Ljubljana related

04 Jun 2020, 03:51 AM

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From tomorrow, Slovenians free to cross into all neighbouring countries

VIENNA, Austria/ROME, Italy - Slovenians will be able to cross the border without restrictions to all neighbouring countries from Thursday as Austria abolishes health checks on its border with Slovenia as the last neighbour to do so. Italy lifted border restrictions for EU citizens today while Croatia and Hungary have lifted restrictions for Slovenian citizens earlier. Croatia and Hungary are also the only countries whose citizens can enter Slovenia completely without restrictions based on bilateral agreements.

Registered jobless total up by 2% in May to 90,415

LJUBLJANA - After a significant uptick in joblessness in March and in April due to the Covid-19 crisis, the trend slowed down in May, as the jobless total was up by only 2% on the monthly level to 90,415. Compared to May 2019, the figure was meanwhile up by 18,403 or 25.6%, the Employment Service said. The number of persons who registered with the Employment Service in May almost halved (-45%) compared to April, standing at 7,928, which was, however, 75.6% more than in May 2019.

Slovenia plans EUR 780 million in defence investment in six years

LOŠKA DOLINA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin set out a plan to invest EUR 780 million in defence over the next six years as he joined President Borut Pahor for the viewing of a military exercise dubbed Leap 2020 in Babno Polje in the south of the country. The exercise is special in that it is not being held in the country's main military exercise grounds, but in local communities, which Tonin said welcomed SAF members well.

Two new coronavirus cases confirmed on Tuesday, no new deaths

LJUBLJANA - Two new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Slovenia on Tuesday, most likely associated with a family cluster in Maribor that led to the quarantining of a primary school class there. There were no new Covid-19 fatalities, the latest government data show. There are now 1,477 confirmed cases in Slovenia and 109 fatalities. Five patients remain in hospital but none are in intensive care.

Alleged elderly hospitalisation lists raise dust

LJUBLJANA - A media report has revealed that health authorities introduced a form during the Covid-19 epidemic to decide which care home residents would qualify for hospital treatment if they contracted the disease. This has prompted the opposition to demand an explanation from the government, but Health Minister Tomaž Gantar said he had no problem with the form. Care homes filled in a form deciding whether a certain resident with a severe disease would be referred to hospital if they caught Covid-19, public broadcaster TV Slovenija reported on Tuesday.

Parliamentary body backs higher penalties for migrant smugglers

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Justice Committee endorsed changes to the penal code, raising the penalties for migrant smugglers and those involved in illegal migration. The penalty for migrant smugglers would thus increase from five years to three to ten years in prison. Under the proposed changes, those who get paid for such services or commit them as part of a criminal organisation will face three to fifteen years in prison. Currently, they could get one to eight years.

Janša responds to rejection of cross-partisan pact

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša responded to the turning down of his government's offer of a cross-partisan partnership by most opposition parties. "We offered a hand of cooperation. When the SDS was in the opposition it never received such a generous offer from those on power," he wrote. All opposition parties bar the National Party (SNS) had turned down the proposal for a partnership agreement whose goal would be to involve the opposition in the drafting of legislation prior to its adoption by the government in exchange for support when the time comes to vote.

Review sought of Statistics Office boss's dismissal

LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Council asked the Constitutional Court to review the recent dismissal of Bojan Nastav as the general director of the national Statistics Office. The expert council was not sure which law applies to the director's dismissal - the one on public sector employees, which allows the government to dismiss a top public sector employee a year after the employee started their job, or the national statistics act. The government dismissed Nastav, who was appointed for a full term by the previous government last August, on 21 May, appointing Tomaž Smrekar as acting director for up to six months.

Court agrees Ascent needs environmental impact assessment for fracking

LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court has upheld the decision of the Slovenian Environment Agency (ARSO) that an environmental impact assessment is needed before any permits can be issued for hydraulic fracturing planned by British company Ascent Resources at the Petišovci gas field in the north-east of Slovenia. The company said it was in the process of beginning preparations for submission of an environmental impact assessment and noted the decision was "important evidence to support the claim the company intends to bring against Slovenia under the Energy Charter Treaty".

Top court nominees present bids, scales tilting in Teršek's favour

LJUBLJANA - Barbara Zobec and Andraž Teršek, the two candidates for a vacancy on the Constitutional Court, presented their bids, both highlighting the protection of human rights as their main priority. Although Zobec has the support of the ruling Democrats (SDS), Teršek seems to have the better odds of getting appointed. Statements made by parliamentary parties so far indicate that Teršek could get the 46 votes, meaning absolute majority, needed for appointment, while Zobec is unacceptable for most parties.

Committee asks govt to pay attention to events industry, culture workers

LJUBLJANA - Discussing the continuing woes of the meetings industry and culture workers due to coronavirus, the parliamentary economy and culture committees adopted on Tuesday proposals to start lifting restrictions in the sector when possible, monitor the situation in the most affected areas to draw up aid measures, and establish dialogue with stakeholders. The session came in the aftermath of protests by culture workers who claim the government is ignoring their plight and saw a dozen more binding proposals by opposition voted down.

Opposition urge public health chief to resign over lack of mask guidance

LJUBLJANA - The four centre-left opposition parties urged Milan Krek to resign as director of the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) after he failed to provide an answer at a government press briefing as to whether face masks are mandatory at shopping malls. The parties also urged action from Health Minister Tomaž Gantar. Both rejected the criticism.

US and Slovenia mark post-WWII ski race anniversary

LOG POD MANGARTOM - The 75th anniversary of a post-WWII ski race organised by US soldiers on the slopes of Mt Mangart in Slovenia on 3 June 1945 was celebrated with an event attended by US Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard and Defence Minister Matej Tonin. The race was organised by the 10th Mountain Division of the United States Army, a mountain warfare unit which was stationed in Slovenia after WWII because of its unresolved western border.

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03 Jun 2020, 07:57 AM

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First case of coronavirus confirmed among pupils schools reopened

MARIBOR/LJUBLJANA - A pupil at the Ludvik Pliberšek Primary School in Maribor tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in what is the first positive case among children after they started returning to school on 18 May. The 17 classmates of the infected third-grader, who was asymptomatic, and their teacher were sent into a two-week quarantine, while the remaining pupils at the school will continue going to class. Mario Fafangel of the National Institute of Public Health said this was probably a case of an infection contracted within the family. Slovenia registered two new infections on Monday, bringing the total to 1,475. The death toll remained unchanged at 109.

More than 1,000 police officers dispatched to southern border

KOČEVJE - Over 1,000 additional police officers were dispatched to Slovenia's border with Croatia to tight border control until Friday. The aim of the four-day campaign, ordered by acting Police Commissioner Anton Travner, is to show migrants and smugglers that an attempt to enter Slovenia does not pay off, Deputy Police Commissioner Jože Senica said. According to police data, there are more than 10,000 migrants in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina who want to continue their journey to the EU. He said the number of people on the Balkan migration route had increased in the past two weeks after countries started lifting restrictions they had had in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.

SAB latest to reject Janša's proposal for partnership

LJUBLJANA - The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) rejected the offer for a partnership agreement on key legislation proposed by PM Janez Janša, joining the other left-leaning opposition parties in opposing the proposal which is now apparently only supported by the National Party (SNS). The SAB executive committee decided not to join because there have been too many mistakes and divisions created by the government or the ruling Democrats (SDS) for SAB to formally sign the agreement. Party leader Alenka Bratušek said "the proposal itself is not too bad, but the circumstances around it are", but announced the party was still willing to cooperate, yet on a case-by-case basis.

Diplomat says Trump's response to George Floyd case could haunt him

LJUBLJANA - Božo Cerar, a former Slovenian ambassador to the US, assessed that President Donald Trump should have immediately condemned the death of African American George Floyd, which has sparked mass protests around the US. The failure to do so could come back to haunt him in the presidential election in November, diminishing his chance of re-election. Cerar told the STA commenting on the protests that the US had been dealing with incidents such as the "manslaughter of African American George Floyd for years". He believes the American society should treating all human beings as equal regardless of the colour of their skin. "I think that they are in for a lot of work, education, teaching by example. This cannot be achieved over night, but one needs to start somewhere."

