Ljubljana related

06 Jul 2022, 10:41 AM

STA, 6 July 2022 - After an ownership change at a company publishing the right-wing weekly Demokracija, the news portal Necenzurirano reports that three Hungarian owners have sold their stake in NovaTV24.si, the company running TV channel NovaTV24, to the channel’s director who is also a long-term member of the Democrats (SDS).

Hungarian businessman Peter Schatz sold a majority stake in Nova Obzorja, the company issuing Demokracija, to NovaTV24.si in late May, and he has now also withdrawn from NovaTV24.si.

According to Necenzurirano, Schatz and fellow Hungarian businessmen Agnes Adamik and Adam Gabor Nemeth sold just over 45% of the shares in NovaTV24.si to Boris Tomašič, director of NovaTV24 and a long-term member of the SDS, now an opposition party. He is also the host of the controversial show Who Lies to You.

The Ministry of Culture has confirmed for Necenzurirano that it has given its clearance for the change of ownership of just over 45% of NovaTV24.si shares.

The portal says that it is not clear how much Tomašič paid for the shares, which in 2017 were worth nearly a million euros.

Rumours about Hungarians withdrawing as owners from NovaTV24.si surfaced just after the 24 April general election in Slovenia, in which the SDS-led coalition government was voted out.

Necenzurirano writes that the deal between Tomašič and the three businessmen, who it says are close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was agreed in mid-May.

The portal notes that the Hungarians offloaded their stakes in NovaTV24.si at a time when the new ruling coalition has filed for a parliamentary inquiry into the financing of party media, mainly from Hungary. Just days ago, parliament endorsed the decision to open the inquiry, appointing former TV Slovenija journalist Mojca Šetinc Pašek, now an MP for the Freedom Movement, as inquiry head.

01 Jun 2022, 13:33 PM

STA, 31 May 2022 - The company Nova Obzorja, which publishes weekly Demokracija and web portal Škandal24.si, has a new majority owner. The two-third majority share has been transferred from Hungarian company R-Post-R to NovaTV24.si, the company running the Nova24TV news television channel.

According to data by AJPES, the agency for public legal records, the Hungarian company owned by businessman Peter Schatz, one of the key players in Hungarian PM Viktor Orban's media expansion in the Balkans, is no longer the owner of 65.85% of Nova Obzorja.

As of 25 May, the new majority owner is NovaTV24.si, while the remaining 30.14% is still owned by the Democratic Party (SDS) and 4% by SDS MP Dejan Kaloh.

But based on the share register and other sources, media reported in recent years that three of NovaTV24.si's largest owners were Hungarian companies associated with Orban and his Fidesz party, which has recently been strengthening its rule in Hungary and spreading its influence in the region.

Reportedly, three largest owners of NovaTV24.si are asset management company Hespereia, financial holding Okeanis and media publisher Ridikul, each owning a 29.3% share. The remaining 12.1% are owned by small shareholders, many of whom are prominent SDS members and people associated with the party.

Hespereia also owns 73% of media company Nova Hiša, the company running web portal Nova24TV. The remaining 27% is owned by small shareholders, many of whom are again prominent SDS members and people associated with the party.

Nova Hiša ownership has remained unchanged for now, and there has also been no reports of ownership changes at NovaTV24.si.

According to unofficial information by portal Necenzurirano, the ownership changes are part of preparations for the sale of the entire media empire associated with the SDS and withdrawal of the Hungarian capital.

The Hungarian financing of these media outlets has been the subject of parliamentary inquiries in recent years while media reported before the start of the term of the outgoing Janez Janša government that the issue was also being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation.

11 Mar 2022, 16:19 PM

STA, 11 March 2022 - High-ranking Slovenian politicians have condemned a statement by a Hungarian state secretary who labelled Mura as the border between Slovenia and Hungary. The river actually runs between 20 and 30 kilometres from the current official border between the two countries.

The statement by Secretary of State for National Policy Árpád János Potápi was uttered in the Težišče (Súlypont in Hungarian) show at the national broadcaster TV Slovenija for the Hungarian minority, which was run on Thursday.

