Ljubljana related

21 Jan 2020, 22:08 PM

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A schedule of all the main events involving Slovenia this week can be found here

This summary is provided by the STA:

Šarec urges EU membership for W Balkan candidates

DAVOS, Switzerland - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec said the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans was key to the region's stabilisation and transformation, as he spoke at a panel on resuming strategic dialogue on the Western Balkans at the World Economic Forum in Davos. He reiterated Slovenia's disappointment with the EU's failure to launch accession talks with North Macedonia and Albania. Debate on the EU's future will be incomplete if enlargement is not implemented, he said.

NLB requests constitutional review of tight loan restrictions

LJUBLJANA - Bank NLB asked the Constitutional Court to review tighter restrictions on lending imposed by the central bank in November. After filing the request, the bank expressed belief that its request would be a matter of priority for the court because of the "radical effect" the measures had on the quality of Slovenians' lives. NLB believes that the measures have to be abolished and any anomalies detected in "individual market players" should instead be addressed with targeted and not systemic measures.

Police announce token strike for 3 February

CELJE - Slovenian police officers plan to stage a four-hour token strike on 3 February over the government's failure to implement commitments made in the December 2018 agreement that had ended a protracted strike. The strike was announced by the Trade Union of Police Officers (SPS), one of the two unions in the force, which also invited the second union, the Police Trade Union of Slovenia (PSS), to join in. The union claims agreed pay raises and promotions had not been fully implemented.

White paper on defence raises issues

LJUBLJANA - A public presentation of the white paper on defence at the National Council raised a number of concerns, above all about plans to increase the number of soldiers and what some believe is a lack of focus on technological development. Several participants wondered how Slovenia was to reach the goal of a 8,000-strong professional military force and a 2000-strong standing reserve by 2035, up from 6,400 and 700, respectively. Officials argued the goal was feasible without a military draft.

Stern warnings issued over climate action

LJUBLJANA - The standing panel on climate policy set up by President Borut Pahor warned on Monday that Slovenia was running late in setting out and implementing climate policy. An even sterner rebuke came from Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina, as he spoke the Ombudsman's Council session dedicated to the environment. "We can speak in a very high-flying manner about climate and environmental policy by 2050, but over the past 20 years we haven't made small steps that would show the state actually means it."

Slovenia goes from below to above-average in drawing of EU funds

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia's new Development and EU Cohesion Policy Minister Angelika Mlinar was happy after her first meeting with European Commissioner for Cohesion and Reforms Elisa Ferreira, saying that Slovenia had gone from below-average to above-average in drawing of EU funds at the end of last year. Moreover, the European Commission has withdrawn its warning that payments to Slovenia may be suspended due to problems with the IT system used in the process.

PM meets Croatian counterpart in Davos

DAVOS, Switzerland - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec held several high-level bilateral meetings as he participated in the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos. He exchanged views on the Slovenian-Croatian bilateral relations with his Croatian counterpart Andrej Plenković and discussed the current macroeconomic and economic situations in Slovenia with new Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Kristalina Georgieva.

Dragonja to step down as state secretary in March

LJUBLJANA - Finance Ministry State Secretary Metod Dragonja is to retire in March, the ministry confirmed for the STA. The business newspaper Finance meanwhile speculates that Dragonja is bowing out mainly due to disagreements over the plans to extend the life of the Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC). Another reason for his retirement is, according to unofficial sources, his general disagreement with Alenka Bratušek, the leader of the Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), the political faction he belongs to.

MPs call for more funds for railways in infrastructure investment plan

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Infrastructure Committee spent several hours debating the 2020-2025 road infrastructure investment plan, with members cautioning that the EUR 3 billion plan should not be changed by each new incoming government and calling for more funds for rail infrastructure.

Activists criticise asylum policy

LJUBLJANA - An event on integration of persons enjoying international protection, hosted by the Peace Institute, heard that debate on integration in Slovenia was of secondary importance, as things get stuck at the question of whether an asylum seeker should be accepted in the country at all. Iztok Šori, the institute's director, said that the Slovenian police were rejecting migrants on the border with Croatia, making it impossible for them to apply for international protection.

Finance Ministry expects trouble ahead for Green Deal fund

LJUBLJANA - The EU's finance ministers expressed their support for the European Green Deal, but only in theory. The debate indicated that the question of funding the climate agreement would prove to be a contentious issue. Certain member states seemed reluctant about the deal potentially leading to cuts in agricultural and cohesion funds. Finance Minister Andrej Bertoncelj said that strong measures were needed while taking into account individual member states' energy needs.

Economy minister and OZS to fight against populism

LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and Slovenia's Chamber of Craft and Small Business (OZS) intend to fight against populism which prevents far-reaching change in economy and labour legislation. Addressing the OZS management board, Počivalšek said it was hard to implement change without strong support by all business chambers in the country, urging all employer organisations to close ranks in the talks with social partners - the government and trade unions.

Slovenia rapidly reducing risk of cervical cancer

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia is one of the most effective EU countries in fighting cervical cancer, mostly due to its successful ZORA screening programme. Moreover, prevention efficiency has been boosted by a steady increase in the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination rate among girls. The vaccination rate for 11-year-old girls rose by 10 percentage points to nearly 60% last year, health officials said on the occasion of European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week. To eradicate the disease in the entire population, at least 90% vaccination rate is required.

Border crossing in NE Slovenia gets revamped

ORMOŽ - The Ormož border crossing on the Slovenian-Croatian border was inaugurated on Tuesday following a renovation designed to make it more passenger-friendly and to strengthen the cooperation of Slovenian and Croatian police forces. The investment's price tag is estimated at almost EUR 1 million. Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar, Public Administration Minister Rudi Medved and Police Commissioner Tatjana Bobnar attended the inauguration, praising the reconstruction project.

