22 Jul 2022, 12:05 PM

STA, 22 July 2022 - Russia has added Slovenia on the list of countries considered unfriendly by the Kremlin, according to a report by the Russian press agency Tass. This means Slovenia will no longer be allowed to hire employees for its diplomatic missions in Russia.

"The government has updated the list of foreign states that commit unfriendly acts against Russian diplomatic and consular missions abroad. The list now also includes Greece, Denmark, Slovakia, Slovenia and Croatia," Tass quoted a press release from the Russian government.

Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an executive order on measures against listed countries on 23 April.

Apart from the countries, the list also specifies the number of individuals in Russia that the listed countries and their diplomatic offices can hire.

Greece has a limit of 34 people, Denmark 20, Slovakia 16, while Slovenia and Croatia can no longer employ any people for their diplomatic missions or consular institutions.

In May 2021, Russia imposed such restrictions on the US and the Czech Republic. Tass reports that the list may be expanded further.

Russia in May ordered Slovenia to reduce its diplomatic personnel by four. Marking the 30th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, the Russian Foreign Ministry expressed regret that the Slovenian authorities had adopted a position hostile to Russia.

18 Jul 2022, 11:36 AM

STA, 18 July 2022 - Slovenian police handled 6,006 cases of migrants crossing into the country illegally in the first half of the year, an increase of 75% from the same period a year ago. Almost a quarter of the migrants intercepted were from Afghanistan.

Police statistics show nearly half of all cases were handled by the Koper Police Department with the Novo Mesto Department also reporting considerable increase in cases.

The number of migrants indicating their intention to apply for international protection status nearly quadrupled to 5,209, mainly due to a strong increase in applications submitted by Afghanistan nationals.

The police also handled 6,101 applications for temporary protection, almost all of which were by Ukrainian citizens.

Afghanistan was the biggest source of illegal migration to Slovenia as the number of migrants from there more than doubled year-on-year to 1,316.

Pakistani nationals followed as the second largest group (718) ahead of Indians. The number of the latter rose from just 18 in the first half of last year to 473 in the same period this year.

There has also been a substantial increase in migrants from Nepal, from 46 to 274 this year. After no illegal migrants from Cuba or Burundi were registered in the first six months of 2021, 257 and 227 cases from those countries, respectively, were handled this year.

Of the 3,748 applications for international status received, 3,356 were solved, of which 98 positively. 40 applications were rejected, procedure was halted for 1,767 of them and 1,451 were thrown out.

Foreign law enforcement authorities returned 240 migrants to Slovenian police in the first half of the year, which compares to 77 in the same period a year ago. Most (173) were returned through airport.

Slovenian police sent back 1,206 migrants in the period, the vast majority to Croatia (1,115). In the same period last year a total of 1,658 migrants were returned by Slovenia, of whom 1,595 to Croatia.

16 Jul 2022, 07:00 AM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 8 July
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court legalised same-sex marriage and adoptions with immediate effect after finding legislation under which only heterosexual partners can marry and adopt children to be in contravention of the constitutional ban on discrimination. The court gave parliament six months to amend the law, as the government and the gay community welcomed the decision.
        LJUBLJANA - Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked European countries, including Slovenia, for their support for Ukraine in its fight for freedom as he addressed the National Assembly via video call. He also called on Slovenian companies to join Ukraine's post-war reconstruction. The event was attended by Slovenia's top officials, President Borut Pahor, PM Robert Golob and speakers of both houses of parliament.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted an emergency bill estimated at over EUR 200 million that is designed to reduce waiting times for health services. The core provision is the removal of the cap on the number of services the ZZZS public health insurer pays in a given year for the period between 1 September 2022 and end-2023.
        LJUBLJANA - Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar announced the Slovenian army will start removing razor wire from the border with Croatia in the week starting on 11 July, an effort expected to take 150 days. The razor wire and the fence were put up in the wake of the 2015/16 migration crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - The government established a centre in Postojna to accommodate 120 Ukrainian citizens who have been granted or requested temporary protection status. The first to move will be vulnerable Ukrainian citizens who are currently at the asylum centre in Logatec.
        LJUBLJANA - The government amended a regulation on renewable sources in transport in a bid to keep fuel prices in check giving Slovenian fuel retailers greater leeway in determining how much biofuel they add to their fuels.
        POSTOJNA - TV Slovenija reported that two Ukrainian staff had allegedly physically abused Ukrainian orphans staying in Slavina near Postojna. The local social centre received several anonymous complaints and the Labour Ministry suspended the two teachers replacing them with Slovenian ones. Oversight has been beefed up.

        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's treasury extended the issue of three bonds with a total value of just under EUR 405.5 million in what the first long-term borrowing under the new government of Robert Golob. This puts Slovenia's total long-term borrowing this year at EUR 3.27 billion.
        LJUBLJANA - Delo reported that a building appearing in a new Marvel series movie is very similar to the Kolašin WWII memorial complex Slovenian architect Marko Mušič designed in Montenegro in the mid-1970s, wondering whether this could be a case of a potential copyright infringement.

