STA, 18 May 2022 - The Slovenian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Slovenia fully respected and supported the decision of Sweden and Finland to join NATO, labelling the two countries as the closest partners of the alliance.
Issuing the statement as Sweden and Finland today submitted official applications to join NATO, the ministry said that "NATO's door must remain open to European countries that want to join and meet the criteria for membership."
It added that "Slovenia has always been a supporter of NATO's open-door policy and advocates the sovereign right of every country to an independent foreign policy, including integration into defence alliances."
Slovenia's support for the two countries' bid to join the alliance was also expressed today by President Pahor.
"I would like to congratulate the friendly nations of Finland and Sweden on their demanding decision to ask for membership of NATO after a long period of neutrality. Slovenia supports their application. Finland's and Sweden's membership of NATO will enhance our shared European and north-Atlantic security," Pahor wrote on Twitter.
The two countries' decision to ask to be admitted to NATO was also hailed by Tanja Fajon, the leader of the Social Democrats (SD), who is tipped to become Slovenia's next foreign minister.
She understands the move as a contribution to Europe's collective security. "Of course also as an effort to end the war in Ukraine as soon as possible, peacefully obviously, which is what we all strive for," she said.
Speaking at the same press conference as Fajon and Robert Golob, the prospective prime minister, Luka Mesec, the leader of the Left, reiterated his party's opposition to NATO enlargement and advocacy of Slovenia's quitting the alliance, but indicated the party will not block the enlargement in parliament.
"As far as membership of Finland and Sweden is concerned; if the issue comes up at the government, we will vote against and in parliament we will abstain in line with the protocol on the functioning of the government," said Mesec.
The ambassadors of Sweden and Finland to NATO presented NATO membership applications to Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels on Wednesday. The hitherto neutral countries decided to join NATO in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
In order to join the alliance, new members must get consent from all 30 member states of the alliance. For the time being, their membership is opposed by Turkey, which alleges that Sweden and Finland support terrorist groups.
STA, 16 May 2022 - Doctors strongly oppose the announcement in the draft coalition agreement that doctors in the public sector will be fully banned from working for private providers. Nurses, on the other hand, have welcomed an announcement of better pay and of a new set of standards and norms for staffing and workload.
While the powerful FIDES trade union has yet to study the document, the Medical Chamber and Young Doctors believe the blanket ban is not a solution to the problems in the country's healthcare and could even encourage more doctors to leave the public health system.
Restricting the scope and organisation of the work of doctors with bureaucratic measures when there is a shortage of at least 1,000 doctors could further affect the capacity of the Slovenian healthcare system, the chamber said on Monday.
It said the current restrictions already reduce the interest of doctors in working in public health services while the latest proposal would put them at a great disadvantage compared to other public employees.
Young Doctors said "every doctor who carries out an examination, surgery or gives an opinion is reducing waiting times - regardless of when they do it," they told STA.
The organisation noted that conditions to work for private providers while being employed at a public health organisation are already clearly set down and the scope is limited. At the same time, working conditions and pay in public healthcare cannot even be compared with private providers.
The doctors' view that the ban would be discriminatory to doctors in comparison with some other groups was upheld by jurist Nataša Pirc Musar.
She noted that under the existing legislation, doctors must obtain a permission from their employer before starting working with another employer.
Pirc Musar therefore urged better oversight, and clearer guidance so that public providers know under what conditions they can approve work for private providers.
Nurses meanwhile reacted more positively to what the draft coalition agreement envisages for them - the adoption of staffing standards and norms as set down in the 2018 strike agreement, the elimination of wage disparities, rewarding good performance, scholarships for secondary and tertiary education, and less administrative work.
The Chamber of Nurses and Midwives and the Trade Union of Health and Social Care are particularly happy with the announcement of the staffing standards and elimination of pay disparities.
The chamber's head Monika Ažman told the STA that they see it as "the step in the right direction". She noted however that until pay for nurses become competitive, staff will continue to leave the public health system and young people will not be deciding to study to become nurses or midwives.
STA, 16 May 2022 - From the economic point of view the coalition agreement of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and the Left is much more leftist than centrist, economist Marko Pahor said on Monday. He sees many of the government priorities as expensive and thus unrealistic. Economist Mitja Kovač expressed shock and profound disappointment.
Pahor said the social component was very highlighted in the coalition agreement, while Slovenia was already among the best in the world in terms of social security and equality.
The professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Economics warned against the planned progressive taxation, noting this was a "rather unique solution".
The planned changes to the public sector pay system cannot be implemented without notable wage bill rise, so this will be a big burden on the public finances, he said.
