News roundup - Monday, 6 February

Ljubljana, 6 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Monday, 6 February:

Boštjan Poklukar nominated for new interior minister

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob has nominated Boštjan Poklukar for new minister of the interior, to replace Tatjana Bobnar, who resigned in December, the National Assembly confirmed for the STA. Poklukar already held this position in the government of Marjan Šarec (2018-2020). Poklukar now awaits a hearing before the relevant parliamentary committee. The candidate must first present his plans to the committee three days and no later than seven days after his nomination is submitted, which means that Poklukar's hearing could take place as early as this week, but the likeliest date is reportedly next Monday.

Slovenia's annual inflation eases slightly to 10%

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 shows. 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. Prices of goods increased on average by 11.1% and prices of services rose by 7.9% in a year. Non-durable goods prices went up the most, by 13.5%.

Inflation far from being tamed, says C-Bank governor

LJUBLJANA - Even though inflation has eased off somewhat in recent months, Boštjan Vasle, the governor of the Slovenian Central Bank, told the STA it was far from being curbed. As a member of the Governing Council of the European Central Bank (ECB) he says they are determined to keep increasing interest rates. "The core inflation rate, which does not include prices of food and energy, remains high, there are risks on the side of wage pressures."

Mesec in favour of free kindergartens, but EUR 200m extra needed

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. Also, subsidies will be made more accessible with the February changes to social transfer thresholds. While in favour of free kindergartens, he said this will require EUR 200 million. He noted that the costs of kindergartens amount to EUR 543 million per year, with municipalities and the state contributing EUR 334 million.

EU ministerial: Slovenia supports stronger borders without fences, okays Green Deal plan

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Ministry State Secretary Marko Štucin said Slovenia was 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. With migrations among the topics of the EU's General Affairs Council meeting, Štucin said the Western Balkans migration route was a key security matter for Slovenia. In the debate, he argued for a more effective returning of migrants, for stronger responsibility, solidarity and cooperation with third countries.

Fiscal Council warns against measures excessively impacting fiscal position

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. At 2.4% of GDP in the first three quarters of last year, the general government deficit was roughly half of what it was in same period of 2021. The key reason for this is the much reduced impact of Covid-related spending, the advisory body said in its latest assessment of fiscal and macroeconomic developments.

Luka Koper gets four new supervisors

KOPER - The shareholders of Luka Koper dismissed four members of the port operator's supervisory board who had been appointed to the body under the previous government, including Franci Matoz, the lawyer of former Prime Minister Janez Janša. Matoz, Nevenka Črešnar Pergar, Andrej Koprivec and Božidar Godnjavec, as well as Tamara Kozlovič, who resigned last year, were replaced by Borut Škabar, Barbara Nose, Jožef Petrovič, Boštjan Rader and Mirko Bandelj, who were appointed at an extraordinary AGM. The dismissal of the four supervisors was proposed by the state, which holds 51% in the port operator.

OTP's merger of NKBM and SKB expected to take a year and a half

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 has 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. The change in ownership does not mean any major changes for NKBM clients, OTP said as it spoke about its "most significant acquisition to date".

Han and Vestager discuss challenges of Slovenian economy

LJUBLJANA - Economy Minister Matjaž Han and European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager talked via videolink to discuss the challenges of the Slovenian and EU economies. While Vestager noted the need for the harmonious development of the entire EU, Han said each member state had its own special features. The minister noted the issue of air connectivity in relation to the recently passed act on subsidies that ensure greater air connectivity, read a press release from his ministry.

Culture trade unions call for better pay, work conditions

LJUBLJANA - Representatives of three trade unions representing culture workers held a press conference ahead of Culture Day to point to what they perceive as numerous issues for the employees in culture and the sector itself. The Sviz, Glosa and Zasuk unions said 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.

Slovenia offers help after earthquake in Turkey, Syria

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia offered aid after Turkey and Syria suffered a devastating earthquake during the night. Top state officials, including President Nataša Pirc Musar and Prime Minister Robert Golob, offered condolence to families of the deceased. Currently there is no information that any Slovenians were injured or missing in the earthquake, the Foreign Ministry told the STA.

Court finds violations in Pakistani asylum seeker case

LJUBLJANA - The Administrative Court has found violations of relevant rules in the authorities' treatment of a Pakistani citizen, who was deported to his country in January, along with a fellow citizen. A refugee assistance NGO agrees with the court and has urged the government to take action. The Ambasada Rog civil initiative is certain that the authorities used tricks to deport one of the two applicants.

Former Slovenian Olympian pleads guilty in US for bank fraud

NEW YORK, US - Slovenian Luka Klasinc, a 50-year-old former figure skater turned businessman, has pleaded guilty to bank fraud related to loans meant for small business owners struggling during the Covid-19 pandemic in the US, newspaper Slovenske Novice reported. Under US law, he could be jailed for up to 30 years. He is to be sentenced in May.

Slovenian ski jumper and caricaturist dies at 93

LJUBLJANA - Retired ski jumper and artist Bine (Albin) Rogelj died at the age of 93 on Friday. He is best known for his caricatures in the Pavliha satirical weekly that won him the Prešeren Fund Prize in 1970. For many years Rogelj was part of the national ski jumping team and competed for Yugoslavia at the 1956 Winter Olympics in Cortina d'Ampezzo. He ranked 10th in the Four Hills Tournament in the 1953-54 season, a record that would not be surpassed by another Slovenian for more than 30 years.

Police blame Romanian bus driver for accident with three fatalities

MURSKA SOBOTA - The police announced a criminal complaint against a 32-year-old Romanian bus driver, who veered off the road near Murska Sobota last Friday, causing the death of three passengers. A bus with Romanian license plates drove right off the road at the Gančani-Lipovci motorway section in the direction of Murska Sobota at around 5am on Friday and overturned into a ditch. Three drivers and 26 passengers were on board, with three passengers, aged 52, 46 and 32, dying at the scene of the accident.

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