SUNDAY, 10 July
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian ICT companies generated EUR 4.55 billion in revenue in 2020, 2% more than in 2019 and 34% more that a decade earlier. Their value added reached EUR 1.74 billion, 10% more than in 2019, and the number of people working in the sector exceeded 30,000, data from the Statistics Office shows.

MONDAY, 11 July
        LJUBLJANA - The Energy Agency urged Slovenian gas consumers to use natural gas with care as a precaution as it declared stage one warning to notify the public of potential disruption to supply in the future in case of reduced supplies from Russia. Companies in Slovenia are looking for alternatives, but the business chambers said this would take time, funds and cooperation, while they also expect the state to help out.
        PRAGUE, Czech Republic - Interior Minister Tanja Bobnar attended an informal EU ministerial in Prague, telling her colleagues the Slovenian police has not yet detected major security threats stemming from the war in Ukraine, but is paying close attention, including to potential human trafficking.
        LJUBLJANA - The Advocate of the Principle of Equality urged legislative changes after reviewing the international protection act to find potential discrimination in provisions on unaccompanied minors seeking international protection. The Interior Ministry said it is willing to cooperate with oversight bodies.
        LJUBLJANA - Lawyer Nataša Pirc Musar is in the lead in the presidential race, according to a poll conducted by Mediana for public broadcaster RTV Slovenija. She enjoys the support of 23.9% of respondents and is followed by ex-Foreign Minister Anže Logar (16.6%) and Freedom Movement vice-president Marta Kos (14.4%). Kos meanwhile dismissed ex-Slovenian President Milan Kučan's argument that it would be inadmissible to have members of one party holding the top three posts in the state. She believes Kučan's argument is being abused by some other presidential candidates to disqualify her from the presidential race.
        MARIBOR - The shareholders of NKBM bank decided to sell NKBM's leasing firm Summit Leasing Slovenija to Biser Topco, the Luxembourg-based owner of NKBM's owner Biser Bidco, which is owned by the US Apollo fund and the EBRD.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's electricity output dropped by over 8% in 2021 while consumption rose by 3%. The country's output met 83% of its needs, down almost 10 points from 2020 but on a par with pre-pandemic years, Energy Agency data shows.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's consumption of natural gas rose by 6% in 2021 over the year before to a record 10,163 GWh since 2010, Energy Agency data shows. The total consumption increased with all gas consumers, and is attributed to an increase in the number of gas users and colder weather.
        COPENHAGEN, Denmark - Slovenia's capital Ljubljana and the country's second largest city Maribor fared poorly among 344 cities in the European Environment Agency's city air quality rankings - placing 279th (poor air quality) and 207th (moderately clean air), respectively.
        KLAGENFURT, Austria - Florjan Lipuš, one of the most important Slovenian minority writers in the Austrian state of Carinthia, received the Grand Golden Badge of Honour of Carinthia for his contribution to the preservation of the Slovenian language and for major literary work.
        LJUBLJANA - A total of 5,194 final-year secondary school students or some 95% passed the national school-leaving exam, known as the matura exam, which is close to last year's 97%. A total of 302 students passed it with flying colours, the same as last year, while the number of candidates that scored all points, rose by 3 to 18.

TUESDAY, 12 July
        BERLIN, Germany - PM Robert Golob paid his first bilateral visit to Germany. The meeting with Chancellor Olaf Scholz focussed on the war in Ukraine and its ramifications, EU enlargement, and bilateral cooperation. Golob said the goal of getting through the winter without Russian gas was very ambitious but attainable if the EU works together. Golob and Scholz agreed that the Western Balkans had been in the waiting room for EU membership for too long.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Finance reported that Slovenian hauliers pay a lower diesel price at Petrol service stations along motorways compared to the prices others pay, as they have commercial agreements with Petrol under which diesel costs the same as outside Slovenia's motorways. Business chambers confirmed the news. The Infrastructure Ministry declined to comment, while Minister Bojan Kumer said at the end of June there would be no such double prices in Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - The European Commission filed a lawsuit against Slovenia for failing to transpose the EU directive on electronic communications. A bill that would replace the 2024 electronic communications act was voted down twice under the previous government over provisions which would allow Chinese provider Huawei's exclusion.
        LENDAVA - It was revealed that the Administrative Court ruled in June that Hungarian minority MP Ferenc Horvath did not breach incompatibility of dual office rules when also serving on the council of a Hungarian minority organisation. Horvath said the court had found no conflict of interest because he represented the interests of the Hungarian community in both offices, and ordered the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption to change its decision concerning Horvath.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition New Slovenia (NSi) expressed its opposition to the government's decision to remove the razor wire from the border with Croatia, arguing it had been taken without a security assessment and cannot be justified from the aspect of migrations and security.
        LJUBLJANA - The Economy Ministry allocated EUR 69 million to 20 projects to develop and restructure ski resorts into all-year mountain centres and construct additional or renovate the existing accommodation facilities. However, Kanin, one of the main ski resorts in dire need of an upgrade, did not make the cut.
        LJUBLJANA - The ZZZS public health insurance fund said the government-proposed EUR 200 million emergency bill aiming to cut waiting times in healthcare will not stabilise the healthcare system. The fund believes waiting lists should be brought up to date first to see how many staff and how much funds are actually needed.
        LJUBLJANA - Big Bang, the largest Slovenian consumer electronics retailer, announced it had signed a contract to acquire Sancta Domenica, one of the largest Croatian retailers in the same segment to created a strong regional player with 30 shops in two countries.
        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Dnevnik reported that after Slovenian retailer Mercator had been transformed from a joint stock company into a limited liability company at the beginning of July, its owner Fortenova is planning to merge certain business functions of Mercator and Croatian retail chain Konzum. The Mercator brand is to be preserved.