Annulling the changes to the income tax act is "perhaps not something that would really belong into the coalition agreement", Pahor added.
The pension reform is well conceived but the wording of the coalition agreement allows for broad interpretations, which could lead to conflicts within the coalition, he warned while praising the planned measures for activation of pensioners.
As for additional sources for pensions that should come from managing state assets, Pahor said the coalition partners "obviously overestimate the size of the assets" as even when highly profitable revenue from these assets covered less than 10% of the current deficit, which is now being covered from the state budget.
Pahor finds the commitments on entrepreneurship promotion encouraging, although he does not know how this will be financed.
The parts about economic democracy make sense from the Left's point of view, but "they understandably cause fear among entrepreneurs".
Pahor thinks the gradual increasing of health spending to 12% of GDP is an "extremely high and probably unrealistic number".
Pahor's colleague Kovač was even more critical. He said he was "shocked and deeply disappointed". Rightist populism is being obviously replaced by "extremely leftist populism", he said.
He thinks the coalition agreement is an example of a regulation based on a "completely obsolete system of central planning of entire economic sectors and social systems". "Potential implementation of such a coalition agreement is a true recipe for economic disaster."
According to Kovač, the coalition agreement "mostly deals with massive rearranging of the distribution of funds and extreme increasing of public spending, massive raising of taxes, regulation of entire economic sectors and social subsystems". It aims to expand the already rigid labour legislation and introduce a "kind of state healthcare based on central planning".
He believes that in view of liberal western European standards, the plans of the future government coalition are a great disappointment. In line with the document, the new government will do nothing to improve the business environment, decrease administration, increase productivity and added value, and achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, he said.
Kovač thinks the implementation of "such populist coalition agreement" would soon lead to slower economic growth, explosion of public debt, further structural imbalances and unemployment, brain drain and departures of businesses from Slovenia.
Economist Polanec said the announced increase in public spending for healthcare, wages, pensions, and construction of apartments indicated that the costs of public sector could be close to 50% of GDP or even higher, which would be one of the highest shares in the EU.
More funds for healthcare would entail raising contributions and taxes. "If health spending increased from 8.5% to 12%, a significant increase in contribution rate would be required, by more than a half, which could raise contribution rates on gross wages from 12.9% to 19.5% and decrease wages by several percent."
Households would also be affected by higher taxes on real estate, he warned.
But he welcomed the new coalition's commitment to raise funding for health. "Raising the spending to around 10% is urgently needed if waiting times are to be cut."
However, he disagrees with the idea to ban doctors from working in private institutions in their free time. This will decrease the offering of health services, he believes. He also sees no advantages in abolishing supplementary insurance.
The planned minimal pension would reduce income inequality but Polanec stresses pensions should reflect peoples' past work.
Instead of building 20,000 state-owned apartments for rent, Polanec proposes introducing a tax on plots intended for construction that are not used for this purpose, and measures to release more plots in central Slovenia.
He would also like the coalition agreement to deal more with long-term development, especially investment in research and development, which currently stands at 2% of GDP, while most developed countries allocate about 3% for this purpose.
STA, 16 May 2022 - The incoming coalition intends to implement a pension reform, raise the minimum pension and the minimum wage, respect social dialogue, eliminate precariousness, introduce an integration system for foreigners, while providing affordable housing and regulating energy and food prices if necessary.
The Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and Left pledge in their coalition agreement to raise pensions to at least EUR 700 in 2023 and to examine the option of universal basic income for lower-income pensioners.
Workers will be allowed a gradual transition to retirement and the option of pensioners starting working again will be examined by taking into account the needs of pensioners, the labour market and the public interest.
The coalition partners commit to implement a financially sustainable pension reform by strengthening the first pillar (mandatory contributions from the wages) and encouraging people to additionally save for pension.
The lowest pension will be by 10% above the poverty threshold, while new sources of pension funding will be secured to reduce dependency on contributions from wages.
Apart from raising the minimum pension, the new coalition also intends to raise the minimum wage to at least EUR 800 net as of 2023 and pursue its growth in real terms.
The partners pledge to implement the minimum wage as the lowest possible base pay in a transitional period to eliminate cases where workers receive less than the minimum wage while the difference must be paid from the budget.
The coalition will return to social dialogue on the Social and Economic Council (ESS), which has come to a standstill under the outgoing government.
In agreement with the social partners, the work week will gradually be reduced to 30 hours while the full pay for the existing 40-hour week will be preserved.
