Ljubljana related

06 Apr 2022, 12:21 PM

STA, 5 April 2022 - The French car manufacturer Renault has concluded an agreement with the Israeli Taavura Group to sell it the dealership of the Renault Group in Slovenia, which imports and distributes the Renault, Dacia and Alpine marques. Taavura Group is also to become the new distributor of Nissan vehicles in Slovenia.

The agreement with Renault has been concluded as part of restructuring of distribution in the group, the Renault Group said on Tuesday.

It added that the Taavura Group had been picked due to its good knowledge of car distribution, which would be further improved by the local team and a strong partnership with the sales and service network.

The Israeli group will take over all current employees for imports and distribution in the Slovenian branch and all activities of the sales and service network in Slovenia.

The management of Renault Nissan Slovenija meanwhile announced that the Taavura Group would be a new distributor of Nissan vehicles, spare parts and other services for Slovenia.

It will also take over Nissan's sales and service activities in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia.

It added that the Taavura Group would be a strong partner of Nissan in Slovenia with its expertise in the automotive business, focus on customers and progressive sale approach. "The Nissan brand will be strengthened and will contribute to sustainable growth."

Ken Lalo, the CEO of the Taavura Group's automotive division, said he was honoured to expand the partnership with the Nissan brand to other European countries.

He said that the partnership with Nissan and dealers in Slovenia and other countries would enable the group to focus on customer satisfaction and achieving the priorities of the Nissan Next plan in these markets.

As the deal needs to be approved by the Competition Protection Agency, the company is expected to start operating under the new owner at the beginning of the summer.

29 Jul 2021, 16:07 PM

STA, 29 July 2021 - The Social Democrats (SD) president and vice-president Tanja Fajon and Matjaž Nemec, respectively, called on Prime Minister Janez Janša to initiate an independent, voluntary forensic investigation of mobile devices of political leaders, journalists and civil society in the face of the Pegasus scandal.

Fajon said today Janša should explain what he was doing and talking about during his visit to the company selling the spyware Pegasus in Europe while in Israel in December 2020.

This comes after a consortium of media reported that hacking spyware sold by the Israeli NSO Group has been allegedly used by governments to target journalists, activists and political opponents.

Fajon also urged Janša to enable an "independent and voluntary forensic investigation of mobile devices, primarily of leaders of political parties but also investigative journalists and civil society, so that we'll actually know whether eavesdropping was actually taking place here as well".

Some European countries have already announced independent investigations, she noted.

If Janša fails to order an investigation until a certain deadline, European institutions or independent bodies will have to be asked to do it, Fajon said.

She said the European Parliament had been urged a few days ago to start dealing both with spying allegations on European ground as well as a rise in neo-Nazism and rightist extremism in Slovenia.

Nemec said he would call a session of the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission (KNOVS) to discuss the Pegasus scandal and allegations of political pressure on the police, especially in connection to the Yellow Jackets group.

He said that both journalists and politicians, including the prime minister and state secretary for national security in the prime minister's office Žan Mahnič, would be invited to the session that was to be held at the end of August.

19 Jul 2021, 10:40 AM

STA, 19 July 2021 - A high-profile ceremony at the Prilozje air strip near the town of Metlika in the south-east of the country will mark the first Slovenia-Israel Friendship Day on Monday in memory of the joint fight against Nazism and Fascism in World War II. Slovenia's president Borut Pahor and Israeli Ambassador Eyal Sela will be in attendance.

The event, marking the centenary of the birth of Israeli hero and poet Hannah Szenes, who parachuted into the Bela Krajina region on a mission during WWII, will be addressed by President Pahor as the keynote speaker as well as by Israeli Ambassador Sela.

Before the ceremony, a pair of women parachutists from Slovenia and Israel will make a landing in a tribute to Szenes, the president's office has announced.