        LJUBLJANA - The newspaper Delo reported the government is in talks to potentially buy Polish KTO Rosomak troop carriers, which would cost about half the price of the 45 German-made Boxers ordered by the previous government, a deal the new government subjected to an internal review. Previous Defence Minister Matej Tonin warned the KTO Rosomak vehicles are outdated and provide a lower level of safety.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission released its third annual Rule of Law Report, with Vice President Vera Jourova saying that past developments in the media in Slovenia, including the suspension of STA financing, had prompted the Commission to start thinking about media rules that would apply to all EU states. The justice and culture ministries as well as human rights ombudsman welcomed the report, with the Journalist Trade Union saying Slovenian media landscape was at a crossroads.
        KOUROU, French Guiana - Trisat-R, a nanosatellite developed at Slovenia's University of Maribor, was launched in space in French Guiana as the third Slovenian satellite to date, in what the university hailed as "a pioneering mission" in which only three European countries are taking part - Slovenia, France and Italy.
        MARIBOR - Franc Kangler, an ex-state secretary who served as Maribor mayor in 2006-2012, will not get EUR 588,000 in damages as the Ljubljana District Court rejected in a retrial his compensation claims for the trials in which he was either acquitted or the charges were dropped, according to the media. He is only entitled to EUR 50,000 for wrongful conviction in a case concerning a flat fortune teller Karin Ježovita received from the municipality.
        SERRE CHEVALIER, France - Half way through the 2022 Tour de France, Slovenia's defending champion Tadej Pogačar lost the yellow jersey of the overall leader at the world's most prestigious road cycling race, finishing 11th stage in 7th place.

        LJUBLJANA - Electricity prices for households and small and medium-sized companies will be capped from 1 September to August 2023, and households will pay between 15% and 60% less for electricity than now, depending on provider, Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer announced.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob appealed for political unity as he set out his government's plans to ensure energy and food security and address rising prices and inflation in parliament. The government plans to double strategic food reserves and replenish fuel reserves, as it declared level 1 threat with respect to electricity production.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission upgraded its forecast for Slovenia's GDP growth from 3.7% to 5.4% for this year, but it expects growth to slow down sharply to just 1% in 2023 compared to its earlier projection of 3.1%. Slovenia is expected to enjoy the second highest growth rate in the EU after Portugal this year based on a strong carry-on effect from last year.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliament passed an emergency bill designed to tackle long wait times for health services by securing more money and prepare the system for a more sweeping reform that is to follow. It lifts the cap on the value and number of services that the public health insurer pays in a given year.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed the bill ratifying the NATO accession protocols for Finland and Sweden. Only the coalition Left reiterated its opposition to NATO enlargement and advocacy of Slovenia's quitting the alliance, voting against. PM Robert Golob said on the occasion that Finland and Sweden's decision to join NATO was "historic".
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously ratified an agreement between Slovenia and Italy on solidarity measures to safeguard the security of gas supply under which Slovenia can ask Italy to supply gas to protected customers in the event of supply disruptions, and vice versa.
        LJUBLJANA - The MPs passed an omnibus act filed to parliament with voter signatures to change eleven laws passed under the previous government that the 8 March Institute NGO deemed harmful to equality, human rights and the rule of law. The act restores the legislation to the state before it was amended by the Janez Janša government in fast-track procedures or without consulting experts.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the act on RTV Slovenija with which the government would like to reduce what it sees as the influence of politics on the public broadcaster. Under the changes, the existing programming council and the supervisory board will be replaced with a single council with 17 members in which more power would be given to the civil society and staff.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a bill on personal data protection that aims to transpose the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) into Slovenia's legislation. The Information Commissioner welcomed the move, noting that Slovenia remains the only EU member state that failed to draft new legislation following the GDPR.
        LJUBLJANA - Pharmaceutical company Lek confirmed reports it had discovered an error in its calculations of wages which led to its staff being underpaid in the last 20 years by a combined total of about EUR 100 million. Lek plans to reimburse all current and former employees for the last five years with default interest for the last three years, the minimum required by law, despite appeals by trade unions for more money.
        LJUBLJANA - A further 1,738 people tested positive for coronavirus in Slovenia in the latest daily count, an increase of 6% from the same day a week ago. Hospitalisations rose by 12 to 66 in a week, with ICU cases down by one to seven.


15 Jul 2022, 09:03 AM

STA, 14 July 2022 - The MPs passed in a 52:27 vote on Thursday an omnibus act filed to parliament with voter signatures to change eleven laws passed under the previous government. The laws have been deemed by the 8 March Institute NGO as harmful to equality, human rights and the rule of law. The opposition SDS plans to challenge the act at the Constitutional Court.