Precariousness is planned to be eliminated by drafting a strategy with a specific timeline of measures in collaboration with experts and the civil society.
The option of blacklisting employers that systematically violate labour legislation will be examined, also to prevent them from taking part in public procurement.
Measures are also planned to eliminate violations when a worker is hired for short periods of time as a way of bypassing legislation.
Oversight over agencies which provide workers to companies will be enhanced and agency workers will be guaranteed the minimum wage.
A better work-life balance will be pursued, including by introducing a right for workers not to have to answer messages from their employer in their spare time.
The coalition also pledges to draft, in collaboration with NGOs, a comprehensive system of effective integration of foreign workers and their families.
More Slovenian-language classes and other integration programmes will be provided for foreign kids at school and inter-cultural dialogue will be encouraged.
An employment strategy for EU workers and third-country workers harmonised with the needs of businesses and public sectors services is also planned.
The coalition pledges to pursue a coordinated migration and integration policy alongside measures to make life and work easier for foreigners.
Language proficiency requirements for third-country workers are to be softened.
As for long-term care, a comprehensive approach is planned with a new bill on long-term care, harmonised with key stakeholders, to be adopted by May 2023.
The partners promise that long-term care will be solidarity-based, fair and financially sustainable based on progressive taxation and other budgetary resources.
More funds to expand the public network of institutions providing long-term care will be provided, while waiting times to get a bed at a care home will be halved.
In housing, a priority will be drafting a crisis management plan to build and renovate rental homes, especially in areas where rents and the prices of land are highest.
To provide for 20,000 public rental homes by 2030, the coalition intends to strengthen the national Housing Fund and support other models of financing.
Property owned by the bad bank that is suitable for housing construction will be transferred onto the Housing Fund.
Legislation will be adopted to enable construction through housing cooperatives and a special guarantee scheme.
Legislative changes are also planned to encourage owners to put their flats on the rental market for an indefinite period of time, while regulation of rents and the rental market is also being considered.
Conditions for platform holiday rentals could be tightened in areas where there is a shortage of flats.
The coalition intends to give a special focus to the youth in housing efforts, while pledging that all policies regarding the young will be drafted together with them.
As for social policy, the coalition pledges to work hand in hand with the civil society, stressing eligibility for social transfers will be informed by clear criteria and fairness to serve "the people's needs".
The impact of income tax breaks on family and social policies will be examined and changes potentially made to enhance employment and social inclusion.
The option of gradually introducing universal basic goods for children and youth to provide for a regular income for living and education will be examined.
The coalition also plans to eliminate the measures that have decreased the right of the unemployed to freely choose employment and the right to unemployment benefit.
Prices of electricity and petroleum products will be regulated if necessary, especially to protect the most vulnerable groups.
STA, 14 May 2022 - As the future coalition partners are expected to initial a coalition agreement on Saturday, some details from the document have already leaked out. The agreement envisages changes in the pension and healthcare system, and there is a commitment to raise minimum wage to EUR 800 and minimum pension to EUR 700.
Some of the details of the agreement have already been revealed by members of the Freedom Movement, Social Democrats (SD) and Left in their public appearances.
Among other things, they announced that around 20,000 apartments with non-profit rent will be constructed in the next two government terms, and that minimum wage would be raised to EUR 800 net and minimum pension to EUR 700.
The plan is to eventually abolish top-up health insurance, and suspend the purchase of Boxer armoured personnel carriers (APCs). Procedures of procurement of military equipment under the government of Janez Janša will be reviewed.
The N1 news web portal portal has also noted the commitment that there will be no razor wire and other "technical obstacles" on the border with Croatia, erected to control illegal migration flow, by the end of this year.
Another proposal is that physicians from the public healthcare system will no longer be allowed to work for private individuals and concessionaires after they finish their shifts in public institutions.
Also in the works is progressive taxation of property, and the coalition will also advocate for the rights of employees to turn off their company phones and e-mail at the end of working hours.
According to the N1 sources, the agreement stipulates that the tax reform of the Janša government that brought higher net wages will be abolished at the beginning of next year.
The online edition of the newspaper Večer adds that the amount of the general personal income tax break will remain the same.
Companies, including start-ups, are expected to receive tax incentives for the digital and green transition, and the effective corporate income tax rate is expected to increase.
The coalition is also expected to promote employee participation in profit and their involvement in the ownership and management of companies, N1 says.
According to the portal, the government intends to launch talks with the EU institutions to amend the national recovery and resilience plan, and that EU funds will be used primarily to finance the green transition and digitalisation.