Two members of bad bank's management board dismissed

LJUBLJANA - The government dismissed Tomaž Besek and Mitja Križaj as non-executive directors on the management board of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) and appointed Alenka Urnaut Ropoša and Boris Novak to replace them, serving from 3 June until the end of 2022. The government provided no explanation for the replacements. Novak is director general of the state-owned postal operator Pošta Slovenije, a member of the supervisory board of the lottery operator Športna Loterija and the chief supervisor of the logistics company Intereuropa. Urnaut Ropoša owns the real estate agency Renova Real and is also a certified real estate appraiser, according to the company's website. Under the current version of the BAMC law, the bad bank is set to wrap up its operations at the end of 2022.

Slovenia spent EUR 54m on protective equipment during epidemic

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia purchased EUR 54.4 million worth of protective equipment through the national Agency for Commodity Reserves during the epidemic. Between 14 March and 31 May, the agency signed 64 contracts worth EUR 184 million, which includes contracts that were subsequently annulled or not realised. The combined value of outstanding contracts currently stands at EUR 89 million, but all open orders will probably not be fully realised. Now that the epidemic is officially over, the procurement of protective equipment was transferred back onto health institutions.

Two biggest banks to lay off about 10% of employees

MARIBOR/LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's two biggest banks, NLB and NKBM, continue to cut their workforce as part of their plans to streamline operations in the face of growing digital service use by clients and banking sector consolidation. NKBM and Abanka, which will be merged by the end of the year, currently employ about 2,090 people, while another 160 work at NKBM's leasing arm Summit Leasing. Unofficial sources say that some 250 employees are to be laid off in the coming months. Meanwhile, the newspaper Finance reported NLB planned to lay off over 300 employees out of a total of 2,650 by the end of 2020, while NLB told the STA its medium-term plan as regards the number of employees remained unchanged - 20% or over 500 people are to be let go.

Two bidders vying for Telekom's Planet TV, unofficial report says

LJUBLJANA - The Hungarian channel TV2, whose owner is associated with the Fidesz party, and Croatian entrepreneur Ivan Ćaleta are bidding to purchase Planet TV, the troubled subsidiary of telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije which produces the eponymous TV channel, reported web portal Necenzurirano, citing an unofficial source. According to newspaper Delo, Planet TV has cost Telekom Slovenije EUR 80 million in the form of capital injections, advertisements, loans and other services since it was launched in September 2012, and has operated in the red all the time.

Slovenia pledges EUR 20,000 for Yemen

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Slovenia pledged EUR 20,000 in an online donor conference for Yemen, launched by the Saudi Arabia and the UN. The conference aims to get pledges for US$2.4 billion to ensure humanitarian aid to the war-torn country in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Slovenia pledged to provide the funds through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Foreign Ministry said in a press release. Since 2016, it has provided EUR 280,000 for Yemen.

Slovenian, Italian epidemiologists OK with border opening

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian and Italian epidemiologists said after they met in Ljubljana they had no major reservations regarding the opening of borders between the two countries, given that both Slovenia and Italy had a good epidemiological situation. However, the decision is to be made by the Slovenian and Italian governments. Slovenian government coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin meanwhile said the border with Italy would be open when the National Institute of Public Health assessed the epidemiological situation in Italy was good enough to allow free movement, and when a subsequent political decision on this was made. He also said the Italian government was expected to abolish the 14-day quarantine requirement for Italian citizens returning from Slovenia.

PM Janša announces digitalisation push

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Janez Janša announced a major digitalisation effort that would accompany the cutting of red tape in the public administration, telling Nova24TV on Monday evening that the first major steps should be taken this year. "Modern technologies make it possible to speed up procedures," he said. Digitalisation will also be accelerated in the educational system. According to Janša, the Education Ministry is working on a proposal to provide laptops for students and move workbooks online.

Public transport providers urge relaxing Covid-19 rules

LJUBLJANA - Public road transport providers associated in two major employer organisations called on authorities to take a more pragmatic approach as regards coronavirus precautionary measures in passenger transport now that the epidemic is over, or else over 3,000 jobs in coach transport could be at risk. The public transport providers at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) and Chamber of Small Business (OZS) criticised the strict measures as out of touch with reality, giving as an example a van, in which only two passengers can be transported at a time. Public transport was relaunched on 11 May.

Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires increases revenue, sales in the region

KRANJ - The Kranj-based Goodyear Dunlop Sava Tires saw its net sales revenue rise by 2.6% to almost EUR 226 million last year. The company attributes the rise to higher sales in the local Adriatic markets (+6.8%), higher prices and a structured sales programme. Net profit rose from EUR 6.55 million in 2018 to EUR 8.02 million last year, but this is mainly due to deferred taxes. Operating profit dropped by 17.8%, from EUR 6.89 million to EUR 5.66 million, largely due to higher tyre production costs caused by higher costs of raw materials.

Small business struggling with drop in orders, layoffs expected

LJUBLJANA - About a third of small businesses in Slovenia believe they will have to cut jobs as a result of the coronavirus crisis, as orders are expected to remain significantly lower in the coming three months, showed a survey by the Chamber of Small Business (OZS). The chamber said 97% of the 1,510 sole traders and small businesses that participated in the survey are experiencing the impact of the crisis and 91% expect the drop in orders to persist in the coming months.

Car sales bounce back in May after April slump

LJUBLJANA - Car sales in Slovenia picked up in May due to substantial discounts after the automotive industry was hit particularly hard by the coronavirus crisis. In the first five months of 2020, sales were down by 37% year-on-year. Between January and May this year, 21,440 new vehicles were registered - 37.2% less than in the same period in 2019, the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce (TZS) said. In May alone, almost 5,090 cars were sold, down 31.7% compared to the same month in 2019.

Footballers to get tested before national league resumes

LJUBLJANA - Players of the clubs participating in the first Slovenian football league will get tested for the new coronavirus on Wednesday, in what is an announcement by the Slovenian Football Association (NZS) coming virtually at an eleventh hour as games are scheduled to resume on Friday. The mandatory testing is part of the latest instructions for the clubs, issued on Monday, and testing will be carried out it two areas in Slovenia tomorrow. Games will be played without spectators and the first Slovenian league is expected to be concluded on 22 June.

Ljubljana Festival going ahead with opera star Anna Netrebko

LJUBLJANA - The 68th Ljubljana Festival will go ahead as planned despite the coronavirus crisis, taking place in Ljubljana between 2 July and 30 August. Cancellations by acclaimed ensembles have been replaced by sought-after performers, such as opera star Anna Netrebko and the Milan La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra. "The Ljubljana Festival team has prepared a programme that is in no way corona-like regarding its quality," Darko Brlek, the festival's director and artistic director, said as he addressed Tuesday's press conference.

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02 Jun 2020, 04:31 AM

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Most lockdown measures lifted as epidemic ends

LJUBLJANA - Most lockdown measures were relaxed as the Covid-19 epidemic officially ended in Slovenia. Large accommodation facilities, spas, gyms and pools were allowed to reopen, although most large hotels will do so gradually. Public gatherings of up to 200 persons are also allowed, and all primary school pupils will be back in classrooms by Wednesday. Safety measures such as hand sanitising and wearing of face masks indoors where sufficient distance cannot be kept remain in place. Night clubs remain closed. Slovenia has not recorded any new infections for four days, but one Covid-19 patient died on Sunday, taking the death toll to 109.

Border policing stepped up over surge on Balkan migration route

LJUBLJANA - Due to an increased number of migrants heading west on the Balkan migration route, Slovenia's Police Commissioner Anton Travner ordered stepping up surveillance of the border with Croatia. The beefed up border policing will be in force between Tuesday and Friday, involving a larger number of police units. The move is meant as a signal to illegal migrants and smugglers that Slovenian border is not crossable, the police said.

Venezuelan Slovenians get repatriate status extended

LJUBLJANA - The government extended by three months the 15-month period in which persons of Slovenian descent brought from Venezuela have the status of a repatriated person. The extension, which is part of the latest legislative package to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, applies to those Venezuelan Slovenians who arrived in Slovenia between 13 November 2019 and 12 March this year. Before the pandemic severed air links, 23 Slovenians had been repatriated from Venezuela.

Slovenia takes presidency of two Adriatic-Ionian initiatives

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia assumed the one-year chairmanship of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region. The main focus of the country's chairmanship of both forums will be green cooperation, the Western Balkans, and EU enlargement. Foreign Minister Anže Logar presented the priorities during last week's videoconference with the foreign ministers of participating countries, saying Slovenia would strive for the "recovery from Covid-19 to be a green recovery".