MP Jožef Horvat of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi) labelled the statement as an international incident that should be responded to resolutely. He has called Foreign Minister Anže Logar this morning to demand a resolute response.

Horvat, who has also demanded a response from the government, said that "on behalf of Slovenians and Hungarians who have lived together in coexistence for many decades in Prekmurje, I would like to tell the state secretary to leave us alone."

He noted that Hungarians and Slovenians had proven that they knew how to live in coexistence in the north-eastern region that borders Hungary, and that people were disappointed and appalled by such incidents.

Dejan Židan, an MP of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), said that senior Slovenian politicians should immediately respond to such an "aggressive statement".

He noted that he had been warning in the past that action should be taken when senior Hungarian politicians posed in front of a maps of Greater Hungary. Slovenian statesmen are silent about this and agree to something that is unimaginable, he added.

Židan expects an response from the Slovenian government that will protect Slovenia's integrity and stop any attempts of encroachment on it.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič responded on Twitter, saying that the "statement is inadmissible" and that it should not go unnoticed by senior Slovenian politicians, and tagging President Borut Pahor, PM Janez Janša and Foreign Minister Logar.

Defence Minister Matej Tonin said on Twitter that he had met the Hungarian ambassador on the sidelines of a Visegrad Group meeting to talk with him "about the inappropriate statement by State Secretary Potápi regarding Prekmurje".

"The Hungarian ambassador apologised for the uttered words, which was allegedly a slip of the tongue. He made assurances that Hungary has no territorial aspirations and is committed to good neighbourly relations," the minister said.

The Slovenian Foreign Ministry said in a press release it had immediately summoned Ambassador Andor F. David and demanded an explanation.

"We noted the sensitivity of the topic. The Mura being mentioned as a border river opens possibilities for different interpretations, which can harm bilateral relations and human relations, especially in Prekmurje," the ministry said.

The Hungarian embassy has already issued a release explaining that the statement was a "slip of the tongue" and that the border between Hungary and Slovenia was indisputably determined by an international treaty.

18 Feb 2022, 13:38 PM

STA, 18 February 2022 - Prime Minister Janez Janša will meet his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Lendava on Monday to sign an agreement on cooperation in the development of the regions with mixed Slovenian-Hungarian population, Janša's office confirmed on Friday. Bilateral relations will also be discussed, the office said.

The meeting was also confirmed by Budapest, with the Hungarian press agency MTI reporting that the PMs will sign an agreement to set up a joint fund for the development of Prekmurje and Porabje, the border regions populated by the Hungarian and Slovenian ethnic minorities.

Janša and Orban are to talk about ways to encourage economic and social development of the two regions with the signing of the agreement in Lendava being the main event of Orban's visit.

Based on the agreement, a development programme will be formed securing additional funding in the 2022-2026 period for promoting economic development and minority media, cultural and education institutions.

As part of the visit, Education Minister Simona Kustec and Hungarian Deputy Foreign Minister Levente Magyar will sign an agreement on cooperation in education, culture and science for the 2022-2025 period.

According to Janša's office, the Slovenian government stresses the need for improving the material situation of the Slovenian community in Porabje.

Young generations in particular need to be given opportunities to preserve the language and culture of their community, and find job and business opportunities in their local environment, it said.

Slovenia and Hungary have had intensive dialogue on all levels, which was confirmed when the two countries' governments met in Celje in September 2021, the prime minister's office said.

Economic cooperation has also been picking up, as Hungary is Slovenia's seventh most important trade partner.

Slovenia has been implementing development programmes in areas inhabited by the Hungarian ethnic minority since 2017, while Hungary launched a development programme in Porabje in 2020.

All our stories on Slovenia and Hungary

14 Feb 2022, 12:21 PM

STA, 11 February 2022 - The International Press Institute has a released a report on Hungarian investments in foreign media that suggests the Hungarian model of government control of the media is being transposed to Slovenia, which it says is important in light of Slovenia's upcoming general election.

The report says that after subjugating media at home, the Hungarian government, aided by companies controlled by its political allies, has started building a media empire in Slovenia and North Macedonia that is supposed to "act as megaphones for its regional ideological allies."