The coalition promises free school meals to all primary and secondary school students, and curricula in schools are also expected to be somewhat changed, N1 adds.
Večer notes mitigation of the rising energy prices with an emphasis on the most vulnerable groups, promotion of the development of solar power plants and replacement of heating devices on fossil fuel with those on renewable energy.
The future coalition also plans a pension reform that would strengthen the first pension pillar and encourage additional pension savings. In healthcare, it plans to establish updated records of waiting lines for treatment and procedures.
They also promise greater availability of physicians at the primary level, debureaucratisation and digitalisation of the healthcare system and additional financial incentives for the medical staff.
When it comes to the media, the future partners announce that the broadcaster RTV Slovenija and other public media (the Slovenian Press Agency - STA) will be provided with a status that will prevent political interference, Večer says.
They will also work on abolishing electoral units introducing preferential vote in the elections to the National Assembly, which will require a two-thirds majority in parliament.
According to information obtained by the STA, the coalition agreement will include a strategy for abolishing precarious work, where public administration would be an example. There is also the commitment to reduce abuse of part-time employment.
Other goals include a more transparent system of disability insurance, stronger network of public social welfare institutions, prevention of brain drain and a clear migration policy with employment strategy and comprehensive integration.
What follows is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia, as prepared by the STA.
FRIDAY, 6 May
LJUBLJANA - Robert Golob, leader of the election-winning Freedom Party and the most likely PM-designate, suggested the new government could have up to four new ministries, as he met with the prospective coalition partners. He said the new coalition would pay particular attention to climate change, inter-generational solidarity, digitalisation and regional development.
TIRANA, Albania - National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič stressed Slovenia supported the EU's enlargement to the Western Balkans, as he attended a conference of speakers from the Adriatic-Ionian Initiative.
UDINE, Italy - President Borut Pahor and Minister for Slovenians Abroad Helena Jaklitsch visited the Slovenian ethnic minority in Udine, one of the three provinces in Italy's Friuli Venezia Giulai region where the minority lives.
LJUBLJANA - 5,738 Ukrainian refugees have until now asked for temporary protection in Slovenia, of whom 2,149 underage children. Police data meanwhile show that 21,980 Ukrainians have entered Slovenia since the Ukraine war on 24 February.
LJUBLJANA - The government approved a EUR 400,000 programme to co-fund investments in local public infrastructure in 2022-2023 in the municipalities of Pivka and Postojna, which host the main training area of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF). The funds are a compensation for the damage SAF activities have on local roads.
LJUBLJANA - The Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) increased its stake in Mladinska Knjiga, Slovenia's largest publisher, to 83.47% after acquiring 32.25% of shares in a takeover bid.
SATURDAY, 7 May
LJUBLJANA - The National Electoral Commission (DVK) released the official results of the 24 April general election, which correspond to the unofficial results: the Freedom Movement won 34.45% of the vote and 41 seats in parliament, the SDS received 23.48% and 27 seats, the NSi 6.86% and 8 seats, the SocDems 6.69% and seven MPs, and the Left got 4.46% and 5 MPs. Turnout was at a very high 70.79%. However, it said that due to a computer bug, six terms were initially assigned to wrong candidates. Since the mistake was detected and corrected, the DVK released the names of the six new MPs. The incident earned it calls for resignation, which the commission rejected.
LJUBLJANA - The government approved Brigadier General Roman Urbanč's promotion to the rank of major general. Urbanč, deputy chief of the general staff, has worked for the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) since 1994. He will now have to be formally promoted by the supreme commander, President Borut Pahor.
LJUBLJANA - The government decided to discontinue some of the last coronavirus restrictions by lifting the Covid pass mandate health and social care workers and the requirement to wear masks at pharmacies.
LJUBLJANA - Following a two-year coronavirus-prompted break, the Walk along the Wire, an event commemorating the 9 May 1945 liberation of Ljubljana, attracted almost 26,000 hikers and 2,670 runners between Thursday and Saturday.
SUNDAY, 8 May
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor signed an order calling the maiden session of the new National Assembly for Friday, 13 May, after receiving a report on the official results of the 24 April general election from the National Electoral Commission (DVK). Pahor and DVK president Peter Golob found that the election process was "fair and transparent".
VRHNIKA - Author Simona Semenič won the Cankar Prize for best original piece of literature published over the past year for Three Plays for Girls (Tri Igre za Punce), which focuses on women's and gender issues. The EUR 10,000 prize is named after writer Ivan Cankar (1876-1918) and was presented for the third year.
