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News roundup - Wednesday, 11 August

Ljubljana, 11 August - Below is a roundup of major events on Wednesday, 11 August:

Coronavirus case count at 248 on Tuesday

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia saw 248 people test positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, an increase of nearly 80% from the same day a week ago, as 12.6% of the PCR tests were positive, show figures from the National Institute of Public Health. The 7-day average of new cases increased to 139, up by 15 from the day before, and the cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 residents rose by eight to 81. The Jožef Stefan Institute says the country has already moved to the orange phase under ECDC criteria.

Šketa says top court annulled parliamentary inquiries into prosecutors

LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court has found the law on parliamentary inquiry and the parliament's rules of procedure not to be in line with the constitution in allowing parliamentary inquiries into concrete cases undertaken by state prosecutors, State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa told the press. The court has also annulled the parliament's decision to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the many court proceedings of ex-Maribor Mayor Franc Kangler, now a state secretary at the Interior Ministry. According to Šketa, the court stressed in its latest decision, which has not been published yet, the role of independence and autonomy of state prosecutors.

Brussels clears Slovenian-Czech rail joint venture

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission approved, under the EU merger regulation, the acquisition of joint control over a joint venture created by the Slovenian rail operator Slovenske Železnice (SŽ) and Czech EP Logistics International to be active in intermodal rail freight transport. The goal of the strategic partnership is to create a logistics leader in Southeast Europe, comprising Slovenia, North Italy, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and the rest of the Balkans.

DEM starts construction of new solar power plant SE of Maribor

MARIBOR - Dravske Elektrarne Maribor (DEM) will launch next week construction of a new solar power plant adjacent to the Zlatoličje Hydro Power Plant, some 20 kilometres south-east of Maribor. Almost 6,000 photovoltaic modules are planned to be installed, with total rated output of 2.7 MWp expected to produce 3,000 MWh of electricity annually. The project worth more than EUR 2 million will provide the Zlatoličje Hydro Power Plant, operated on the river Drava, with added value, and "Slovenia will get additional gigawatts of electricity from a renewable source," the hydro power plant operator said.

Covid certificate needed for uni lectures, self-testing advised in secondary schools

LJUBLJANA - Compliance with the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule will be a prerequisite for attending university lectures in the next academic year, Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar said. The ministry proposes voluntary self-testing for secondary school students, but if Slovenia enters tier red under ECDC criteria, they will need the Covid certificate. Student organisations have agreed to the condition of Covid certificate compliance in the case of university lectures, Vindišar said.

Govt open to negotiations on new agreement on social dialogue

LJUBLJANA - The government is not against an option of signing a new agreement on the functioning of the Economic and Social Council (ESS), which trade unions have set as a condition to return to the ESS after they walked out in protest in May. But a potential new deal should not give extra powers to any of the ESS members, the government said. The government remains open to signing the agreement, which is said to commit the signatories to consistent respect for ESS rules, even though it believes that the current ESS rules of procedure already contain everything required for the country's main industrial relations forum to function.

Digital literacy project for elderly launched in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - A mobile classroom for the elderly around the country to learn digital skills was launched at an event at a Ljubljana care home. Simbioza Mobilna - Travelling Mobile Classroom, as the project is termed, is a collaboration of Slovenian social enterprise Simbioza and US tech giant Google. The project aims to bring ICT closer to the elderly, including in more remote parts of Slovenia, said Simbioza's co-founder Ana Pleško. Metka Svetlin, marketing manager at Google Adriatic, noted that last year, 44% of Slovenians aged 65 to 74 had never used the internet, while the EU average was 33%.

Finance Ministry state secretary switching post for OECD job

LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed Finance Ministry State Secretary Peter Ješovnik's proposal to be relieved of his duties as he is leaving to take up a diplomatic post as Slovenia's ambassador to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris. Ješovnik will no longer be state secretary from 16 August, the government decided at its correspondence session. The government also appointed Valentina Vehovar director general of the Social Affairs Directorate at the Ministry of Labour, the Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.

New traffic rules kick in

LJUBLJANA - A set of changes to traffic rules entered into force today, substantially lowering fines for speeding while more than doubling the fine for talking on the phone while driving. The latter will carry a fine of EUR 250 plus three penalty points. The new law regulates electric scooters for the first time, and allows drivers to turn right at a red light at crossroads with good visibility. Drivers overtaking cyclists and light motor vehicles will need to keep a 1.5 metre sideward distance from them.

Ombudsman finds TV3 in violation of anti-discrimination law

LJUBLJANA - The equal opportunities ombudsman has established that the TV3 channel has violated the ban on discrimination as it broadcast a talk show Faktor during which its host made statements about the inferiority of the Black race. By broadcasting the 21 January show, TV3 violated the law on the protection against discrimination. Advocate of the Principle of Equality Miha Lobnik has established that with her statements, Norma Brščič, Faktor host at the time, classified people on the basis of race and "sent out a clear message about the inferiority of Black people". He said freedom of speech is an important constitutional right yet not unlimited, but the office has no powers to punish discrimination.

Bad bank selling nearly 63% stake in real-estate arm of Merkur

LJUBLJANA - The Bank Assets Management Company (BAMC) published a call for binding bids for its nearly 63% stake in the Merkur Nepremičnine company or 16,072 regular shares with stock symbol MRNR and all the liabilities in relation to Merkur Nepremičnine worth EUR 13.07 million. Bids will be accepted until 11 October, the bad bank announced. The stake and liabilities are offered as a package deal and cannot be sold separately.

Brewer Laško Union 2020 performance affected by Covid

LJUBLJANA/LAŠKO - Pivovarna Laško Union, Slovenia's largest brewery, last year generated EUR 145.6 million in net sales revenue, down 6.9% from 2019. The company, which is part of the Heineken group, attributes the drop to the Covid-19 outbreak. Net profit decreased by 31.5% to EUR 16.7 million. Volume-wise, sales of beers brewed by Pivovarna Laško Union in the Slovenian market were down by 9.6%. In foreign markets, volume sales of beer rose by 11.8% to represent 32% of the total sales last year.

Pahor receives crew of first feature film in independent Slovenia

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor hosted the creators of the first feature film in independent Slovenia, Babica Gre na Jug (Grandma Goes South), saying that the reception in the Presidential Palace sent a message that the period of independence efforts had also been the time of major cultural events. The team that made the 1991 comedy drama was received as part of a series of events hosted by Pahor to mark the 30th anniversary of Slovenia's independence.

Fans greet Olympians in Ljubljana's Congress Square

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Olympians were welcomed by fans in Ljubljana's Congress Square on Tuesday evening, earning cheers and applauses after what were the most successful Summer Olympic Games for the nation, as the athletes returned home with three gold medals. The men's basketball team did not attend the reception due to previous engagements, and neither did riders Primož Roglič and Tadej Pogačar, who addressed the crowd and thanked fans for the support in a video recording.

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