Fighter jets fly past as thank you to emergency workers

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian frontline staff got an unprecedented thank you for their work during the coronavirus epidemic as military planes and US fighter jets conducted a flypast of the entire country, the first day after the formal end of the epidemic. Three Slovenian Pilatus PC-9 were joined by the six American F-16 fighters, that took off from Aviano air base in Italy. The flyover coincided with a ceremony at Golnik hospital which was also addressed by US Ambassador Lynda C. Blanchard.

Minister promises additional health facilities

LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Tomaž Gantar told reporters that with the epidemic over the ministry would strive to improve the conditions at care homes and set up more health facilities to provide for patients in case of a second wave of infections or to cope with an increased number of patients in general. Gantar pledged to do everything in his power to set up at least a few nursing hospitals, which Slovenia would needed regardless of the virus.

Long-serving sports official Kocijančič dies

LJUBLJANA - Janez Kocijančič, the long-serving Slovenian sports official who was also active in politics and business, died at the age of 78. Kocijančič had headed the European Olympic Committees since 2017, served as the head of the Slovenian Olympic Committee between 1991 and 2014 and as vice-chairman of the International Ski Federation since 2010. In the 1990s he headed the precursor to the Social Democrats. He was the chief executive of the flag carrier Adria Airways between 1982 and 1993.

Slovenian athletes in US join calls against racism

LOS ANGELES/DALLAS/MIAMI, US - Slovenia's NBA stars Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić as well as NHL player Anže Kopitar joined calls against racism as protests spread across the US against police brutality against African Americans. Dončić shared on twitter a post made by his team, the Dallas Mavericks, declaring they would "NOT stand for injustice, inequality and disparity". Dragić shared a video on twitter featuring Udonis Haslem, a fellow player at the Miami Heat, who says justice will have to be done for George Floyd, whose death during a police arrest last week sparked the protests.

Chamber of Commerce pushing for reopening of stores Sundays

LJUBLJANA - While a legislative procedure is under way for a permanent closure of shops on Sundays, the Chamber of Commerce (TZS) called on the government to end the Sunday ban that was introduced during the epidemic. Since most lockdown restrictions have been lifted, the chamber said there was no more reason to keep shops closed on Sundays. The chamber said many jobs in retail were in peril, with 3,000 newly registered unemployed persons in March and April coming from the sector.

Subsidies for social charges top EUR 380m in March, April

LJUBLJANA - In March and April, two two peak months of the coronavirus epidemic in Slovenia, the state provided over EUR 79 million to cover social security contributions for idled workers as well as EUR 302 million to cover employers' pension contributions for those working through the epidemic, Financial Administration data show. The subsidies were introduced with the first stimulus package, which also provided full state coverage of unemployment allowances, equal to 80% of the usual wage.

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01 Jun 2020, 06:03 AM

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STA, 30 May 2020 - The Foreign Ministry has amended somewhat a decree on quarantine requirement for people coming to Slovenia from third countries by adding new exemptions. One of them are people with a permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia.

The decree adopted on Tuesday was amended after the ministry received numerous requests and calls regarding the obligatory quarantine.

Together with the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) and the Health Ministry, the Foreign Ministry again looked into the possibility of someone bringing in the virus from third countries and established that some third countries in the region have favourable epidemiologic situation at the moment, so the decree was amended on Friday.

Under the new rules, Slovenian citizens and foreigners with a permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia will not have to go into quarantine. Also exempted from the 14-day quarantine requirement are persons attending a funeral of a relative in Slovenia and those coming for a medical examination or procedure.

Those merely transiting Slovenia in a day, and those who attend kindergarten or school in Slovenia as well as those doing scientific and research work will not be quarantined either if they present a document showing that they tested negative for the virus in the last three days.

People who transport cargo from or into Slovenia from third countries, those transiting the country transporting cargo, and those who work in international transport are also on the list. So are diplomatic personal and members of the civil protection.

This means that a Slovenian citizen returning from a several-day business trip to Serbia will not have to go into quarantine, and neither will foreigners coming to Slovenia on business from EU or Schengen countries.

However, if they will want to spend a few days in the country, they will have to submit a certificate of a negative coronavirus test and give their address in Slovenia.

Citizens of third countries who want to come to Slovenia on business will not be quarantined if they present a statement by the Economy Ministry that the quarantine would cause a major social or economic damage.

The first plane to touch down at Ljubljana airport after two months and a half of severe air traffic restrictions was Air Serbia's on Friday. Half of the 24 passengers were ordered a 14-day quarantine based on the previous decree.

The Interior Ministry said the quarantine orders for those persons remain in place but if there were any changes to the situation, the Health Ministry should be notified.

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31 May 2020, 03:47 AM

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Ministry easing quarantine rules for third countries

LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry has amended somewhat a decree on quarantine requirement for people coming to Slovenia from third countries by adding new exemptions, including Slovenian citizens and foreigners with a permanent or temporary residence in Slovenia, persons attending a funeral of a relative, those coming for a medical examination or procedure, those transiting Slovenia, people who transport cargo, diplomatic personal and members of the civil protection.

Pahor concerned that protests will step up with the stepping up of crisis

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor expressed concern in an interview with the weekly Nedelo that the growing economic and social crisis will increase people's distress and that the anti-government protests will intensify as a result. This is why he believes the government should hear the protesters' messages and restore cooperation with the opposition.

Six persons face minor offence proceedings after Friday's protests

LJUBLJANA - Six participants of Friday's bicycle protest in Ljubljana got involved in a minor altercation with the police in front of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) headquarters. Police told the STA they had violated public law and order by drawing slogans on the sidewalk with chalk, which will be treated as a minor offence.

No new coronavirus infections, deaths in Slovenia on Friday

LJUBLJANA - No new case of coronavirus infection was detected in Slovenia on Friday after 613 tests, and no patient died because of Covid-19, the government said on Twitter. Seven Covid-19 patients are still in hospitals, two in intensive care. Nobody was discharged from hospital yesterday.

Epidemic formally ends on Sunday, many restrictions remain

LJUBLJANA - After two and a half months, the Covid-19 epidemic will officially end on Sunday, as Slovenia becomes the first country in Europe to declare the epidemic over. Life is gradually returning to normal after schools and kindergartens were closed for two months, public transport suspended, non-essential stores closed and strict social distancing rules put in place.

Public health chief says epidemic not actually over

LJUBLJANA - The National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) is in for a very difficult summer because of preparations for a second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic, NIJZ's new director Milan Krek told the STA. "The idea that the epidemic is over is actually fake news," he said about the formal end of the epidemic, warning that the second wave might be worse.

Revenue from gaming jumps in 2019

LJUBLJANA - Total gross revenue from gaming in Slovenia, meaning money paid in minus winnings, rose by EUR 14 million to EUR 333.2 million in 2019, show Financial Administration data. While the rise is substantial compared to modest yearly increases seen in the years after the financial crisis, the total figure is still 5% below that from 2012.

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30 May 2020, 07:09 AM

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Third stimulus package passed

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed the third economic stimulus package to help revive the economy, valued at roughly a billion euro. The centrepiece is a subsidised short-time work scheme for all employers until the end of the year. Companies unable to provide at least 90% of the workload for at least 10% of their workers will be eligible. Another measure is a one-month extension of the existing furlough scheme until the end of June for all employers. All Slovenian permanent residents will also get vouchers to spend on tourist accommodation in Slovenia, EUR 200 for adults and and EUR 50 for minors. The bill also brings financial incentives in the form of grants and loans for small companies, and relaxes conditions to obtain a state incentive for an investment.

Parliament passes legislation to accelerate major investments

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed an emergency law aimed at accelerating major investments to help the economy, which has been strongly affected by the coronavirus epidemic. The government will draw up a list of 50-odd investments which will be handled as a matter of priority by the relevant state bodies granting construction permits and other approvals. Procedures will be coordinated by a newly-founded taskforce. The law also implements EU guidelines aimed at shielding bidders from EU countries from unfair competition from third countries.

MPs back guarantees for SURE scheme

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed a bill under which Slovenia will support the EU SURE instrument to mitigate unemployment risks across the EU with up to EUR 88.1 million in loan guarantees. Designed to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic's massive negative impact on the European jobs market, the SURE scheme will make up to EUR 100 billion in loans available, supported by EUR 25 billion in guarantees from EU members. The instrument, in which Finance Minister Andrej Šircelj says Slovenia expects to secure around EUR 900 million in loans.

