordings, the institute developed an app which draws on machine learning and which, using advanced computer methods, recognises which bumblebee species makes which buzz sound, and whether the sound is made by a queen or worker bee.
Researchers at the institute are not the first to study bumblebees, but their research is different in that it is carried out in nature, in Grad's garden rather than in a controlled lab environment. Gradišek said the garden proved to be an excellent natural laboratory, enabling them to study not just a few of the most interesting species but a number of different ones.
The institute is researching different aspects of bumblebees, including sound and temperature. Sound research has resulted in a new simple method to record bumblebee flight to establish when bumblebees are more active, which depends on the species.
As part of the research into temperature, small temperature sensors and thermometers are put in hives to monitor how well bumblebees can keep temperature, which is important for the development of larvae. If the temperatures is adequate, the larvae develop properly, whereas an environment too hot or too cold affect the development of the colony.
"The research has shown that we can recognise different species of bumblebees quite well, which is important for further studies of biodiversity. The temperature research is interesting from the aspect of climate crisis and its impact on the development of bumblebees," said Gradišek.
The researchers would also like to study communication in the nest, for instance how bumblebees let others know the location of the food in the nest, which bees do with waggle dance. They would also like to know how changes in temperatures in the nest and its surroundings affect their activity.
STA, 4 December 2019 - Wind power facilities in the EU satisfied 14% of energy needs last year, up 2 percentage points compared to 2017. Slovenia lags significantly behind in unlocking the potential of wind energy. Despite available grants and investors showing interest, problems arise in particular when a location for a new wind farm must be found.
There are only two operating wind turbines in Slovenia - a 2.3-megawatt and 0.9-megawatt installation, both in the south-west near the Karst plateau Nanos, and investors of both had faced resistance by certain local communities while obtaining permits and putting the turbines in place.
Some locals were concerned over potential health issues caused by low frequency noise emitted by wind turbines. They were also bothered by wind farms changing the landscape.
Last year, the output of the two wind turbines was equivalent to just 0.04% of Slovenia's energy consumption, Energy Agency director Duška Godina has told the STA. They generated six gigawatt hours of electricity, a tenth of one percent of total renewables production in the country.
The statistics show Slovenia ranks near the EU's very bottom in exploiting wind power resources, only Malta and Slovakia are worse.
On the other hand, countries excelling at tapping this potential are Denmark (41% of energy consumption), Ireland (28%) and Portugal (24%).
Even though Slovenia seems to be far from a perfect destination for capitalising on wind energy - the country lies in central Europe, far from the wind-swept Atlantic Ocean and not close enough to the vast Pannonian Plain - research shows it is still windy enough to effectively implement wind power technology, according to the Wind Energy Association.
The Infrastructure Ministry agrees that the wind energy potential in Slovenia is not ideal or comparable to other countries', but the potential is there and if tapped, could be economically beneficial.
It has told the STA that "this has been proved by wind measurements and the investment programmes which have already been created by potential investors so far", adding that Slovenia has "a lot of opportunities for tapping the wind energy potential".
There are currently eight national spatial plans for wind farms in the process of development at the Environment Ministry, of which three wind farms are planned in western Slovenia and five in the east.
All the projects are in the preparation phase; however, some local communities are already up in arms, making obtaining permits more difficult.
Renewable energy resource projects also also supported by the Energy Agency's existing feed-in tariff scheme. A total of 166 projects have been selected in four open calls published so far, of which 62 are wind farm projects totalling 215 megawatt.
According to Godina, the wind turbine siting stage is when things get complicated. During the last open call for new renewable projects for the feed-in tariff scheme, building permits were added as a condition for applying to ensure that the submitted projects were more viable.
The move resulted in applications for major wind projects drying up, said Godina.
She urged the state to promote a broad social consensus on the siting of renewable energy infrastructure and adopt measures that would ease and speed up administrative procedures.
According to the Infrastructure Ministry, the National Energy and Climate Plan, which is in the making, will back such initiatives. "If only one wind farm comes to fruition, it would prove it is possible to do it in Slovenia and serve as a great encouragement for future investors."
STA, 4 December 2019 - A total of 17.76 million m3 of timber has been cut down in Slovenian forests in the clean-up efforts following natural disasters in the last five years, government figures show. Reforestation works related to natural disasters have also been conducted in line with plans.
A total of 5.92 million m3 has been removed in clean-up efforts after the January 2014 ice storm, 8.19 million m3 as a consequence of bark beetle outbreak and 3.66 million m3 due to strong winds in the last five years.
Presenting the statistics on Wednesday, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food said that Slovenian forests had faced many challenges in the last five years due to the changing natural environment, mostly as a consequence of climate change.
"Various extreme events in forests have become very frequent in recent years, and the extent of damage exceeds all consequences of natural disasters in forests known so far," it added.
The ministry has assessed that the sanitary felling measures have been very successful, as it has been estimated that there is only 0.2 million m3 of damaged trees left to be removed from Slovenian forests.
Due to frequent natural disasters, sanitary felling of damaged and infested trees has accounted for almost two-thirds of total felling in Slovenian forests in recent years.
The ministry noted that the growing share of sanitary felling resulted in a lower revenue for forest owners, distorted the market of timber products and forestry services, and made it harder for experts to manage the future structure of forests stands with planned felling.
Reforestation measures also continue to be implemented, with more than 1,000 hectares of forest having been replenished with almost 2.5 million trees, out of the marked 1,800 hectares of forest that need reforestation.
STA, 28 November 2019 - Slovenia seems to be right on trend in zero-waste retail, as stores selling environmentally-friendly products in reusable packaging have been popping up across the country in the past year. Since the first zero-waste store opened in Ljubljana's Šiška borough in January, three more have been launched in Maribor, Krško and Ljubljana.