Over 327,000 lorries registered in electronic tolling

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian electronic tolling system for cargo vehicles DarsGo, which was introduced in April 2018, had more than 91,000 users at the end of last year who entered more than 327,000 vehicles into the system. Most users are from Slovenia, followed by those from Romania, Poland, Germany and Hungary. Last year, 85% of DarsGo users covered their costs using the service, while the share of pre-paid users is decreasing. At the end of 2019, the number was almost 10% lower than in December 2018.

New shopping mall opening in Ljubljana in March

LJUBLJANA - The new shopping mall in Ljubljana's Šiška borough, which is being constructed by Spar European Shopping Centers (SES), will open its doors on 19 March. Announcing the launch, SES Slovenija said the EUR 150 million project was expected to create 700 jobs. The 32,000 square-metre three-storage Aleja shopping mall with two underground car parks will house 80 shops, a food court of 2,300 square metres and several coffee shops with sports facilities on its green roof.

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21 Jan 2020, 03:58 AM

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Govt reshuffle ruled out as Šarec and Pivec meet

LJUBLJANA - The option of a government reshuffle arising after Karl Erjavec announced his resignation as defence minister in the wake of losing the vote for the presidency of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) was ruled out as the new DeSUS leader, Aleksandra Pivec, met Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. In a written statement issued after the meeting, Šarec's office said that the prime minister and Pivec had an in-depth discussion, agreeing on "continued constructive and proactive cooperation in the government".

White paper shows defence spending to reach 2% of GDP by 2035

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's defence budget will finally reach 2% of GDP by 2035, according to a white paper released online by the Defence Ministry. The document also shows plans for the Armed Forces to gradually grow by more than 1,500 soldiers, reaching 8,000 by 2035. The white paper also implies that unless the Armed Forces manage to attract more members, Slovenia will have to think about reintroducing obligatory military duty in the future.

Cerar: Slovenia willing to cooperate in changed Operation Sophia

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia is willing to cooperate in a changed Operation Sophia to the best of its abilities, Foreign Minister Miro Cerar said after EU foreign ministers decided on upgrading the bloc's military operation in the Mediterranean by shifting its focus from migrants to the arms embargo on Libya. Slovenia, which has taken part in Sophia Operation since it was set up in 2015, is seen as a reliable and trustworthy partner, stressed the minister.

New Russian ambassador presents credentials

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor was presented with the credentials of five new ambassadors, among them the new Ambassador of Russia Timur Rafailovic Eyvazov, who is succeeding Doku Zavgayev, who served in Ljubljana for a decade. Apart from Eyvazov, the new ambassador of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Khalid Al Saud, Italian Carlo Campanile, Australian Richard Travers Sadleir and Paraguayan Juan Francisco Facetti presented their credentials to Pahor.

Šarec party remains in the lead in Vox Populi poll

LJUBLJANA - The party of Prime Minister Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) continues to lead the field in the latest Vox Populi poll, albeit with a slightly narrower margin ahead of the opposition Democrats (SDS). The LMŠ slipped back 0.8 percentage points from the month before to 19.4% as the SDS gained 0.3 points to 16.9%, shows the poll, conducted by Ninamedia for the newspapers Dnevnik and Večer.

Majority favour troop withdrawal from Iraq, NATO membership

LJUBLJANA - A majority of Slovenians are in favour of the pull-out of troops from Iraq in the wake of Iran's attack on two airbases there, according to a poll run by Dnevnik and Večer, which also shows strong backing for Slovenia's NATO membership. Over 54% of respondents expressed support for the troop withdrawal versus just under 38% who were opposed. The strongest support for the pull-out was registered among leftist voters and youths.

Following tougher restrictions, number of new loans plummets

LJUBLJANA - Data from the Slovenian Bank Association show that the number of loans approved by banks in Slovenia in November and December, after the central bank's new crediting restrictions kicked in on 1 November, plummeted. Data show that the number of consumer loans dropped by around 60% over October and the number of housing loans by around 40%. The association said the surge was most probably a result of the central bank's announcement of the new rules, which prompted many to take out loans while still creditworthy.

Over 20 Slovenians from Venezuela already in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA - Twenty-one Slovenians who asked for repatriation from Venezuela have already arrived in Slovenia, State Secretary at the Government Office for Slovenians Abroad Olga Belec told the press. Six repatriates arrived in December and fifteen in January. Of some 50 persons who asked for repatriation, 29 have been granted the status, while some of the applications are still being processed because the applicants had to supplement them. The office thus expects 15 more persons to move to their new homeland.

Three Slovenian experts joining European Space Agency

LJUBLJANA - Three Slovenian experts are soon expected to start working at the European Space Agency (ESA) research and technology centre in the Netherlands. Their employment at the ESA is one of the advantages of Slovenia as an ESA associated member, the Economy Ministry said. The three experts picked by the ESA come from the software company Cosylab, aerospace and space service provider Balmar and the Jožef Stefan Institute. They will be working at the European Space Research and Technology Centre for up to a year, developing general technologies and conducting human-robot interaction research.

Photo exhibition launches festival exploring Slovenia's future

LJUBLJANA - An international photo exhibition opened at Cankarjev Dom launching the Slovenia 2050 Festival, a series dedicated to reflection about Slovenia's future in a global context. The exhibition entitled Rabbit Hole features photographs by French photographer Marion Balac, Jojakim Cortis & Adrian Sonderegger from Switzerland, Miha Godec & Valerie Wolf Gang and Špela Škulj from Slovenia and Simon Menner from Germany.