Slovenia's GDP contracted by 2.3% in Q1 y/y

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP decreased by a slower-than-expected 2.3% in the first three months of 2020 year-on-year due to a slowdown in domestic consumption and external demand. Seasonally- and working days-adjusted GDP contracted by 4.5% compared to the last quarter of 2019 and by 3.4% year-on-year. The first quarter, which was already affected by the coronavirus pandemic, in particular after the outbreak in Europe in March, saw domestic expenditure decline by 3.1%. Commenting on the data, Slovenia's central bank said it was already clear some activities would take a long time to recover, while IMAD, the government's macroeconomic forecaster, expects the economy to contract even more sharply in the second quarter.

President proposes Teršek, Zobec for one vacancy at top court

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor proposed that the National Assembly take a vote on Barbara Zobec and Andraž Teršek for one vacancy on the Constitutional Court, as the nine-year term of Dunja Jadek Pensa runs out on 14 July. Zobec, who has the endorsement of the senior coalition Democrats (SDS), has been a judge at the Supreme Court's criminal department since 2002. She also teaches at the Catholic Institute's Faculty of Law and Business Studies, which cites the mass executions during and after WWII as her major research interest. Teršek is a constitutional jurist and a law philosopher known for his outspoken views. He teaches at the University of Primorska and at the European Faculty of Law.

Coalition keen on cross-partisan pact, opposition reserved

LJUBLJANA - A cross-partisan partnership agreement on key legislation proposed by Prime Minister Janez Janša is seen in the coalition as a means of bridging divides. The centre-left opposition parties rejected the offer although the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said they may consider joining assuming the coalition backs their proposals; only the populist National Party (SMS) said it would sign up to "help the country". The most scathing criticism came from Marjan Šarec, the former prime minister, who said that he was first accused by Janša of being culpable for fatalities due to inaction in the early stages of the coronavirus epidemic, but now Janša would like to cooperate.

Sixth straight week of bicycle protests

LJUBLJANA - Several thousand people flooded the streets of the capital Ljubljana for what is the sixth Friday in a row that protesters, most of them on bicycles, expressed opposition to government policies. Smaller crowds also gathered in other cities around the country. The nexus of the protest is the square in front of Parliament House and the adjacent streets, where the government, the president of the republic and several ministries are seated. Many protesters were wearing banners targeting specific government policies, including its perceived crackdown on environmental NGOs, neglect of the arts, and irregularities in the purchase of personal protective equipment.

Passenger air travel resumes at Ljubljana airport

LJUBLJANA - After two months and a half of severe air traffic restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, regular passenger transport services resumed at Ljubljana airport today. The first flight was operated by Air Serbia. The airport expects most airlines to return by early July. The relaunch of regular services will take place in three parts: by 15 June, the airport expects to see the return of Lufthansa, Montenegro Airlines and a Polish carrier; by the end of June, Swiss Air, Air Brussels, Transavio and British Airways; and after 1 July, other airlines.

Masks remain mandatory in certain circumstances

LJUBLJANA - There has been some confusion about whether face masks are still mandatory in Slovenia, but the government cleared up the confusion by adopting a decree which determines face masks must be worn in indoor public spaces in certain circumstances beyond the formal end of the epidemic on 31 May. Face masks are thus mandatory in closed public spaces where the distance between persons is less than 1.5 metres, on public transportation, for persons with respiratory diseases, for health staff depending on the degree of risk, for all staff of care homes, and for visitors entering health institutions and care homes.

No new coronavirus infections, no new fatalities on Thursday

LJUBLJANA - No new coronavirus infections were confirmed in Slovenia on Thursday after 702 more tests were conducted, while there were also no new deaths for the third consecutive day, show the latest official data. This means the number of confirmed infections remains at 1,473 and the national death toll at 108. Thursday's clean bill as regards the number of new cases comes after two days when the daily case count exceeded one following a two-week period of zero or one infection per day.

Employment figures for Q1 not yet showing impact of epidemic

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian labour market was in a good shape in the first quarter of the year despite the lockdown measures related to the coronavirus epidemic kicking in in the second half of March. The survey unemployment rate was at 4.6%, or only 0.3 of a percentage point lower than in the same period last year. The survey-based unemployment figure in the first quarter was at 47,000, 5.7% down from the same period last year. The structure was almost balanced gender-wise.

Slovenia interested in strengthening cooperation with Norway

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar underlined good relations between Slovenia and Norway in a phone conversation with his Norwegian counterpart Ine Eriksen Soreide as well as Slovenia's interest in further strengthening economic cooperation with Norway. The ministers lauded good relations between the two countries, which are also NATO partners and share a number of views on European and multilateral issues, according to the Foreign Ministry.

State secretary discussing border reopening and migration in Croatia

ZAGREB, Croatia - Interior Ministry State Secretary Franc Kangler met his Croatian counterpart Terezija Gras. The pair discussed cooperation in the fight against illegal migration, the situation on the Slovenian-Croatian border in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, and Croatia's preparations for entering the Schengen area. Kangler informed Gras of "certain measures" aiming to curb illegal migration that Slovenia will implement at the border region at the beginning of June.

Slovenian, Croatian MEPs appeal to von der Leyen for fair border reopening

LJUBLJANA - Austria's decision to omit Slovenia and Croatia from the list of countries whose citizens will be able to enter Austria without restrictions in mid-June is not in line with the EU's recovery plan or the bloc's basic standards, three MEPs from Slovenia and Croatia said in a letter addressed to EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. MEPs from the liberal political group Renew, Slovenia's Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew/LMŠ), and Croatia's Valter Flego (Renew/IDS), wrote on Friday that they hoped the European Commission would react to Austria's announcement.

Minority reps discuss return of National Hall with Trieste mayor

TRIESTE, Italy - The presidents of both main organisations of Slovenians in Italy and Slovenia's consul general in Trieste, Vojko Volk, held a meeting with Trieste Mayor Roberto Dipiazza to discuss the upcoming centenary of the arson of the Trieste National Hall by the Fascists, and the return of the building to the Slovenian community. They expressed support for efforts to return the building and joy that presidents Borut Pahor and Sergio Mattarella will visit Trieste that day, Consulate General said.

Slovenians free to enter Greece without restrictions after 15 June

ATHENS, Greece - Greece released a list of 29 countries, among them Slovenia, whose citizens and residents will be able to enter the country after 15 June without having to go into quarantine. The Greek Embassy in Slovenia said the incoming persons would be randomly swabbed and tested for Covid-19. Apart from Slovenia, the list also includes Germany, Austria, Croatia, China and Japan.

Annual deflation remains at 1.2% in May

LJUBLJANA - Cheaper oil kept Slovenia's consumer prices down in May with the annual deflation rate running at 1.2%, flat with the month before, despite a 9% monthly hike in consumer prices, data from the Statistics Office show. Year-on-year goods prices dropped by 2.9%, while prices of services rose by 2%. Lower prices of petroleum products (liquid fuel prices fell by 32.4% and the prices of fuel and lubricants by 23.9%) had the biggest impact on annual deflation, at 1.4 percentage points. At the monthly level, consumer prices increased mostly due to higher prices of food.

Port operator Luka Koper's net profit almost halved in Q1

KOPER - Port operator Luka Koper posted a net profit of EUR 7 million for the first quarter of 2020, down 48% year-on-year, as sales declined by 9% to EUR 55 million. Earnings before income tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were down 37% to EUR 15 million and pre-tax profit (EBIT) dropped by 50% to EUR 9 million. All goods categories bar liquid cargoes were down volume-wise, for an overall tonnage decline in throughput of 12%.

Pandemic slashes Unior profit

ZREČE - The state-owned tool maker and automotive supplier Unior saw its net profit slashed by 60% to EUR 2.7 million in the first quarter compared to the same period a year ago as net revenue fell 14.5% to EUR 56.2 million, a development attributed to the coronavirus pandemic and a temporary suspension of production. The January-March bottom line is EUR 1.8 million short of the target figure, according to the unaudited report. EBITDA fell by 27% year-on-year to EUR 8.3 million and EBIT slumped by 46% to EUR 4 million.

