News roundup - Friday, 27 January

Ljubljana, 27 January - Below is a roundup of major events on Friday, 27 January:

Constitutional Court annuls automatic extension of healthcare concession

LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court has annulled some provisions of the health services act that provide for the possibility of extending a concession for private doctors working within the public healthcare system almost automatically. Until amended legislation is in place, a new open call will be required to extend a 15-year concession. There are two different procedures for granting a new concession and for extending concession status, which is incompatible with the general principle of equality, court held.

STA director says new funding contract to allow normal functioning

LJUBLJANA - STA director general Igor Kadunc and acting Government Communication Office (UKOM) head Petra Bezjak Cirman signed a new contract on the financing of the public service provided by the press agency. The EUR 2.27 million contract raises annual funding by EUR 243.600. It also ends a financing system based on the number of articles published put in place by the previous government, instead reintroducing monthly payments set at EUR 189,300. Kadunc welcomed funding for 2023 being raised by roughly 10% compared to 2022, saying this would allow the STA to function normally.

Strategic health council meets for first session

LJUBLJANA - The strategic council for health, which is in charge of proposing solutions for health reform, met for its first session, announcing that rising enrolment numbers at the country's two medical schools will be discussed next week to address the shortage of doctors across Slovenia. "It was said the 1,000 doctors we need can be trained at home in eight years, that we don't have to import them," Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan said. He said the government would do everything to provide funds and premises for the two faculties, as they are faced with space constraints due to more students.

Speaker urges values of civilisation on Holocaust Remembrance Day

LJUBLJANA - We must be aware every day that the Holocaust happened, and it is our civilisational duty to do everything we can to ensure that something so cruel never happens again, parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič said in her address at the main commemoration marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day in Slovenia. Similar warnings were echoed in messages by other senior officials earlier in the day, with President Nataša Pirc Musar urging against exclusion and hate "because they cause pain that can be avoided if we do not allow history to repeat".

Slovenia increasing protection of whistleblowers

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed in a 52:23 vote a bill on the protection of whistleblowers in the public and private sectors setting down avenues to report breaches of legislation and introducing a set of measures to protect those who report them. These include a ban on retaliation and an obligation to protect a whistleblower's identity. While the bill transposes an EU directive that was to be transposed by December 2021, the government says it is broader than the directive and refers to reporting of violations of any rules not just EU regulations.

Tweaks to energy crisis aid package passed

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed tweaks to the law adopted in December that created the basis for EUR 1.2 billion in state aid to companies to cope with high energy prices. Under the new solution, companies benefiting from regulated electricity prices will no longer be eligible for aid. The original law provides subsidies for the cost of energy prices and for job retention schemes. However, the government later capped electricity prices for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the first half of 2023.

MPs green-light bill to boost air connectivity

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a bill designed to boost Slovenia's air passenger traffic. The scheme, under which EUR 5.6 million will be available in annual subsidies over the next three years, is subject to approval by the European Commission, and it is not yet known which links exactly the country will promote. Under the bill, passed with 57 votes in favour and none against, only direct links by existing carriers will be financed via, which will consist of subsidies amounting to up to 50% of the airport fee.

Stricter sentencing confirmed for hate crimes

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed in a 52:30 vote amendments to the criminal code that bring harsher sentences for hate crimes committed based on the victim's personal circumstances such as national origin, race, sex, language or religion. The amendment to article 49 of the Criminal Code, which provides general rules on sentencing, says that if a crime is committed against a victim due to the victim's personal circumstances, this will be considered an aggravating circumstance in the sentencing.

MPs pass bill on guarantees for EU's financial aid to Ukraine

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed in a 81:1 vote a bill on the strengthening of the Common Provisioning Fund with a guarantee from Slovenia for an emergency macro-financial aid to Ukraine. Slovenia will provide a proportionate share of the EUR 3.66 billion guarantee, up to EUR 12.5 million, for an EU loan of EUR 6 billion. The act passed today secures Slovenia's guarantee for 0.34% of the total sum, which Ukraine received last year. "The funds received as part of this aid package will support the most critical functions of the Ukrainian state," Finance Ministry State Secretary Saša Jazbec told the MPs.