Toll sticker revenue up

LJUBLJANA - National motorway operator DARS sold toll stickers worth EUR 195 million between 1 December 2018 and 30 November 2019, up almost four percent over the year before, as revenue across all segments rose. The period roughly covers the validity of annual toll stickers, but DARS also sells monthly and weekly toll stickers, which are mostly used by tourists and for transit.

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20 Jan 2020, 04:29 AM

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Defeated, Erjavec withdrawing from public life

LJUBLJANA - After losing the contest for the presidency of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which he has led for 15 years, Karl Erjavec announced he was withdrawing not only from active politics as Slovenia's defence minister but also from public life. Erjavec, who was surprisingly defeated by his younger colleague Aleksandra Pivec, a fellow minister, plans to discuss the timing of his resignation Prime Minister Marjan Šarec so as not to cause any inconvenience to the minority government. While Šarec is yet to respond, even coalition members admit that mustering a majority in parliament to appoint Šarec's replacement would be a challenge.

Ceremony appeals for keeping memory of Holocaust alive

LJUBLJANA - Ahead of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina told a ceremony in Ljubljana that the unimaginable horrors and hardship of that time must not be forgotten. He also urged standing up to hatred and xenophobia. "Those images are embedded in our collective memory, our identity, and it is the duty of us all, in particular those whose voice is head in public, to make sure the memory doesn't fade," said Svetina. President Borut Pahor, who was also present, said young generations should be reminded where hatred lead, but not in a way as make them fear the future.

Cerar attends VIHRA ministerial

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended a ministerial meeting of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in Brussels ahead of 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp and International Holocaust Remembrance Day observed on 27 January. In his address, Cerar pledged Slovenia's continued commitment to preserving the awareness and historical records of the Holocaust, genocide against the Roma and persecution of other victims.

Ski Jumper Zajc makes podium in Titisee-Neustadt

TITISEE-NEUSTADT, Germany - Ski jumper Timi Zajc placed third in the World Cup event in Titisee-Neustadt, Germany, in what is his best result this season and the fourth season podium finish for Slovenia. Pole Dawid Kubacki was victorious for the second straight day, scoring 283.3 points, 0.3 points ahead of Japanese Ryoyu Kobayashi, who came in third at the same venue yesterday. Zajc mustered 271.6 points.

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19 Jan 2020, 04:19 AM

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Defence Minister Erjavec announces resignation after losing party presidency

LJUBLJANA - Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec surprisingly defeated Defence Minister Karl Erjavec for the presidency of the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), prompting Erjavec to announce his resignation as minister. Pivec, 47, won 145 votes to Erjavec's 80 to end his 15-year tenure at the helm of the party, having ran an insurgency campaign that offered an alternative vision of the party's future in a desire to make it more inclusive and collaborative, and broaden its appeal beyond its core constituency.

Archbishop urges victims to report sexual abuse

LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore called on sexual abuse victims within the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church to report the crimes and dismissed accusations of Church inactivity by the Dovolj.je (It's Enough) NGO. Speaking for TV Slovenija on Friday evening, he pointed out that the Church had dealt with every single case that was brought to its knowledge, adding that the issue had been weighing down on him.

Slovenia discusses agriculture cooperation with W Balkans

BERLIN, Germany - Slovenia's agriculture delegation talked about providing support to the Western Balkans countries in their EU enlargement efforts with the region's representatives as it attended the International Green Week agricultural trade show. They discussed in particular assistance in implementation of EU regulations.

Ljubljana's only five-star hotel exceeding expectations

LJUBLJANA - Intercontinental Ljubljana, the Slovenian capital's sole five-star hotel, is exceeding the expectations of its owner. Opened in August 2017, it has a higher-than-planned occupancy rate and it is among the best rated hotels in the group worldwide, according to general manager Miloš Cerović. In the coming years it wants to improve occupancy and raise prices, but in order to do that the competition must follow suit.

Italian, Czech victories at Rogla snowboard World Cup

ZREČE - The Italians dominated the men's World Cup parallel giant slalom in Slovenia's ski resort Rogla, whereas the Czech Republic took the top place in the women's race. Italy's Edwin Corrati beat his countryman Roland Fischnaller to defend last year's win in Rogla. Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic won the women's race, beating Germany's Ramona Theresia Hofmeister.

Skilled climber falls to death in Jezersko area

JEZERSKO - Grega Lačen, one of Slovenia's top mountain climbers, was killed on Friday after falling from a great height while descending one of the peaks in the Kamnik-Savinja Alps near Jezersko in northern Slovenia. The police have ruled out any foul play.

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18 Jan 2020, 03:52 AM

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Johansson calls for unity in tackling migrations

LJUBLJANA - European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said it was urgent for all EU members to work together to find the right solution to the migration issue, as she paid an official visit. She said a new EU pact on migration and asylum which she was entrusted with drafting by the Commission president should bring a fresh start in this field. Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said Slovenia was ready to debate new concepts and had been constructive all along. He said it was important "to get a new legal basis for the common European asylum system as soon as possible".

Ex-environment minister hushes rumour green party in the making

LJUBLJANA - Jure Leben, the popular environment minister who had to resign a year ago over allegations concerning his previous job, declined to comment on a newspaper report alleging he was forming a new green party with a well-known Slovenian environmental activist. The activist, Urša Zgojznik, confirmed for the newspaper Večer that talks with Leben on cooperation in a potential new green party were under way, but "things are not as far yet that we could talk of a concrete project." Rumours that Leben is forming his own green party have been rife for months, but he would not comment for the STA today. "If he's forming a party I wish him good luck," PM Marjan Šarec commented.

