Weekly review of events involving Slovenia, 27 Jan-2 Feb

Ljubljana, 3 February - Below is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia from 27 January to 2 February:

FRIDAY, 27 January
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court said it had 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.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Press Agency (STA) director general Igor Kadunc and acting Government Communication Office 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.
        LJUBLJANA - The strategic council for health, which is in charge of proposing solutions for the planned 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.
        LJUBLJANA - Parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič said in her address at Slovenia's main commemoration marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day "it is our duty to do everything we can to ensure that something so cruel as the Holocaust never happens again". Similar warnings were echoed in messages by other senior officials.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed 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.
        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.
        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.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed 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.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed 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.
        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 Kadivec to six years and five months in prison.

SATURDAY, 28 January
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob and the Slovenian Foreign Ministry condemned the deadly shooting at a synagogue in East Jerusalem and the attack that followed. The ministry also called "on all parties to refrain from actions which would lead to further violence".
        POKLJUKA - The Pokljuka Plateau, not far from Bled, hosted diplomats, politicians and business executives for the 30th annual cross-country skiing meet. The event, organised by the Strelica sports association, attracts MPs, MEPs, government members, mayors, people from business and ambassadors every year.
        BAD MITTERNDORF, Austria - Slovenia's Domen Prevc placed third at the first Ski Flying World Cup event this season on the Kulm Hill, Austria, where his brother Peter set the venue record in 2016.
        HINTERZARTEN, Germany - Slovenia's Ema Klinec placed second at the women's Ski Jumping World Cup event in Hinterzarten, Germany, after jumping 105.5 metres in the final series to climb up four spots.

SUNDAY, 29 January
        LJUBLJANA - President Nataša Pirc Musar congratulated newly-elected Czech President Petr Pavel, who defeated Andrej Babiš, a former prime minister, at the presidential election, saying she looked forward to strengthening friendship and cooperation between Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
        LJUBLJANA - Austrian builder Strabag was announced to have won a contract to build two sections of a north-south expressway known as the Third Development Axis. It beat two Slovenian consortia with a price of EUR 55.4 million. The selection is not final yet since non-selected bidders may still lodge appeals.
        BAD MITTERNDORF, Austria/HINTERZARTEN, Germany - Slovenian ski jumpers Timi Zajc and Ema Klinec secured podium positions in separate events, the former bagging second place on the giant hill in Kulm, Austria and the latter finishing second in the women's competition on the small hill in Hinterzarten, Germany.

MONDAY, 30 January
        LJUBLJANA/BRDO PRI KRANJU - Authorities confirmed that a couple suspected of being Russian spies have been apprehended in Slovenia and will become the first persons ever to be charged with espionage under Slovenian criminal law. They were arrested in early December on a tip-off from SOVA, the national intelligence agency, which identified them in collaboration with NATO and EU partners, reported Delo, which first broke the story.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - President Nataša Pirc Musar and PM Robert Golob stressed Slovenia's promotion of human rights, the rule of law and solidarity as they addressed the annual reception for diplomats accredited to Slovenia, adding that this will guide Slovenia in its bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia unveiled an initiative for changes to the directive on honey introducing more detailed labelling of honey origin. It would like the label to state the country of origin or how much of the honey comes from each country.
        ROME, Italy - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Marko Štucin was on a working visit in Rome to discuss topical EU issues, bilateral relations and the problems of the Slovenian minority in Italy, the Foreign Ministry said in press release.
        KOPER - The 30th anniversary of the Slovenian navy, officially the 430th Naval Division, was marked in Koper with Defence Minister Marjan Šarec noting the importance of stepping up naval strength. Several investment projects were announced, including the construction of a dedicated pier in the port of Koper and a military ship upgrade.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a bill introducing a monthly EUR 600 gross allowance for judicial officials from 1 January and lasting until a reform of the public sector wage system is implemented, but not later than until the end of the year.
        LJUBLJANA - The NGO 8 March Institute announced it is suing former Interior Minister Aleš Hojs for damages over his allegations on Twitter that water shortages during the massive fires in the Kras region last summer were the result of a referendum on the waters act initiated by the NGO.
        LJUBLJANA/HRASTNIK - The largest solar power plant in Slovenia, located in a rehabilitated and closed section of the Prapretno landfill near Hrastnik, produced 3,015 megawatts of electricity between April and December 2022, which is 8% above plans, the state-owned power utility HSE said.