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia and Hungary announced a joint bid to host the Ice-Hockey World Championship in 2023 after both teams secured berths in the elite division of ice-hockey at a tournament in Ljubljana. This is after the IIHF decided that Rusia's St. Petersburg will not host the elite group next year.
OPATJE SELO - Slovenia's 550km section of Via Sancti Martini or St Martin's Way, which runs from Hungary to France, was inaugurated after the 90km section between Logatec and Opatje Selo was recently completed. Together with the famous St James's Way or Camino de Santiago, St Martin's Way is one of the two major European cultural routes running through Slovenia.
MADRID, Spain - Pia Babnik, Slovenia's best professional golfer, finished third in the Ladies European Tour tournament with a prize fund of EUR 300,000.
MONDAY, 9 May
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Thirteen EU countries, including Slovenia, presented up a non-paper on the outcome of and follow-up to the Conference on the Future of Europe, warning against rash changes to EU treaties. President Borut Pahor meanwhile joined calls by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for such changes.
KYIV, Ukraine - PM Janez Janša addressed Ukrainians in an video aired on Ukrainian national TV, saying that the West remained oblivious to the fact that Russia never de-Communised and that Ukraine was the real heir of the victories of WWII. Janša said only one evil, Nazism, had been defeated in WWII in 1945, whereas Communism was not.
LJUBLJANA - Freedom Movement leader Robert Golob, the presumptive PM-designate, announced the new government would impose energy price regulation when it took office, targetting not just fuel but other energy sources as well. He said a combination of an agreement with retailers, regulation of margins and duties, and subsidies was needed.
LJUBLJANA - Zoran Janković announced his plan to stand for his fifth straight term as mayor of Slovenia's capital in the autumn local elections. He has served as Ljubljana mayor since 2006, winning every election since with an outright majority.
LJUBLJANA - The RTV Slovenija Programming Council endorsed a new statute of the public broadcaster under which TV news programme will be split into two separate production units. Staff see the changes as an attempt to create separate pro-government and anti-government news programmes, so the journalist trade union urged their withdrawal.
TUESDAY, 10 May
LJUBLJANA - The government introduced a three-month cap on prices of motor fuels after lifting a 45-day cap on 1 May. It set the maximum retail prices at EUR 1.560 a litre for regular petrol and EUR 1.668 a litre for diesel from 11 May. Fuel retailers whose business will be affected will be eligible for compensation.
LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor's decrees recalling Slovenia's ambassadors to Italy, Egypt, the UAE, Denmark and Slovakia and appointing new ambassadors to Copenhagen, Cairo, Abu Dhabi, Bratislava, Brussels and Seoul became effective as they were published in the Official Gazette. Around 15 new ambassadors are expected to assume their posts by the end of August, including several who in the opinion of the incoming coalition are too connected politically with the current government, so the new government could replace them.
RIJEKA, Croatia - President Borut Pahor addressed a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of the umbrella organisation of Slovenians in Croatia, noting the importance of the friendly ties between the two countries and calling for the fastest possible entry of Croatia in the eurozone and Schengen Area.
LJUBLJANA - The government adopted the 2022 annual plan of investments in the Slovenian Armed Forces, under which the Defence Ministry will have EUR 120.55 million at its disposal to develop two key capabilities for national and collective defence as part of NATO - a battalion battle group and a special operations unit.
BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia pledged to provide EUR 150,000 in humanitarian aid for the civilian population of Syria by 2024 at the donor conference organised by the EU, which raised EUR 6.4 billion.
LJUBLJANA - As Freedom Movement leader Robert Golob, the presumptive PM-designate, announced his wish to create a strong liberal bloc, the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said they were in favour of such consolidation. Golob is seeking to merge his party with the LMŠ and SAB and offered the leaders of both parties, Alenka Bratušek and Marjan Šarec, ministerial posts.
LJUBLJANA - The government issued a regulation on waste incineration as a public service under which concessions - expectedly four - are to be issued for 30 years. It also adopted a seven-year strategy for tourism that envisages a moderate increase in accommodation capacity and quantitative indicators, and focuses on higher quality, while suspending plans to consolidate state assets in tourism under a new holding.
KNIN, Croatia - Slovenian energy company Petrol launched its second wind farm in Croatia. The EUR 37 million facility Ljubač with nine turbines, located near Knin in south Croatia, had been on a trial run since last summer, and generates around 96 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year.
TRBOVLJE - Dewesoft, a Trbovlje-based maker of data acquisition systems, and HBK, a German company specialising in product physics, launched a joint venture called Blueberry to work on backbone standardization for the new generation of data acquisition systems.
