News roundup - Tuesday, 24 January

Ljubljana, 24 January - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 24 January:

Government reshuffle completed as ministers confirmed in parliament

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly endorsed nine ministers in the Robert Golob government, completing a government reshuffle that was needed after the opposition derailed Golob's original plan with a referendum at which it suffered a painful defeat. The government will now have twenty ministers, of which one without portfolio, just as Golob envisioned at the outset of his term, before his plan became bogged down for eight months.

Changed Financial Administration act re-passed with pledge of constitutional review

LJUBLJANA - A veto on changes to the financial administration act was surprisingly overridden in parliament. The MPs of the junior coalition Left joined the ruling party Freedom Movement with votes in favour. The two parties agreed they themselves would ask for a constitutional review and the staying of a contentious tracking devices provision. The SocDems abstained and the opposition voted against.

President and SocDems discuss potential changes to constitution

LJUBLJANA - President Nataša Pirc Musar met coalition SocDem leader Tanja Fajon and deputy group leader Jani Prednik as part of her meetings with parliamentary party heads. Health reform, potential changes to the constitution regarding appointment of public office holders, the political system and provinces topped the agenda. They shared the view that communication between representatives of different branches of government is important for the efficient and successful functioning of the state, Pirc Musar's office said in a press release after the meeting.

Golob denies involvement in alleged Kosovo corruption scandal

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob denied any involvement in an alleged corruption scandal in Kosovo in which his former company, Gen-I, is allegedly implicated, telling parliament that the Democrats (SDS) had fabricated the story to deflect attention from their leader. "It is fascinating to listen to your fabrications, which are completely made up," Golob told SDS lawmaker Žan Mahnič during questions time in parliament.

Đorđević appointed Supreme Court president

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly appointed Miodrag Đorđević the president of the Supreme Court with 53 votes in favour and 32 against. The only candidate to apply for the job, he was nominated for the position by Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan based on positive opinions from the Supreme Court staff and the Judicial Council. Đorđević was endorsed by the coalition, while the opposition Democrats (SDS) opposed his appointment. The party believes he is not an appropriate candidate for the job and that his candidacy was "a reflection of severe negative selection in the judiciary".

Govt sets price cap for district heating

LJUBLJANA - The government issued a regulation on the pricing of district heating, which sets the maximum allowable tariff for the variable part of the heating price at EUR 98.70 per megawatt-hour. The measures applies from 1 January to 30 April and will reduce prices in 18 out of 59 district heating systems. The government said that an analysis by the Energy Agency showed a disproportionate increase in the heating price in some district heating systems.

Govt secures workload bonuses for lowest paid staff in health and social care

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a special wage arrangement allowing monthly workload bonuses of up to EUR 150 gross for some of the lowest paid staff at health and social care institutions. The Government Communication Office spoke in a press release after the government's correspondence session of the workload increase being experienced in health and social care in the wake of 2022 emergency legislation by what are workers comprising the so termed J wage group in the public sector: cleaners, janitors, drivers etc.

Plan confirmed to build extra track along new Koper-Divača rail

LJUBLJANA - The government endorsed a plan to build a second rail track along the new track that is under construction between Divača and Koper in the west of the country. The single-track railway currently in use, which follows a completely different route, will be converted to a bicycle path. Having a dual-track railway on the new route reduces environmental risks, fire hazard and noise pollution. This option is also better economically, even as the initial cost is estimated to be slightly higher than keeping and modernising the existing track, the government said.

Golob notes goal of value added wood products

LJUBLJANA - The wood-processing industry in Slovenia has been in a state of crisis for some time now, Prime Minister Robert Golob said in parliament in response to an MP's question. The primary goal should be to manufacture products with higher value added, he noted. He stressed the importance of focusing on the areas where Slovenian wood will be marketed as a strategic asset.

ZZZS deficit, at EUR 133m, narrower than feared

LJUBLJANA - ZZZS, the state-owned health insurer, posted a deficit of EUR 133 million in 2022, significantly lower than forecast. The shortfall will be covered with surplus funds from previous years, the ZZZS management said. Revenue reached EUR 3.94 billion last year, broadly in line with a revised plan adopted in October, and expenditure EUR 4.1 billion, slightly lower than planned but EUR 556 million higher than in 2021, according to director general Tatjana Mlakar.

GEN energy group stays EUR 23 million in black

LJUBLJANA - The GEN energy group reported EUR 4.1 billion in revenue for 2022, up from EUR 3.5 billion the year before. The management said that despite the difficult conditions, Slovenia's largest energy group generated an estimated EUR 23 million in net profit, down from EUR 105.6 million in 2021. Turnover generated by the group, which got a new management at the end of last year, was above plans, although sales volumes were lower due to price increases.