Szenes was one of the 17 Hungarian Jews who joined the British forces as a volunteer. Parachuted by the British on a mission to assist anti-Nazi forces, she landed in Bela Krajina on 13 March 1944 in an area liberated by the Partisan resistance.

As a British soldier she later headed on foot to Hungary. She was apprehended by Hungarian gendarmes at the border in June 1944 and was sentenced to death.

To honour her memory, 100 Israeli parachutists, joined by colleagues from Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary and the UK will parachute to the Cerklje ob Krki airbase ahead of the Metlika ceremony at the initiative of the Israeli Defence Forces in cooperation with the Slovenian Defence Ministry and the Slovenian Armed Forces.

Friendship days strengthen cooperation between countries and invoke the long-running bonds, friendship and alliance in hardest times, something that Pahor discussed in a recent phone call with his new Israeli counterpart Isaac Herzog.

18 May 2021, 20:01 PM

STA, 18 May 2021 - The Muslim Community of Slovenia, one of the two organisations representing Muslims in the country, has sent an open letter to Prime Minister Janez Janša in which it describes the flying of the Israeli flag on the Slovenian government building as an "abuse of power" and support for "Israel's genocidal policy."

"The government has raised the flag of an occupying power in the name of its ideology, not in our name," the letter says, adding that support for Israel is even more worrying at a time when "the Israeli authorities are pursuing a policy of genocide and apartheid".

The Muslim Community believes that "Hamas has only a potential desire to destroy Israel", while on the other hand the Israeli state "is actually destroying the people and the society of Palestine".

Janša was reminded that the instigating moment of the latest events in the Middle East was Israeli forces storming the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third most important in the Muslim world, at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, an "unprecedented violation of basic human rights" in recent history.

The letter asked the prime minister "how he would have felt if the police broke into a cathedral where he and his family were peacefully attending a Christian religious ceremony".

"Do you really have such an insensitive attitude towards victims and do you not care how 50,000 Muslims in Slovenia feel?" added the letter signed by Muhamed Čerkez, the president of the committee of the Muslim Community of Slovenia.

The organisation is the smaller of the two Islamic religious organisations in Slovenia. It was established in 2006 after a split in the Islamic Community in the Republic of Slovenia.

"Our community believes that international conflicts must be resolved peacefully and non-violently. Both Jews and Palestinians have a right to exist. But above all, truth must have the right to exist," concluded the letter.

Prime Minister Janša responded on Twitter by saying that the Muslim community was making "a big mistake by supporting terrorists".

He said Israel had been attacked by neighbouring countries when it declared independence in 1948 and three more times after that. "This year as well #Hamas attacked first, shelling civilian targets in [Israel] while hiding behind its own civilians."

The Israeli flag was raised on the government building in Ljubljana last Friday as a sign of solidarity with Israel. The move came amid the worst conflict in the Middle East in seven years.

The Palestinian ambassador to Slovenia, Salahem Abdel Shafi, condemned the displaying of the Israeli flag. He told the daily Dnevnik that it was an outrageous and very worrying act and a display of one-sided, even racist politics.

Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador Eyal Sela said that Israel has the duty to protect its citizens from terrorist attacks as much as any other country.

17 May 2021, 11:09 AM

Updated with the response of the Israeli Ambassador

STA, 17 May - Palestinian Ambassador Salahem Abdel-Shafi has expressed indignation over the Slovenian government's Friday decision to raise Israel's flag in Ljubljana to express solidarity with Israel amid the latest escalation of violence in the Middle East.

Following the suit of Austria and the Czech Republic, the government raised the Israeli flag along the Slovenian and EU flags on the government building, and said on Twitter: "We condemn the terrorist attacks, and we stand by Israel."

Related: Israeli Flag Flown on Slovenian Govt Building in Show of Solidarity, Against President's Wishes

"This is outrageous and very worrying. It's a show of a one-sided, I'd even say a racist policy. It was meant to express sympathy for the victims of only one side, while ignoring the victims on the other side," the Austria-based ambassador who is also in charge of Slovenia said in a statement the newspaper Dnevnik ran on Monday.