TURIN, Italy - Last Pizza Slice (LPS) did not make it past the semi-final of the Eurovision song contest, the second year in a row that the Slovenian entrant remained without the final.
WEDNESDAY, 11 May
LJUBLJANA - The three partners of the incoming coalition finalised the coalition agreement and determined most of the candidates for cabinet posts in an expanded government that will apart from prime minister have 19 ministers and another without portfolio. SocDem leader Tanja Fajon is the candidate for foreign minister and Left leader Luka Mesec will be in charge of a new ministry of solidarity-based future. Both will serve as deputy PMs alongside Danijel Bešič Loredan, a surgeon slated for the health portfolio.
LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Matej Tonin signed a memorandum with the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) that paves the way for the purchase of 45 APCs, just hours after he was authorised to do so and two days before the government is relegated to caretaker role. The incoming government opposes the purchase.
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - President Borut Pahor addressed the Sarajevo Business Forum focussing on the role of political stability for economic and social development of Bosnia-Herzegovina. He warned the process of enlargement to the Western Balkans was too slow and appealed for Bosnia to be granted candidate status as soon as possible.
LJUBLJANA - ECB president Christine Lagarde said the ECB could conduct the first interest rate hike within weeks after it ends purchases under the asset purchase programme early in the third quarter, as she took part in a conference marking the 30th anniversary of Slovenia's central bank.
LJUBLJANA - The government appointed cardiologist Mitja Lainščak director of the Public Research Agency (ARRS) for a five-year term, thus ending a saga over the director's appointment and the appointment and dismissal of the founder's members on the agency's management board.
LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest banking group, NLB, posted EUR 231.5 million in net profit in the first quarter of 2022, more than triple the figure recorded in the same period last year, on the back of the acquisition of the Slovenian subsidiary of Russia's Sberbank in March. The profit of the core company NLB dropped to nearly EUR 33 million.
LJUBLJANA - Film, theatre and television actor Ivo Ban, 72, was announced as the recipient of this year's Bert Award for lifetime achievement in film and television conferred by the Slovenian Directors' Guild.
VALLETTA, Malta - Maltese customs officers seized a record 1.5 tonnes of cocaine hidden in a container carrying bananas from Colombia to Slovenia, the Maltese newspaper Malta Today reported. The contraband is estimated to be worth EUR 300 million.
THURSDAY, 12 May
KOČEVJE - An explosion and a fire at the Melamin chemical factory in southern Slovenia left six people injured, five are missing presumed dead. The fire was likely caused by human error involving the mishandling of a hazardous chemical.
LJUBLJANA - The Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR) has already signed a contract with Artec, the German supplier of Boxer carriers, on behalf of Slovenia, a day after the government sealed the agreement with OCCAR.
LJUBLJANA - At its last regular session before being relegated to caretaker role, the government declared 17 May the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Communist Violence. It said that the perpetrators of violence and evil acts should be measured by the same criteria.
LJUBLJANA - A Defence Ministry audit ascertained reasons to suspect criminal offences in the maintenance of Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) vehicles and procurement of spare parts. The Defence Ministry confirmed the Necnzurirano report and said damage was estimated at EUR 1.2 million.
LJUBLJANA/BEIJING, China - Slovenian president Borut Pahor and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping exchanged congratulatory messages on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Pahor said Slovenia was in favour of "constructive European-Chinese relations".
LJUBLJANA - Telekom Slovenije, the state-owned telecommunications provider, generated EUR 151.2 million in net sales revenue in the first quarter of the year, down 4% from the same period a year ago, the main reason for which is the company quitting electricity retail business on 1 January. The group's net profit rose 23% to EUR 12 million.
LJUBLJANA - Media reported the bad bank is gearing up to sell tourism companies Istrabenz Turizem and Thermana, including by what unofficial information says are changes to the articles of association regarding the status of the two companies' supervisors, which could facilitate Istrabenz Turizem hotels to be sold to Hungarian buyers.
LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Zlatko Ratej acting director of the Competition Protection Agency. He will take over for a six-month stint on 1 July, when the term of the incumbent director, Andrej Matvoz, ends
STA, 13 May 2022 - Slovenia's new parliament opened on Friday with the confirmation of the terms of all ninety MPs and the election of the first woman to the speaker post, and a move by the opposition that indicates that the new coalition faces a formidable opponent versed in parliamentary procedure.
Urška Klakočar Zupančič, a former judge, was elected the first female speaker with 55 votes in favour and 25 against in a secret ballot that illustrates the weight of the future coalition, a grouping of three parties with 53 MPs among them that will be formalised within days.
