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News roundup - Friday, 20 August

Ljubljana, 20 August - Below is a roundup of major events on Friday, 20 August:

Slovenia, Austria in favour of helping Afghan refugees in Afghan neighbourhood

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar and his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg said that Afghans fleeing the Taliban should be helped in Afghanistan's neighbourhood, as they warned against a rerun of the 2015 migration crisis. "With regard to the situation in Afghanistan, Minister Schallenberg and I agreed that Slovenia and Austria will advocate the position that the events of 2015 and 2016 may not be repeated," Logar said. "As the country presiding the EU, we will promote dialogue between member states in the search of a consensus." Schallenberg said it was necessary to ensure the Balkan migration route remained closed, with Austria willing to increase its participation in the protection of borders. The pair also discussed the fight against the Covid-19 epidemic, the Slovenian minority in Austria, and ways of strengthening Slovenia's cooperation with the Austrian states of Carinthia and Styria.

Logar promises Austria full transparency about nuclear plans

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar assured his Austrian counterpart Alexander Schallenberg Slovenia would be completely transparent about its plans to build a second unit at the Krško nuclear power station, in particular when it comes to environmental impact assessment. Dialogue with Slovenia's neighbouring countries regarding this issue will be "inclusive to the maximum extent", Logar said at a joint press conference in Ljubljana. Schallenberg said that an open dialogue was very important and that Austria respected decisions by other countries on what kind of an energy mix they would have.

President Pahor to attend Crimea conference on Monday

LJUBLJANA - President Borut Pahor will be in Kyiv on Monday to attend a high-profile international conference dedicated to Russia's unlawful annexation of the Crimea in 2014, at which a joint declaration will be adopted and the Crimea Platform formed. He will present Slovenia's position, backing Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. The president will also call for more eager and honest dialogue between Ukraine and Russia and between the EU and Russia, and try to encourage international efforts for lasting peace in eastern Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk agreements.

FM Logar to visit Israel on Monday

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Anže Logar will pay a visit to Israel on Monday to meet his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid, while he will continue his visit in the Palestinian territories on Tuesday to meet Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki and Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. Meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials will focus on reviewing bilateral cooperation, and discussing developments in the region, cooperation with the EU, and topics related to the Slovenian presidency of the EU.

Booster shots now available for immunocompromised patients

LJUBLJANA - Booster shots of coronavirus vaccines are available for persons with transplanted organs, patients awaiting transplantation and those with severely weakened immune systems, under the latest revision of the national vaccination strategy adopted by the government today. Those who are eligible will be allowed to choose their preferred vaccine and do not have to book an appointment at a vaccination centre. Immunocompromised patients are among the groups with the highest risk of severe Covid and many countries have started offering them booster shots.

Rapid testing remains free for certain sectors

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia was expected to phase out on 23 August free rapid testing for all but the most high-risk professions, but the government changed course today. Employees in healthcare, education, retail and the events industry will continue to have access to free tests and will get tested once a week. Students in the last three years of primary school and all secondary-school students will have to wear masks, including in classroom, whereas weekly self-testing for them will be voluntary and free of charge. Another decree adopted today stipulates that from 23 August, athletes may do organised sport provided they are tested once a week, unless they are vaccinated or have had Covid-19.

333 coronavirus infections confirmed on Thursday

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia confirmed 333 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, up almost 70% on the week before and the fourth day that infections exceeded the 300-mark. The PCR test positivity rate was 13.4%, better than in recent days but still comparatively high, show data by the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). The 14-day case notification rate rose by nine to 139. The number of active cases is now estimated at almost 3,000.

Transit passengers need to produce Covid certificate after 29 August

LJUBLJANA - Passengers transiting through Slovenia are not required to produce a Covid certificate only until 29 August, the government decided today. To enter Slovenia without having to quarantine for ten days, the recovered-vaccinated-tested rule continues to apply, while transit passengers, hauliers in international transport, children below 15 years of age, property owners on both sides of the border, and people who daily cross the border for work are exempted. To prove the exemption applies, a passenger has to produce documentation proving their status to police officers on the border, or else they are ordered to quarantine.

Public broadcaster TV Slovenija director Natalija Gorščak dismissed

LJUBLJANA - The director general of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija Andrej Grah Whatmough has dismissed Natalija Gorščak, the director of TV programmes, after accusing her of violating bylaws and allowing ratings to plummet. Gorščak, who is on sick leave, said she had received the notice of dismissal via courier. She announced to use legal means to proved that she had worked well and in line with the law. The decision, announced today, comes after the broadcaster's programming council was supposed to debate Grah Whatmough's motion last week. Since it was inquorate, Grah Whatmough had sole discretion to dismiss her from the post.

Plan confirmed for major new water source in Istria

LJUBLJANA - Earlier this week, the government confirmed a plan for a major new water source for the water-starved Istria region on the coast, a decision that was welcomed today by municipalities in the region as a major step towards improving the reliability of supply, but decried by local environmentalists as damaging to the environment. The EUR 134 million project involves building a reservoir on the Suhorca stream, and a smaller reservoir on the Padež, a larger stream of which the Suhorca is a tributary.

NGOs urge authorities to resolve water source issue in Anhovo immediately

LJUBLJANA - Environmental NGOs appealed to the authorities to immediately make sure that the region around Anhovo, western Slovenia, gets its water supply from a new source as the risk of pollution has still not been eliminated after last year's contamination incident. They also urged the local mayor to resign over corruption allegations involving the Kanal municipality and Salonit Anhovo company.

Consumer confidence worsens further in August

LJUBLJANA - Consumer confidence in Slovenia deteriorated for the second month in a row in August as the relevant indicator was down by two percentage points compared to July. It was still higher than the long-term average though, by one point. The figure rose by two points year-on-year, the Statistics Office said. Consumers' expectations dropped the most month-on-month in three areas: expectations related to major purchases (down seven points), expectations about the financial situation in households (two points) and the current such situation (two points).

British Airways to link Ljubljana and London

LJUBLJANA - British Airways relaunched flights between Ljubljana and London's largest airport Heathrow today, the operation of the Ljubljana Jože Pučnik Airport said. Passengers will be at first able to fly to Heathrow on Fridays and Sunday, with another two weekly flights added at the end of August, on Mondays and Wednesdays. Janez Krašnja, head of airline management at Fraport Slovenija, is happy that "one of the most popular routes among Slovenian air passengers is returning to Ljubljana".

Friday protesters mark 70 weeks of protests on Mt Triglav

MOJSTRANA - To mark the 70th Friday of anti-government protests, a group of protesters headed today for Triglav, Slovenia's highest mountain, where they unfolded their flag and a slogan Power to the People, Election Now. Protesters are continuing opposing the government because they cannot wait for a general election while the government is acting in a controversial manner, the organisers said in a press release.

Mladi Levi ambitious despite epidemic, founder's death

LJUBLJANA - Several venues in Ljubljana host from today until 29 August the 24th Mladi Levi (Young Lions) international festival, which the organisers have billed as ambitious despite the epidemic and the recent death of its founder Nevenka Koprivšek. Three shows took place on the first day apart from socialising and a concert by Serbian-Croatian-Slovenian group Maika this evening.

Mura lose first leg in Europa League last qualifying round

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian football champions Mura lost 1:3 (1:1) at home to Austrian Sturm Graz in the first leg of the play-off round of Europa League qualification on Thursday evening. The only goal for Mura was scored by Žiga Škoflek in the third minute. The return leg will be played in Graz next Thursday. Even if Mura drop out of the UEFA Europa League, they have a guaranteed spot in the third-tier UEFA Europa Conference League.

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