Both Slovenia and North Macedonia have thus seen in recent years an inflow of Hungarian investments in media, either in media serving Hungarian national minorities in several countries, or media connected with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ideological allies.

Such investments - the most notable examples in Slovenia include the TV channel Planet TV, publisher Nova Obzorja and TV station and news portal Nova24 - raise serious questions about the exporting of Fidesz's model of illiberal democracy to countries in Hungary's neighbourhood and beyond, the report says.

And while Fidesz politicians insist such investments are purely commercial, IPI says the evidence suggests that they are "rather part of a broad political strategy of influencing media and supporting ideological allies of Fidesz," in Slovenia's case Prime Minister Janez Janša.

The report, available at https://ipi.media/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/hu.pdf, was written in collaboration with independent investigative reporters and leans heavily on Slovenian investigative journalism portals.

26 Jun 2021, 09:36 AM

STA, 25 June 2021 - The prime ministers of Austria, Croatia and Hungary, the foreign minister of Italy, and the president of the European Council congratulated Slovenia on the 30th anniversary of its independence and wished it a successful stint at the helm of the EU as they addressed the Statehood Day celebration on Friday.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Slovenia was an important neighbour and economic partner of Austria's that cannot be imagined not being part of the European space.

He said Austria was looking forward to Slovenia's EU presidency and thanked Prime Minister Janez Janša for making Western Balkans among the focal points of the presidency.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković wished Slovenia all the best in presiding the EU, pleased that he could count on the know-how, creativity, patriotism and European character of the country.

Wishing that it makes a substantive contribution to the future of Europe, he said Slovenia could "always rely on Croatia as a friend and partner".

Things that separate the two countries are insignificant compared to what they have in common, he said, noting that Slovenia and Croatia understood best what went on in this region thirty years ago.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban likewise emphasised the close ties between the two countries. "Hungarians see you as friends and Christian brothers. Hungarians are happy to be your neighbours," he said.

Orban said that the stronger, wealthier and happier Slovenia is, the better this is for Hungary.

Italian Foreign Minister Luigi di Maio said Slovenia and Italy had very friendly relations, "in particular because we share the same values, which stem from and converge into our common membership of the EU and NATO."

Di Maio expressed Italy's support for Slovenia's presidency, noting that its second stint at the helm of the EU represented a new era on the path of liberty and democracy that Slovenia entered thirty years ago.

"we have strong confidence in Slovenia's ability to lead the EU in this sensitive time."

European Council President Charles Michel said he was proud and moved to be able to stand next to the Slovenian and EU flag and say happy birthday Slovenia and usher in the Slovenian presidency.

He said the European project was based on the values of democracy, freedom and rule of law, noting that diversity, tolerance and respect were Europe's powers

24 Jun 2021, 13:46 PM

STA, 24 June 2021 - The centre-left opposition called for Slovenia's top officials to protest against Hungary's controversial new anti-LGBTQ law, voicing disappointment over Slovenia's failure to join the 16 EU countries that expressed their concern over the law in a joint statement.

The Social Democrats (SD) voiced their expectation in a press release that Slovenia's top officials will express a "diplomatic protest" over violation of LGBTQ rights in Hungary as Prime Minister Viktor Orban visits Slovenia for the independence ceremony anniversary on Friday.

The party said the Hungarian parliament's decision to ban debate on homosexuality in the education process marked a fast march toward a society where there would be no freedom, equality or respect for diversity. The party illuminated its headquarters in Ljubljana in rainbow colours yesterday as a sign of solidarity with the LGBTQ community.

The Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) is disappointed because Slovenia failed to sign on to the joint statement of 16 EU countries expressing concern over the contentious law and developments in Hungary "where the Viktor Orban regime sided with violation of basic human rights and tramples principles of equality".

"This is yet another piece of evidence showing our current government and Prime Minister Janez Janša in particular have been coquetting and cooperating with the Orban regime and even copying his conduct - in the field of media, judiciary and human rights as well as all other basic democratic standards".

Calling the actions unacceptable, the party endorsed the position of the 16 EU countries in a press release, adding that in Slovenia most of the people were committed to human rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Slovenian constitution.

Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan said Slovenia did not join in the statement by the 16 EU countries because as the next country presiding the Council of the EU it would enter the role of a neutral negotiator "whose goal is to seek a balance between various views of EU member countries and look to near their views on common topics under discussion".

As a sign of protest against the Hungarian LGBTQ law, the city council of Munich called for the city's arena to be illuminated in rainbow colours for Wednesday's Euro 2020 match between Germany and Hungary, a move that was blocked by UEFA, Europe's football governing body, which is headed by Slovenia's Aleksander Čeferin.

The opposition Left criticised the UEFA leadership over the decision. In a press release on Wednesday the party called the decision regrettable, although not surprising "considering the football establishment is also invoking 'non-political' context when it imposes fines for Palestinian flags, pro-Catalan slogans [...]".

"Football is a political matter per se and at the same time a space that masses fill not only with their bodies but also with their persuasions," the party said.

01 Jun 2021, 11:56 AM

STA, 31 May 2021 - The Hungarian OTP Bank Group announced on Monday it had signed a contract to acquire the outright stake in NKBM, Slovenia's second largest bank. The deal is expected to be finalised in the second quarter of next year as the acquirer is waiting approval from relevant regulatory authorities.

Owned by the US fund Apollo (80%) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (20%), NKBM controls 20.5% of the Slovenian market and is the second largest bank in the country.

OTP already owns SKB Banka, which it acquired from France's Societe Generale for EUR 323 million under an agreement signed in 2019.

Combined with NKBM, the new bank would control some 29% of the market measured by total assets to leapfrog the current market leader, NLB.

The price of the NKBM acquisition remains confidential. The Reuters news agency reported in April that it could be worth nearly a billion euro.

OTP was an early favourite to acquire NKBM, though the business newspaper Finance, which first reported today about the deal, says several other bidders expressed interest as well, among them Erste Group from Austria and Belgium's KBC.

NKBM was sold to Apollo and the EBRD in 2016 for EUR 250 million, and NKBM purchased the Abanka bank in mid-2019 for EUR 444 million, when the OTP Bank Group was also in play to buy Abanka.

NKBM and Abanka were among the banks that the state bailed out at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014 after difficulties brought about by the economic and financial crisis.

Slovenia promised to the European Commission, in return to approval of state aid, that it will privatise the banks. In the case of Abanka, the condition was also that it is merged with the Banka Celje bank before privatisation.

NKBM ended 2020 with a net profit of EUR 208.9 million, and its total assets stood at EUR 9.17 billion.

20 May 2021, 12:10 PM

STA, 19 May - Slovenia remains in the yellow tier of coronavirus restrictions, but a new exemption has been added for crossing of the border and police checks on the border with Hungary will be lifted, the government decided on Wednesday.

Checkpoints on the border with Hungary will be lifted on 22 May after they were already cancelled on the border with Italy and Austria a few weeks ago.

A new exemption for quarantine-free arrival has been added effective on 22 May as those who have recovered from Covid-19 and have had a single shot of a coronavirus vaccine within eight months after infection will be able to enter the country without restrictions right after they have received the jab.

On arrival, such persons will have to show proof of having had Covid-19 and proof of vaccination.

There are also some changes on the red list of countries which are subject to mandatory quarantine.

Albania has been removed from the list and Sri Lanka added, all of Denmark and Slovakia are now red-listed, and there are changes for individual regions of Austria, Czech Republic, Italy and Norway.

02 May 2021, 08:31 AM

STA, 1 May 2021 - Slovenia and Hungary have agreed to mutually recognise their respective Covid-19 vaccination certificates, the Slovenian Ministry has announced. A vaccination certificate issued in one country will have the same legal effect as the one issued in another, in line with the internal national legal orders.

Slovenia already permits entry to the country from Hungary without mandatory quarantine or proof of a negative coronavirus test if a vaccination certificate is produced.

Under the agreement, Hungary will now do the same for entry from Slovenia, after only certain exceptions have so far been permitted to enter Hungary, the ministry said on Facebook.

In addition to the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), also applied in Hungary are the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and the vaccines of the Chinese producers Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.

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