EU Commission to aid Slovenian mining regions

LJUBLJANA - The Infrastructure Ministry said that the European Commission would provide technical assistance in bringing about a green shift in Slovenia's Zasavje region and Šalek Valley, known for their coal industries. Slovenia is also expected to reap the benefits of the emerging Just Transition Fund, as the Commission had accepted its proposal to assist both regions in a just transition of phasing out coal. This week, the EU Commission presented the EUR 7.5 billion Just Transition Fund. According to unofficial sources, Slovenia is set to get EUR 92 million.

Builders flock to work on Divača-Koper rail expansion

LJUBLJANA - More than two dozen companies from Slovenia, China, Turkey and several other countries have submitted bids for the principal construction works on the new rail section from Divača to Koper, kicking off what promises to be a fierce contest for an estimated EUR 700 million. 2TDK, the state-owned company managing the project, revealed it had received 15 bids for the section from the inland hub Divača to Črni Kal and 14 bids for the section from Črni Kal to Koper. There are five Slovenian firms among the bidders. Most notably, Kolektor, the country's no. 1 builder, submitted bids for both sections, both in conjunction with Turkish bidders Yapi Merkezi and Ozlatin Insaat.

Russian investors bidding for Adria Airways licences

LJUBLJANA - The auction of Adria Airways' bankruptcy assets due next Thursday has sparked considerable interest with investors linked to the Russian state-owned aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi confirming their interest. The bankruptcy administrator has received five bids for the remaining assets of the Slovenian airline, including its air operator certificate (AOC) and various other licences. Media reports indicate that entrepreneur Joc Pečečnik is interested in business as a whole, and Izet Rastoder, a developer and fruit importer, is keen to obtain the AOC for commercial flights.

Croatian ambassador points to role of EU enlargement

LJUBLJANA - Croatian Ambassador to Slovenia Boris Grigić highlighted the importance of EU enlargement as he addressed Slovenian MPs to present Croatia's EU presidency's priorities in the first half of 2020. Asked how the EU could be brought closer to the Western Balkans as the people there had started losing trust in it, he said this would be done "when we again stress the EU's desire and will for these countries to join the EU and set clear rules, which people will be aware of". Grigić also agreed with the Slovenian MPs that Slovenia and Croatia were "natural allies".

PM promises steps to tackle SMEs' problems

LJUBLJANA - Representatives of small business complained at a meeting with Prime Minister Marjan Šarec that their demands remained unmet, with Šarec assuring them the government was working on solving their problems. Branko Meh, the head of the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS), noted that small business represents 99.3% of the Slovenian economy. "This is why we deserve special attention from the government," he said. Šarec told OZS members that the government was well aware of their problems. "We cannot say nothing has been done; we have certainly made small steps to improve the situation."

Govt wants to set up domestic sludge treatment system

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Environment Ministry is looking for a sustainable solution after Hungary has decided to stop importing sewage sludge, including from Slovenia. Minister Simon Zajc announced more concrete plans will be presented in two weeks' time, as sludge has already started to pile up at some municipal waste utilities. Zajc told the press this week talks with Hungary on a transitional period had failed, so he was seeking to make Slovenia self-sufficient in sewage sludge management. "As long as we are not self-sufficient, we'll be vulnerable," he said, adding that the goal was a sustainable solution of a domestic system of sludge treatment.

Krka expects bribery investigation results by end of month

NOVO MESTO - Krka said that its internal investigation into alleged bribery activities in the Slovenian pharma company's Romanian subsidiary was expected to be completed by the end of January. If any irregularities affecting Krka's business performance are indeed uncovered, it would publicly report on them. Reports of alleged irregularities made headlines this week, with the Romanian newspaper Libertatea reporting on alleged long-term systemic bribery in Krka's Romanian branch, claiming it had proof of kickbacks being paid to doctors to prescribe Krka products.

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17 Jan 2020, 04:30 AM

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Judicial Council-backed candidates favourites for Slovenian EU judges

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor completed two-day consultations with parliamentary parties on the most suitable candidates for two Slovenian judges at the EU's General Court in Luxembourg. Klemen Podobnik and Jure Vidmar enjoy the most support among deputy groups. From a total of eight candidates, the Judicial Council had backed Podobnik for one post and Nina Savin Bossière and Jure Vidmar for the other. Pahor will now have to send his nominations to parliament, where the candidates need to secure 46 votes to get appointed.

Šarec says whoever is new DeSUS leader will be his partner

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec denied his interference in the coalition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) pre-congress developments, denying the speculation that DeSUS leader Karel Erjavec's ministerial seat is at stake due to a somewhat awkward way of handling Slovenian troops' temporary withdrawal from Iraq. "Whoever is elected, will be my partner, and this must not affect the government's performance," Šarec told TV Slovenija on Wednesday, just days before DeSUS meets for a congress to elect a new party leader.

Medical Chamber drafts own bill to reduce waiting times

LJUBLJANA - Unhappy with the government's slow tackling of waiting times in the public healthcare system, the Medical Chamber has drafted a bill to reduce them and found a party, New Slovenia (NSi), to file it to parliament. The bill proposes for the ZZZS public health fund to be allowed to commission all medical services providers, including private ones, to carry out additional medical services, especially where waiting times are very long. The types and scope of services would be set by the government, the chamber's president Zdenka Čebašek-Travnik said.

