STA, 20 December - The construction of a northern expressway connecting the northern Koroška region to Slovenia's main motorway network and Austria's Carinthia is facing new delays, according to the latest timeline presented by the motorway company DARS on Wednesday.
Under the latest plans, an expressway between Velenje and Slovenj Gradec is to be built by 2026, which is a three-year delay compared to a protocol on the construction of the northern part of the Third Development Axis, signed by former Infrastructure Minister Peter Gašperšič last year.
In line with the protocol, work on the Velenje-Slovenj Gradec segment of the northern part of the major infrastructure project, whose goal is to connect to the national motorway network parts of the country without good links to motorways, was to start by the end of next year, but DARS's latest plans delay that by a year.
The segment connecting Slovenj Gradec to the Austrian border at Holmec was to be zoned by June 2020 but has now been delayed by another two years and a half, while the future of the segment connecting Velenje to the motorway remains unclear due to a constitutional review of the project.
"Such delays are unacceptable to us," said Aljaž Verhovnik, a member of a board overseeing the Third Development Axis project. He said that the board had rejected the new timeline.
"Apparently somebody has been misleading the public and the 100,000 people who depend on the project," he said and added that DARS was tasked with coming up with an acceptable timeline by 10 January. Otherwise, he and his initiative could call for civil disobedience.
Infrastructure Ministry State Secretary Nina Mauhler said that the ministry had tasked DARS with drafting "a new, more realistic" timeline by mid-January, because "we can hardly accept arguments for a three-year delay".
The delay has also been criticised by Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek, who said that Gašperšič had signed the protocol, which "sadly appears not to have been harmonised with the investor, DARS".
On the other hand, Gašperšič told the STA that the protocol had been harmonised with DARS, which however did not want to sign it, and that he was shocked to hear of the delays. "I believe the deadlines agreed in the protocol were realistic although approximate."
"But I certainly cannot imagine that a three-year delay could occur. It is the task of the ministry to carefully examine what has changed to allow such changes in deadlines," he added.
Similarly, the chair of the Third Development Axis board, Prevalje Mayor Matic Tasič, said that while DARS did not sign the protocol, it was the entity that "prepares proposals for the ministry".
However, DARS pointed out for the STA that it had not signed the protocol and that the deadlines set down in the document were unrealistic.
"Preparations for the construction and the construction itself is far more demanding than it had been imagined by non-experts at first. We have informed the ministry about it, which is why we did not want to sign the protocol," the company said.
It also said that the EUR 800m Šentrupert-Slovenj Gradec segment was treated as a whole. If the Constitutional Court decides on the Šentrupert-Velenje part in the first quarter of next year, the entire segment could be finished in 2026, it added.
In the meantime, activities for the construction of the Velenje-Slovenj Gradec part are under way and DARS said it was trying to follow the timeline from the protocol as much as possible. According to DARS, the 17.5km segment between Velenje and Slovenj Gradec is highly complex and includes the construction of several tunnels and 16 viaducts.
STA, 26 November 2018 - Port operator Luka Koper reported on Monday a nine-month net profit of EUR 49m, which is a 22% improvement on the same period last year. Net sales revenue was up 6% to EUR 168m.
Excluding the EUR 9.1m compensation received over damage to a bridge crane caused by a ship during a storm, the January - September 2018 net profit would amount to EUR 40.9m, a 3% year-on-year improvement, the company pointed out.
The group's operating profit (EBIT) rose by 29% to EUR 57m or by 8% to EUR 47.4m when discounting the mentioned one off event.
The core company recorded EUR 165.5m in revenue, a 7% increase, net profit rose by 22% to EUR 47.7m, EBIT by 30% to EUR 55.8m and EBITDA by 22% to EUR 77.2m.
Transshipment in the port was just under 18 million tonnes, which is on par with the first nine months of last year. March saw a monthly record of 2.3 million tonnes.
Luka Koper had a workforce of 1,217 at the end of September, a 11% increase on a year earlier.
It spent EUR 9.5m on investment at the level of the group.
All our stories on Luka Koper port are here
STA, 19 November 2018 - Foreign Minister Miro Cerer criticised on Monday "immature acts" on the part of Slovenia as a reason for Hungary deciding to pull out of the Koper-Divača rail expansion, saying "Slovenia has missed a unique historic opportunity to the detriment of future generations".
The former prime minister, whose government was in talks with Hungary to take part in this major infrastructure project, believes such treatment of strategic partners does not bode well for Slovenia.
Speaking to the press after an EU ministerial in Brussels, Cerar regretted that as he meets his Hungarian counterpart Péter Szijjártó in Ljubljana on Tuesday, they would probably not discuss "further strategic cooperation on the second rail towards the port of Koper".
Despite his government's major effort to get Hungary on board for strategic partnership on this important transport route, Cerar regretted that "a unique historic opportunity has been lost to the detriment of future generations".
"In my view, this is a big defeat for Slovenia," said Cerar, stressing that Hungary had been willing to cooperate for the past three years, but had been driven away by "immature acts" on the Slovenian side.
He regretted "completely inappropriate, politically immature statements saying that we will dictate to Hungary the conditions for cooperation". This is in reference to Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek's statements, whom he did not explicitly mention. [More on that story here]
He said that such statements "mean a total lack of understanding of cooperation among countries at high political level", and added that it remained to be proved that the project would be more expensive with Hungary taking part.
He also warned the EUR 200 million that would have been contributed by Hungary would have to come from other sources - from loans or the state budget, which means there will be less money for other projects.
"Those who have caused this situation will have to find an answer to it. They will also have to say where we'll get the money and how we'll treat strategic partners in the future," Cerar said.
