Weekly review of events involving Slovenia, 3-9 Feb

Ljubljana, 10 February - Below is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia from 3 to 9 February:

FRIDAY, 3 February
        LJUBLJANA - Over a dozen police officers are suspected of having committed criminal acts during the anti-government protests between 2020 and 2021, two reports by the Interior Ministry and police found. Of the 13 officers, four are high-ranking individuals.
        LJUBLJANA - The New Slovenia (NSi) said it will not be filing an ouster motion against Culture Minister Asta Vrečko, having fallen two MP signatures short after the opposition Democrats (SDS) made their support conditional on NSi's support for a motion of no confidence against the entire government. The NSi is not dismissing the possibility of endorsing the SDS's motion, but is waiting to hear the details.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia exported EUR 52.9 billion worth of goods in 2022, up by 34.2% compared to 2021. The import of goods in 2022 rose by 36.6% to EUR 56.8 billion, the Statistics Office said. Slovenia's main trade partner last year was Switzerland, which overtook Germany.
        BUDAPEST, Hungary - Defence Minister Marjan Šarec wrapped up a two-day official visit to Hungary. He and his counterpart Kristof Szalay Bobrovniczky agreed that the good defence and military cooperation should be strengthened further. They also talked about cooperation in the EU and NATO and the war in Ukraine.
        LJUBLJANA - The number of people registered as unemployed reached 55,386 in January, up by 4.1% over December and down by 18.4% over January 2022.
        LJUBLJANA - A number of Slovenian doctors and researchers took part in a breakthrough international study showing that the use of medicines tailored to patients' pharmacogenetic data lowers adverse effects of drugs by 30%.
        LJUBLJANA -It was reported that sexual harassment charges had been brought against university drama teacher and actor Matjaž Tribušon at the beginning of December 2022 after accusations were levelled against him by his former student.

SATURDAY, 4 February
        FELSŐSZSÖLÖNOK, Hungary - Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko visited the Slovenian model farm in the border region of Porabje in Hungary, where she also met counterpart Istvan Nagyi. They talked about topical issues in agriculture, game management along the border, African swine fever and sustainable forest management.
        LJUBLJANA - The national railways operator Slovenske Železnice made some EUR 40 million in operating profit last year, which is the highest figure ever, while generating EUR 620 million in revenue, show preliminary estimates presented by CEO Dušan Mes.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest report from the European Commission and the OECD on cancer inequality, released on the occasion of World Cancer Day, notes that the equality of care for cancer patients in Slovenia is at a high level, but experts warn that more cancer research is needed.
        WILLINGEN, Germany - Slovenia's Ema Klinec took second place in the women's Ski Jumping World Cup event in Willingen, for her third second place in a row and fifth podium finish of the season. Anže Lanišek followed this up by finishing second in the men's event for his tenth podium finish this season and the 23rd in his career.

SUNDAY, 5 February
        LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob has signed an agreement with his former energy company GEN-I renouncing an annual bonus - reportedly around EUR 1.5 million gross - for the company's successful performance in 2021, the STA found out from GEN-I. In January 2022, when the former director general announced his plan to enter politics, Golob said he would give the much publicised bonus to charity.

MONDAY, 6 February
        LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob nominated Boštjan Poklukar for new minister of the interior, to replace Tatjana Bobnar, who resigned in December. Poklukar already held this position in the government of Marjan Šarec (2018-2020). Some media reported that junior coalition Left and the Social Democrats are not too happy with Poklukar. Police trade unions were reserved in their response, while acting Police Commissioner Boštjan Lindav expects police autonomy to be respected.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's annual inflation rate ran at 10% in January, 0.3 percentage points down from the month before, as consumer prices rose by 0.2% month-on-month, fresh data from the Statistic Office showed. Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 19.3% in a year and by 2.1% in a month and remain the main driver of inflation.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia offered aid after Turkey and Syria suffered a devastating earthquake during the night. Top state officials, including President Nataša Pirc Musar and PM Robert Golob, offered condolence to families of the deceased. On 31 February, Slovenia sent a coordination expert and a group of seven rescue dogs with handlers plus four assistants to Turkey. Later in the week the country pledged to send material aid worth more than EUR 451,000 to Turkey and humanitarian aid worth EUR 500,000 to Turkey and Syria.
        LJUBLJANA - Labour Minister Luka Mesec announced a March adjustment of child benefits to inflation as a first response to the announced raising of kindergarten prices. While in favour of free kindergartens, he said this would require EUR 200 million.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - Attending a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council, Foreign Ministry State Secretary Marko Štucin said the Western Balkans migration route is a key security matter for Slovenia, which is in favour of strengthening the EU's external borders, but opposed to erecting fences. He moreover welcomed the Green Deal Industrial Plan, while noting Slovenia was in favour of greater flexibility in state aid rules in particular.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's fiscal position improved last year, mainly due to a reduction in Covid-related aid, but both the level of the deficit and its deepening compared to 2019 were among the highest in the EU, the Fiscal Council noted. It warned against measures that would cause a further and long-term deterioration of public finances.
        KOPER - The shareholders of state-controlled port operator Luka Koper dismissed four members of the supervisory board who had been appointed to the body under the previous government. The previous board members were replaced by Borut Škabar, Barbara Nose, Jožef Petrovič, Boštjan Rader and Mirko Bandelj.
        BUDAPEST, Hungary/MARIBOR - After receiving all the green lights it needed to take over NKBM, Slovenia's second largest bank, the Hungarian banking group OTP announced the acquisition process has been successfully completed. What will follow now is the merger of NKBM and SKB, a Slovenian bank which OTP acquired in 2019. This is expected to take a year and a half.
        LJUBLJANA - Representatives of trade unions in culture told the press ahead of Culture Day that employees in the culture sector faced an underdeveloped culture policy in many aspects of their work. Standards and norms are not defined, working conditions are poor, precarious work is on the rise, and public institutions are understaffed, they said.
        NEW YORK, US - Slovenian Luka Klasinc, a 50-year-old former figure skater turned businessman, reportedly pleaded guilty to bank fraud related to loans meant for small business owners struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic in the US. Under US law, he could be jailed for up to 30 years.

