News roundup - Friday, 17 February

Ljubljana, 17 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Friday, 17 February:

One person killed, two seriously injured in blast in Vrhnika

VRHNIKA - One person has died and two have been seriously injured in an explosion that occurred just before noon at a facility of fireworks manufacturer Hamex in the town of Vrhnika, south-west of Ljubljana. The wider area has been secured and firefighters are in control of the situation, the Ljubljana Police Administration said. Police explained that several explosions had occurred and that the cause remained to be determined. The blast comes less than a year after the deadliest industrial accident in recent history, at chemical company Melamin in Kočevje, left seven workers dead and ten injured.

Golob and Sanchez stress importance of EU's strategic autonomy

BRDO PRI KRANJU - Prime Minister Robert Golob hosted his Spanish counterpart Pedro Sanchez. Two pair the importance of the EU's strategic autonomy, economic competitiveness and reform of the European energy market. Sanchez said that when it came to strategic autonomy, Spain "advocates four main areas where this issue needs to be addressed - energy, health, the primary sector, meaning the agricultural and livestock sectors, and new technologies, including the production of semiconductors and microchips". Only through a globally strong and competitive economy can Europe maintain its status of a continent of prosperity, Golob said.

President discusses safe digital environment, Ukraine at Munich conference

MUNICH, Germany - President Nataša Pirc Musar took part in a debate on a safe digital environment and cybersecurity on the first day of the Munich Security Conference. She stressed the importance of proper regulation of the digital environment saying that the digital services act was the first such regulation in the world that respected European values, set a good framework to protect users in the face of challenges posed by large digital corporations, and followed the principle that what is illegal offline should also be illegal online.

Minister discusses minority representation with Friuli Venezia Giulia president

TRIESTE, Italy - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Matej Arčon met Friuli Venezia Giulia President Massimiliano Fedriga to discuss minority representation and changes to the Italian region's statute. They agreed the region's statute, which was put in place 60 years ago, should be updated to give appropriate status to the minorities living there, the Office for Slovenians Abroad said. Arčon also presented an initiative for expanding socio-psycho-pedagogical services in the Trieste area and its expansion to Gorizia and Udine.

Farmers concerned about proposed pesticide ban

LJUBLJANA - Representatives of Slovenian farmers are concerned about the European Commission's proposal to cut the use of phytopharmaceuticals by 50% by 2030 and ban them completely in sensitive areas, which includes the Natura 2000 protected areas. Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko too said a ban on farming in protected areas could have massive negative effects for Slovenia in terms of food safety. Roman Žveglič, the head of the Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry (KGZS), said the main concern was that the specifics of each member state are not being taken into account.

DeSUS will not merge with Freedom Movement but is willing to cooperate

LJUBLJANA - The Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), which was a member of nine Slovenian governments until 2020 but then failed to make it to parliament in the last election, has rejected an offer to merge with the ruling Freedom Movement. However, it is willing to cooperate with the party on issues concerning pensioners, DeSUS head Ljubo Jasnič told the STA. The Freedom Movement has offered DeSUS cooperation a while ago.

Unions, employers endorse healthcare reform guidelines

LJUBLJANA - The Economic and Social Council discussed the coalition's guidelines for health reform. The Association of Free Trade Unions (ZSSS) said it is one off the best health reforms to date, while employers said they supported the plan in principle. ZZZS's Lučka Böhm said all stakeholders, including the public health insurer ZZZS, agreed they are working towards common goals such as reducing waiting times, retaining the scope of services covered by compulsory health insurance, and improving capacity by implementing digitalization.

Part of Digital Transformation Ministry moves to Maribor

LJUBLJANA - The Ministry for Digital Transformation opened new offices in the centre of Maribor. Some 60 of the ministry's employees are expected to work there. The minister will work from the new office once a week. Minister Emilija Stojmenova Duh, who is from Maribor, said Slovenia's second largest city was picked as the ministry's second location because the country's first supercomputers are there and also highly trained experts in digitalisation.

Petrol wants abolition or indexation of fuel margins

LJUBLJANA - Petrol, Slovenia's largest energy company, thinks the continuation of price administration does not make sense. It proposes either discontinuing the current system or at least regularly indexing the capped retail margins, CEO Nada Drobne Popovič said. The fixed margins are making it impossible for Petrol and other retailers to adapt to higher prices of a variety of inputs and services, including labour costs. Petrol proposes that if regulation continues, prices should be adjusted every week, while the margin would be adjusted to expenses twice a year.

Banks' profit down slightly in 2022

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian banks posted a cumulative profit before tax of EUR 540 million for 2022, down 4% on the year before. Net profit declined by 5% to EUR 499 million. Net revenue increased, but there were more provisions and write-downs, central bank data show. In 2021 banks released provisions and write-downs to the tune of nearly EUR 74 million; last year they had to set aside provisions and carry out write-downs amounting to almost EUR 17 million.

Railway operator gets three new supervisors

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian Sovereign Holding as the sole shareholder of the railway operator Slovenske Železnice recently took note of the resignation of two members of the supervisory board, while also dismissing Franci Matoz as supervisor. The new supervisors appointed in their place started their terms on Wednesday. The new supervisors Marko Babič, Vinko Filipič and Hilda Pipan will serve a four-year term, joining Gabrijel Škof and Aleksander Nagode. Matoz and Markočič were appointed under the Janez Janša government in August 2020.

Caritas Slovenia collects almost EUR 360,000 for Turkey, Syria

LJUBLJANA - Caritas Slovenia has so far collected almost EUR 360,000 to help those affected by the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria. So far each country has received EUR 110,000 through Caritas Internationalis, the charity said. The Foreign Ministry allocated another EUR 100,000 to Caritas Slovenia to help the victims of the earthquake in both countries through a three-year humanitarian strategic partnership.

First Slovenian congress on electroporation kicks off

BLED - The first Slovenian congress on electroporation is being held in Bled on Friday and Saturday, bringing the latest research and guidelines in electroporation, where Slovenia is among the leading countries in research and applications. An important achievement is electrochemotherapy, an approach that treats cancer locally. The congress will serve as an opportunity for future connections and looks to ensure progress in electroporation and related processes, and the aim is to improve the communication between researchers and clients.

Slovenian film about Sava River wins Mountain Film Festival

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian film Ena za reko: Zgodba Save (One for the River: The Sava Story) is the winner of the 17th Mountain Film Festival. Directed by Rožle Bregar, the film impressed the jury with its cinematography and environmental message. The best mountaineering film award went to PASANG: In the Shadow of Everest by American director Nancy Svendsen, which recounts Pasang Lhamu Sherpa's venture to become the first Nepali woman to summit Everest in 1993.The awards were presented in the Cankarjev Dom arts centre in Ljubljana today.

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