Similarly, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, who is also in Brussels for an EU ministerial, regretted Hungary's withdrawal, pointing to the financial aspect.
"If we look at how difficult it is to draft a supplementary budget for 2019, every cent coming into the country is welcome," said Erjavec, the foreign minister in Cerar's 2014-2018 government.
"Talks with the Hungarian side had been under way. Since the minister [Bratušek] disclosed how they proceeded, Hungary obviously withdrew," said Erjavec, who hopes this is not its final decision.
On Friday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said the idea under which Hungary would take part in the construction of a new railway line between Koper and the inland hub of Divača had been dropped. He also said the country had already started talks with the port of Trieste in Italy, located some 15 km north of Kop
All of our stories about Slovenia and Hungary can be found here
STA, 19 November - Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek appears unperturbed that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban decided to withdraw from the Koper-Divača rail project. She said on Monday that Hungary was interested in the project to get a piece of the Slovenian coast and that that would never have happened.
Bratušek said on Saturday, when the news about Orban's decision broke, that she had wanted to propose to the government to implement the major infrastructure project on its own anyway, but that she had been waiting for certain figures.
Speaking to the press today, the minister said that she had known for at least a month that the project would have a lower price tag without Hungary's involvement, but at the moment she was still uncertain by how much.
Under the previous government's plans, Hungary would invest EUR 200m in the EUR 1bn project seen as vital for the development of Slovenia's sole maritime port in Koper, but Bratušek has calculated since taking over as the minister that the project would be cheaper if Slovenia went at it alone.
"Hungary was promised certain returns as well as 50,000 square metres of land in long-term lease," she said today and added that "personally, I would have never proposed to the government to back Hungary's involvement under the conditions it had set".
The law governing the management of the rail project was adopted some time ago and has survived two referendums, but there are still several open issues. "The investment plan has not been hammered out to the point where the government could discuss it," Bratušek said.
The minister believes that Hungary would have set additional terms for its collaboration: "Hungary is more interested in the Slovenian sea, a gateway into the world, than in the Divača-Koper project."
According to her, Orban explained his decision by saying that Hungary would get a bigger stake, potentially even a majority stake, in the port of Trieste. However, Bratušek would not allow "a single centimetre of the port of Koper to end in foreign hands" as long as she is minister.
"If this is the reason that [Hungary] will not be involved, then be it," she added and reiterated that Slovenia was able to build the second rail track connecting the Koper port and the inland hub in Divača on its own.
All of our stories about Slovenia and Hungary can be found here
STA, 7 November 2018 - The 1870 railway track between Ljubljana and the north-western town of Jesenice is to be revamped in the coming years, as part of a move to modernise the Slovenian railway network. The upgrade, estimated at EUR 378m-414m, will seek to increase the track's capacity and top speeds as well as enhance safety.
According to the plan, which was listed among the 2018-2021 development projects by the government on Tuesday, the upgrade will eliminate choke points, increase the capacity to allow for the expected increase in cargo transport, increase top speeds, and improve safety on the section.
Additionally, the upgrade will reduce noise levels, improve interoperability, and secure better coordination with road traffic in rush hours.
The project, estimated to be completed by 2025, will be implemented in several stages, depending on financing options and environmental and other matters pertaining to zoning plans.
The first stage involves drawing up blueprints and is valued at EUR 22.2m to be financed from the budget. For the project as a whole, financing options include EU funding and raising debt.
However, EU funds are above all available for projects on the core railway network at this time, which the Ljubljana-Jesenice section is not. On the other hand, the section is part of the TEN-T railway network.
The section, which connects Slovenia to Austria's Villach and further on to Munich in Germany, was built in 1870, with the most recent upgrades implemented 30 or more years ago.
STA, 5 November 2018 - Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek is leading a Slovenian delegation to the China International Import Expo (CIIE) fair in Shanghai, which features 3,000 companies from 130 countries.
The ministry said the visit was designed to boost trade ties with China, enhance Slovenia's role in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), present measures to potential investors and boost cooperation in tourism.
The biggest BRI event this year, CIIE provides the platform to showcase a broad range of goods, services and industries. It is expected to attract more than 150,000 Chinese customers.
The fair is aimed at supporting liberalisation and globalisation of international trade and at opening up the Chinese market.
The participating Slovenian companies and institutions will showcase the country's potential as an innovative high-tech partner for winter sports.
The Slovenian delegation was invited to the fair by the Chinese Ministry of Trade after China recognised Slovenia as a potential partner in the runup to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.
The Nordic Centre in Slovenia's Planica has been selected as the European training camp of the Chinese men's ski jumping team.
In August this year, the Ljubljana Faculty of Sport and Beijing Sport University signed a memorandum on academic and scientific cooperation in winter sports.
In the first joint activity spurred by the memorandum, a bilateral forum on development of winter sports will be held in Beijing on 7 November.
The forum is based on a 2016 agreement on cooperation in sports signed by the respective ministries.
While in China, Počivalšek is due to hold bilateral meetings with Chinese government officials, to brief them on the state of Slovenia's economy and discuss bilateral cooperation in trade and investment.
The focus will be on cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative and ways to boost trade, also through new forms of cooperation. The minister will also present the investment environment in Slovenia.
STA, 1 October 2018 - The European Commission has proposed financial support for three Slovenian projects from the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) fund, totalling almost EUR 14m. One of the projects is coordinated by energy company Petrol and the other two will be carried out by the Slovenia's air traffic control service.
With a street festival on Ljubljana’s Slovenska cesta and free buses on Sunday, plus events all over the country.