SDS proposes reviving conscription

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) put forward an amendment to reinstate compulsory military service. The party says the proposal enjoys cross-partisan support, so it expects it to push through the first parliamentary reading. They propose male citizens enter the draft aged 18 and start performing compulsory military service at the age of 19 or after graduating from university. Women would not be required to serve. Military service would take six months, while alternative civilian service would last a year.

Left fails to get support for condemnation of US policy towards Iran

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Left failed in its attempt to make the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee condemn the use of US military force in the Middle East and call on the government to express opposition to the US policy towards Iran. Several MPs accused the Left of attempting to score political points. Committee chair Matjaž Nemec of the Social Democrats (SD) meanwhile pointed to the "paradox" of some on the right claiming Slovenian foreign policy was servile to the Iranian regime, and a part of the left opposition that it is servile to the US.

Slovenia continues to be attractive to Austrian investors

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia remains an attractive destination for Austrian investors, shows this year's survey of the representation of the Austrian economy in Slovenia, Advantage Austria Ljubljana, but its director Peter Hasslacher urged concrete measures and reforms to tackle persisting problems. The survey, carried out at the end of last year, shows 75% of Austrian entrepreneurs in Slovenia believing the country will also be attractive for new investments this year. "The result is good, but is average in comparison to a year ago, when it was record-high at 91%," Hasslacher told the press as he presented the survey.

Ljubljana mayor's son found guilty of abetting forgery

LJUBLJANA - Businessman Damijan Janković, the son of Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković, was fined EUR 2,000 for abetting a tax fraud scheme involving two luxury apartments that ultimately benefited his business partners at the expense of the treasury. Their company has been implicated in several cases that directly involve the mayor. Janković's business partners, Ivan Mikulin and Boštjan Stamejčič, received suspended sentences of 14 months and 17 months, respectively, plus fines of EUR 2,550 and EUR 6,000, as Ljubljana District Court announced the verdict.

Slovenian households better off in 2019

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's households found it easier to earn enough money to live on in 2019 compared to the previous year. Their material capability increased as the share of households who had zero struggles in making ends meet was up by two percentage points to 19%. A greater number of households could afford week-long holidays and handle unexpected expenses, show Statistics Office data. There was also a 4% drop in households who struggled to make ends meet (20%).

More money set aside in 2020 for community work placements

LJUBLJANA - The Employment Service said it will disburse EUR 22.3 million for community work placements, the main workfare scheme in Slovenia, this year. This should suffice to activate 4,400 long-term unemployed persons. The available amount is significantly higher than the EUR 15 million available for 2019 and marks a sharp increase over the EUR 9 million originally announced in December. The programme targets those who have been jobless for at least a year.

Slovenia Eurotransplant member for 20 years

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia marked the 20th anniversary since joining Eurotransplant, the international non-profit organ sharing organisation. Officials at the UKC Ljubljana medical centre said that Slovenia exchanges between 50 and 60 organs through Eurotransplant every year. UKC Ljubljana transplants between 110 and 120 organs a year with a high success rate. Slovenia is also the world leader by the number of heart transplants per capita.

Personalised books netted Slovenian company EUR 27m in 2019

LJUBLJANA - Hooray Studios, a Ljubljana-based start-up that specialises in personalised children's books, is growing rapidly after expanding to foreign markets. Sales revenue more than doubled in 2019 to EUR 27 million, said the company, which has sold over a million books since its inception in 2013.
Starting out in Slovenia, the company first branched into Italy and Germany, but now it also has subsidiaries in the US and UK, where it sells its products under the Hooray Heroes brand.

Basketball star made Slovenian tourism ambassador

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian NBA star Luka Dončić has become an ambassador of Slovenia's tourism and, apart from popularising basketball, he will now promote the country's unique attractions and investment opportunities. Slovenia also plans to put an ad in the special All-star Weekend magazine, with the 20-year-old promoting his country on social media, sharing photos, videos, links and information. The launch of the country's special All-Star mid-February issue ad will coincide with the highly-publicized event in which Dončić is expected to participate.

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16 Jan 2020, 04:13 AM

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Photographer and ballet dancer win this year's Prešeren Prize

LJUBLJANA - Photographer Stojan Kerbler, 81, and ballet dancer and choreographer Milko Šparemblek, 91, are the winners of this year's Prešeren Prize for lifetime accomplishments in the arts. The Prešeren Fund Prizes for achievements in the past three years will go to graphic designer Nejc Prah, actress Nina Ivanišin, composer and accordionist Luka Juhart, film director Rok Biček, translator Suzana Koncut and costume designer Alan Hranitelj, the Prešeren Fund Committee announced. According to tradition, the awards ceremony will be held on 7 February, the eve of Culture Day.

Pahor rejects criticism over Iraq troop withdrawal

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor sought to counter mounting criticism following the decision to bring back the six Slovenian troops serving in Iraq, rejecting the allegation that the move tarnished the reputation of the country and its armed forces. The decision to bring the rotation back early from Erbil in the wake of the Iranian attacks on the air base there, "was right in the context of all circumstances", Pahor said in a video address. "The main reason was the fact that conditions were not met for them to perform their mission, which is to train the Kurdish security forces."

Šarec tells Janša there are no reasons for government collapse

LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec told today's Delo there was no reason for his government to fall, as he responded to an assessment by opposition Democrat (SDS) leader Janez Janša that the coalition was clinically dead. He also noted Janša had had the opportunity to form a government after the 2018 election but had rejected it. While he admitted problems did exist, Šarec said that "if all of us worked for the same goal, we would be able to solve many of these problems".

President consulting parties on EU General Court judges

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor started consultations with parliamentary factions to determine which candidates for two slots on the EU General Court in Luxembourg reserved for Slovenia enjoy support in parliament, but statements by deputy group leaders indicate everything remains open for now. The three candidates backed by the Judicial Council - Klemen Podobnik, Nina Savin Bossière and Jure Vidmar - are the favourites, as three coalition parties and one opposition party support either all three or at least two of them. But the conservative opposition refrained from naming any favourites, and highlighted potential problems in the selection criteria.

Group fighting church sex abuse calls for resignation of Archbishop Zore

LJUBLJANA - A Catholic civil society group dedicated to fighting sexual abuse in the Slovenian Roman Catholic Church called for the resignation of Slovenia's most senior cleric, Ljubljana Archbishop Stanislav Zore, due to the church's persistent failure to tackle sexual abuse allegations. The Dovolj.je (It's Enough) group has so far received 38 reports by victims against 22 priests. The Slovenian Bishops' Conference rejected the call as "unfounded", saying it was under Zore's chairmanship of the conference that the church had continued taking action against sexual abuse.

Competitiveness among main goals of farming development strategy

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Agriculture Committee debated a future agriculture and food production strategy, expressing support for the document while pointing to the issue of small size of Slovenian farms, age structure of farmers and the lack of competitiveness of Slovenia's agriculture sector. Presenting the draft resolution on the national programme on strategic guidelines for the development of Slovenian agriculture and food production, Agriculture Minister Aleksandra Pivec said the main goals were resilient and competitive growing and processing of food and sustainable management of natural resources.

Government drafts 30-year spatial development strategy

LJUBLJANA - A spatial development strategy until 2050, a 85-page document drafted by the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry, entered a two-month public consultation period. Minister Simon Zajc said it provided a vision, goals and concept of the country's spatial development, addressing numerous trends related to demographic and climate changes. The ministry expects it to be passed in parliament by the end of the year.

Eritreans protest against rejection of asylum applications

LJUBLJANA - A group of five Eritrean citizens whose asylum applications were rejected in December staged a protest in Ljubljana to point to what they believe is systematic rejection of Eritreans by state authorities, whose decisions suggest that Eritrea is a safe country while it is actually among the most repressive regimes in the world. The protesters and their supporters highlighted the fact that Slovenia had until recently been granting international protection to Eritrean citizens as part of the EU relocation scheme. The Interior Ministry rejected the allegations about unprofessional and politically motivated decisions, adding all applications were treated individually and all personal circumstances of every applicant were considered.

Provocative Christmas tweet sparks protest

LJUBLJANA - Several hundred people turned up to protest in front of Government Palace over a single provocative Christmas Eve Twitter post by Education Ministry State Secretary Jernej Štromajer that conservatives have interpreted as deriding Christmas and Christians. The protesters, a mix of Christian conservatives and right wing politicians, carried banners with slogans such as "We're not giving up Christmas", "Shame on you, Jernej" and "We're not filthy animals," as they called for his resignation. They said the activities will continue until he steps down.

Počivalšek offers support for Albanian tourism after quake

TIRANA, Albania - Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek attended a regional tourism summit in Albania dedicated to solidarity and sustainability, at which he was one of the introductory speakers, according to today's release from his ministry. The event, hosted by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Albanian Ministry of Tourism and Environment, discussed the experience Albanian providers of accommodation for tourists had with the recent earthquake. Počivalšek also met Minister for the Protection of Entrepreneurship Eduard Shalsi.

NLB asset managing arm looks back on successful year

LJUBLJANA - NLB Skladi, the asset management arm of NLB bank, attained a market share in excess of 34% in 2019, the largest among all Slovenian mutual funds, managing more than EUR 1 billion in mutual funds. Slovenian mutual fund managers saw assets under their watch rise by more than 20% last year to EUR 3.01 billion. The bulk of the growth was generated through an increase in the value of investment, with net payments into the funds amounting to EUR 83.6 million, NLB Skladi told the press.

Ljubljana airport passenger traffic down 5%

BRNIK - The Ljubljana international airport saw a 5% drop in passenger traffic in 2019 over 2018, welcoming some 1.72 million of passengers, its operator Fraport Slovenija said. The downturn coincided with flag carrier Adria Airways going into receivership at the end of September. In December, the airport recorded an almost 22% drop in passenger traffic, with cargo traffic decreasing by 2.5%. At the annual level, the latter decreased by 8%.

Average salaries up in November

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's average net pay for November was EUR 1,235, up by 10% in nominal terms and 9.9% in real terms compared to October. Year on year, it rose by 4.1% nominally and 2.7% in real terms. The surge was due to extra payments at the end of 2019, such as Christmas and performance bonuses, shows the Statistics Office data. Meanwhile, the average gross pay rose by 9% nominally to EUR 1,898, up 8.9% in real terms compared to October.

Road traffic safety declined in 2019

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's road safety statistics for 2019 shows a 12% rise in the number of road traffic deaths - more than 100 persons lost their lives in road accidents, mostly due to drink driving, speeding and reckless driving. Drivers under influence caused more than 1,520 accidents, killing some 30 persons, a slight rise compared to 2018. The Traffic Agency highlighted the importance of raising awareness about responsible driving, as it presented the statistics.

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15 Jan 2020, 03:51 AM

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Ruling parties deny talks on alternative coalition

LJUBLJANA - The partners in the coalition led by the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) - SMC, SAB, SD and DeSUS - denied speculations that tentative talks are already under way on the formation of possible alternative coalition after Janez Janša, the leader of the opposition SDS, said that such talks were already ongoing. The coalition is nevertheless in a precarious position, as DeSUS holds an election congress on Saturday and PM Šarec has indirectly backed an opponent of the current party president. DeSUS deputy group leader Franc Jurša said Šarec "may be opening too many fronts at once".

