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News roundup - Tuesday, 31 August

Ljubljana, 31 August - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 31 August:

Slovenia's GDP up 16.3% y/y in second quarter

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's GDP increased by 16.3% on a year-on-year basis in the second quarter of the year, the Statistics Office reported, with the growth powered by household spending and gross investment. Foreign trade was up significantly as well. Gross investment in most fixed assets was up and it was up on average by 19.2% compared to the second quarter of 2020. An increase in inventories also added 3.4 percentage points to the GDP growth. Household spending was up by 18.8%, and was thus higher than in the second quarter of the pre-coronavirus crisis year 2019. Household expenditure for goods and services was up significantly. Slovenia's GDP is now just below its 2019 peak.

EU determined to prevent illegal migration and boost aid in Afghanistan's region

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The EU is determined to prevent uncontrolled large-scale illegal migration movements from Afghanistan and the region, reads a joint EU statement adopted after an emergency meeting of EU home affairs ministers. Incentives to illegal migration should be avoided, they said. The evacuation of EU citizens and Afghan nationals who had cooperated with the EU and its member states and their families remains a priority and will continue. Of vital importance is also aid to vulnerable groups, in particular women, children and the elderly, said Slovenian Interior Minister Aleš Hojs. It had been unclear ahead of the meeting whether the statement would be adopted as Luxembourg opposed the step. Seeking common ground to adopt the statement was quite hard and the debate "very heated" occasionally, said Hojs.

STA staff urges top EU officials to protect STA, media freedom in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA - Representatives of STA staff have send a letter to top EU officials noting that despite calls to restore the financing of the STA, the issue has still not been resolved. Moral support by senior representatives of the EU unfortunately no longer suffices, reads the letter addressed to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Council President Charles Michel, and Parliament President David Sassoli. "It is necessary to take more decisive, perhaps even unprecedented steps, to protect freedom of the press. Absent that, this will mark a new defeat of democratic values that the founding fathers of the European Union were fighting for," reads the letter.

538 new coronavirus infections recorded, positivity rate at 18%

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia recorded 538 new coronavirus cases on Monday for a positivity rate of 18.4%. The number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital this morning rose by five to 146, and the number of patients in intensive care rose by three to 30, show data by the tracker Covid-19 Sledilnik. The cumulative 14-day incidence per 100,000 population rose from 241 to 252 and the number of active cases by 218 to 5,374, according to the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ). The rolling seven-day average of new daily cases was up by nine to 431. One death was reported.

Advisors propose keeping schools open, expansion of Covid certificate use

LJUBLJANA - The Health Ministry's Covid-19 advisory group prepared a proposal of restrictive measures to be introduced in various stages of the epidemic. According to unofficial information obtained by the STA, it proposes expanding the tested-vaccinated-recovered (PCT) rule if the situation deteriorates, while school closure is not envisaged. In line with the proposal, the tiers of restrictions will be based on the number of cases in hospitals and the phases of Slovenia's hospital activation plan. The six-stage strategy for patients determines when Covid units will open in Slovenian hospitals.

Ombudsman warns migrants often lack legal remedies

LJUBLJANA - The Human Rights Ombudsman has issued several warnings in a report on the human rights of migrants, most notably that migrants are often returned to neighbouring countries without receiving a written decision. The Ombudsman says that the absence of written decisions makes it impossible for them to appeal the return. This issue has already been raised in a motion addressed to the Constitutional Court. Other issues raised include the lack of access to legal aid, and inconsistent use of the protocol governing the return of unaccompanied minors.

Pragersko rail hub upgrade begins

PRAGERSKO - Works started on a project to upgrade the Pragersko railway hub, one of the main rail junctions in the country. The EUR 90 million project is slated for completion in June 2023. The overhaul aims to bring it in line with EU technical standards, increase speed on the Maribor-Celje route, and improve transport safety. Works include the expansion of the existing railway station building, removal of a level crossing, construction of two parking lots, erection of two kilometres of sound barriers, replacement of 18 kilometres of track, and modernisation of the signalling equipment.