The act on reducing inequalities and harmful political interference and ensuring the respect for the rule of law - the name under which it was filed to parliament - restores the legislation to the state before it was amended by the Janez Janša government either in fast-track procedures or without consulting experts.

The act has enjoyed the support of the parties that formed the new government after the 24 April election since it was presented this spring.

It prevents political staffing in the police force, foremost the National Bureau of Investigation, and interference in independence of state prosecutors.

The legal basis for the entry of platforms such as Uber onto the Slovenian market is being eliminated, and environmental NGOs will again more easily take part in planning procedures.

The culture minister will lose some powers in awarding public funds in public tenders while the Culture Ministry's expert commissions will gain some.

The act changes the corporate income tax act in that it lowers the basis for partly recognised entertainment costs and costs of oversight bodies.

Finance Ministry State Secretary Tilen Božič said during today's debate that this particular change will increase annual budgetary revenue by EUR 2.6 million.

The construction law, which excluded architects and landscape architects from being in charge of construction projects, will also be restored to the previous state. This has upset civil engineers, who have announced they will fight the latest changes with all legal means.

The act moreover changes the composition of councils at education institutions where the number of staff representatives was reduced, and foreign students will no longer have to have EUR 5,000 in their bank account as one of the conditions to study in Slovenia.

The act was endorsed by the coalition Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and Left, who said they thus met their pre-election pledge of cooperation with NGOs.

Voting against were the opposition Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi), which argued it would be better to amend each of the 11 laws separately to enhance transparency, a point also raised by the National Assembly's legal service.

The SDS and NSi also find it problematic that the act cannot be put to a referendum as it contains changes to the corporate income tax act.

SDS MP Dejan Kaloh said claiming the changes passed under the previous government had "harmful consequences" was premature due to the short period since the legislation was passed.

Coalition SD MP Meira Hot meanwhile stressed the previous government had "planted" into coronavirus emergency legislation "a number of changes that had little to do with the pandemic but have permanently changed some social and systemic relations".

Today's debate largely focussed on changes to the weapons act which narrow down the eligibility to buy semi-automatic firearms.

The SDS argued this would amount to abolishing some sports, but Interior Ministry State Secretary Branko Lobnikar said the act does not ban any sport weapons. He explained the EU has made purchases of these weapons more difficult in the wake of terrorist attacks in Europe.

The 8 March Institute started thinking about drafting the act in November and collected some 15,000 signatures in spring to file it to parliament, while 5,000 are needed.

"We were wondering how to put an end to the feelings of helplessness when the previous government was trampling on democracy," its head Nika Kovač told the press before today's vote, happy that by supporting the act the coalition kept its pre-election promise of working with the civil society.

"Natural disasters call for emergency measures but the last two years were a natural disaster for the country's democracy," said Goran Forbici, head of one of the NGOs which helped the 8 March Institute in the omnibus bill effort.

Kovač said the whole effort was not easy as they had been constantly attacked and criticised, and announced legal action against those who insulted them and told lies at the Home Affairs Committee session on Tuesday.

Forbici, head of the Centre of NGOs of Slovenia, responded to the view that it would be better to amend each law separately, saying it would take four years to complete the process.

15 Jul 2022, 08:44 AM

STA, 15 July 2022 - Slovenia will start removing the fence from its border with Croatia on Friday. The fence was erected in 2015 in response to the refugee crisis that saw thousands of immigrants cross Slovenia from the south.

The news portal N1 reported that troops will start removing the 51 kilometres of barbed wire, after which the remaining 143 kilometres of wire fence will be removed by a contractor that is yet to be selected.

The launch of the removal will be attended by Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar and acting Police Commissioner Boštjan Lindav.

The minister recently announced that Slovenia would change its migration policy, focusing on human rights and solidarity.

Countries must adapt their policies and measures to the situation in local and global environment and measures must be in proportion to the security situation, the ministry has said in a press release.

The fence was erected as a temporary measure. "It is inadmissible for it to become a permanent element of Slovenia's border policy."

However, the opposition believes that the government's decision to remove the fence had not been preceded with a security assessment and was made without expert reasoning.

New Slovenia (NSi) believes the security situation will deteriorate and recommends that government be selective in deciding which parts of the fence should be removed.

14 Jul 2022, 10:29 AM

STA, 13 July 2022 - As the European Commission released its third annual Rule of Law Report on Wednesday, its Vice President Vera Jourova said past developments in the media in Slovenia, including the suspension of financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), have prompted the Commission to start considering media rules that will apply to all EU member states.

"I will not hide that the situation in Slovenia, especially what we saw in the past, with the difficulties in the financing of the STA, and some other issues caused that we started thinking about having some legally binding rules, which will apply across all EU member states and which will protect media space better," Jourova said in response to a question about the developments at RTV Slovenija.

The Commission reacted with the preparation of a media freedom act where the Commission addresses the issues of public and private media, also with respect to financing and stability of functioning of especially public media.

In presenting the Rule of Law report, the commissioner said it would be a basis for discussion with representatives of EU member states, also about the media and the condition of journalists.

