STA, 23 July 2020 - Visiting Poland, Foreign Minister Anže Logar met his Polish counterpart Jacek Czaputowicz and EU Affairs Minister Konrad Szymanski on Thursday. The officials reaffirmed good relations between Poland and Slovenia, with Logar expressing satisfaction about Slovenia's successful cooperation with the Visegrad Group.
Logar thanked Czaputowicz for Poland's assistance in repatriating Slovenians stranded abroad in the midst of air travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"The gesture, attesting to solidarity and friendship between the two countries, will always be remembered with gratitude in Slovenia," said Logar.
The pair highlighted successful economic cooperation between Poland and Slovenia. Trade amounts to almost EUR 2 billion. Logar and Czaputowicz pointed to the untapped potential of collaboration in terms transport infrastructure in central Europe, said the Foreign Ministry.
Minister @AnzeLog in minister #Czaputowicz sta v Varšavi potrdila odlične odnose med ?? in ?? ter se strinjala, da je regionalno sodelovanje v srednji Evropi pomemben vzvod v #EU, ki lahko prispeva k različnim evropskim politikam. #StrongerTogether2020 #ThreeSeasInitiative #V4+ pic.twitter.com/IsMqQiliaq— SLOVENIAN MFA (@MZZRS) July 23, 2020
Logar also highlighted the importance of integrating the Port of Koper in the future Baltic-Adriatic railway corridor, a part of the planned Pan-European transport network which will represent a state-of-the-art railway axis between the two countries.
The Slovenian foreign minister expressed interest in continuing and strengthening cooperation between the Visegrad Four and Slovenia in the future.
During a meeting with Szymanski, Logar presented the priorities of Slovenia's approaching EU Council presidency, including EU enlargement to the Western Balkans.
Both ministers expressed support for the process, agreeing that stimulating circumstances had to be fostered to promote the development of the region.
The pair also discussed migration strategies in Europe. They were of the same opinion that ways of expressing solidarity could be various and that the issue should be tackled in cooperation with source countries.
The Polish Press Agency (PAP) reported today that Czaputowicz noted Polish and Slovenian prime ministers, Mateusz Morawiecki and Janez Janša, "collaborated effectively" during the recent EU summit.
"We achieved success together. Slovenia joined the group of Visegrad countries (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia), and the result of this summit is our common achievement," Czaputowicz said according to PAP.
Czaputowicz said that Slovenia was becoming an important partner of Poland as a result of "certain political processes" taking place in Slovenia.
STA, 18 June 2020 - The government has compiled a list of key investments that will be given priority treatment in administrative procedures so as to help kick-start the economy. The list currently features 187 investments worth EUR 7.7 billion and will be updated on an ongoing basis, Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak told the press on Thursday.
The minister said the main intention of the third stimulus package and the list of investments was to promote the implementation of projects which had come to a standstill due to bureaucratic complications.
A special task force will examine the projects giving them a priority mark based on their feasibility and whether their finances are already clear, he explained after the government session.
It will get down to work in the coming days, "starting with the projects which are closest to being implemented and which can be brought to life fastest".
The task force will feature representatives of agencies and other offices which are key in the process of obtaining permits.
This new approach could well halve the duration of certain administrative procedures, Vizjak said, adding that "the change at the helm of many institutions important for obtaining permits" would also make these offices act in a less bureaucratic manner.
The list features 22 environment projects worth EUR 310 million and 19 energy projects worth EUR 650 million, including a new reactor at Nuclear Power Plant in Krško.
There are also many transport projects, worth a combined EUR 4.5 billion.
Regional development projects, among them projects from health, education, culture etc, are worth more than EUR 2 billion.
"The government believes that starting an investment cycle in Slovenia does not only mean preserving jobs but also creating new ones. Not only in construction but also in many other industries which are related to construction ...."
Vizjak said this was the first list to start with, but it would be further refreshed with potential new investments before the summer holidays.
The list does not feature only publicly funded projects but also those funded from private sources.
"We also count a lot on the [EU post-Covid] recovery fund, which is still being consolidated and formed and which could be a source for many a project."
Also on the list are projects for which the finances have been fully secured, but are deadlocked due to failure to obtain permits.
The list moreover includes a number of projects which are needed systemically, from new homes for the elderly and housing to water supply, flood safety.
The minister believes the list is an important message to businesses showing that the government would like to encourage an investment cycle and "that everyone who would like to invest in environmentally feasible projects and who wants to see the country's further development in all areas, is welcome".
