News roundup - Wednesday, 1 February

Ljubljana, 1 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Wednesday, 1 February:

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

ZAGREB, Croatia - Relations between Slovenia and Croatia are undoubtedly good, and the two countries will be able to resolve outstanding issues, President Nataša Pirc Musar and her counterpart Zoran Milanović agreed in Zagreb. 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 - the agreements reached must be respected," Pirc Musar said in the face of Croatia's continuing refusal to implement the 2017 border arbitration decision.

Coalition agrees on guidelines for public sector pay reform

BRDO PRI KRANJU - Coalition partners set out a groundwork for public sector pay reform. They will start out by addressing lowest earners and eliminating pay disparities in the system, only to proceed to finding a common ground to harmonise wages, pensions and social transfers, PM Robert Golob said after a coalition meeting. Based on the analysis of the public sector pay system, the coalition shares a view that the single pay system has long been gone. "This is something we won't turn a blind eye to, we will instead reform the system," Golob said.

Housing reform aims at 3,000 new public units a year, Golob says

BRDO PRI KRANJU - The coalition aims to introduce by 2026 a sustainable system that will enable building 3,000 public housing units a year, for which around EUR 100 million in budgetary funds will be allocated annually, PM Robert Golob told the press as he outlined a housing market reform, discussed at today's coalition summit. The Housing Fund will be in charge of the construction.

Cravinho expresses support for Slovenia's Security Council bid

BRDO PRI KRANJU/LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob received Portuguese Foreign Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho to discuss efforts to preserve the competitive edge of the European industry. Cravinho also expressed Portugal's full support for Slovenia's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, the government said. The pair also discussed the role of renewable energy sources and the importance of efficient drawing of EU funds.

Thousands gather in Ljubljana city centre to demand decent pensions

LJUBLJANA - Thousands of protesters gathered in Republic Square in Ljubljana city centre to demand decent pensions, which they see as their right, as part of a rally organised by The Voice of Pensioners, a civil society group initiated by Pavel Rupar, a former MP for the Democrats (SDS). Several senior SDS members attended. The group demands an immediate 20% rise in pensions that are below EUR 1,000 and a 15% rise in those between EUR 1,000 and 1,500.

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 Charalambos 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.

Committee okays changes to public procurement act

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Committee on the Interior, Public Administration and Local Self-Government endorsed changes to the public procurement act that aim to pass into law a Constitutional court decision regarding a corrective mechanism allowing termination of contracts due to labour rights violations. Stressing that public procurement should be socially responsible, Freedom Movement MP Janja Sluga said during the debate that the proposal had been long time coming as she had led the initiative to adopt it five years ago.

Foreign diplomats visit Planica Nordic Centre

PLANICA - The Foreign Ministry hosted a meeting for foreign diplomats at the Planica Nordic Centre as part of the Business-to-Diplomacy series. State Secretary Samuel Žbogar vowed the diplomacy's support for the country's economy as he addressed the event. Žbogar noted the need for promoting bilateral and multilateral cooperation, saying that in this context the ministry's important mission was Slovenia's bid for the non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2024-2025.

Conventa aims to go the extra mile in sustainability

LJUBLJANA - After two years of a Covid-safe summer slot and hybrid form, Conventa, a two-day business-to-business event dedicated to conference tourism, has been moved back to its traditional winter time frame. Kicking off in Ljubljana today, the event will aim to go the extra mile in sustainability efforts. The 15th Conventa features nearly 150 invited guests from 30 countries and 95 exhibitors from 15 countries, who are believed to hold some 2,600 meetings, Conventa co-founder Gorazd Čad said.

Extra facilities and staff would increase slots at medical schools

LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR - The Ljubljana and Maribor faculties of medicine have been struggling in recent years due to staff shortages and overcrowded facilities. Despite being overstretched, both faculties have increased the number of places in recent years due to the shortage of doctors in Slovenia. The deans say additional facilities and employees would allow them to increase the number of enrolment slots. While new facilities are planned in Ljubljana, there are no such plans for the Maribor faculty for now.

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%.

Kras communities turning disaster into opportunity

MIREN - Communities on both sides of the Italian-Slovenian border that were affected by extensive wildfires last summer have decided to turn disaster into an opportunity to develop local tourism. The communities are planning a 130-kilometre trans-border hiking trail of the Kras region to follow in the footsteps of what were the most extensive wildfires in Slovenia to date. The trail will not be too demanding and will also be suitable for families. However, hikers will need to allow several days to walk it.

© STA, 2023