Klakočar Zupančič, 44, called for dignified communication in parliament and said MPs should criticise deeds and actions, not persons, as she stressed that parliament was embarking on a challenging journey after two very difficult years during which the rule of law was undermined.
"The rule of law is the highest postulate of a democratic country that must always remain intact," she added.
She believes that all MPs have a sincere desire to do something good for their country and that each of them would like to help improve the quality of life in Slovenia. Despite their political and ideological differences, she would work to build consensus wherever possible.
A similar message was delivered by President Borut Pahor when he said Slovenia could survive the testing times ahead provided that there is "common ground found on the most important matters of the state".
The new opposition meanwhile tabled more than two dozen bills minutes after parliament opened, a move that will delay the passage of legislation crafted by the new coalition.
Most notably, the Democrats (SDS) and New Slovenia (NSi) tabled a package of media bills, including amendments to the law on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, legislation singled out as the top priority for the new government.
The National Assembly's rules of procedure stipulate that if two laws dealing with the same subject matter are tabled, the one that is chronologically first to be submitted gets priority. Until it is either passed or voted down, a second law cannot even be considered.
While the opposition described the move as a show of its constructive stance - SDS deputy group leader Danijel Krivec said this was "nothing special", Robert Golob, the presumptive prime minister, said it constituted an "abuse of parliamentary procedure" and was "childish".
"Every normal person asks himself why someone ... who had a majority in the National Assembly until three weeks ago was waiting to join the ranks of the opposition and start tabling legislation," he said.
The move may have been primarily designed to delay changes to the RTV Slovenija law, but parliamentary records show the incoming coalition beat the opposition to that by tabling its bill first - and designating it for fast-tracking.
Golob said the main change involved the National Assembly appointing only two members of the Programming Council rather than 17.
STA, 12 May 2022 - The consolidation of liberal parties led by the Freedom Movement appears to be going forward. The party has confirmed plans to merge with the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) and Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), parties that did not make it to parliament, the latter having green-lit the proposal as well.
"The procedure will unfold at an accelerated pace," Freedom Movement leader Robert Golob, the presumptive new prime minister, told the press on Thursday.
Golob has already offered both leaders ministerial posts, with Šarec slated for the defence department and Bratušek planned to take over the infrastructure portfolio, which she has led once before.
The proposal for a merger was also confirmed this evening by the SAB executive committee, with the party's governing council due to take a vote in the coming days.
The LMŠ has not formally endorsed the motion yet but is likely to since Šarec has accepted the ministerial post and some other senior party members are in talks to occupy leading positions in parliament and government.
Both parties were at the forefront of the battle to unseat Janez Janša and during the course of the campaign they acted in concert with the Freedom Movement but then failed to make the 4% threshold to enter parliament.
Most analysts and commentators see the merger with the Freedom Movement as a logical step since the parties have scant chances of surviving otherwise.
STA, 12 May 2022 - At its last regular session before being relegated to caretaker role, the Janez Janša government on Thursday declared 17 May the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Communist Violence.
The government says that it acted based on two things - on "the civilisational norm that the perpetrators of violence and evil acts be measured by the same criteria" and "in an effort to prevent the most tragic events in our history from being repeated".
Between the summer of 1941 and January 1956, communist violence in present-day Slovenia claimed tens of thousands of violent deaths of civilians and prisoners or war.
Under communist rule after WWII, communist violence affected hundreds of thousands of people in Slovenian through violations of human rights and freedoms.
First individuals and families were killed by communists in the autumn 1941, the government says.
However, 17 May was selected as remembrance day to commemorate the first mass massacre of civilians in 1942.
On that day, a Partisan unit killed 49 Roma people and four Slovenians in the Iška Gorge south of Ljubljana, among them 24 children.
The government says that "this crime was only the first in a series of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the communist partisan movement".
These crimes peaked in the spring of 1945 after WWII when more than 15,000 Slovenians, or 1% of the population, were killed in just a few weeks.
Tens of thousands of POWs and civilians of other nationalities (Croatian, Serbian, Montenegrin, Bosnian and Italian etc.) were also killed immediately after WWII.
Slovenia paid symbolic compensation to the relatives of some of the victims and rehabilitated them, while a good share of the executions have been researched and the sites marked.
However, the government says that the universal right to a grave and a memorial for all the victims of WWII and post-WWII communist terror has not yet been established.