As for NEK 2, the second reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, Vizjak recalled it had been placed among important projects already back in 2006.
It has now made it to the list of key investments "because finally, siting procedures should be launched".
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) has described the list as "a contribution to the revival of the economy and the preservation of many jobs".
The list, which was initially expected to include 50-odd projects, now features virtually all major public infrastructure projects currently under consideration.
Some of the biggest projects are ongoing construction of a new track between Divača and Koper, several smaller rail projects across the entire rail network, the north-south expressway in eastern Slovenia, dubbed the third development axis, and the passenger terminal in Ljubljana.
Energy projects on the list include the Mokrice hydro plant on the Sava, the second unit at Krško plus the radwaste repository, and a transmission line upgrade between Cirkovce and Pince in eastern Slovenia.
Several flood protection projects are on the list as well, along with multiple housing projects, construction of new care homes, hospitals and university buildings.
In the culture segment, the new wing of the National and University Library, dubbed NUK2, made the cut along with a renovation of the SNG Drama theatre in Ljubljana and the National Archives building.
STA, 12 June 2020 - The Golovec tunnel, located on the south-eastern section of the Ljubljana ring road, was partially closed down today for renovation that is expected to take two months.
National motorway company DARS, which entrusted the tunnel's renovation to Slovenian builder Kolektor CGP for EUR 8.56 million VAT excluded, first closed down the western tube of the tunnel.
All traffic will be redirected to the eastern tube, which is scheduled for renovation next year, but the tunnel will be off limit to vehicles heavier than 3.5 tonnes. Traffic will be organised in a 1+2 fashion, with the number of south- or north-bound lanes adjusting to the needs.
DARS representatives have described the project as very important and demanding, since this is one of the most heavily used sections of the Ljubljana ring road.
Details of the work, in Slovenian, can be found here
STA, 19 May 2020 - Plans have been set in motion to upgrade the railway network in the greater Ljubljana area, with the Infrastructure Ministry determining the existing railways leading from Ljubljana to Kamnik in the north and to the south-eastern border as priority.
The ministry said on Tuesday that Minister Jernej Vrtovec had tasked the public company for public railway infrastructure engineering to start siting the projects.
The task has been commissioned based on an ongoing feasibility study related to upgrades of regional railway lines in Slovenia and the railway network in the greater Ljubljana area, officially called the Ljubljana Urban Region.
"The results of the study suggests that siting activities for the existing Kamnik railway - expanding it to two tracks and electrifying it - should be initiated as soon as possible," the ministry said.
As for the south-eastern railway leading to the border town of Metlika, the ministry said that it should be electrified and gradually expanded to two tracks, depending on the needs.
When it comes to the railway between Ljubljana and Vrhnika, some 20 km south-west, the ministry said that synergies should be sought with the road infrastructure to secure sustainable mobility.
All activities are expected to be focused on developing infrastructure for integrated public passenger transport, with the main goal being to reduce travel times and to make passenger train schedules more attractive to users.
STA, 23 April 2020 - Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Andrej Vizjak announced on Thursday a deregulation of construction legislation that he argues will substantially speed up construction in this crucial period. "Every month of delayed investment in construction is a month lost and reduces budget revenue," he told the press.
Vizjak, who explained the proposed changes have been incorporated into the amendments of the first coronavirus crisis stimulus package, pointed to the pending recession. The changes "allow immediate launch of certain investments that are on hold now", he added.
A key segment of the proposed change envisages the integration of several construction permit procedures while ridding potential investors of the obligation to first obtain claims over the land slated for construction.
While legislation was changed in 2018 due to protracted proceedings - in particular environment-related challenges - to allow a construction permit to be obtained simultaneously with the environmental permit, this "integral procedure" would now no longer require investors to first prove their claim over the land in question.
The government argues that this condition has often been impossible to meet in more complex construction projects and that it also made no sense to try to obtain such rights before the environmental review is completed.
Moreover envisaged to be running simultaneously with the "integral procedure" and not after it is the procedure needed for investors to be allowed to override the public benefit of preserving the environment with other public benefits.
Notably, the changes would also affect projects that were subject to the environmental permit phase before the 2018 changes. All these projects would be allowed to automatically enter the integral procedure.
Another major change, which Vizjak said would for instance speed up the construction of the expressway meant to connect the Koroška region in the north with Dolenjska in the south, is a provision allowing construction to start as soon as a building permit is issued and not only after the decree is final.
"Many construction projects are on hold today because of appeals, even in cases where these appeals are unfounded and only serve as extortion," he said.
Some of the appeals have been initiated by small NGOs, which would no longer be possible with the changes, as these stipulate NGOs need to have at least 50 members to be able to challenge permits.
Appeals would also need to be filed within 15 days after a permit decree is published and all challenges would be labelled as a priority.
What is more, the government wants authorities issuing opinions in permit procedures to do so in an unambiguous fashion and without ensuing contradictions. In case the opinions are negative, they would also need to include proposals on how to make an investment feasible.
STA, 17 April 2020 - Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec has approved a 50% reduction in port fees for Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's only seaport. Talking to the press as he visited the port on Friday, Vrtovec said that this "discount" would remain in place until September and would be extended if necessary.
The goal is to preserve the port's competitive edge in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, with CEO Dimitrij Zadel expressing satisfaction with the move. Vrtovec believes the reduction in fees will attract international shipping companies.
Zadel said that similar measures to increase the competitive edge had also been introduced at other ports and that this brought the Koper port on par with others. Vrtovec also praised the company for taking adequate precautionary measures, as none of its workers had tested positive for Covid-19.
Moreover, the ministry will also approve subsidies for railway transport in short, similar to other countries, said Vrtovec.
The minister also commented on the construction of a second rail track to the port, confirming that the ministry was looking into the possibility of folding 2TDK, a special vehicle company established for the construction and management of the new track, into Slovenske Železnice, the national railway operator.
However, a definitive answer to this will be possible only after analyses are performed and Slovenske Železnice and other key players are consulted, in about a month or two.
Vrtovec dismissed information that Hungary may join the second track project, saying no talks were taking place, but he underlined the importance of countries in the hinterland for the development of Luka Koper.
In terms of the coronavirus epidemic measures, Vrtovec would not say when public transport may be relaunched. He said however that the government may decide as early as today that vehicle inspection services reopen on Monday.
STA, 27 March 2020 - 2TDK, the state company managing the construction of the new railway between the port of Koper and Divača, has signed an EU 8.5 million contract with a consortium led by Markomark Nival on the construction of bridges across the Glinščica Valley, one of the first large structures on the new track.
The contract covers the construction of two bridges, which is expected to take 15 months. Under initial plans, the work should start in August and finish in November 2021.
The EU is to fund 85% of the Glinščica Valley project. However, missing the December 2021 deadline for the completion of the project would result in the European funding needing to be returned. To catch the deadline, work would need to begin in mid-2020 at the latest.
The contract was signed on Friday by 2TDK director general Dušan Zorko and director Marko Brezigar. Due to coronavirus measures, Markomark CEO Nival Marko Peter and Ekorel CEO Zoran Pogačar signed it separately.
The signing of the contract comes after the consortium, which won the public tender for the first of several bridges on the planned new Koper-Divača railway, was rejected over flawed documentation but was later successful with its appeal. Markomark Nival was asked to supplement its file.
STA, 28 February 2020 - Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port, saw a group net profit plunge by 32% to EUR 40.4 million in 2019 due to a slowdown of global trade. Revenue remained broadly flat at EUR 228.7 million, six percent below plans, the company said on Friday.
Profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) declined by over a quarter to EUR 73.1 million and operating profit (EBIT), at EUR 45.3 million, was 35% lower than in the year before.
The volume of cargo shipments declined across the board, with general cargoes and dry bulk hit particularly hard: the former dropped by 16% and the latter by 17%.
Containers, a major category, saw a small drop in terms of tonnage, but measured by unit (TEU), the transhipment declined by 3%. Cars, another major category, saw a 4% drop.
Liquid cargoes are the only category in which the port registered an improvement, with tonnage increasing by 12%.
The company said that the second half of 2019 had been marked by the cooling of the global economy, in particular the automotive industry, electronics and the production of iron products.
Nevertheless, the bottom line is still 5% above the projections.
In line with the expectations, the results were affected by the implementation of a new business model for port services and the levy on transhipment for the construction of a new Koper-Divača railway.
The return on equity was at 10%, 6.1 percentage points down from 2018 but still 0.4 percentage points above plans.
The figures were also affected by the receipts in damages compensation for a crane to the tune of EUR 9.3 million in 2018 and EUR 0.4 million in 2019.
Going forward, the company will face the challenge of the coronavirus outbreak. CEO Dimitrij Zadel has recently said that the company is yet to feel the impact of restrictions in China.
Zadel would not speculate about expected decline in throughput yet, but he did say that transhipment of goods from China represented 30% of the port's total transhipment.
STA, 27 February 2020 - The outgoing government endorsed on Thursday the National Energy and Climate Plan, a set of energy policy and climate change mitigation measures until 2030. The document, which will now be sent to Brussels, is "realistically ambitious", said Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek.
The plan, which was revised after its draft was met with criticism from both industry and environmental NGOs, will serve as the basis for Slovenia's long-term climate strategy.
The government called it "a key step towards a climate-neutral Slovenia until 2050" on Twitter today.
Bratušek told the press after today's cabinet session that the goal was to cut overall greenhouse gas emissions by 36%, improve energy efficiency by at least 35% and have at least 27% of energy come from renewable energy sources.
The outgoing minister announced that investment into research and development would reach 3% of GDP, of which 1% would be public funds.
These are the minimal goals that Slovenia has to meet until 2030 if it is to avoid sanctions, Bratušek said, adding that the document adopted today also clearly showed how these goals would be achieved.
If Slovenia fails to raise its share of renewable energy to 25%, it will have to pay a fine of some EUR 10 million as early as next year.
The plan preserves the country's nuclear power facilities in the current size although with less use of fossil fuels and more renewable energy sources, in particular solar and wind, and adds waste co-incineration.
Following criticism by the state-owned power utility HSE and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) that the draft plan did not involve new hydro plants on the central Sava river, the final version includes plans for further use of hydro energy.
Analyses of alternatives to hydro and the role of hydro energy use in meeting Slovenia's goal of becoming climate neural by 2050 are also planned.
As for a new reactor at the Krško Nuclear Power Station (NEK), the document says that a decision on a potential construction should be made by 2027 at the latest.
A decision will also have to be made on the extension of the lifespan for the existing reactor, which expires in 2023. "This is why we must make sure that it will be able to function by 2043 as planned," Bratušek said.
Coal use has not been tackled yet and is to be resolved in Slovenia's Energy Concept until 2060.
Slovenia was obligated to adopt the Energy and Climate Plan and forward it to the European Commission under the EU regulation on the governance of the energy union and climate action if it wants to draw cohesion funds in 2021-2027.
The GZS welcomed the new version of the plan yesterday, but still voiced some concerns, especially regarding GDP growth estimates. The GZS believes economic growth is underestimated in the document and subsequently also the total energy consumption.
A 30% share of renewable energy sources is still beyond reach for industry as there are no assurances that green sources of energy will be available, said the GZS, which also called for a compensation scheme for indirect emissions, which all EU countries bar Slovenia and Romania have.
STA, 29 February 2020 - Like several ruling coalitions before it, the incoming centre-right coalition is promising to deal with red tape and create conditions conducive to business, and step up infrastructure and energy projects.
The coalition agreement lists measures such as reducing red tape for acquiring development permits, simplifying public procurement procedures and those for hiring foreign labour force, and "rationalising" demands on company reporting.
The coalition would like to enforce responsible management of state assets by imposing clear goals on managements and supervisory boards at state-owned companies and holding under-achievers to account.
It pledges to decentralise the country and to promote balanced regional development, as well as reform housing policy to increase the fund of rental housing for youth and young families.
The coalition agreement also places emphasis on investment in infrastructure and information infrastructure with plans to speed up modernisation of the rail infrastructure and expand the motorway network, while making public passenger transportation system friendlier and more affordable.
The plans include measures to reduce congestions, and CO2 emissions, and replacing the motorway toll stickers for cars with electronic vignettes.
The coalition will examine the possibility of transferring 2TDK, the state-owned company managing the Koper-Divača rail project, to the national rail operator.
One of the goals is energy self-sufficiency with a view to Slovenia's long-term energy independence.
Consensus will be sought of Slovenia's long-term energy concept, to ensure responsible resource management and cleaner energy sources to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.
This includes exploitation of nuclear and tackling exploitation of geothermal energy. The only concrete energy project set out is the construction of the Mokrice hydro power station on the Sava.
The coalition is more reserved about plans for tax changes. It does plan to further reduce tax on business performance bonuses, increase the threshold for entrepreneurs eligible for flat-tax rate and form a competitive excise policy for oil products.
The coalition agreement does not mention plans to return VAT to pre-crisis rates or reduce personal income tax, both of which the Democratic Party (SDS) as the senior coalition partner have advocated in the past.
This is part of a series on the new government’s plans, with the whole set here