MPs pass changes to provisions on upper chamber electoral disputes

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly unanimously adopted changes to legislation governing the elections to the National Council, the upper chamber, to provide for legal recourse in the event of an election dispute in line with a 2018 Constitutional Court decision. The changes also extend the timeline of the electoral proceedings.

President Pirc Musar to visit Zagreb on Wednesday

ZAGREB, Croatia - President Nataša Pirc Musar will pay a visit to Zagreb on Wednesday to meet Croatian President Zoran Milanović, her office said in a press release. Pirc Musar, who first visited Croatia as the country joined the Schengen Area on 1 January and met Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at the Obrežje border crossing, said her first visit in her capacity as president was an "homage to the EU, our neighbour, European integration and to cooperation".

Alleged leader of Slovenian Kavač Clan cell convicted over 2019 abduction

KOPER - Klemen Kadivec, the alleged leader of the Slovenian cell of the infamous Kavač Clan drug cartel, was convicted of complicity in the 2019 abduction of two men, one of whom was later murdered. The Koper District Court sentenced on Friday Kadivec to six years and five months in prison and co-defendant Bojan Stanojević to four years and nine months, while another co-defendant, Dragan Čikojević, was acquitted. The abduction was allegedly in revenge for the theft of more than one million euro worth of drugs.

Petrol expects record revenue in 2023, return to profit

LJUBLJANA - Energy group Petrol expects to generate a record EUR 10.2 billion in sales revenue this year and a net profit of EUR 117.1 million after posting a loss in 2022, according to a business plan confirmed by the supervisory board. "Although we are looking at a demanding year due to the difficult situation on energy markets, the Petrol Group's plan for 2023 is optimistic," CEO Nada Drobne Popović said.

Agricultural factor income up 19% in 2022

LJUBLJANA - Agricultural factor income in Slovenia increased by 19% in 2022 over the year before, the Statistics Office said. The value of agricultural production is estimated to have reached EUR 1.67 billion last year, lifted by a 20% increase in sale prices and despite a 1% drop in production. Compared to the under-average yield of 2021, the growth is attributed to an increase in prices in plant production and animal rearing, with production cost going up as well.

Celje hospital tightens security after assault by patient

CELJE - After a patient assaulted two staff members, reportedly an ER nurse and a doctor, the Celje hospital has tightened security. Dragan Kovačić, the hospital's acting director, said that the patient, who was rowdy and impatient, injured the arm of one staff member, who then suffered a heart attack, and broke the nose of the other by head-butting them. Hospital management condemned the incident. Kovačić said the hospital was shocked that the situation in healthcare had become so strained. Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan condemned the violence, noting that it was not the fault of health staff that the health system was not working.

Turnover in retail up 20% last year due to fuel sales

LJUBLJANA - Retail turnover in 2022 was 20.3% higher than the year before. It was up the most in retail in automotive fuel, rising by 57% due to high prices. Retail trade in food products was down by 2%, the Statistics Office said. Retail trade with automotive fuel excluded, the turnover would have been 3.1% higher than in 2021. In monthly comparison, turnover decreased for the fourth consecutive month in December, this time by 1.3%.

Koležnik's production among top 10 in German-language theatre

BERLIN, Germany - Slovenian theatre director Mateja Koležnik's take on Maxim Gorky's play Children of the Sun, staged at the German theatre Schauspielhaus Bochum, has made the list of ten remarkable productions from the last season in German-speaking theatre. The jury of critics wrote that at first glance, Koležnik's production brings to mind somewhat dated theatre traditions, "and yet, there is nothing museum-like about Koležnik's approach. In fact, her work is highly topical."

Poet to accept prize after decades of protest over honouring now disgraced priest

LJUBLJANA - Author Svetlana Makarovič will accept the Prešeren Prize, Slovenia's top award for achievements in arts, after she refused it for 23 years in protest against Marko Rupnik, a Jesuit artist and priest who was awarded the prize the same year and has since been revealed as a serial sexual abuser. In 2000, she refused the prize because Rupnik was included among the recipients based on different criteria that bypassed established rules.

Dončić makes All-Star starter roster

PHOENIX, US - Slovenian NBA star Luka Dončić has made the starter roster for the All-Star game for the second time. This will also be his fourth appearance at the All-Star tournament in his five seasons at the NBA. Dončić, the Dallas Mavericks forward, will play in the west pool along with LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), who will be the team captain, Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Nikola Jokić (Denver Nuggets) and Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans).

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