Aluminium producer Talum records profit in 2019, 2020 to be turbulent

KIDRIČEVO - Aluminium producer Talum generated EUR 327 million in net revenue and almost EUR 680,000 in net profit in 2019. General manager Marko Drobnič told the STA that more than EUR 290 million came from aluminium product sales with 87% of the sales made in foreign markets. More than 136,000 tonnes of Talum aluminium products were sold last year. The 2019 business results are slightly below expectations mostly because of a drop in sales prices. The Kidričevo-based company employed some 1,530 people at the end of last year. It is in the majority ownership of ELES, the state-owned power grid operator.

Cetis ends 2019 with higher revenue, profit

CELJE - Cetis, a printing group specialised in secure documents, saw its revenue rise by 11.3% to EUR 66.4 million in 2019, while its net profit more than doubled to EUR 4.5 million over 2018, the Celje-based company said. The parent company generated nearly EUR 37 million in revenue in 2019, up 10.5%, of which more than half on foreign markets. Net profit nearly doubled to EUR 3.6 million.

Real estate transactions hit record in 2019

LJUBLJANA - The total value of real estate transactions in Slovenia reached a record level last year, estimated at EUR 2.7 billion, as prices continued to grow, albeit at a lower pace than in 2018, shows a report from the Surveying and Mapping Authority. The report says that the record amount should be attributed to several sell-and-lease-back contracts for shopping centres, and that the figure was unlikely to be exceeded this year.

Historian Peter Štih elected new SAZU president

LJUBLJANA - Peter Štih, a 59-year-old history professor, was elected the new president of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) to succeed Tadej Bajd, who has headed the academy since 2014. Štih, a doctor of historical sciences, professor of medieval history and historical auxiliary sciences at the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts, has been a full SAZU member since June 2015, serving as its vice-president since 8 May 2017. Presidency members are elected for three-year terms and may be re-elected once.

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29 May 2020, 04:03 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA:

Dejan Židan resigns as SocDems president

LJUBLJANA - The opposition SocDems announced on Twitter that Dejan Židan was resigning as the party's leader. SD vice-president Tanja Fajon, an MEP, will run the party for the time being. Židan said that the party had progressed in the last six years and that it was time to ask what steps it could make in order to grow into a leading party. He said being replaced by Fajon was one of the options, which is why he asked her to take over. The deputy group and the party's leadership were unanimous in supporting the proposal. Fajon, who is convinced that the SD can do more, said she wanted to inspire trust as there was much distrust, apathy and dissatisfaction among people and to create policies together with citizens, including marginalised civil society groups.

Slovenia and Hungary open border for their citizens

DOLGA VAS - Slovenia and Hungary lifted restrictions on the crossing of state border for the citizens of both countries based on a favourable epidemiological situation in both countries. The announcement came after talks between the Slovenian and Hungarian foreign ministers, Anže Logar and Peter Szijjarto. The ministers assessed that Slovenia and Hungary are among the EU countries which have been the most successful in dealing with Covid-19, and called for the reopening of borders in the region as soon as possible. Logar said the agreement reached today was an important diplomatic achievement. Szijjarto said the pandemic had shown how closely countries in central Europe were connected, especially neighbouring countries.

Major easing of restrictions announced for Monday

LJUBLJANA - Major easing of restrictions has been announced for 1 June as all tourism facilities will be allowed to reopen, and gatherings of up to 200 people will be allowed again. Gyms and spas will reopen as well, government spokesman Jelko Kacin announced. After reopening tourist accommodation with up to 30 rooms on 18 May, all hotels regardless of their size as well as spas, health centres, gyms and pools will be able to reopen next month. Only night clubs and discotheques remain closed. Shops too will remain closed on Sundays and holidays.

Primary schools to fully reopen next week

LJUBLJANA - Fourth and fifth graders will return to school on Monday, the first day when the Covid-19 epidemic will no longer be in place. Those in grades six, seven and eight will return on Wednesday, Education Minister Simona Kustec announced. This represents a full reopening of primary schools after children in the first three grades returned to classrooms on 18 May and those in ninth grade this week. Children will no longer be split into smaller groups and they will not have to wear masks, bit distancing measures will still have to be observed. Secondary schools will remain closed until the end of the school year.

Masks no longer mandatory, still recommended

LJUBLJANA - Wearing of face masks in closed public spaces is no longer mandatory in Slovenia, but it is still recommended. "The wearing of face masks is not an obligation, it is a recommendation designed to protect ourselves ... and to prevent transmission," National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ)director Milan Krek said. In fact, masks have not been obligatory since 18 May, when a new government decree that allowed the gathering of up to 50 people in public entered into effect. It is just that nobody appeared to have noticed that the obligation was extinguished since the decree overrode the decree that made masks mandatory.

President, speaker urge reform of electoral law by December

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and Speaker Igor Zorčič met on Thursday to discuss the required reform of the electoral law, urging all stakeholders to find a solution to implement the relevant decision of the Constitutional Court by December. Pahor said he would like to address the National Assembly about the issue in June. The meeting comes after the heads of parliamentary deputy groups and Zorčič agreed yesterday to leave it to the relevant ministry to draft proposals for redistricting.

Coalition proposes cooperation agreement with opposition

LJUBLJANA - The coalition has offered the opposition a partnership agreement in a bid to facilitate the adoption of measures to help the economy recover from the coronavirus crisis and carry out systemic reforms. The coalition is "sending the opposition an invitation to cooperate ... The hand has been offered," Prime Minister Janez Janša said on Twitter. The partnership would give opposition parties a role in the drafting of pre-agreed legislation prior to bills being adopted; in exchange they would strive to make sure their MPs vote in favour of these bills.

President's adviser named Slovenia's member of Venice Commission

LJUBLJANA - Ernest Petrič, a seasoned diplomat and former Constitutional Court judge who is currently an adviser to President Borut Pahor, has been named Slovenia's member of the Venice Commission, an advisory body of the Council of Europe, for a four-year term. Verica Trstenjak, a law professor who is currently one of the Slovenian members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, was named as substitute member, the Government Communication Office said

Committee nods to third stimulus package after two night sessions

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Labour Committee okayed in the small hours of Thursday the EUR 1 billion third stimulus package, which provides a short-time work scheme and support to the tourism sector, primarily in the form of tourist vouchers for all residents. It also brings an extension of the construction act changes softening environmental safeguards, including by significantly reducing the number of NGOs which will be able to challenge environmental permits.

Two new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, no new deaths

LJUBLJANA - After conducting 631 coronavirus tests, two new coronavirus infections were confirmed in Slovenia on Wednesday in what was a second day of the daily case count exceeding one after two weeks of zero or one infections per day. No new Covid-19 fatalities were reported, show the latest official data. The total of confirmed infections has thus risen to 1,473. The national death toll has remained at 108. Seven Covid-19 patients remain in hospital care.

Debate hears EU recovery plan a turning point, fast deal needed

LJUBLJANA - A debate on the next EU budget saw participants point out that the European Commission's recovery plan was a turning point, without it the European single market could be jeopardised. They also agreed that a quick agreement by member states is necessary. The online debate hosted by the European Commission Representation in Slovenia and the STA featured European Crisis Management Commissioner Janez Lenarčič, economist Mojmir Mrak and MEP Ljudmila Novak (EPP/NSi).

Slovenia to request PPE and medical equipment from EU Civil Protection Mechanism

LJUBLJANA - The government decided to ask for international aid in the form of personal protective equipment and medical equipment from the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The decision was made at the proposal of the Defence Ministry, the government said in a press release after its session.

SID bank secures EUR 350 million in loans, insurance deals

LJUBLJANA - The SID Banka export and development bank has secured EUR 200 million in liquidity loans and another EUR 150 million in insurance and re-insurance deals to sole traders, SMEs and big companies as well as cooperatives during the Covid-19 epidemic. The state-owned bank is already in talks with relevant ministries on increasing quotas to enable further favourable liquidity financing of companies.

Mercator reports EUR 1.1m net profit for Q1, revenue up 10.8%

LJUBLJANA - The retail group Mercator generated EUR 1.1 million in net profit in the first quarter of 2020 after a net loss of EUR 3.7 million in the same period last year. Revenue increased by 10.8% to top EUR 530.48 million. CEO Tomislav Čizmić attributes the positive trends to the successful implementation of the business strategy of differentiation, and initiatives for making operations more efficient on all markets.

New plan for Ljubljana passenger terminal coming

LJUBLJANA - The government revoked a 2007 decree on a public-private partnership for a new bus and train terminal in Ljubljana. The decision means the project can be split up into a commercial project and a public investment. Under the government decree, the Infrastructure Ministry has 30 days to present information about how to proceed with the project, both technically and financially.