The owners of Rifuzl, the first zero-waste store in the country, are happy with business and are even planning to launch a delivery service, as many people come to shop there from other parts of the country.
Meanwhile, Ljubljana got a second zero-waste store on Wednesday. Natura was launched under the brand I Shop Responsibly and is the third zero-waste store launched under the brand started by the Association Social Economy Slovenia.
The first store of this brand, Zelena Japka (Green Apple) was launched in May at Mala Tržnica, a market place across the street from the Maribor train station. In October, an arsonist completely destroyed the store, which opened today again in new premises within the same market place.
The Association Social Economy has been busy in the past months. Not only did it relaunch the store in Maribor and opened the new one in Ljubljana, the association also opened a store in Krško, in the south-east.
"We don't provide bags, we don't create waste and we encourage others to do the same," Miro Mihec of the association said at the opening in Ljubljana yesterday.
The premises on Gosposvetska Street are being rented out by a cooperative of a dozen social businesses from all parts of the country whose products are not packaged in plastics, have not been tested on animals, include no leather products and contain no GMO.
The store features natural cosmetics, organic cleaning products, recycled textile products, wooden and metal products and local foods. Interestingly, the store also sells sewing machines so as to encourage the reuse of old textile.
Did you feel Wednesday morning’s earthquakes in Albania (03:54) and Bosnia & Hercegovina (10:19)? The Slovenian Environment Agency (Agencija RS za okolje) received 50 and 58 reports (at the time of writing), respectively, with the tremors being felt in, among other places, Ljubljana and Primorska.
The density of reports for the quake in Albania…
…and for that in Bosnia & Hercegovina.
You might be surprised at the amount of seismic activity Slovenia experiences on a near daily basis, and often several times a day. There were 36 earthquakes recorded between 28 October and 16 November alone, none stronger than 1.9, and most of these went unreported. The strongest had a magnitude of 1.9 and happened 09:00 18 November (2019) 5km from Črna na Koroškem (see more here).
Find our where and when the earth moved.
If you feel something, then visit the website and click on the earthquake, look for Čutil sem ta potres (I felt this earthquake) and answer the questionnaire. It’s only in Slovene, but works well with Google Translate.
STA, 26 November 2019 - In the wake of the first heavy rainfall of this autumn, locals living along the river Drava warned the river had started flooding at a relatively low flow because the riverbed had not been maintained properly. They believe that the funds paid to the state by the hydro plants operator should be used to clear the overgrown riverbed.
In the past, the river spilled over when its flow reached 1,500 cubic metres per second, while in the recent years it floods at the 800 cubic metres mark, said the Ptuj Agriculture and Forestry Institute Andrej Rebernišek.
He is a member of a task force appointed after disastrous floods in 2012. The body met on Tuesday to inspect the consequences of the last week's high water, when Drava flooded nearly a thousand hectares of prime agricultural land.
"Damage to agricultural land is massive, this is an existential threat for those who live from the land," Hajdina Mayor Mitja Horvat, the task force president, told the press after the body inspected the damage.
Horvat said that the state needed to become aware that neglecting the maintenance of the riverbed was a significant problem. This was further reinforced by the fact that neither the Environment Ministry nor the Water Agency attended the task force meeting today.
Rebernišek said that the damage caused by last week's floods reached millions. He also said that total flood damage between 2012 and 2018 reached EUR 96.5 million.
Because its river bed is not being maintained, Drava has started flowing outside its usual course, resulting in sediment build-up and erosion, said Rebernišek, adding that some parts that had been flooded most recently have become completely unusable for agriculture.
Rebernišek said that the problems had started after hydro plants were built on the river, which meant that downstream from Maribor a part of the river was diverted in the 1960s into a man-made channel feeding the hydro stations Zlatoličje and Formin.
After the channel was built, the old river course became neglected, its riverbed overgrown. "The situation was critical in 2012, when there was a big flood. Since then we've had big floods nearly every other year," said Rebernišek.
He said that some 2,800 hectares of agricultural land were in jeopardy, adding that farmers just north of the border with Croatia were hit the hardest.
The task force wants a comprehensive approach to address the problems and thinks the funds paid to the state by the hydro plants operator, Dravske Elektrarne, should be used for the riverbed maintenance.
The flamingo is not a bird one expects to see in Slovenia. Although a large flock of these birds regularly spends the winters in neighbouring Italy, and some can therefore occasionally be seen on the Slovenian coast, observations of these exotic birds continue to be extremely rare further inland.
In fact, this was just second time in history flamingos have been seen in Dolenjska, the first being 49 years ago.
This time two birds, an adult in all its colours along with a still greyish youngster, stayed in the swampy field by Temenica long enough for the arrival of the ornithologist-photographer Gregor Bernard.
The photos he managed to capture of these birds and a flock of cranes that flew over Dolenjska some days earlier can be seen on his blog.
STA, 6 November 2019 - Environment Minister Simon Zajc met on Wednesday mayors or representatives of the five municipalities which had so far expressed interest in hosting a waste incineration facility, agreeing that the municipalities will be assisted by the ministry in drafting conceptual design of such facilities.
Zajc met the mayors or representatives of Ljubljana, Maribor, Ptuj, Jesenice and Kočevje, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning said.
It was agreed that the ministry would help these municipalities make conceptual designs for facilities, which would feature exact locations, security solutions, technological concepts, timelines and plans for the inclusion of local communities.
Within three months, the ministry would review the documents and make a decision which will serve as the basis for further steps related to the location and construction of a waste incineration facility.