In the report, the Commission recommends Slovenia to strengthen "the rules and mechanisms to enhance the independent governance and editorial independence of public service media taking into account European standards on public service media".

It finds that the situation of media freedom and pluralism in the country has not improved since last year's report.

Despite legal safeguards providing for the independence of public service media, the report notes challenges regarding the effectiveness of those safeguards in practice in limiting political influence.

The report, which refers to a report by the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom for 2022, points to the procedures to appoint the programme council of RTV Slovenija as most members are appointed by parliament, political parties and the government.

The Culture Ministry agrees with the main findings of the report, noting that it has been striving for greater independence and autonomy of public media, plurality, transparent ownership and transparent spending of public money for advertising. It also plans to improve working conditions for journalists.

The ministry noted in its response to the report that the new government had put forward a bill to reform council and management of the public broadcaster in a bid to de-politicise it.

The current programme council and supervisory board would be replaced by a single 17-member council none of whose members would be appointed by parliament. The bill is expected to be passed on Thursday.

EU sources commented on the proposed bill by saying that Brussels welcomed the government's willingness to take action and introduce more safeguards to protect the independence of journalists. However, the Commission's recommendation should also be seen in this context, they said.

The Commission's report finds that while funding of the STA has been restored and it gives the agency greater stability, some of the provisions in the financing agreement could indirectly affect its editorial autonomy.

The Commission also notes "a hostile environment, online harassment of and threats against journalists" as growing sources of concern, noting that several lawsuits against journalists with intimidating effect have been reported.

It recommends the country establish legislative and other safeguards to protect journalists, particularly online, taking into account European standards on the protection of journalists.

The Trade Union of Journalists (SNS) responded by saying Slovenian media landscape was at a crossroads and that future developments would depend on the new media policy and national media strategy.

The union also stressed that RTV Slovenija staff had been warning of the issues raised by the Commission for at least two months before they had announced a strike.

"For now the government is only trying to put out the fire with changes to the RTV act, while the issue of financing of the public RTV is not its priority," the SNS said.

Commenting on the Slovenian justice system, the Commission noted "some improvements in quality and efficiency, and regarding issues raised in the 2021 Rule of Law Report, such as the nomination of European Delegated Prosecutors".

However, it also pointed to concerns over the interior minister's powers to instruct the police in individual cases, potentially affecting independent work of state prosecutors and the European Public Prosecutor's Office.

"Rules governing parliamentary inquiries lack safeguards on independence of judges and state prosecutors - as required by Constitutional Court judgments. The government decreased, without consultation with judicial authorities, the previously agreed budget for courts, the Judicial Council and the State Prosecution," reads the report.

The Justice Ministry welcomed the report, saying that it reflected the actual situation in the country in the last two years under the previous government and that the new cabinet had already started to tackle some issues highlighted by the Commission.

As for fight against corruption, the Commission calls for removing obstacles to the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases, including by ensuring the operational autonomy of the National Bureau of Investigation, increasing the resources of State Prosecution and revising the statute of limitation.

Slovenia should adopt and start implementing without further delay the anti-corruption strategy, the report says.

In the section on institutional issues related to checks and balances, the Commission pointed to deficiencies of the public finance act in securing the financial autonomy of certain independent bodies, and called for safeguards.

Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina welcomed the report and called on relevant institutions to study them and transpose the proposed solutions into Slovenian legislation as soon as possible. He also called for a public debate on the report among experts.

EU member states will discuss the rule of law situation in the EU based on the Commission's report in the autumn. EU affairs ministers will discuss the rule of law in Slovenia, Romania, Portugal, Poland and Slovakia in November.

The full report on Slovenia, in English, can be found here

13 Jul 2022, 20:21 PM

STA, 13 July 2022 - David Antolovič, the new director of the criminal police department, never witnessed as "brutal pressure" on individual investigations undertaken by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) as under the previous government, he told 24ur news site on Wednesday.

Antolovič was deputy NBI director when the NBI started investigating public purchases of the protective equipment during the first wave of Covid in 2020.

He believes this investigation was the trigger for deliberate and targeted politically-motivated attacks on the NBI.

A day after the house searches were carried out in June 2020, the then Interior Minister Aleš Hojs accused the investigators of bias and unprofessionalism, he said.

Antolovič said that before these attacks, the NBI had been autonomous and immune to attempts at influencing investigations.

He also criticised for 24ur the decision to include NBI investigations in investigations of alleged offences against the public order as this is not in its purview.

The NBI was additionally hampered as some of its investigators were assigned to a task force tackling backlog at the Ljubljana Police Department and another in charge of migrations, including Antolovič.

He said the NBI had been founded to investigate the most demanding crime rather than tackling backlog at individual police departments.

The two task forces were claimed by some to have been set up to get rid of some senior police officers, including Tatjana Bobnar, who is now interior minister, and Boštjan Lindav, who became police commissioner under the new Robert Golob government on 1 July.

Antolovič, who became criminal police director in mid-June, decided to file a criminal complaint with the Specialised Public Prosecutor's Office for bullying at work.

"That period made me realise with what kind of people I was actually surrounded and what they were willing to do for certain interests," he said, adding the police force had a lot of work ahead to restore trust in its mission.