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28 May 2020, 04:03 AM

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Officials say elderly received appropriate care during epidemic

LJUBLJANA - Government officials expressed regret over doubts that were being expressed in the public lately regarding the treatment of the elderly in the face of the epidemic. Health Minister Tomaž Gantar called such criticism "completely unjustified" and "very unfair to medical staff". The statements come in response to criticism that many elderly with Covid-19 were not hospitalised during the epidemic, which would prevent the spread of the disease in the most vulnerable population. Gantar noted that only 1.7% of the 18,800 residents of Slovenian care homes had gotten infected, which was an "excellent result".

Slovenia eligible for EUR 5.1 billion under EU recovery plan

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia will be eligible to receive EUR 5.071 billion from the EU's coronavirus recovery plan, according to European Commission documents. It will be able to receive EUR 2.579 billion in grants and EUR 2.492 billion in loans. Slovenia will be able to draw the EUR 2.579 billion in grants from various instruments, not just the new recovery and resilience fund. To receive the money from the recovery and resilience fund, a member state will have to draft a reform and investment plan. PM Janez Janša said the plan was a step in the right direction.

Environmental protection act changed to limit involvement of NGOs

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a set of changes, which include provisions limiting the involvement of NGOs in administrative and court proceedings. The final version, adopted in a 50:30 vote, softens the initially proposed restrictions somewhat, but environmentalists continue to cry foul. In line with the new conditions, public interest status will be recognised only for groups with at least 50 members, at least EUR 10,000 of assets, at least two fully employed persons who have tertiary education level degrees and two years of experience in environmental protection.

Optimistic trend in employment recorded in May

LJUBLJANA - The Employment Service has recorded a significant drop in the number of persons who were registered as unemployed in May in comparison with April, saying that the trend inspires a certain degree of optimism regarding employment as the coronavirus epidemic is officially ending. Between 1 and 26 May, a total of 7,089 persons were registered as jobless, which is less than half of the number for April (14,419). The national employment agency said the fact that 5,384 people were struck out of the unemployment records in May, of whom 4,462 had found a job, was also encouraging.

Počivalšek expects border with Croatia to fully open for tourists on Monday

MURSKO SREDIŠĆE, Croatia - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said, after meeting his Croatian counterpart Darko Horvat, that he expected the border with Croatia to be fully opened for tourists on 1 June. The pair meanwhile highlighted the wish for cooperation and a prompt return of the two countries' economies to pre-crisis tracks. They also praised the record trade recorded between the two countries last year and hailed neighbourly cooperation.

Hojs tells Maltese minister Slovenia's migrant capacities full

LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs held a phone conversation Tuesday with his Maltese counterpart Byron Camilleri focusing on migrations. Camilleri urged Slovenia to help with the relocation of migrants rescued at sea, but Hojs said Slovenia's capacities were full and it could not do that at present, the Interior Ministry said. Hojs described the migrant situation in Slovenia and said there was a renewed increase in the number of illegal crossings of the border under way after the lifting of coronavirus restrictions.

Foreign Ministry not commenting on new Trieste remembrance day

LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry would not comment on a new remembrance day declared by the Trieste city council. The ministry "does not comment on history-related dates as new holidays," it said. The Slovenian Cultural and Economic Association (SKGZ), one of the central organisations of the Slovenian ethnic minority in Italy, said the newly declared Trieste holiday was divisive and was "reviving old conflicts". The ministry said that Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio will visit Ljubljana on 6 June for talks on all topical issues.

Logar talks Slovenia's Adriatic-Ionian Initiative presidency

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar took part in a videoconference of the foreign ministers of the Adriatic and Ionian Initiative and of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian Region, presenting the priorities of Slovenia's chairmanship of both platforms, which the country is to assume on 1 June. He said Slovenia would strive for the "recovery from Covid-19 to also be a green recovery", the Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

Tonin talks cooperation, EU presidency with German counterpart

LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin spoke with his German counterpart Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer via videolink to express satisfaction with the countries' cooperation in defence and look for opportunities to strengthen it further. The ministers also talked about the countries' upcoming EU presidencies and confirmed the success of the joint participation in international operations and missions and in joint exercises and training, primarily as part of the leading country concept under Germany's leadership.

Two new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, no Covid-19 fatality

LJUBLJANA - A total of 809 tests for coronavirus were conducted in Slovenia on Tuesday, with two tests coming back positive which is the highest daily case count after two weeks of zero or one infections per day. No Covid-19 deaths were recorded, with the national death toll remaining at 108, show the latest government data. So far, 1,471 coronavirus infections have been recorded in Slovenia and 76,579 tests have been performed.

MPs only confirm Klemen Podobnik as candidate for EU General Court judge

LJUBLJANA - Parliament confirmed Klemen Podobnik as the candidate for one of two Slovenian judges at the EU's General Court in Luxembourg. The remaining two nominees, Jure Vidmar and Nina Savin Bossiere, failed to secure the absolute majority required, which means the call for applications for the second spot will have to be repeated. Podobnik, a professor of commercial and EU law at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law and a visiting professor at a school of law in Latvia, now still faces Committee 255, the vetting body in Brussels.

Motion to close shops Sundays okayed at first reading, reservations voiced

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly okayed at first reading the opposition Left's proposal to keep stores closed Sundays also after the end of the epidemic, but calls were heard for social dialogue, meaning coordination among social partners is expected to follow. The motion, announced ahead of Labour Day by the Left together with the Trade Union of Shop Assistants, was rendered fit for further reading in a 65:12 vote.

Central bank vice governor Bošnjak tenders resignation

LJUBLJANA - Marko Bošnjak, one of the five vice-governors of Slovenia's central bank, tendered his resignation in the aftermath of accusations that he evaded taxes on rental income. The move comes almost a year after the central bank asked the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption to investigate claims that Bošnjak failed to pay taxes on rental income from an apartment in Ljubljana. Unofficial information suggests the governing board was close to completing the procedure and was set to reach a decision next week, but Bošnjak tendered his resignation before that.

Responding to ouster motion, minister wonders whether opposition has nothing more to contribute

LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek has responded to the ouster motion against him by setting out what he says proves decisions on the procurement of vital equipment were optimal given the circumstances of the health emergency, wondering whether the motion is all the opposition is capable of contributing at this difficult time. The minister attributed the responsibility for the situation to everyone involved in decision-making on the matter until 14 March, when the new government took over.

MPs leave it to ministry to draft electoral law changes

LJUBLJANA - Heads of the parliamentary deputy groups and parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič discussed reforming the electoral law, with a majority agreeing that the relevant ministry should be tasked with drafting proposals for redefining the electoral districts. The meeting came after a bill which sought to abolish electoral districts and introduce a preference vote at the level of the existing eight electoral units fell three votes short of the needed two-thirds majority in the National Assembly at the beginning of March.

Issues surrounding govt loan guarantees yet to be clarified

LJUBLJANA - The banking system and the Finance Ministry are yet to settle all the issues surrounding state guarantees for bank loans designed to secure liquidity to businesses impacted by the coronavirus epidemic. Earlier this month, the Finance Ministry issued the rules for lending under the emergency legislation passed as part of the first two government stimulus packages. However, the Bank Association has asked for further consultation over technical issues that are still open. Issues have also been raised by the European Central Bank with respect to collateral.

Akrapovič planning workforce cuts due to Covid-19 crisis

IVANČNA GORICA/ČRNOMELJ - Exhaust systems maker Akrapovič, which employs more than 1,000 workers, is planning redundancies in the wake of the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. The company has not disclosed any details as to the number of layoffs beyond saying that it was striving to keep the number of redundancies to a minimum, however workforce cuts were needed due to the precarious situation in the market. The company hopes the situation will soon go back to normal.

Minority points to inequality in reopening of Austrian border

KLAGENFURT, Austria - An organisation of the Slovenian minority in Austria addressed a letter to Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer warning about Austria's unequal treatment of Slovenia in regard to the easing border restrictions. Manuel Jug, the head of the Association of Slovenian Organisations (ZSO), said that Austria had lifted restrictions on the border with Germany and Switzerland without any complications and urged Nehammer to ensure Austria treated all its neighbouring countries equally.