He also said that there were many more civilian victims, including women and children, on the Palestinian side. "Expressing solidarity and empathy with the Israeli victims or Israel is racism. This is a policy of white supremacy. We cannot accept that, we most strongly condemn it."

The diplomat said he was surprised with the Slovenian government's gesture because at their meeting in Ljubljana last week, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Stanislav Raščan assured him that Slovenia would stick to the EU's two-state solution policy. He thus believes the latest act undermines this stance.

He said the Palestinian authorities knew Prime Minister Janez Janša had friendly relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which they had absolutely nothing against.

"But when something like Friday's act happens, when sympathising with only some victims happens, we have to raise our voice. This is offensive to the victims. This is not just a political issue," he said, adding he would send a letter of protest to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry.

Defending the Israeli government's actions, Israeli Ambassador to Slovenia Eyal Sela meanwhile told news portal Siol.net that contrary to Hamas, Israel had been launching air strikes on an infrastructure of terrorists that was attacking the country. Israel has the duty to protect its citizens as much as any other country, he noted.

"Unfortunately there have been civilian casualties, who are not our target. There is also a lot of victims of Hamas missiles in Gaza since as many as a quarter do not hit Israel's territory, instead they fall down on civilians in Gaza as well," he said.

Sela highlighted that Israel was acting in line with all international commitments and international law as the country did not target buildings of civilians but the infrastructure used by Hamas. The latter uses civilians as so-called human shields, he said. "We do not fire at schools or kindergartens as they [Hamas] do in Israel," he added.

One of the buildings that were destroyed in an Israeli air strike housed foreign media, but was also used by Hamas to run intelligence services to help launch attacks, Sela said. "Such an abuse of human shield is a crime against humanity," he said, pointing out that the foreign media companies had been notified of the strike beforehand and there had been no casualties.

16 May 2021, 09:50 AM

STA, 15 May 2021 - As easing of coronavirus restrictions continues following the government's 12 May decisions, some changes kicked in today, when up to 50 persons are allowed to gather for organised public events and rallies, up from previously 10.

The other restrictions governing such events remain in place: face masks must be worn indoors, and a distance of at least 1.5 metres must be kept indoors and outdoors.

Several countries are also no longer on the list of high-risk red countries, including Slovakia and Israel.

Quarantine can meanwhile be again interrupted, if imposed on entry into Slovenia, after five days in case of a negative PCR test.

Already yesterday, cultural events were allowed to reopen to 50% sitting capacity outdoors and indoors for visitors who have been vaccinated, tested or recovered from Covid-19.

More people have also been allowed to attend religious services since yesterday.

Further easing is kicking in on Monday, when all secondary school and university students will be allowed to fully return to in-person schooling.

The government opted for the latest series of relaxations after Slovenia entered yellow tier of infections as Covid hospitalisations fell below 500 and the seven-day average of new infections below 600. It nevertheless formally extended the epidemic by another 30 days, starting on 17 May.

14 May 2021, 17:55 PM

Updated at 19:50 with news of the President's disapproval, and gain at 20:30 with news of the protest

STA, 14 May 2021 - An Israeli flag has been hoisted along the Slovenian and EU flags on the Slovenian government building as an expression of solidarity with Israel amidst an escalating conflict with armed Palestinian groups.

"We condemn the terrorist attacks, and we stand by Israel," says a post on the government's official Twitter account, where photos of the flags have been published.

Prime Minister Janez Janša posted the same message on his Twitter account.

The move follows Austria, where an Israeli flag has been flown at the seat of government and the Foreign Ministry, and the Czech Republic, where an Israeli flag has been raised at Prague Castle, the seat of the president.

President Borut Pahor expressed disagreement with the government's decision, tweeting that he was "not in favour of the expression of the country's views on international issues with the raising of other countries' flags".

He also endorsed the recent EU appeal for an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence and reiterated his statement that the dispute should be resolved peacefully in accordance with the two-state solution.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič said he was "not in favour" of such "cheerleading raising of flags". "In armed conflicts, Slovenia should pursue a neutral stance and support initiatives for negotiations and the achievement of peace."

There was a rally in support of Palestine in front of the Israeli consulate in Ljubljana in the afternoon as about 100 protesters chanted slogans such as "Free Palestine" and "Death to Israeli occupation".

Some also protested against the flying of the Israeli flag. The crowd featured several Palestinian refugees who have relatives in Gaza, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported.

Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič said he was "not in favour" of such "cheerleading raising of flags". "In armed conflicts, Slovenia should pursue a neutral stance and support initiatives for negotiations and the achievement of peace."

08 Dec 2020, 17:08 PM

STA, 8 December 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša met his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu as part of an official visit to Israel on Tuesday. The pair discussed the strengthening of bilateral cooperation, particularly in innovation. Netanyahu thanked Slovenia for declaring Hezbollah a terrorist organisation.

The visit of the Slovenian prime minister is an opportunity for a new beginning in relations between the two countries, Netanyahu said in a press release published on his Twitter.

"This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship," he added.

Israel's prime minister said that Janša had always been a great advocate of the Israel-Slovenia alliance, adding that Janša's actions in his capacity as prime minister showed how deeply he was committed to this vision.

Netanyahu thanked Janša for declaring the Hezbollah Shia Islamist movement a terrorist organisation and for expressing support for Israel in international forums.

The Slovenian government declared Hezbollah a terrorist organisation last week, a step that was recently also welcomed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

In November, Slovenia, along with 13 other countries, voted against the WHO resolution which would aim to secure access to healthcare amid the pandemic for residents of the occupied Palestinian territory and Syrian Golan.

Janša said in a press release today that Slovenia was one of the European countries which attempted to see the Middle East situation as it was and not as it was often depicted.

"We're realists and we know the true role of Israel here, the importance of Israel for peace in the world and the region. We're willing to do everything to strengthen this position," he said.

The prime ministers agreed that there were numerous untapped opportunities for cooperation, with Netanyahu highlighting AI, cybersecurity, trade and tourism as areas of untapped potential.

Netanyahu described Slovenia and Israel as advanced democracies, competent when it comes to tech advancements and forward-looking, sharing a wish to improve lives of their citizens.

He also announced that the two countries would sign an innovation agreement today.

"Opportunities belong to those who create innovations. Innovations create value added and competitive advantage as well as propel economies," he said.

Janša said that Israel, as one of the most innovative countries in the world, was a major role model for Slovenia.

During yesterday's meeting with representatives of Israel's innovation sector, he determined that there were a lot of opportunities for cooperation that would need to be explored in the future.

Janša also told Netanyahu that cybersecurity would be one of Slovenia's priorities during the country's EU Council presidency in the second half of 2021.

Since Israel is very advanced in this field, we would like to share know-how and cooperate closely, Janša added.

Netanyahu said that Israel was looking forward to using the port of Koper as an entry point for the country's products in the European market.

Janša is expected to meet Israel's President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi today as well.

05 Dec 2020, 12:57 PM

STA, 5 December 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša will be on official visit to Israel on Monday and Tuesday to meet Israel's top officials, including his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi. Janša is also to meet representatives of various companies.

The visit is "a confirmation of good and traditionally friendly relations between the two countries, and an opportunity to discuss key foreign policy issues (Syria, Iraq, Iran, and the Middle East peace process)," Janša's office said in a press release.

Moreover, the visit will be an opportunity to hold talks on further cooperation including in cybersecurity and AI, the press release reads.

