News roundup - Thursday, 16 February, until 3 pm

Ljubljana, 16 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Thursday, 16 February, until 3 pm local time:

Speaker reiterates support for North Macedonia's EU accession

LJUBLJANA - Parliamentary Speaker Urška Klakočar Zupančič reiterated Slovenia's support for North Macedonia's EU accession as she received her Macedonian counterpart Talat Xhaferi. It's important that countries which share values and part of their history join forces and, in the EU framework, become an important player in the international community, she said. "The European process, particularly the Western Balkans' prospects, is an important strategic decision for the union's safe stability and future," Xhaferi said.

Firefighters stage rally for better pay in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - Professional firefighters protested over low pay in Ljubljana, voicing their dissatisfaction with the government's handling of their situation. Complaining of pay disparities and better treatment of other public employees, they urged the government to increase their pay by eight wage brackets. The government sees the demands as unfounded, saying that professional firefighters are one of the better paid groups in the public sector and their salaries kept growing all the time.

EBRD downgrades Slovenia's growth forecast to 1%

LJUBLJANA - The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) forecasts that Slovenia's economy will expand by 1% this year, down from its estimate of 1.8% in autumn, before it bounces back to a 2.3% growth rate in 2024. EBRD forecasters say high gas prices and stubborn inflation continue to act as a drag on growth. Consumers and companies Europe-wide remain under pressure due to historically high prices of natural gas, whereas governments are under pressure to provide subsidies.

Gen-I names new chairman, board members

LJUBLJANA - Energy trader Gen-I shareholders, Gen energija and Gen-EL, named a new chairman and board members at an assembly as a one-year term of the court-appointed interim management board ended. Maks Helbl was appointed chairman, while the new board members, joining Primož Stopnik, are Andreja Zupan and Sandi Kavalič. All three new appointees have been with the company for over ten years and have been active in establishing the company and its market presence, Gen-I wrote in a press release.

Former retail CEO named president's special adviser

LJUBLJANA - President Nataša Pirc Musar appointed Igor Mervič, former director general of retailer Spar Slovenija, her special representative for business affairs. He will deal with the issues of self-sufficiency and food security, and economic issues. Mervič will hold the post until the end of the year with one of his main priorities being to organise the president's forum on self-supply and food security planned for October.

Employment at record level at end of 2022

LJUBLJANA - There were 935,300 persons in employment in Slovenia at the end of 2022, an increase of 2% on the year before and the highest number since records began, the latest Statistics Office data shows. Growth was recorded across all regions and in most sectors. The hiring was driven by the private sector, which accounts for more than 73% of all jobs and where payrolls swelled by 2.5% in a year.

Pensions to rise by 5.2%

LJUBLJANA - Pensions will rise by 5.2% as of this year in regular annual indexation, the council of the public pension fund ZPIZ decided after reviewing data about last year's increases in average monthly gross wages and consumer prices. More than EUR 330 million annually has been earmarked for the regular pension rise, which pensioners will receive at the end of February, including the back rise for January.

Report: Hungary buys real estate in Lendava without Slovenia's knowledge

LJUBLJANA - The online portal Oštro reported that Hungary had bought a house in Slovenia's Lendava in 2019 and later handed it over to the umbrella organisation of the Hungarian minority for free use, with an option for its premises to also be used for consular purposes. This was done without a required certificate of reciprocity being acquired from Slovenia. The Slovenian government learned about the purchase only on 11 January this year after being asked about it by Oštro.

Union threatens strike over outsourcing of chambermaids

LJUBLJANA - The trade union of workers in hospitality and tourism SGIT opposes a decision to fully outsource chambermaids at the Hoteli Bernardin chain of hotels on the coast. Disappointed at the inaction of the prime minister and custodian of state assets SSH, SGIT announced a strike at the hotels' owner Sava Turizem but gave no details. SGIT said outsourcing chambermaids to Aktiva Čiščenje on 1 March would be "a harmful practice affecting the workers' social and financial situation".

Pagan spirit returns to the country for carnival season

LJUBLJANA - Following a two-year Covid-prompted break, carnival festivities are back in full swing chasing away winter across Slovenia to culminate with picturesque processions of a variety of traditional carnival figures on Sunday, including in Ptuj and Cerknica, the country's best known carnival sites, before Pust is buried on Shrove Tuesday.

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