TUESDAY, 7 February
        LJUBLJANA - Hungarian fuel retailer MOL told the STA it was willing to sell off some of its assets in order to acquire the European Commission's market concentration approval to take over OMV petrol stations in Slovenia. The statement came a day after the newspaper Dnevnik reported MOL was about to start selling some of its gas stations.
        LJUBLJANA - An association representing Swiss franc borrowers hit by the 2015 appreciation of the currency said a new ruling by the Supreme Court argued that Swiss franc loan contracts were significantly disproportionate to the detriment of the borrower, which, the association said, meant "all such contracts were null and void". The Slovenian Bank Association in turn said the court decision that ruled in favour of two Swiss franc borrowers drives home the message that such cases should be judged on a case-by-case basis.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - The European Commission approved a EUR 100 million state aid scheme in support of companies in Slovenia affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
        LJUBLJANA - This year's Prešeren Prize winners Ema Kugler and Herman Gvardjančič received the top national accolades for lifetime achievement in culture and arts at the annual ceremony on the eve of Culture Day. The 2023 Prešeren Fund Prize winners also accepted their awards at the ceremony at the Cankarjev Dom arts centre.
        LJUBLJANA - The Medical Chamber said it had filed criminal complaints against ten individuals for allegedly spreading hate speech on social networks that was directed against healthcare workers. This comes as medical organisations have called for doctors to be protected by law as public officials.
        LJUBLJANA - Safety on the internet is the duty and responsibility of all users, said the Interior Ministry on the occasion of Safer Internet Day. Last year the police recorded 163 criminal offences of displaying, making, possessing and distributing pornographic material, which includes acts of sexual abuse on the internet. There were 95 victims under the age of 18.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob went public with his new partner Tina Gaber at the Prešeren Prize ceremony on the eve of Culture Day. Golob, 56, and Gaber, who is in her mid-thirties, have not wished to comment on their private lives.

WEDNESDAY, 1 February
        TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - Visiting Uzbekistan, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon signed an economic cooperation agreement with Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Foreign Economic Relations Jamshid Khodjaev. Fajon was visiting Uzbekistan, Slovenia's biggest trading partner in Central Asia, and Kyrgyzstan this week accompanied by a delegation of Slovenian business officials and representatives of the SPIRIT agency.
        LJUBLJANA/VRBA/KRANJ - Despite the cold weather, Slovenians flocked en masse to cultural events throughout the country to mark Culture Day, a public holiday in memory of the great Romantic poet France Prešeren.
        LJUBLJANA - The opening ceremony for the European Capital of Culture hosted by the Slovenian border city of Nova Gorica and its Italian counterpart Gorizia will be held on 8 February 2025, Culture Minister Asta Vrečko announced.
        LJUBLJANA - Slightly over 22,400 deaths were recorded in Slovenia in 2022, which is 4% fewer than in 2021, according to preliminary data issued by the Statistics Office. Compared to 2020, the number of deaths decreased by 7%. Just under 17,400 babies were born in 2022, 8% fewer than the year before.

THURSDAY, 2 February
        BERLIN, Germany - In what is her second visit abroad after being sworn in, President Nataša Pirc Musar met her German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Discussing topical issues such as climate change, the Western Balkans and the war in Ukraine, the pair pointed to Slovenia's and Germany's shared positions and excellent relations.
        BRUSSELS, Belgium - In his doorstep statement on arrival in Brussels, PM Robert Golob said he will not announce Slovenia's additional help to Ukraine as he meets Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Now it is big EU countries' turn to help Ukraine, he said, adding that so far they had been keeping somewhat on the sidelines. He later tweeted that Slovenia would continue to help in any way it can.
        LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry sad it would summon Austrian Ambassador Elisabeth Ellison-Kramer for a meeting after the Carinthian chapter of the youth wing of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) posted an anti-Slovenian message on Instagram earlier this week.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a regulation providing aid to small and medium-sized companies, and farms affected by the war in Ukraine. EUR 12 million has been earmarked for this temporary measure targetting companies and farms processing and selling agricultural products, of which EUR 9 million will come from EU funds.
        LJUBLJANA - The government presented public sector pay reform plans to trade unions, with unionists saying afterwards that many unclarities still remain and that talks would be long and demanding. The plan entails new salary brackets, creation of separate pay tiers and changes to the promotion system.
        LJUBNO OB SAVINJI - The municipality of Ljubno, a small commune some 40 km north-east from the capital, received a golden award at the European Competition for Rural Development and Village Renewal.

© STA, 2023