Slovenian media reported in recent days that Slovenia was interested in purchasing Israel's weapons and that the visit could take place against a backdrop of plans to procure Israeli armament systems, particularly given that Slovenia intends to invest EUR 780 million in its army.

Janša's office did not confirm reports of any potential purchases of Israeli arms.

It only said that ahead of Tuesday's official part of the visit the prime minister would meet representatives of Israeli "cybersecurity companies and other successful companies, which will present their operations and opportunities for cooperation with Slovenian companies".

Former Defence Minister Andreja Katič told the newspaper Delo in late November that Slovenia "could be interested in the anti-tank missile system Spike".

The missile is used by 31 countries, including 18 member states of the EU and NATO. Spike was developed by Israeli company Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

The system was presented and tested also in Slovenia last year. According to Delo's unofficial information, Spike will be tested again at the Poček training area this month.

Another popular product in this category of Israel's exports is drone Harop, a loitering munition system.

Commentators in the media argue that the government is evidently trying to amend Slovenia's policy to make it more pro-Israel.

This week the government declared the Lebanon-based political party and militant group Hezbollah a criminal and terrorist organisation.

Moreover, in November Slovenia, along with 13 other countries, voted against the WHO resolution which would aim to secure access to healthcare amid the pandemic for residents of the occupied Palestinian territory and Syrian Golan.

Regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Slovenia has so far supported respecting the UN decisions that strive for the two-state solution.

Following the arrival of Donald Trump's administration, the odds were no longer in favour of this solution. Slovenia then considered recognising Palestine as an independent country, however this has not come to be.

It seems that Janša does not plan to meet Palestine's representatives, given that the press release does not mention such intentions.

The supporters of Palestinians' rights in Slovenia are quite critical of Janša's decision to visit Israel.

As a result of Slovenia's vote on the WHO resolution, the Movement for Palestinians' Rights, a Slovenian NGO, accused the state this week of supporting the "Israeli policy of occupation and apartheid".

The Foreign Ministry has rejected such allegations and highlighted that Slovenia is actively supporting aid efforts helping Palestinians.

The country has allocated EUR 500,000 to co-fund the construction of a desalination facility in the Gaza Strip, the ministry noted, highlighting humanitarian aid efforts in Palestine as well.

Cooperation between Slovenia and Israel is relatively modest and political meetings or discussions at the highest level are rare.

In the past year, Foreign Minister Anže Logar talked to his Israeli counterpart Ashkenazi over the phone in July. In January, President Borut Pahor attended a ceremony marking the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Prior to 2020, the last official visit to Israel was in 2017 when Milan Brglez, the then parliamentary speaker, visited the country.

Trade between Slovenia and Israel is relatively modest as well. Last year, the two countries exchanged some EUR 135 million worth of goods, according to data released by the web portal Izvozno Okno. In 2018, when trade between Slovenia and Israel was the highest in the last six years, it totalled almost EUR 157 million.

Slovenia's imports from Israel in 2019 were about 30% higher than exports. In the first eight months of 2020, trade between the countries is estimated at EUR 90.5 million, the Izvozno Okno data show.

In June 2019, 13 high-tech and startup companies from Slovenia participated in a business conference held in Israel.

04 Dec 2020, 13:19 PM

STA, 3 December 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša will start an official two-day visit to Israel on 7 December. He is expected to hold talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, the prime minister's office said on Thursday.

The visit comes at the invitation Netanyahu extended in the congratulatory note that he sent to Janša upon his appointment to the post in April.

It represents "a confirmation of good and traditionally friendly relations between the two countries, and an opportunity to exchange views and discuss key foreign policy issues (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Middle East peace process)," reads the press release from Janša's office.

It will also be an opportunity for "continued cooperation in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence, where Israel is among the leading countries in the world".

The official part of the visit will take place on 8 December. The day before, Janša is scheduled to hold talks with representatives of Israeli "cybersecurity companies and other successful companies, which will present their operations and opportunities for cooperation with Slovenian companies".

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