It also says that a respectful memory of the suffering hundreds of thousands of Slovenian inhabitants endured as victims of other forms of communist violence is also not yet part of the public memory. These victims were refugees and exiles, victims of the violence of the secret police, and victims of concentration or labour camps, Stalinist trials and other forms of lawlessness.
The post lists victims of the class war against private property, the fight against religion and the Church, and those who wanted to preserve their freedom and beliefs that were not in line with the communist authorities.
Just like the EU, independent Slovenia was founded in 1991 on the foundation of condemnation of all totalitarian regimes, including communism, the government notes.
And while the victims of fascism and Nazism are remembered with respect, the awareness of the communist violence has not yet entered the collective consciousness.
As a result, the attitude towards the victims of communism is still disrespectful, the governments says on Twitter in English, adding that "even calls for a repeat of the most horrific forms of communist violence" are "increasingly loud and supported by the media".
Historian Božo Repe, chair of contemporary history at the history department of the Ljubljana Faculty of Arts, described the move as an "ideological battle with the past" designed to divert attention from current events rather than a sincere remembrance of the victims of Communism.
It should be interpreted in the context of the outgoing government's latest moves, including staffing and the sale of state-owned companies, he said, noting that holidays are officially designated by the National Assembly so this declaration is not binding on the future government or the community at large.
STA, 10 May 2022 - The fate of a flagship current-affairs show on the national public broadcaster, Studio City, remains uncertain after RTV Slovenija refused to renew the contract with long-time leader Marcel Štefančič amidst accusations that it is conducting a politically-motivated purge.
RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough told the Programming Council on Monday that the leadership would conduct consultations until 23 May as to how to continue with the show without Štefančič.
Not only was Štefančič's contract not renewed, the entire team working on Studio City has told the editor-in-chief of news and current affairs at TV Slovenija, Jadranka Rebernik, that it would not take part in the new concept presented to them, Grah Whatmough said.
Several journalists were offered to anchor the show. Some immediately rejected the offer, and two declined due to what Grah Whatmough said were threats against them and their families. One of these two was Vida Petrovčič.
The announcement comes after weeks of upheaval at the national broadcaster under a new leadership that has been accused by the civil society and centre-left opposition of having adopted a pro-government line that does not befit an independent public institution.
Last week dozens of RTV Slovenija staff gathered in support of Štefančič when it was announced that his contract would not be renewed, ostensibly because he had made insulting remarks about RTV Slovenija employees at a public debate.
Commentators and politicians on the right have long accused Studio City, a show best known for its fast-paced anchor and in-your-face comment, of leftist bias.
The show was first cancelled for the duration of the one-month election campaign with the argument that its time slot would be given over to debates, which was indeed the case.
When it was slated to return, the leadership announced that it would not renew Štefančič's contract, which expired at the end of March, just days after he hosted the last Studio City.
The show was supposed to return on air yesterday. Instead, a journalist who recently transferred to RTV Slovenija moderated a recap of old Studio City shows.
In the meantime, Štefančič organised "Studio 9 May" at an alternative Ljubljana theatre that featured discussions with incoming prime minister Robert Golob and philosopher Slavoj Žižek.
As an expression of support for independent media, the show was livestreamed by major media outlets such as Delo, Dnevnik, Siol, N1 and STA. At its peak, about 20,000 viewers were tuned in, a remarkable achievement for livestreaming in Slovenia.
STA, 10 May 2022 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has said the West remains oblivious to the fact that Russia was never de-Communised, as he told Ukrainians in an address aired on Ukrainian national TV on Monday that Ukraine was the real heir of the victories of the Second World War.
Janša said only one evil, national socialism or Nazism, had been defeated in the Second Word War in 1945, whereas the other evil, international socialism or Communism, was not.
"Evil, just because it confronts another evil, does not yet become good," he said, noting that Communism had gone on to occupy Central and Eastern Europe and the Baltic, killing millions of people at home and abroad.Watch the video, in English, below
The West's victory in the Cold War did not eliminate this evil and whereas Nazi Germany was denazified, Communist Russia experienced merely the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
"There was no lustration in Russia, no de-Communisation, no justice, not enough interest in the West either. Evil has survived.
"Today the KGB network controls the Russian state, it has nuclear weapons and the future is unclear. There is another dominant Communist world nuclear power there and Cold War Two will not be the as the first. The blindness of the West is still great, but the fog is rising because of your courage and sacrifice," he said.
He said that in fighting for their country, the Ukrainians were also fighting for Europe. "Again, you are on the right side of history. Thus it is you, Ukrainians, who are the true rightful heirs of that honourable fight 77 years ago. In Moscow, they are the heirs of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact."