STA, 15 July 2019 - In the next three years, some EUR 200 million will be invested in the building of broadband optical networks in rural parts of Slovenia as part of the RUNE project, co-funded by the EU and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The Rural Network Project will be launched this year and will bring internet speeds of up to 10Gb/s to rural households, according to RUNE Enia, the company in charge of the investment in Slovenia.
The project, which is also being launched in Croatia, is co-funded by the Connecting Europe Broadband Fund (CEBF) set up by the EU and the EIB in order to help fund commercial investments. RUNE investment in Croatia is somewhat lower than in Slovenia, at EUR 50 million.
According to the European Commission's web site, the goal is to generate between EUR 1 billion and EUR 1.7 billion investments by providing EUR 500 million in incentives.
STA, 9 July 2019 - Telecoms operator Telemach, which holds about a fifth of the country's mobile telephony market, is on track to losing a portion of wireless spectrum that had been awarded free of charge in 2008 to a company it acquired almost five years ago.
The Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) has decided to take back two 5 MHz slices of spectrum in the 2100 MHz band, which amounts to less than a tenth of total spectrum that Telemach has at its disposal.
The decision will be effective on 30 September, until which time a public call for bids for the spectrum will be issued. Telemach will be allowed to bid, AKOS said on Tuesday.
Telemach told the STA the move would not affect its users since they have enough spectrum, and it said it would mount a challenge at the Administrative Court.
As for participating in the announced tender, the company said this would "depend on the tender conditions and the company's assessment as to whether the acquisition of additional frequency under the tender conditions is technically and economically justified."
The decision is based on an ruling by the Administrative Court, which examined the awarding of the spectrum to Tušmobil free of charge in 2008 and decided the agency needed to make a new decision.
The awarding of the spectrum is also the subject of a criminal trial, with former AKOS director Tomaž Simonič charged with abuse of office for giving the spectrum to Tušmobil in exchange for an apartment provided by Mirko Tuš, at the time the owner of Tušmobil.
Telemach acquired Tušmobil in 2014 in a move that bolstered its mobile offerings and made it the number 3 wireless operator in Slovenia.
STA, 2 July 2019 - The share of electricity from renewable sources in gross end use in Slovenia in 2018 rose by 3.4 percentage points to 21.8% from 2005, the Energy Agency, the national regulator, says in its 2018 report.
This was facilitated by a support scheme which has since 2009 involved more than 2,500 producers with almost 3,860 production facilities running on renewables.
But in line with national goals stemming from the EU's climate and energy package, the share of renewables in gross end use will have to be raised to 25% by 2020.
To achieve this goal, progress will have to be made in transport and in power production, the agency says in the report, which has been sent to the National Assembly.
In transport, Slovenia was by 4.7 percentage points behind the target 10.5% share in 2018, while the gap for electricity output to the 39.3% goal was over 7 points.
Renewables-based power was generated mostly by hydro plants and other plants running on renewables, reaching 34.5% of the country's total power output in 2018, up almost 5 points annually.
The rest of Slovenia's power output came from coal-fired power stations (29%) and the Krško Nuclear Power Plant, the country's only nuclear power station (36.5%).
Domestic electricity production covered almost 85% of domestic electricity consumption, up 1.7 points from 2017.
However, the agency said the output did not reflect the actual potential of the country's electricity production facilities.
It was rather a result of the structure of production facilities, their competitiveness and the emerging electricity market target model, says the report.
For instance, hydro power stations' output depends on water levels, while coal-fired power stations and plants running on liquid and gas fuels strongly depend on daily power consumption as well as on market variables such as the prices of emission coupons, fuel or wholesale.
The agency also says market concentration in the retail market somewhat decreased last year, which shows there is more competition among electricity suppliers.
However, the end price of electricity for an average household edged up 0.3%, while it rose by more than 8% for other users.
While there is still much room to save on electricity bills by changing suppliers, the number of those did so in 2018 dropped by one point to 5.7% over 2017, a second consecutive annual drop.
The Energy Agency is the country's national regulatory authority which directs and supervises electricity and gas energy operators.
