News roundup - Wednesday, 1 February, until 3pm

Ljubljana, 1 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Wednesday, 1 February, until 3pm local time:

Pirc Musar and Croatian president call for govt dialogue on border arbitration

ZAGREB, Croatia - Relations between Slovenia and Croatia are undoubtedly good, while the two countries will be able to resolve outstanding issues, President Nataša Pirc Musar and her counterpart Zoran Milanović agreed in Zagreb today. The pair would like to see a dialogue between the two governments on the border arbitration ruling. "Slovenia's position on the arbitration ruling is clear here - agreements reached must be respected," Pirc Musar said in the face of Croatia's continuing refusal to implement the 2017 border arbitration decision.

Hungary's OTP gets final clearance to acquire NKBM bank

LJUBLJANA - The Hungarian banking group OTP has received clearance from the Slovenian market regulator to take over NKBM, Slovenia's second largest bank, in what is the final nod of approval after the transaction has already been cleared by the European Central Bank. The clearance from the Competition Protection Agency comes after OTP signed a deal on 31 May 2021 to acquire the Maribor-based bank from the US fund Apollo (80%) and the EBRD (20%). The value of the deal remains confidential, but media have put the price tag at roughly one billion euros. OTP said the transaction was expected to be finalised within days.

General government deficit in 2022 at 2.8% of GDP

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's general government revenue reached EUR 23.3 billion and expenditure EUR 24.9 billion, which puts deficit at EUR 1.6 billion or 2.8% of GDP, down by EUR 1.3 billion from 2021, show preliminary figures announced by the Finance Ministry, which said it was happy with last year's general public finance situation. National budget revenue and expenditure stood at EUR 12.3 billion and EUR 13.7 billion, respectively, with deficit just below EUR 1.4 billion or 2.4% of GDP.

Slovenia and Cyprus sign defence cooperation agreement

NICOSIA, Cyprus - Defence Minister Marjan Šarec signed a defence cooperation agreement with his Cypriot counterpart Haralambos Petrides as he visited the capital of Cyprus, the Ministry of Defence announced on Twitter. "Minister Petrides and I agreed on tangible steps for cooperation between the militaries of the two countries, in particular in military exercises and training, research and development, cyber security and EU initiatives," Šarec said.

Ministry says corruption ranking not necessarily reflection of actual corruption

LJUBLJANA - The Justice Ministry responded to Slovenia's losing a point to achieve its lowest score to date in the Corruption Perceptions Index ranking for 2022 by noting that the index reflected the perception of corruption while not necessarily showing the actual situation. The index reflects how individuals answering questions about corruption perceive the situation, which is not necessarily an objective picture of corruption, it added. Slovenia scored 56 out of 100 points to keep 41st place among 180 countries.

Commissioner Johansson: We need to get rid of internal border checks

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs, talked about the efforts to get rid of border checks on internal Schengen borders in an interview with a group of media, including the STA. The Commission is in talks with the countries concerned, including Slovenia and Austria, how to find better ways to protect borders. "We need to get rid of the internal border checks," Johansson said in the interview, which took place on Tuesday as part of the European Newsroom.

North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley wins EUR 25m in EU funds

LJUBLJANA - North Adriatic Hydrogen Valley, a transnational project whose lead partner is Slovenian energy company HSE, has received a EUR 25 million grant from the Horizon Europe Programme. The project involves Slovenia, Croatia and the Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia and is set to get under way in the second half of 2023. The 34 partners will develop projects to produce over 5,000 tonnes of green hydrogen a year in a bid to decarbonise key industrial sectors such as steel and cement production, and transport.

Ex-journalist takes over as sec-gen of ruling party

LJUBLJANA - Vesna Vuković, a former journalist who has so far served as the public relations officer for the Freedom Movement, has now taken over as the party's secretary-general. In the past she worked as a journalist for the newspaper Dnevnik and was one of the founders of the investigative journalism portal Necenzurirano. Given her previous role, her appointment as the ruling party's PR officer raised controversy in the media. She succeeds Tamara Kozlovič, who will focus on her job as MP, the party said.

Posočje aiming to become first ecoregion in Slovenia

KOBARID - Stakeholders in organic farming from the upper Posočje region in the west of Slovenia plan to declare the first ecoregion in Slovenia. Conditions for organic farming in the region are good, many are already practising environment-friendly agriculture and more are bound to follow in the face of this initiative. The region stretching along the Soča River includes the municipalities of Bovec, Kobarid, Tolmin and Kanal, whose 12.3% share of organic farms is substantially above the national average of 5.5%.

© STA, 2023