12 Jul 2022, 17:07 PM

STA, 12 July 2022 - Prime Minister Robert Golob met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin on Tuesday in what is his first bilateral visit abroad. After the meeting, Golob said the goal of getting through the winter without Russian gas is very ambitious but attainable if the EU works together.

The impact of the war in Ukraine, mainly the energy crisis, was one of the main topics of the meeting.

Golob noted there were synergies between EU member states that could be tapped into to get through this winter without Russian gas or any "imposed reduction" on gas supply provided there are adequate gas-saving schemes.

Together, the EU can get through this crisis and achieve this very challenging goal, he told a press conference after the meeting.

Scholz said that the EU will have to do its best to reduce its energy dependency on Russia, pointing to efforts to set up infrastructure that would enable oil and gas extraction from other sources in the short term.

Both Golob and Scholz think that political, military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine must continue as should sanctions against Russia.

The pair also discussed EU enlargement to the Western Balkans with both of them highlighting that countries in the region had been in the waiting room for EU membership for 20 years - too long.

Golob believes that ways need to be found for these countries to take individual steps and achieve success on their path to EU membership.

"Unfortunately, this process, the way it has been done, is a process that led to apathy in these countries because it is absolutely too slow," he warned.

In 2003, the six countries of the Western Balkans were promised a fast-paced and realistic EU perspective, but since then not much has happened, Scholz said, so Germany and Slovenia would like to work together to give fresh impetus to this accession process and to soon welcome the region's countries into the EU.

Asked about Slovenia's purchase of Boxer armoured vehicles that hangs in the air and may complicate Slovenia-Germany relations, Scholz said that he had briefly discussed this with Golob.

The Golob government may withdraw from the agreement, which was signed with the German supplier of Boxer carriers Artec, depending on the outcome of the review of the previous government's deal. Scholz acknowledged the purchase is currently under review, and called for making rapid progress together on this issue.

Golob said that he and Scholz had talked potential cooperation in supplying Ukraine with weapons, but they had not discussed the ongoing review of the Boxer deal.

"We do not expect this review to complicate relations in any way, also because we are exploring different options on how to get out of this situation in the event the review shows that this purchase is inappropriate for us," the prime minister said. There is not just one option, but several, and they will be presented to the public in the coming months, he added.

This was Golob's first bilateral visit abroad after he assumed office in early June. He told the press it was no coincidence that he visited Berlin first as Germany is Slovenia's key trading partner and has been its "most important friend and ally" ever since Slovenia gained independence.

There are no open issues between the two countries, said Golob, who was accompanied in Berlin by Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer.

Scholz is confident that he and Golob will work well together, especially in light of challenging issues that face the EU and can only be tackled together, on both bilateral and EU levels.

11 Jul 2022, 06:35 AM

STA, 9 July 2022 - Lawyer and ex-Info Commissioner Nataša Pirc Musar and opposition SDS MP and ex-Foreign Minister Anže Logar would make it to the run-off if the presidential election was held now, according to a survey pollster Mediana has carried out for the newspaper Delo. Freedom Movement vice-president Marta Kos would place third.

Pirc Musar would receive almost 30% of the vote in the first run and Logar just over 24%, with Kos garnering 16%.

The other candidates would receive less fewer votes: musician Gregor Bezenšek 2.1% and psychoanalyst Nina Krajnik 1.3%.

Delo says that Kočevje Mayor Vladimir Prebilič was not "detected" by the opinion poll as he announced his presidential bid only on the the last day of the poll.

Just over 14% of the respondents would meanwhile not go to the polls and another 8.7% would not vote for any of the candidates.

Pirc Musar, who will run as independent, was labelled as (very) appropriate candidate by almost 54% of those polled, and almost 9% said she is not the right candidate.

Logar, who will also formally run independently, was rated as (very) appropriate by almost 42%, with just over 10% opposing his bid.

Kos, a former ambassador to Germany and Switzerland, was deemed as a (very) appropriate candidate by 44.4%, as opposed to 8.5% who disapprove of her bid.

Delo's May poll about potential presidential candidates, meanwhile, showed that the run-off would be made by Pirc Musar and Kos.

The paper says Kos may have lost some support after ex-President Milan Kučan endorsed Pirc Musar arguing it would be wrong for one political party to hold all three top offices in the country - also those of the prime minister and the parliamentary speaker.

The latest poll also shows that a great deal of Pirc Musar's supporters come from Freedom Movement supporters (46%), which compares to only 29% in Kos's case.

Many of Pirc Musar's supporters come from the coalition Social Democrats (35%), which is yet to present its candidate.

Logar's supporters meanwhile come mainly from the voters of the Democratic Party (SDS) - 70%, while he would also receive votes from NSi supporters.

09 Jul 2022, 09:58 AM

What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.

If you’d like to keep up on the daily headlines then follow those here, or get all our stories in your feed on Facebook.