Wiesenthal Center slams voiding of collaborationist general's conviction

JERUSALEM, Israel - The Simon Wiesenthal Center criticized the recent decision by the Slovenian Supreme Court to annul the 1946 conviction of Leon Rupnik, who headed the Provisional Government of the Nazi-occupied Province of Ljubljana. In a letter sent to the Slovenian ambassador in Israel, the organisation said the "notorious anti-Semite" had played "a major role in the arrest and deportation of Jews from Ljubljana in 1943 and 1944". It said the "shameful decision constitutes a shocking distortion of the history of the Holocaust and a horrific insult to Rupnik's many victims and their families."

Disabled claim EUR 53m in damages over lack of voter access

LJUBLJANA - The European Court of Human Rights Court has admitted an application by two disabled persons in wheelchairs who are suing Slovenia over lack of proper accessibility to polling stations and voting. The jurist that co-wrote their application, Jurij Toplak, says that given the case law Slovenia is expected to be ordered to pay EUR 3,000 to each disabled. For the same reason, the Association for the Rights of the Disabled claims EUR 54 million from the state, or else it will bring a class action lawsuit.

First repatriates from Venezuela arrive in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA - The Government Office for Slovenians Abroad confirmed that the first Venezuelans of Slovenian descent had arrived in Slovenia at the start of the largest repatriation project in the country prompted by the Venezuela crisis. The office would not reveal any details, but the newspaper Dnevnik reported that a family of four and a married couple had arrived from Venezuela. The government has set aside EUR 1.2 million for the project with 53 persons so far applying for resettlement.

NBI boss: Fighting crime should adapt faster to new technologies

LJUBLJANA - Darko Muženič, director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), does not think there are untouchables in Slovenia, but he does think that procedures are taking too long. He told the STA in an interview that crime investigation and prosecution should adapt to globalisation and new technologies to keep up with offenders. Muženič would like to staff up the bureau, mainly with operational analysts and computer forensic specialists. One of his priorities is cracking down on money laundering, while he also notes insufficient awareness about the damage caused by financial crime.

Cerar attends Green Group ministerial in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UAE - Foreign Minister Miro Cerar attended a ministerial of the Slovenian-sponsored Green Group initiative to discuss preparations for the Expo 2020 Dubai, where Slovenia's presentation will revolve around innovative sustainable development practices under the slogan Green Smart Experience. He also held a bilateral meeting with his Emirati counterpart Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and and Thani Ahmed Al-Zeyoudi, the minister of climate change and environment.

NGO launches anti-hate speech campaign

LJUBLJANA - A media literacy NGO launched a campaign to draw attention to the funding of media outlets which it says spread hate and intolerance by means of public funds. Until the end of the year, Državljan D (Citizen D) will organise debates on the topic in 16 towns around the country. The NGO head Domen Savič said one of the main sources of hate speech was "the media united into a Western Balkan network of propaganda factories" indirectly managed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Guilty verdict of radiologist Milošević statute-barred

LJUBLJANA - A higher court threw out the guilty verdict of radiologist Zoran Milošević over bribery because the case has become statute-barred following an appeal. Milošević, the chief defendant in a separate trial relating to the biggest health corruption case in the country's history, had received a suspended prison sentence of ten months for accepting a EUR 7,200 bribe in exchange for making sure the country's largest hospital chose a specific company Animus as the supplier of a medicinal device.

Semenič wins Blue Bird prize for youth novel

LJUBLJANA - The acclaimed playwright Simona Semenič won the Blue Bird Prize for the best as yet unpublished youth novel for her work "Skrivno Društvo KRVZ" (KRVZ Secret Society), set to be released in April. It tells the story of a group of friends and their adventures including dragons and secret maps. Semenič will also receive EUR 10,000 that comes with what the prize, conferred by publisher Mladinska Knjiga biennially for designated genres.

Handballers enter main round at Euro undefeated

GOTHENBURG, Sweden - The Slovenian men's handball team made it to the main round of the European Championship featuring the best 12 teams at the tournament after winning all three matches in the preliminary round. The easy 29:25 win against Switzerland came after Slovenia opened the tournament in Group F by beating Poland 26:23, and followed the win up with a tough 21:19 victory against the Swedes. Head coach Ljubomir Vranješ said the players "showed character", including the younger and lesser used players, which showed that "we have breadth in the team".

Jakupović falls victim to Melbourne air

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian tennis player Dalila Jakupović started the Australia Open qualifying tournament on Tuesday, but conceded after leading the match against Switzerland's Stefanie Vögele 6-4, 5-6 due to uncontrollable coughing and breathing difficulties, likely caused by smoke and air pollution from the bush fires. It is yet unclear whether her coughing fit was directly linked to fires wreaking havoc on air quality, but many players and coaches urged the organisers to postpone the qualifiers.

Slovenian highlands inhabited more than 2,500 years ago

BOHINJ - Archaeologists have unearthed new evidence showing that the Slovenian Alps were inhabited earlier than 2,500 years ago. It is thought Iron Age people were breeding cattle and mining iron ore in the area. The findings were made last year during excavations at the Bošinka Plateau in the Triglav mountain range, which turned up the foundations of a hut and a number of tiny objects such as pot shards and clothing fasteners. A charcoal sample dated in to the early Iron Age.