TAB back to growth after challenging year

MEŽICA - TAB, a maker of starter and industrial batteries, saw sales decline by 15% last year to EUR 233 million after a deep slump in spring, with net profit down by nearly 30% to EUR 16 million. This year, however, sales have rebounded. In the first seven months of the year the company recorded sales of EUR 148 million and almost EUR 11 million in net profit. Director Bogomir Auprih said the situation this year was "good, perhaps even very good".

Annual inflation in August at 2.1% due to more expensive fuel

LJUBLJANA - The annual inflation rate in Slovenia in August stood at 2.1%, mostly due to significantly more expensive petroleum products, which contributed 1.2 percentage points to the headline rate, as the price of diesel was up by 29.6% on average and of petrol by 26%. The monthly inflation rate was at 0.1%, the Statistics Office reported. Measured with the harmonised index of consumer prices, an EU gauge, consumer prices rose by 2.1% year-on-year, and by 0.1% at the monthly level.

Survey unemployment rate down slightly in July

LJUBLJANA - The ILO-compatible survey unemployment rate in Slovenia in July reached 4% and was thus 0.2 percentage points lower than in June and 1.3 percentage points lower than in July 2020. The Statistics Office estimates there were about 41,000 persons jobless in July. Among the unemployed persons aged between 15 and 74, 45% were men and 55% women. The survey unemployment rate among men was at 3.3.% and among women at 4.8%, the Statistics Office said.

Celje trade fair MOS returning after one-year break

CELJE - The International Trade Fair (MOS) returns to Celje this year with a renewed image, taking place between 15 to 19 September and hosting around 1,000 exhibitors from seven countries. The partner country is Hungary. Robert Otorepec, the CEO of the organising company, said that the concept of the fair opened up new opportunities for companies that aim towards a green, digital and resilient economy.

Proposal on cryptocurrency tax amended

LJUBLJANA - Only a day after putting out a proposal on taxation of trading in cryptocurrencies, the Financial Administration (FURS) said it will amend the proposal amid a strong response from stakeholders to give taxpayers the option to chose between paying either the originally proposed 10% tax on the amount of cryptocurrency turned into non-virtual currency or spent on goods or services, or a 25% capital gains tax.

Subsidised public transportation in Slovenia expanded

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will significantly expand subsidised public transportation starting on 1 September. Students with subsidised transport passes will no longer be limited to the home-to-school route, they will be able to travel on all routes in Slovenia year-round for the same cost as last year - EUR 25 for a monthly pass and EUR 200 for an annual pass. The Infrastructure Ministry has also reached an agreement with the municipalities of Ljubljana and Maribor to provide free bus transport for pensioners aged 65 and over. It will be available from the beginning of October.

Veronika Prize for best poetry collection goes to Tina Kozin

CELJE - Poet Tina Kozin is the winner of this year's Veronika Prize, earning the prestigious award for the best collection of poetry for Nebo pod vodo (Sky Under the Sea). The jury wrote that Kozin's collection evokes an evasive reflectivity, and the indefinable contact between the real and the illusion. In her third collection, Kozin has, according to the jury, shown an unusual maturity that is far removed from the main currents of contemporary poetic language.

Two Ars Electronica gardens to be launched in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA/NOVA GORICA - This year's Ars Electronica, taking place in Linz, Austria between 8 and 12 September, will open virtual gardens worldwide, including in Slovenia. The project by the University of Nova Gorica School of Arts delivers a selection of student works, audio-visual, intermedia and research content that is dedicated to the fusion of arts, science and technology. The other Slovenian garden brings together nine institutions and organisations from five Slovenian cities in a bid to "create improved conditions for research, development and realization of contemporary investigative art projects".

Slovenia heads FIBA Europe combined ranking

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia has climbed to the top of the FIBA Europe combined ranking for 2021, which takes into account showings by both the men's and boys' basketball squads, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) announced. The Slovenian men's team built on its EuroBasket 2017 title by finishing fourth at the Olympic Basketball Tournament in Tokyo. Slovenia also bagged three medals at European youth championships.

© STA, 2021