FRIDAY, 1 July
        LJUBLJANA - The government announced that the state will purchase through the Agency for Commodity Reserves the entire wheat crop to provide a "clear buyer and stable price" to farmers. It will also provide more than EUR 22 million in aid to farmers to ease the impact of growing prices of inputs.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a bill to reform management and oversight at RTV Slovenija to reduce what is perceived as political meddling with the public broadcaster. The changes to the RTV Slovenija act from 2005 aim to abolish the programme council and the board to introduce a single RTV Slovenija council made up mostly of staff and civil society representatives appointed not just by parliament but by various stakeholders.
        BERLIN, Germany - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon met her German counterpart Annalena Baerbock, with the pair signing a joint action plan on three-year strategic cooperation and announcing further strengthening of cooperation between Slovenia and Germany, also relating to Ukraine.
        LJUBLJANA - Jana Ahčin, a former director of the Financial Administration (FURS), was appointed Court of Audit president by the National Assembly. She will take over for nine years as the court's first woman president. Milan M. Cvikl, a former Slovenian member of the European Court of Auditors, was named vice-governor of the central bank.
        LJUBLJANA - The Justice Ministry announced it had drafted a bill dedicated to protecting whistleblowers, which would now go into public consultation until 10 August. The bill provides protection to whistleblowers reporting irregularities in their place of work.
        LJUBLJANA - Andrej Matvoz stayed on at the helm of the Competition Protection Agency as the government dismissed Zlatko Ratej as the acting director on the day he was to take over from Matvoz, and appointed the latter as the acting director.
        LJUBLJANA - Some 86% or a combined total of EUR 468.4 million worth of the 2020 and 2021 tourist vouchers was cashed in, shows data by the Financial Administration (FURS), and EUR 75.27 million was left unredeemed by Thursday, the last day of voucher validity.

        SLOVENSKA BISTRICA - President Borut Pahor decorated a former Territorial Defence unit based in Slovenjska Bistrica with the Order of Freedom for having taken over a weapons facility from the Yugoslav National Army during Slovenia's 1991 Independence War.
        KIDRIČEVO - The 2x400 kilovolt Cirkovce-Pince transmission line, the first cross-border link between Slovenia's and Hungary's national grids, became operational after almost two years of construction.
        IG - Marko Balažic was elected the leader of the non-parliamentary People's Party (SLS) at an election congress in what was practically a unanimous vote. He said that the SLS must once again become a strong moderate party and that Slovenia needed a liberal state and conservative politics.
        LAUSANNE, Switzerland - Climber Janja Garnbret continued her winning streak, taking first place in women's lead event in Villars, Switzerland, earning her 50th world cup podium and 34th first place, a new record for the sport.

SUNDAY, 3 July
        STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Slovenia finished the first round of qualifying for the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup second in their group having scraped past Sweden 84:81 after a nail-biting finish. NBA stars Luka Dončić and Goran Dragić scored 51 points between them as Dragić likely bid farewell to the national team as its top overall scorer in history.

MONDAY, 4 July
        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor and his Kosovo counterpart Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu said a peaceful and secure future for the Western Balkans lay in the context of European and Euro-Atlantic integration. The pair said Slovenia and Kosovo shared the same views on the Western Balkans.
        LJUBLJANA - Former Foreign Minister Anže Logar announced his intention to run for president in the autumn election. He has the support of his party, the opposition Democrats (SDS), but will formally enter the race with the support of vote signatures.
        LJUBLJANA - Pay talks between the government and public sector trade unions got off to a rocky start as the government backtracked on its promise to raise the value of individual pay brackets, offering instead one-off bonuses. Unions said they were outraged and demanded the negotiators get a fresh mandate from the government.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The OECD recommends to Slovenia in its latest report to focus on high inflation in the short term and then accelerate reforms that would increase productivity, make growth more sustainable and address population ageing. Absence of reforms is to put additional pressure on pensions, healthcare and the labour market. The government welcomed the recommendations.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - Slovenia's central bank Governor Boštjan Vasle said that to fight high inflation, the European Central Bank (ECB) will increase its key interest rate by 0.25 base points in July and by another 0.5 points in September.
        LJUBLJANA - Kosovo President Vjosa Osmani-Sadriu presented the Slovenian Armed Forces with the highest presidential military decoration of Kosovo, Presidential Military Medal.
        LJUBLJANA - In what is the latest verdict in the biggest healthcare corruption case in Slovenia yet, the Ljubljana District Court handed down a three year prison sentence to Nataša Faganeli, the head of the pharmacy at the Valdoltra orthopaedic hospital, who was found guilty of demanding and accepting kickbacks.

        LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor hosted a working lunch for Albania's outgoing President Ilir Meta, with the pair underlining the importance of EU enlargement to the Western Balkans and Pahor warning against an idea of a more vague political community which would not see the region integrated in the EU.
        LJUBLJANA - The People's Coalition, an ad-hoc group opposing strict coronavirus measures, including vaccination, filed to parliament a petition supported with more than the required 2,500 signatures for a referendum on the changes to the infectious diseases act, which were passed on 29 June.
        LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Labour Committee called on the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities to hire more labour inspectors by the end of next year as it met upon coalition MPs' request in the wake of reports revealing grave labour and hygiene conditions in fish-processing companies Marinblu and Selea.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of registered jobless continued to decline in June reaching a new post-1990 low. At the end of the month, 53,860 unemployed persons were registered at the Employment Service, down 3.6% on May and 24.2% fewer year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - State budget revenue in the first half of the year totalled EUR 6.4 billion and expenditure EUR 6.5 billion for a deficit of EUR 128 million, preliminary data from the Finance Ministry showed. The figure compares to a deficit of EUR 1.965 billion in the same period last year.
        LJUBLJANA - The Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) halted the procedure to sell an almost 13% share in chemical company Cinkarna Celje although it received two binding bids. It said the sale would not be appropriate under the current conditions and circumstances.