Its mission is to act in the interest of all market stakeholders, so it is not financed from the state budget but from network charges.
STA, 23 June - The government is drafting legislative changes legalising the increasingly popular electric scooters and the testing of autonomous cars.
E-scooters are currently unregulated and exist in a grey zone, but under changes proposed by the Infrastructure Ministry their use will be allowed in pedestrian areas and on bicycle lanes.
The maximum speed will be restricted to 25 km/h, but in pedestrian areas e-scooter riders will have to keep the speed at walking pace.
Where there are no pavements or bicycle lanes, e-scooters will be allowed on the edge of roads.
In general, e-scooters will be subject to rules on bicyclists, which means they have to have lights. Helmets will be mandatory for underage riders.
A second set of rules deals with autonomous cars, whose testing will be permitted on Slovenian roads provided they are marked as autonomous vehicles.
Drivers will nevertheless have to be present in the vehicle at all times to take over if necessary, and systems must be put in place to record data in real time and hand over that data to law enforcement in the event of an accident.
All autonomous vehicles will have to be insured and their owners will have to notify the police in advance of testing.
The changes are a part of a broader reform law on traffic regulations that has been drawn up by the Infrastructure Ministry and submitted for interdepartmental consultation.
Some of the other changes involve higher fines for using mobile devices while driving, new rules on mixed areas shared by vehicles and pedestrians, and stricter rules on where lorry drivers may park.
In a change that will be welcomed by cyclists, the legislation will eliminate an unintended loophole under which bicyclists had to be completely sober; like drivers of cars, they will be allowed to have a blood alcohol content of 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood.
STA, 18 June 2019 - A deal was signed in Novo Mesto on Tuesday that is to pave the way for revitalisation of a hundred-year-old cross-border railway infrastructure connecting Ljubljana with Slovenian border towns and further with Croatia.
The agreement on cooperation was signed by representatives of nine Slovenian municipalities, including Ljubljana, and Croatia's Karlovac. The project will be coordinated by the Novo Mesto Development Centre.
According to the head of the centre, Franc Bratkovič, the municipalities will contribute more than EUR 100,000 for the project in the next couple of years. "We will do everything we can to have the project included in national and European documents," he said.
The goal of the initiative to revive the hundred-year-old cross border railway infrastructure connecting Ljubljana with the border towns and further with Croatia's Karlovac and later Zagreb, is to make the Slovenian railway network and the towns along the railway competitive, said Novo Mesto Mayor Gregor Macedoni.
The modernisation of the railway is to boost connectivity, international cooperation and regional development.
One of the initiators of the project that was conceived a year ago, Grosuplje Mayor Peter Verlič, said that it was a precondition for the setting up of the European Grouping of Territorial Cooperation, which will enable the drawing of EU funds.
The modernisation of the railway, which is expected to be finalised in about ten years, will be funded from various sources.
In the initial phase, the railway track is to be modernised to allow for higher travelling speeds and heavier trains, train stations renovated and dangerous level crossings eliminated.
The next phase is to include electrification of the track and the purchase of ten modern trains.
The costs of the project have not been estimated yet, but Verlič said they would probably be similar to the costs of the modernisation of the Grosuplje-Kočevje railway.
Those costs reached almost EUR 100m.
STA, 14 June 2019 - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said on Friday she was working on the idea to connect Maribor and Ljubljana with express trains, a demand presented by a civil initiative earlier this week. Bratušek said she would push for connecting several European cities with fast trains to be one of Slovenia's priorities during the EU presidency.
"I believe Slovenia should be the initiator of express trains between Vienna, Ljubljana and Venice, and the first fast connection we need to introduce would be between Ljubljana and Maribor, two biggest Slovenian cities," the minister said.
The Infrastructure Ministry said it was working on a transport policy that is in line with the demands of the group of academics commuting from Maribor to Ljubljana on a daily basis who started the campaign for better transport connection between the two cities on Monday.
The initiative would like to cut the commuting time between the two cities to 50 minutes, while the train ride currently takes from two to three hours.