Gen projects potential second unit of Krško N-plant could be built by 2035

LJUBLJANA - While a decision on a new nuclear reactor in Slovenia is still pending, it could be built and running by 2035 if things proceed without interruptions, according to Danijel Levičar, the business director of Gen Energija, which runs the Slovenian half of the Krško Nuclear Power Plant (NEK). Presently, the initiative for a national spatial plan is being finalised. Levičar told the press that given the plan to phase out coal by 2033, Slovenia will face roughly 60% dependence on electricity imports in 2035 if no new production capacities are secured.

Trade unions write to govt about planned health reform

LJUBLJANA - The government and all decision-makers should pursue strengthening and consolidating public healthcare, the leaders of seven associations of trade unions said in a joint statement, adding that they follow the government's health reform plans "with great attention and concern". The statement says that, as one of the social partners on the Economic and Social Council (ESS) and as representatives of employees in the assembly of the ZZZS public health insurance fund, "we have been warning for many years that the situation in the healthcare system is more than serious and that some changes are urgent".

Slovenia part of EPPO cross-border VAT fraud investigation

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The European Public Prosecutor's Office performed 61 raids in ten EU members, including in Slovenia. Five people have been detained as part of the investigation into cross-border VAT fraud. The suspects are suspected of having gained EUR 32 million in illegal proceeds, the office said in a press release. The European Public Prosecutor's Office opened the investigation in 2021, soon after the office was launched. So far, it performed two field investigations, seizing a total of EUR 5.2 million worth of cordless headphones.

Slovenia eager to play role in chip development

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia is keen on jumping on the chip train after the EU passed legislation stipulating that the bloc should have a 20% global share in chip production by 2030. The country has know-how and experts in this field, according to speakers at Slovenia's first conference dedicated to chips, held in Ljubljana. Slovenia must create new chip firms, added Boštjan Zalar of the Jožef Stefan Institute, which is taking part in an initiative to develop the Slovenian semiconductor industry.

Speaker discusses assisted suicide legislation with elderly advocacy group

LJUBLJANA - Parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič met with the representatives of Srebrna Nit, an organisation campaigning for dignified old age, indicating support for assisted suicide legislation, which the association is drawing up. Because this is an issue of great significance to all people, she expressed support for a referendum on the matter, the National Assembly said in a press release.

PM promises mayors will be involved in reform drafting

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob promised that mayors will be involved in the creation of reforms that government is planning this year, as he addressed an event of the Association of Municipalities and Towns (SOS). He called for dialogue and constructive cooperation, and said that he would be meeting mayors at least two more times this year. He said Slovenia is starting a year of reforms, which will affect local communities to a significant degree.

Thousands of users cut off from electricity in Štajerska

MARIBOR/CELJE/SLOVENJ GRADEC/DRAVOGRAD - Heavy snowfall and rainfall resulted in toppled trees on Monday leading to power outages in the eastern Štajerska region. During last night the situation got worse as thousands of users were cut off from electricity. In Koroška, another region severely hit by snowstorms, the situation has improved but trees continue to topple under heavy snow and a number of roads are still closed.

Slovenian gets proof of concept grant for PET scanning

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian researcher Peter Križan, who works at the Jožef Stefan Institute and the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics in Ljubljana, has received a proof of concept grant from the European Research Council (ERC) to confirm the concept of his ERC-funded research into new phenomena in elementary particles and accelerate the transition to innovation.

Anti-war art by Slovenian artist on display in Vienna

VIENNA, Austria - Photo collages with an anti-war note by Slovenian artist Stane Jagodič will open tonight at the Korotan Slovenian Cultural Centre in Vienna. Running until 4 March, his latest exhibition titled Zakaj/ Varum /Why puts on display an array of engaged, modern-day, anti-war collage art in response to topical events, especially the war in Ukraine. On Friday Jagodič's video material will be screened at the Vienna subsidiary of the Photon Gallery.

Drug ring leader gets 12 and a half years in prison

LJUBLJANA - Aleš Zupančič, allegedly one of the suspects in a recently dismantled drug ring, has been found guilty of drug production and trafficking by the Ljubljana District Court and sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison in a case dating back to 2017-2020. He also received a EUR 5,000 fine and must pay EUR 150,000 in illegal gains to the state, the newspaper Večer reported online.

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