        ZAGREB - Slovenian FM Tanja Fajon and her Croatian counterpart Gordan Grlić Radman confirmed their countries' readiness to address open issues through mutual dialogue. Fajon said that the border issue will be addressed in the same spirit, starting at an informal level and with easier matters.
        LITIJA - The National Council formally tabled devolution legislation under which Slovenia would be divided into 15 provinces with a special status for the capital Ljubljana. It is unclear whether there is a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly to secure passage of the bills.
        LJUBLJANA - State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa highlighted a severe shortage of prosecutors in Slovenia as the Justice Committee discussed the reports of the state prosecutors' work in 2021. The prosecution is almost 70 prosecutors short at the moment.
        LJUBLJANA - The news portal Necenzurirano reported that three Hungarian owners had sold their stake in NovaTV24.si, the company running TV channel NovaTV24, in a move that has already been cleared by the Ministry of Culture. The trio sold their 45% stake to Boris Tomašič, director of NovaTV24 and a long-term member of the Democrats (SDS).
        LJUBLJANA - Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan announced that he had appointed a national task force to coordinate hospital beds and hospital admission of Covid patients. The group will produce clear guidance on how to approach patients infected with coronavirus and patients with Covid symptoms.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ljubljana District Court has stopped minor offence proceedings over mask-wearing rule violations at a charity event organized by the Slovenian Olympic Committee in September 2020. The court ruled there was no grounds for the mask mandate.

        LJUBLJANA - Uroš Urbanija, the former director of the Government Communication Office, was endorsed by the RTV Slovenija programme council for appointment as TV Slovenija director, the TV arm of the Slovenian public broadcaster. RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough is expected to appoint him next week. TV Slovenija journalists' unions see him as the most unsuitable candidate.
        LJUBLJANA - A special new advisory body of the Interior Ministry for migration policy held its first meeting with Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar telling the attendees that the body had been tasked with drafting a new policy, based on solidarity, integration and the respect for human rights.
        MEDVODE - Kočevje Mayor Vladimir Prebilič confirmed he will run for president in the autumn election as an independent with the support of 45 mayors. He disagrees with the solely ceremonial role of the president and believes the president must help shape political life in the country.
        LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council said the state of public finances was steadily improving due to fast revenue growth, but warned that public spending was increasing despite the discontinuation of Covid stimulus, mostly due to measures to mitigate rising costs of living.
        NOVO MESTO - Drug maker Krka posted sales of EUR 857.4 million in the first half of the year, an increase of 6% on the year before and a new six-month record, according to preliminary estimates. Net profit was up by a third to EUR 236.2 million. Krka AGM endorsed a record dividend of EUR 5.63 gross per share, up 12.6% from last year. The shareholders will thus get a total of EUR 175 million.
        METZ, France - Tadej Pogačar won the sixth stage of the Tour de France to claim the yellow jersey of the overall leader in what is the 7th stage win at the world's most prestigious road cycling race for the 23-year-old defending champion.


09 Jul 2022, 09:42 AM

STA, 8 July 2022 - Aleš Primc of the Children are at Stake Coalition believes the Constitutional Court's decision to allow gay marriage and adoption is scandalous, unfair and ideological. He said the decision contravened the Constitution because two of the nine judges were biased.

The Constitutional Court announced on Friday that it had decided in two separate 6:3 votes that legislation under which only heterosexual partners can marry and same-sex couples cannot adopt children was in contravention of the constitutional ban on discrimination.

Primc said in a press release that the decision went against the principle of fairness, natural law and Slovenian culture.

"Constitutional Court justices squandered the decision of 1,085,275 citizens who said in three referendums that Slovenia's legislation must protect the basic human rights of children to having a mother and a father and the natural characteristics of the female and male sex."

He claims the decision to be "criminal" from the aspect of demography and could be considered treason. "For 40 years Slovenia has been failing to reach the birth rate needed for natural regeneration of the population."

He believes the decision violates Article 53 of the Constitution, which says that "the state shall protect the family, motherhood, fatherhood, children, and young people and shall create the necessary conditions for such protection".

Moreover, the decision goes against the Constitution because it included two biased judges: Katja Šugman Stubbs took part in the 2018 referendum campaign on the side of LGBT activists, and so did Aleksander Čeferin, brother of Constitutional Court judge Rok Čeferin, said Primc, referring to a referendum that enacted the provisions overturned today.

He believes the decision will become the foundation for artificial insemination of women without a husband or partner, for children trafficking, and for the exploitation of poor women, who will "receive money to conceive, give birth and sell their children to rich clients".

The Children are at Stake Coalition intends to step up its fight for children's rights and their values.

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