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14 Jan 2020, 04:08 AM

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Janša thinks early election possible

LJUBLJANA - Janez Janša, the leader of the opposition Democrats (SDS), believes that the coalition is "clinically dead", and with the current balance of power making it impossible to build a strong alternative majority, he thinks an early election is in the cards. Janša told TV Slovenija in a rare interview late on Sunday that "it will be clear in the next few weeks" whether someone is ambitious enough to try to put together a government. Opposition New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin confirmed today his party was taking part in talks about a potential new coalition, saying such talks were under way all the time. MP Jerca Korče of the ruling Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), on the other hand, said that the government was far from clinically dead.

PM reacts to controversial Christmas greeting

LJUBLJANA - PM Marjan Šarec responded to a Christmas greeting Education Ministry State Secretary Jernej Štromajer had posted on Twitter and the backlash it had caused, by saying that the post was "highly inappropriate" for a senior state official. He added that if Štromajer were a member of his party or his cabinet, he would have been dismissed immediately. On Christmas Eve, Štromajer twitted a photo saying "Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal", a well-known quote from Christmas classic Home Alone 2.

Minister: Measures more important than declaring climate emergency

LJUBLJANA - Environment Minister Simon Zajc responded to calls for Slovenia to declare a state of climate emergency from NGOs as well as the parliamentary speaker and a special climate policy panel of experts at the Slovenian president's office. "Concrete measures are more important than declaring a climate crisis," he said, adding the measures would be set down in the emerging national climate strategy until 2050. It is important to see if a majority in parliament supports the necessary measures that would have to be taken if a climate emergency is declared, he said.

Five hospitals must return EUR 5m in bailout funds

LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Delo reported that five hospitals must return a total of EUR 4.9 million in the restructuring funds they had received from the state in 2017 because the funds had not been spent withn the deadline, which was however set retroactively. The decision of the Budget Supervision Office concerns the Ljubljana Institute of Oncology, the Slovenj Gradec, Celje and Trbovlje general hospitals and the Kranj Maternity Hospital. The Institute of Oncology has already returned EUR 3 million to the state budget, while the others will appeal the decision. On 30 November 2017, 15 hospitals received EUR 136 million to get out of the red by the end of 2021. In July 2018, the government set, upon intervention of the Budget Supervision Office, the cut-off date for spending the funds.

Chemistry Institute gets follow-up grant for CRISPR innovation

LJUBLJANA - A senior National Chemistry Institute researcher has received a EUR 150,000 follow-up grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to develop applications for a novel gene-editing method that was discovered as part of an earlier ERC grant. Roman Jerala, the head of the Chemistry Institute's synthetic biology department, had received the prestigious EUR 2.5 million ERC advanced grant for protein research in 2018 and his team have already discovered a novel way to use the popular CRISPR gene editing technique.

Energy group GEN's annual revenue at EUR 2.2bn

KRŠKO - Power utility group GEN generated EUR 2.2 billion in revenue and EUR 48 million a net profit last year, and invested EUR 100 million. The parent company, GEN Energija, generated EUR 207 million in revenue and EUR 26 million in net profit. The group, which exceeded plans by 25%, had a good business year, GEN Energija CEO Martin Novšak told the press. Even if the government has not taken any final decision on building a second nuclear reactor in the country, GEN Energija, which manages Slovenia's only N-plant NEK, will continue planning its construction, deeming the project "economically viable and justified from the aspect of the environment and climate".

Human rights ombudsman meets Austrian counterpart

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina met his Austrian counterpart Werner Amon, who is also secretary general of the International Ombudsman Institute, to discuss cooperation between ombudsmen in Europe. The institute was formed in 1978 to promote the role of ombudsman, cooperation and know-how exchange, with Slovenia being its member for more than a decade.

Maritime pilot hero honoured for preventing disaster

LJUBLJANA - The Environment Ministry gave out its first environmental award today to honour Andrej Gorup, a maritime pilot working in the port of Koper who prevented an environmental disaster in April 2019. Gorup rerouted a Swedish oil tanker heading towards the port with an alarming speed. The tanker was carrying between 25,000 and 28,000 tonnes of diesel fuel, according to Gorup's estimate.

Slightly fewer cars sold last year

LJUBLJANA - Some 84,350 new cars and vans were sold in Slovenia in 2019, which is 1% less than the year before. Volkswagen dominated the market, selling the most cars, followed by Renault and Škoda. Some 73,190 cars were sold last year, a 2% drop compared to 2018. The number of vans registered for the first time increased by 6% to 11,160, shows data provided by the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce.

Ambitious Brda Spa project proceeding

GORIŠKA BRDA - A project to build a spa resort complex in the heart of Brda, a popular wine region in western Slovenia, has been given fresh impetus, as an investment agreement was signed last week between the Brda authorities and an Italian fund. Construction is expected to start in the near future. The EUR 50 million investment is expected to boost tourism and create new jobs.

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13 Jan 2020, 04:13 AM

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Anniversary of Dražgoše battle marked

DRAŽGOŠE - Several thousand people made the pilgrimage to the village of Dražgoše in north-west Slovenia to attend a ceremony marking the 78th anniversary of a battle that is seen as one of the defining events of WWII on Slovenian soil.Senior official including President Borut Pahor, Speaker Dejan Židan, Defence Minister Karl Erjavec, former president Milan Kučan and several other cabinet members and MPs from the ranks of leftist parties were on hand.

Renault Clio named Slovenian car of the year

LJUBLJANA - Renault's Clio, which has been among the best selling car in Slovenia since its launch in 1990, has been named the Slovenian car of 2020. The French car maker's supermini beat Opel Corsa, Volkswagen T-Cross, Škoda Kamiq and Mazda CX-30 in a competition organised by the Slovenian automotive media for the 28th time.

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