News roundup - Friday, 13 January

Ljubljana, 13 January - Below is a roundup of major events on Friday, 13 January:

Fajon vows further support for Bosnia as she starts W Balkan tour

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina - Slovenia will continue to support Bosnia-Herzegovina in its efforts to join the EU by providing concrete political support, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said after meeting her Bosnian counterpart Bisera Turković at the start of her Western Balkans tour, which will also take her to Montenegro and Kosovo. She urged Bosnia-Herzegovina to make every effort to strengthen the rule of law, as she also met all three members of the Bosnian collective presidency. The Bosnian officials expressed their gratitude for Slovenia's support during their country's successful pursuit of EU candidate country status.

Maljevac to focus on housing funds, long-term care under new ministry

LJUBLJANA - Simon Maljevac, the candidate for minister of solidarity for an equitable future, a new portfolio, noted at his confirmation hearing in parliament the importance of housing funds and a strong public network of long-term care services. Employee ownership will be promoted, he told the relevant parliamentary committee that later endorsed him. Maljevac sees housing funds as the backbone of the public housing system, and believes that a robust and public network of long-term care services must be put in place to build a society of solidarity. The public rental scheme should be further developed and strengthened, he added.

Kumer stresses importance of decarbonisation in his role as minister of environment, climate and energy

LJUBLJANA - Outgoing Infrastructure Minister Bojan Kumer, the candidate for minister of the environment, climate and energy, told the relevant parliamentary committee that his key priority would be promoting the use of renewable energy sources and speeding up decarbonisation. He also said a key task would be preventing energy shortages. One of his first moves will be the adoption of a new bill on renewable energy sources, which "will be on the table probably very soon", he told the Infrastructure, Environment and Spatial Planning Committee, which then endorsed his nomination.

Fajon to represent Slovenia in Davos

LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon will attend the 53rd World Economic Forum starting in Davos on Monday, where she plans to present Slovenia as a modern, green welfare state, which assumes its part of responsibility for tackling the most burning challenges. PM Robert Golob received an invitation but would not attend the forum because of other obligations, his office told the STA. Slovenia will thus be represented by Fajon, who received a separate invitation as the first Slovenian female foreign minister.

Task force in charge of health reform gets down to business

LJUBLJANA - An interdepartmental task force in charge of drafting the planned health reform began its work today. The group is led by PM Robert Golob as this issue is one of his and the government's top priorities in the next two years, the Government Communication Office (UKOM) said. It will include the ministers of health, finance and public administration, and experts and officials from the Government Digital Transformation Office, and meet weekly. Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan said the group will be led by Golob "to raise healthcare to the highest possible level".

*Croatian company acquires Sola and Zala soft drink brands

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest brewer Pivovarna Laško Union announced it had sold the non-alcoholic beverage brands Sola and Zala to the Slovenian company Nika Bev, which is owned by Croatia's Stanić Beverages, to further focus on beer brewing. A deal has been made with Nika Bev for distribution of branded products in Slovenia to continue. The contract, the value of which has not been disclosed, includes the transfer of the brands, production and distribution of products. With the sale of the two brands, Pivovarna Laško Union will reduce the complexity of production and simplify its operations, the brewery said in a press release. 70 workers are said to lose their jobs, with some having the possibility of getting a job at Pivovarna Laško Union's facilities in Laško.

Treasury: Pay rise deals not jeopardising fiscal stability

LJUBLJANA - After a number of economists raised concerns about pay rise deals that the government has agreed with various groups of public sector employees, the Finance Ministry said the financial impact of the deals agreed this week was within the EUR 611 million pay deal agreed with public sector trade unions last October. The ministry said the funds will be secured through budget redistribution. Among those raising concerns about the latest pay rise deals was Davorin Kračun, the head of the Fiscal Council, who told the commercial broadcaster POP TV that the public sector wage bill was EUR 5.5 billion or 11% of GDP. The Public Administration Ministry meanwhile said that the recently reached deals stem from the promises given to the public sector by the previous government.

Police officers and firefighters also demand higher pay

LJUBLJANA - In the wake of announcements of pay rises for judges, prosecutors, doctors, and kindergarten assistant teachers, more groups are coming forward with the same demand, including both police trade unions and the trade union of professional firefighters, all threatening with industrial action if their demands are not heeded. Accusing the government of breaking promises, the Police Trade Union of Slovenia called for a higher base pay of at least four pay brackets, and expects an answer by 20 January. The firefighters want a deal on an eight-bracket rise to be sealed by 27 January, or else they will hold a rally in front of the government on 16 February.

*Police investigating bomb threats in six shopping malls

CELJE/MARIBOR/LJUBLJANA - Police in Ljubljana, Maribor and Celje received messages about explosive devices having been planted in six shopping centres in the three cities, but found no such devices after searching the premises. The City Center and Planet Tuš malls in Celje were also evacuated because the police also received a phone call from a man threatening he would kill himself at the entrance of one of the shopping centres and there was suspicion the events could be related. The man was hospitalised.

Health Ministry presents digitalisation strategy

BRDO PRI KRANJU - The Health Ministry presented a healthcare digitalisation strategy for the 2022-2027 period to stakeholders, with Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan expressing the hope that much of the procedure could be completed by the start of 2024 because digitalisation is to make the system more transparent. The ministry plans to establish a digital medical record that all doctors treating a patient could access, including the named GP, specialists and private doctors. The patient will be able to see who accessed their medical record. The strategy will also establish a national tele-health centre.

GZS welcomes govt decision on electricity prices for SMEs

LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) welcomed yesterday's decision by the government to change December's regulation to allow micro, small and medium-sized companies that had lower electricity consumption due to Covid in 2021 to be included in the price capping scheme. It said it was happy that the government had listened to its proposal and amended the regulation so that these companies can still benefit from the price capping scheme. The GZS, however, still awaits a solution for big and energy intensive companies.

Banks warn higher minimum wage to hurt borrowers

LJUBLJANA - The Bank Association warned that the latest increase in the minimum wage will have an adverse impact on consumer borrowing because it will lift the bar for creditworthiness. The minimum wage will rise by EUR 100 to EUR 878 net or EUR 1,203.36 starting from January under a decision taken by Labour Minister Luka Mesec. "Since the share of employees earning such a wage will increase, the consequences of such a substantial increase of the gross minimum wage on borrowing will be distinctly negative."

Study underlines need for systemic measures against sexual harassment in academia

LJUBLJANA - A Ljubljana Faculty of Arts-led study on sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence in academia has shown that examples of such violence are being identified with increasing frequency and that systemic solutions are needed. As the study was presented to the press, Education Minister Igor Papič announced that the findings would serve as the basis for a procedural rulebook to deal with reported cases of sexual violence. The rulebook is stipulated in the changes to the act on higher education.

Youth for Climate Justice backs anti-coal activists in Germany's Lützerath

LJUBLJANA - The Youth for Climate Justice organised a protest rally in front of the German Embassy in Ljubljana in support of activists in the village of Lützerath, Germany, who are campaigning for an end to coal mining and against the village being swallowed up by the nearby open coal mine. Several dozen protesters at the rally organised by the Slovenian NGO expressed solidarity with the German activists and labelled Lützerath as a symbol of resistance against fossil fuel and climate change.

Fairytale on Ice opening in centre of Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - An ice rink dubbed Fairytale on Ice opened in Pogačar Square next to the central market in Ljubljana. Running until 5 March, one of the six ice skating venues in the capital will be open every day between 11am and 9pm at a cost of one euro per person. Skaters must wear gloves inside the rink, and children under six must be accompanied by an adult. It will be possible to rent ice skates and other accessories at the rink.

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