TUESDAY, 31 January
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia lost one point in the Corruption Perceptions Index last year to score 56 out of 100 points, the lowest so far. It ranked 41st among 180 countries, the same as the year before, follows from the report, released by Transparency International (TI). The anti-graft watchdog said it was time to act, while the Justice Ministry said the ranking was not necessarily the reflection of actual corruption.
        LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon and her Portuguese counterpart Joao Gomes Cravinho underscored friendly relations between Slovenia and Portugal as they met in Ljubljana. They urged expanding cooperation, especially in business. Fajon also pointed to opportunities offered by the EU MED Group and the Union for the Mediterranean.
        LJUBLJANA - Culture Minister Asta Vrečko, who is also in charge of media policy, said that the priority of the planned media reform would be protecting the independence of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.
        LJUBLJANA - As amendments to the family code providing for marriage equality entered into force, LGBT+ rights representatives and members of the Left announced efforts to give single women access to in vitro fertilisation and to end discrimination against trans people.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia still has problems transposing EU directives, but it has improved in this department the most among all member states. According to a report released by the European Commission, the share of directives that the country failed to transpose stood at 1.2% in 2021, 0.4 percentage points down from the year before.
        LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS) has EUR 329 million in public funds available this year, EUR 58 million more than it spent last year. The figures were presented after the government decided last week to restructure the agency into an Agency for Research and Innovation in Science (ARIS), a move that has been met with opposition from trade unions and representatives of research institutions.

WEDNESDAY, 1 February
        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.
        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.
        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.
        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.
        LJUBLJANA - Thousands of protesters gathered in Republic Square in the 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.
        LJUBLJANA - The Hungarian banking group OTP 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. OTP said the transaction was expected to be finalised within days.
        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, said the Finance Ministry, adding it was happy with last year's general public finance situation.
        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.
        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.

THURSDAY, 2 February
        LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) indicated it was drawing up a motion of no confidence in the government. It expects all the MPs of fellow opposition party New Slovenia (NSi) to back it if they want the SDS's support in their ouster motion targeting Culture Minster Asta Vrečko. The NSi said things depended on who the SDS will put forward as a candidate for the new PM as part of the motion.
        LJUBLJANA - The government withdrew from parliamentary procedure a bill to give judges and prosecutors a monthly bonus of EUR 600 gross from 1 January this year until the public sector pay system is reformed. Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan said that the aim was to examine the parliament's legal service's reservations about the bill's provisions possibly not being in line with the constitution.
        BUDAPEST, Hungary - Defence Minister Marjan Šarec started a two-day official visit to Budapest to meet his counterpart Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky. The ministry said that the two will discuss the potential to boost defence and military cooperation between Slovenia and Hungary, the challenges their countries' armies are facing and cooperation in the framework of NATO, the EU and international missions.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Minister of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Uroš Brežan joined 11 EU environment ministers in urging the European Commission to protect wolves in the face of the European Parliament resolution on the protection of livestock farming and large carnivores in Europe, adopted last November, which allows for reduced wolf protection.
        LJUBLJANA - Representatives of the parliamentary Commission for the Oversight of Intelligence and Security Services made an unannounced visit to the national intelligence and security agency SOVA to find out why information about the arrest of alleged Russian spies made headlines recently. The commission also inquired about the performance of the GEN-I group in the Balkans and SOVA was tasked to report about the findings in this area.
        NOVO MESTO - The Renault-owned assembly plant Revoz expects production in 2023 to be comparable to that in 2022. The Novo Mesto plant put out some 68,000 vehicles in 2022, a figure that is far below the 96,000 vehicles assembled in 2021 before the production and workforce cuts in 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - Swiss pharma giant Novartis invested a record EUR 346 million in Slovenia in 2022. The company started the construction of a new aseptic production plant in Ljubljana and will establish a biotech centre in Mengeš.
        LJUBLJANA - The association of small shareholders VZMD filed a class action lawsuit against telecommunications company Telemach over what it argues are unjustified unilateral price hikes of subscription plans over the past five years. The VZMD said Telemach's subscribers have suffered an estimated EUR 43.6 million in damages.

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