The head of the initiative, Mateja Ratej, noted that the Maribor-Ljubljana motorway, being a part of the transport corridor between eastern and western Europe, was heavily burdened, especially during holidays and in the summer.
"Traffic accidents are becoming increasingly frequent, causing tailbacks of several kilometres, which extend the 133-kilometre journey to several hours," she said.
The ministry said today it had already introduced a single integrated pass for public transport and additional fast routes. "We are modernising the existing and building new railway connections to have more cargo transported on rail and make the connections between cities faster, more cost-efficient, and more environment- and user-friendly."
According to the ministry, a task force will be set up to look into the possibilities for express trains between Ljubljana and Maribor and other cities, and estimate the costs of such a project.
The 50 Minutes Between Maribor and Ljubljana initiative was backed by the Maribor municipality and the List of Cyclists and Pedestrians.
"The situation has been causing discontent for a while and things get much worse in the summer months," Ratej said, calling for an action plan before the end of the year.
The initiative is now collecting signatures for its petition.
All our stories on railways in Slovenia are here
STA, 13 June 2019 - As the number of tourists visiting Slovenia with camper vans grows, so is the number of places where they can stop for rest. Since a project encouraging municipalities to provide rest stops was launched in 2014, their number has risen to 160 rest stops.
As part of the Network of Rest Stops for Camper Vans, a project launched by the the Mirna municipality in the south-east, 90 of Slovenia's 212 municipalities have various types of rest stops, ranging from places offering only water and electricity to full-fledged camping sites.
The idea is to get all Slovenian municipalities on board to construct another 40 new rest stops to get to 200, project coordinator Petra Krnc Laznik told the STA on Thursday, as representatives of the participating municipalities met in Mirna.
The local communities which have already provided some infrastructure for camper vans should now more actively attract guests and adjust their offerings to camper van tourists. "They should try to keep them in their area, offering them unique adventures and memorable moments," she said.
"There are 212 municipalities in Slovenia and each of them could have at least one place where camper vans are welcome and where tourists can experience something nice," said project manager Dušan Skerbiš, the mayor of Mirna. In this way Slovenia would get "212 interesting tourist destinations".
Krnc Laznik added that Slovenia was becoming increasingly popular among foreign camper van tourists who also seemed to be very happy with the rest places here.
The map of rest stops, and more details about them, can be found here
STA, 12 June 2019 - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek met Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng on the final day of her visit to China to talk about Slovenia's geostrategic advantages in light of China's plans to upgrade links to Europe.
According to a press release from the Infrastructure Ministry, Bratušek also met the management of Cosco, one of the world's biggest shipping companies which has stakes in several European ports, including a 100% stake in the container terminal of the Piraeus port in Greece.
Cosco, which is a state-owned company, is also a major partner for Slovenia's sole maritime port, Koper.
Bratušek put in her word for boosting that cooperation, and presented plans to build a second track connecting the port inland.
The CEO of the port operator Luka Koper, Dimitrij Zadel, who accompanied the minister, presented the company's development potential and investment plans.
The minister tweeted that the construction of the second track between Koper and Divača, and investment in extension of port piers would increase the joint potential of the port and Slovenia, "so stable partners are important for our companies".
Bratušek also visited the Slovenian Embassy in Beijing and met Transport Minister Li. They discussed the advantages of Slovenia's geostrategic position in Central and Eastern Europe.
China has been dedicating considerable attention to transport infrastructure within the 17+1 initiative for cooperation with the countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe and the Belt and Road initiative, or the new Silk Road to boost transport links with Europe.
Li thanked Bratušek for Slovenia's active participation in both initiatives, noting the country's geostrategic location. He called for enhancing cooperation between the two countries. Bratušek invited her counterpart to visit Slovenia.
Earlier this week, Bratušek visited the China - CEEC Investment and Trade Expo fair in Ningbo, meeting Chinese Vice-Prime Minister Hu Chunhua at the forum of representatives of the participating countries. She also met former long-serving Transport Minister Jang Huantang.