Poll shows Slovenians generally happy with govt's tackling of epidemic

LJUBLJANA - Slovenians have given the government's efforts to fight the coronavirus a generally positive mark, shows a poll carried out by market research agency Mediana. Over 43% are satisfied with the government's measures designed to fight the virus and their relaxation, whereas almost 34% are unsatisfied with them. Of these, 15.5% are completely satisfied and 15% completely unsatisfied with the measures, respectively, which Mediana interprets as the measures being received quite well.

Slovenian Caritas helping battle Covid-19 in Serbia, Lebanon, Rwanda

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian chapter of the Catholic charity Caritas has been helping in the battle against Covid-19 with projects co-funded by the Slovenian Foreign Ministry in Serbia, Lebanon and Rwanda. More than EUR 31,000 will allocated for this purpose to the three countries. This year Caritas Slovenia launched two projects of international development cooperation and humanitarian aid focussing on the most vulnerable groups of women in Lebanon and Serbia. In Rwanda, the main goal of the project is to make the use of local resources more efficient and sustainable.

April retail sales lowest since 2006

LJUBLJANA - Retail sales plunged by 22.6% year-on-year in April to the lowest level since 2006, show fresh Statistics Office data. At the monthly level the decline was 8.8%, following a 12% contraction in March. All segments of retail contracted as most outlets except for grocery stores, petrol stations and pharmacies were closed down due to the coronavirus epidemic.

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27 May 2020, 07:04 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA:

Slovenia opens border to EU tourists

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian government added new exemptions to the quarantine requirement for EU and Schengen zone citizens that in effect allow citizens from across the EU to enter the country as tourists, as long as they have a confirmation of booking. The same applies to owners of property in Slovenia. Under the latest rules, there are 17 exemptions from quarantine for EU and Schengen zone citizens, mostly for business purposes, healthcare and education. The exemptions are a stop-gap measure as EU countries gradually reopen borders based on bilateral or multilateral agreements. The Slovenian and Italian foreign ministers are expected to meet later this week to discuss how to proceed with the opening of the border, government spokesman Jelko Kacin said.

Ambassador: Slovenia closely watching development of EU recovery fund

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia's Ambassador to the EU Iztok Jarc said he expected the level of development of member states, their unemployment rates, drop in exports and the openness of their economies to be among the key criteria in the distribution of funds from the European Commission-proposed new recovery and resilience tool. Jarc, who represented Slovenia in a videocall of EU affairs ministers on the topic, said Slovenia was closely watching the developments and explained that more would only be known on Wednesday as the Commission unveils the proposal along with adjustments to the new financial framework.

Additional easing of restrictions expected next week

LJUBLJANA - Government coronavirus spokesperson Jelko Kacin announced that an additional easing of some of the remaining restrictions could be expected on Monday. He singled out the opening of hotels irrespective of size. Efforts are under way to open fitness and wellness centres, while swimming pools and similar facilities remain an open issue. He explained that individual departments were processing the guidelines and recommendations issued by the National Institute of Public Health to see what was possible within the given limitations. A decision on whether all primary and secondary school children return to school before the end of the academic year or not is meanwhile expected to be taken by the government on Thursday, said the head of the Association of School Headmasters, Gregor Pečan, after today's meeting on the matter at the Education Ministry.

Janša could change taxes, media financing

LJUBLJANA - PM Janez Janša announced potential changes to tax legislation and media funding as he gave a weekly interview with the private broadcaster Nova24TV on Monday evening. He said the group led by tax expert Ivan Simič would examine the possibilities for changes, "but some fast tax cuts could not be expected in this [coronavirus] situation". Asked what the government could do about the compulsory payment of licence fee for public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, he said the Culture Ministry was already working on some legislative changes. "The least that could be done is distribute this enormous amount of money in a more just way."

No new coronavirus infections, one Covid-19 death

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's coronavirus case count remains at 1,469 after no new infections were confirmed on Monday after 754 tests were conducted. One new Covid-19 fatality was reported, rising the death toll to 108, the latest official data show. Only nine Covid-19 patients remain in hospital. The figure of hospitalised Covid-19 patients dropped by six on the day before. Two were in intensive care, one fewer than on Sunday.

Slovenia pledges EUR 10,000 at donors conference for Venezuelan refugees

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia pledged a humanitarian contribution of EUR 10,000 as part of today's international donors conference in solidarity with Venezuelan refugees and migrants in countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the conference, organised by the European Commission together with the Spanish government, the international community raised EUR 2.54 billion, EUR 595 million of which in grants. Slovenia was represented at the virtual donors conference by Foreign Ministry State Secretary Tone Kajzer, who announced Slovenia's contribution would be provided through International Red Cross to Venezuelan refugees in the Brazilian cities of Boa Vista and Manaus, the Foreign Ministry said. Slovenia provided EUR 50,000 in aid to people in Venezuela in 2019.

Parliamentary debate shows extra powers for army not likely soon

LJUBLJANA - Coalition and opposition MPs remained on opposite banks in a parliamentary debate on whether to activate Article 37.a of the defence act to give limited police powers to the army to enhance border protection; the proposal ended its way through parliament with today's debate after it failed to muster the required two-thirds majority on the parliamentary Defence Committee in April. Today's debate was held after being postponed on 7 April, when the coalition MPs indicated they would check whether the National Assembly could still vote on the proposal despite it failing to get past the committee a few days earlier.

Illegal crossings of border drop by a quarter in first four months

LJUBLJANA - In the first four months of 2020, the Slovenian police recorded 2,394 illegal crossings of the border, which is almost 25% less than in the same period last year. The decline is at least partially a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic and the related stricter measures on the border. Like in the same period last year, citizens of Pakistan accounted for the largest number of illegal crossings of the border (654), followed by citizens of Morocco (523) and Afghanistan (340).

European NGOs urge govt to uphold environmental standards

LJUBLJANA - The government received a letter from the Green 10, a coalition of ten of the largest environmental NGOs in Europe, which expresses concern over recently adopted and pending legal provisions limiting the involvement of NGOs in environmental permit procedures. "The measures that are already adopted in the anti-corona legislation and are to be now extended until the end of 2021 are, according to our assessment, against European environmental standards," reads the letter. Several Slovenian environmental NGOs meanwhile staged a sit-down in front of the Environment Ministry to protest against the legislation which would limit their involvement in administrative and court proceedings.

Nova24TV poll shows SDS, LMŠ, DeSUS, SMC gaining ground

LJUBLJANA - Three coalition parties and the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) gained ground among decided voters in the latest poll commissioned by the private broadcaster Nova24TV. Among decided voters, the ruling Democrats (SDS) went from 30.6% in mid-May to 34.1%. The LMŠ saw its ratings rise even more, going from 17.9% to 23.6%. The opposition Social Democrats (SD) ranked third, their rating dropping from 12.8% to 10.5%. The opposition Left remained flat at 9.5%.

Small businesses appeal for a fourth stimulus package

LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Small Business (OZS) called on the government to start working on a fourth stimulus package to help the industries that have not been covered in the third stimulus package, which is currently in parliamentary procedure. The appeal was made by the OZS management board as it discussed the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on its members, most of whom are grappling with slack or no business. The third package brings a subsidised short-time work scheme and measures to help catering and tourism. It also extends by a month, until the end of June, the furlough scheme, the centrepiece of the first stimulus package.

Culture workers rally in protest against ministry's inaction

LJUBLJANA - Culture workers covered the front of the building housing the Ministry of Culture with hundreds of pieces of paper with appeals for action to help the sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as part of a protest targeting what the organisers described as the ministry's silence and inaction. The protest, initiated by the Working Group of Culture Workers, attracted around 1,000 participants by the group's estimates. Petja Grafenauer, an art critic and art historian, said the protest sought to draw attention to the fact that unlike other countries, Slovenia only took urgent social measures to help the creativity sector.

Diversification to make it easier for Kolektor to survive crisis

LJUBLJANA - Stojan Petrič, the chief supervisor of Kolektor, believes the industrial conglomerate will emerge from the coronavirus crisis easier than its car industry competition because it has diversified to energy and construction. He told the newspaper Delo the two industries currently brought adequate return on investment, while the automotive industry segment was shrinking significantly. The company plans to reassign some of its workers to meet the demand for energy products and move production from expensive locations such as Germany to lower-cost countries.

Maribor-based power distributor gets EUR 31m loan from EIB

MARIBOR - The European Investment Bank (EIB) has granted a EUR 31 million loan to the electricity distributor Elektro Maribor aimed at financing maintenance and improvements in the reliability and in quality standards of electricity supply in north-eastern Slovenia. The EIB and Elektro Maribor said the loan supports the company's EUR 81.2 million investment in reconstruction and development of its electricity distribution network in order to minimise power blackouts and blackout-related damage to property and environment.

Slovenia ranks seventh in latest KidsRights Index

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia placed seventh according to the 2020 KidsRights Index, released by the KidsRights Foundation, an international children's aid and advocacy NGO. The country received 0.897 points overall, chalking up the highest score in protection and the lowest in the child rights environment category. The index score is determined by how much effort countries dedicate to children's rights, including protection, health and education, life expectancy, maternal mortality ratio and adolescent birth rate.

Satellite emergency departments to be crated country-wide

LJUBLJANA - The government decided on Monday to set up nine hospital-satellite emergency departments around the country at community health centres to complement the existing network of hospital emergency departments. The Health Ministry told the STA on Tuesday the new departments in the so-called grey areas where emergency medical services are not as readily available would be introduced in several stages, meaning other areas would get them in the coming years. The creation of satellite EDs dates back to the term of Health Minister Milojka Kolar Celarc (2014-18), when the plan was to establish ten emergency departments across the country and several satellite emergency departments. Due to the opposition by local communities and some politicians, only new hospital emergency departments were created.

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26 May 2020, 04:42 AM

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This summary is provided by the STA:

Active efforts continue to reopen borders

LJUBLJANA - As Slovenia continued the diplomatic efforts to reopen its borders with the neighbouring countries, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs discussed the issue over the phone with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer. The latter expressed reservations by saying that Austria was worried that Italians and illegal migrants would enter Austria via Slovenia and Croatia, while Hojs assured him Slovenia had restrictive measures in place on the border with Italy. According to government spokesman Jelko Kacin, Slovenia is in the process of finalising a technical agreement with Croatia to lift restrictions in place for Slovenian citizens there.

PM tells MPs not all Covid-19 crisis losses can be covered

LJUBLJANA - In his first questions time in parliament since taking office in March, Prime Minister Janez Janša told MPs there was not enough money in the budget to compensate for all losses incurred by the coronavirus pandemic, but that the government could mitigate the consequences to the greatest extent possible. He said no major cuts into people's income was planned. He pointed to a bill to facilitate major investments as one of the key measures for Slovenia to preserve the potential for future growth.

Pahor calls for legislative changes to prevent paramilitary activities

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor told commercial broadcaster POP TV late on Sunday that self-styled uniformed village guards or militias should not be allowed in Slovenia. He thinks such activities should be banned by law. "Slovenia is a safe country, we have competent authorities protecting the public order, there's no need for village guards of any kind." Turning to the work of the government, the president assessed that the cabinet was doing a good job in fighting off the looming recession. "But I do think it could be a big problem if political spirits continue to drift apart."

Opposition files bill to thwart paramilitary activity

LJUBLJANA - Three centre-left opposition parties filed legislative amendments to crack down on activities by self-styled militias or home guards after uniformed members of one such group made a visit to a police station in the north-east of the country over a week ago. The proposal submitted by the Social Democrats (SD), Marjan šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) is the same as that filed by the previous minority government under their guide, but which was defeated in parliament shortly before the change of government in March.

Army denies stopping Slovenian-Italian citizen near border

LJUBLJANA/TRIESTE, Italy - The Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) denied its member being involved in an incident near the border with Italy in early May after the Trieste-based newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported that a dual Slovenian-Italian citizen had been stopped at gunpoint by a man in a military uniform in the Hrpelje-Kozina community. The army said no SAF member had been in the area on the day of the incident. An MP for the Italian Democratic Party, Debora Serracchiani, notified the Italian Foreign Ministry of the incident, while Defence Minister Matej Tonin indicated it could be fake news.

Hojs expects action against organisers of anti-government protests

LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Aleš Hojs has told the weekly Reporter that he expects the authorities to take action against the organisers of the mass anti-government protests on bicycles. He believes this is illegal during the coronavirus epidemic and the organisers of unregistered protests must cover the costs of security provided by the police. The minister also said the border with Italy would not be fully opened until the epidemiological situation there was comparable to Slovenia's.

Minister Tonin protests over criminal complaint filed against him

LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin condemned the criminal complaint filed against him over alleged abuse of office because he ordered oversight of the military intelligence service when he served as the chair of the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission over a year ago. Tonin, the leader of New Slovenia (NSi), learnt about the charge when he was called in for questioning by the police last Thursday. Tonin said the complaint against him was politically-motivated.

Govt rating down in POP TV poll, SDS remains dominant party

LJUBLJANA - The government's approval rating declined in the latest monthly poll run by POP TV. The share of those who support the government slipped by over five percentage points to 40.2% as 49% voiced disapproval with its work. The ruling Democrats (SDS) slipped almost a percentage point to 18.5%, but they are still far ahead of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), which gained almost three points to 14%. President Borut Pahor remains the most popular politician. Health Minister Tomaž Gantar climbed to second, pushing Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec into third place.

One new coronavirus infection confirmed on Sunday

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian health authorities reported one new coronavirus infection on Sunday, bringing the total so far to 1,469. The death toll remained unchanged at 107. There were 16 Covid-19 patients in hospital yesterday as two were discharged, with three of them in intensive care. The number of tests conducted stood at just 256, the lowest daily number since 7 March.

Ministers deny charges over Covid-19 care home deaths

LJUBLJANA - Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj and Health Minister Tomaž Gantar defended action to contain the spread of coronavirus at care homes in parliament as the opposition sought answers about the high proportion of Covid-19 fatalities at care homes and about media reports that care home residents had allegedly been listed as to who should get hospital treatment and who not if infected. While Gantar denied the existence of such lists, Cigler Kralj said 90% of care homes were infection free. He said a plan was in the making to control infections at care homes in a potential new wave.

Sacked NBI head Muženič goes to court

LJUBLJANA - The lawyer of the former director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) confirmed Darko Muženič had decided to challenge his 6 May dismissal at the Administrative Court. He also asked the court to stay the appointment of his successor pending the ruling. Muženič claims the no-fault dismissal procedure used for him in line with the act on public servants only applied to political office holders.

Tourism virtually dead in April

LJUBLJANA - The Covid-19 lockdown meant Slovenia recorded no tourist arrivals in April, while the number of recorded overnight stays was 11,000. This is 99% less that in April 2019 and was mostly accounted for by ongoing student exchange programmes. The January-April period saw slightly over 660,000 tourist arrivals, a 52% decrease year-on-year, show Statistics Office data.

Rise in unemployment brought to halt last week

LJUBLJANA - A sharp increase in Slovenia's registered unemployment total caused by the coronavirus crisis was brought to a halt last week with the weekly figure rising only by 59 to 90,272 compared to the previous week, show interim data from the Employment Service. The number even dropped in the span of two days. During the week before, the total rose by almost 580, while in the first half of April, the figure surged by as much as thousands per week.

Business sentiment improves in May after a drastic drop

LJUBLJANA - After plummeting by an unprecedented 35.8 percentage points in April, business sentiment in Slovenia improved somewhat in May, with the relevant index standing at -33.1 percentage points, or 6.5 points higher than in April, mostly due to an improvement in confidence in manufacturing. Nevertheless, the index is 40.8 percentage points lower year-on-year.

Govt does not support ban on Sunday shopping

LJUBLJANA - The government does not support a legislative proposal to keep shops closed on Sundays and work-free days even after the end of the coronavirus epidemic. After a correspondence session, the government said the bill, tabled by the opposition Left, was currently not appropriate to be discussed in parliament due to the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. This is despite PM Janez Janša initially endorsing the idea to keep stores closed on Sundays.

Electricity consumption down 15% in April

LJUBLJANA - Electricity consumption in Slovenia declined by 15% year-on-year in April and by 19% compared to March, an indication of a sharp decline in economic activity, fresh Statistics Office data show. April was the first full month of coronavirus lockdown.

FoI report finds state bodies increasingly unresponsive

LJUBLJANA - The Information Commissioner's report for 2019 shows an increase in the number of complaints about unresponsiveness by institutions bound by the freedom of information (FoI). The commissioner processed 540 complaints in 2019, of which 305 were related to access to public information being denied. As many as 235 or 44% of all complaints were related to institutions' unresponsiveness, or silence, to provide the required piece of information.

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