Apart from Luka Koper, several other Slovenian companies were showcased at the Ningbo fair, including the Slovenian railways operator Slovenske Železnice, postal company Pošta Slovenije, logistic companies Intereuropa, Adria Kombi and d OmniOpti.
STA, 10 June 2019 - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek has set out the advantages of the new railway connecting Slovenia's sole maritime port as she addressed China - CEEC Investment and Trade Expo fair in China.
Na Forumu predstavnikov držav, ki sodelujejo na mednarodni razstavi CEEC Expo sem se srečala s podpredsednikom vlade Kitajske Hu Chunhuajem in nagovorila ministre sodelujočih držav. Izpostavila sem projekt gradnje 2. tira, ki bo povečal konkurenčno naše Luke Koper. @mzi_rs ???? pic.twitter.com/PbjgLc6um4— Alenka Bratušek (@ABratusek) June 9, 2019
According to a statement from her ministry, Bratušek addressed ministers and other senior officials of the countries participating in the fair in Ningbo, underscoring the importance of the emerging modern-day Silk Road that would create closer transport links between Asia and European countries.
She noted the EUR 1 billion-plus project to build a second rail track between the Koper port and the tail junction in Divača in inland Slovenia, which she said would further increase the port's competitive advantage.
The minister said the project would cut the journey travelled by ships from Asia to Europe by five to eight days compared to north European ports, which would reduce not only costs but also the impact on the environment.
[Kitajska ??] Iz Šanghaja do Pekinga 1.500 kilometrov z vlakom na sestanek z ministrom za promet. Hitrost vožnje do 350 km/h! ?⚡️ #gradimo #povzujemo #železnice #vlaki @mzi_rs #Slovenija ?? pic.twitter.com/54AuvXo2W9— Alenka Bratušek (@ABratusek) June 10, 2019
Bratušek also visited the exhibition ground of the Slovenian companies showcased at the China - CEEC Expo fair, the port operator Luka Koper, the Slovenian railways operator Slovenske Železnice, postal company Pošta Slovenije, logistic companies Intereuropa, Adria Kombi and OmniOpti.
At the forum of representatives of the participating countries, the Slovenian minister met Chinese Vice-Prime Minister Hu Chunhua. Accompanied by Luka Koper CEO Dimitrij Zadel, Bratušek also visited the Ningbo port, one of the world's largest.
The minister also addressed mayors of cities as part of the 17+1 initiative including China, the Central and East European countries and Greece, and met the leaderships of the Zheijiang province and the Ningbo city.
Bratušek will also visit Beijing where she will meet Chinese Transport Minister Li Xiaopeng.
STA, 15 May 2019 - The board of directors of the European Investment Bank (EIB) approved a EUR 250 million loan for the construction of a second rail track between rail hub Divača and Koper port on Wednesday, the EIB confirmed for the STA.
This approval is considered a significant step to finalising the financial plan for the project estimated at just under EUR 1.2 billion.
To approve the financing, the EIB insisted on a state guarantee for the loan which will be taken out by 2TDK, a company incorporated with the purpose of building and managing the new track.
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek has previously said that the state guarantee should not be a problem as a relevant bill is as good as ready. It needs to take effect before the loan contract is signed, expectedly by the end of the year.
She told the press after the EIB approved the loan that such a decision was expected, considering that the European Commission already okayed a loan from the EIB.
2TDK CEO Dušan Zorko, who was also confident that the loan would be approved, said that the EIB recognised the importance of this project for the entire region.
The next step will be to negotiate the contract for the loan, said Zorko. Bratušek added that there was no hurry to sign the contract.
"We were in a hurry with the loan so that we could finalise the financial plan for the project and so as not to endanger the EUR 190 million from the EU," the minister said.
"With the EUR 109 million in grants provided by the European Commission, the project can now start," European Commissioner for Transport Violeta Bulc said in a written statement.
The board of EIB directors was expected to discuss the loan to Slovenia in early April, but postponed the decision due to long debates about Brexit, the EIB said over a month ago.