News roundup - Tuesday, 21 February

Ljubljana, 21 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 21 February:

Boštjan Poklukar appointed interior minister

LJUBLJANA - Boštjan Poklukar was appointed interior minister in a 54:31 vote in parliament after he served as interior minister during the Marjan Šarec government in 2018-2020. Presenting the candidates to MPs, PM Robert Golob said Poklukar's priorities will be fighting corruption, managing migrations and depoliticising the police. The coalition deputy groups backed Poklukar unanimously, arguing he was an experienced candidate aware of his responsibilities, while both opposition parties doubt his professionalism and independence. Poklukar already took over and kept one of his predecessor's state secretaries, Tina Heferle, while the rest of his team should be known in the coming days. He declined to say whether acting Police Commissioner Boštjan Lindav will stay on.

Cooperation in focus as foreign minister visits Switzerland

BERN, Switzerland - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon visited Bern, underlining that Slovenia and Switzerland were like-minded and small but ambitious Alpine countries. She discussed ways to strengthen economic cooperation and political dialogue with her counterpart Ignazio Cassis, and the pair also exchanged views on topical foreign affairs issues. Fajon said that bilateral relations are excellent, and complemented with "extraordinary economic cooperation". The Foreign Ministry listed several fields with potential to strengthen cooperation and investments, including pharmacy, renewables, digitalisation and ICT.

SDS urges Russia be declared state sponsor of terrorism

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) deputy group filed on Monday into parliamentary procedure a resolution to declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism after the European Parliament passed a similar resolution in November. The party prepared it because the government had not, SDS leader Janez Janša said at Tuesday's press conference. Reacting to the SDS's proposal, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said any initiative to put Russia on a list of countries sponsoring terrorism would amount to punishing the entire Russian nation, while adding that channels should be found to start negotiations on establishing a sustainable and just peace in Ukraine.

Source: Slovenia may get EU recovery funds in April

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia might have to wait until April to receive the first round of funds from the EU's recovery and resilience facility, the STA learnt from a source in Brussels a week after Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič said the country can expect to receive the first funds by the end of March. A high-ranking European Commission official said if everything is in order, the preliminary assessment can be expected in March and then it may take over a month before the funds are paid out. This is because Slovenia filed to provide all data when it filed the claim four months ago.

Slovenia issues EUR 200m worth of bonds

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia issued EUR 200 million worth of bonds, as it carried out an additional issue of its RS85 bond, due in October 2050 with a coupon interest rate of 0.4875%. The total nominal value of the RS85 bond has increased to about EUR 1.85 billion. The price was set with a yield of 3.785% and 1.371 points above the referenced German bond due in August 2050, the Finance Ministry said. The 30-year-bond was first issued in October 2020, with the initial issue reaching one billion euro, and has been reissued several times.

Govt plans to adjust fuel margins to inflation

LJUBLJANA - The government is working on a new set of rules for fuel retail margins, under which the margins would be adjusted to annual inflation, shows a draft plan for regulating fuel prices in 2023-2024. The current margin is 9.94 cents per litre of regular petrol and 9.84 cents for diesel. For heating oil, it stands at eight cents. In line with the draft government plan, which was published last week, these margins would be adjusted to the annual inflation this year and the next. The newspaper Finance has calculated that this puts the margin for diesel at 10.85 cents per litre and at 10.96 for regular petrol.

Environment Ministry working on EU Court-referred landfill issue

LJUBLJANA - Responding to last week's decision by the European Commission to refer Slovenia back to the Court of Justice of the EU for continuing to fail to remove illegal waste deposited near an old zinc factory in Celje, the Environment Ministry said the opening of bids for the rehabilitation of the Bukovžlak site is scheduled for 1 March. It told the STA that the rehabilitation is expected to take 16 months once the contract is signed. "The ministry will sign the contract as soon as a contractor has been selected, but only if it receives appropriate tenders and the decision on the selection of the contractor is not subject to a review procedure."

MPs pass changes to public procurement act

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the public procurement act, putting into law a Constitutional Court decision that abolished a corrective mechanism allowing termination of contracts due to labour rights violations, and introducing provisions to increase transparency and the competitive edge of public procurement procedures. Žan Mahnič, an MP for the opposition SDS, said the SDS would not vote against, as the changes pass a Constitutional Court ruling into law, but it believes they will not simplify procedures, which should be their goal.

NGO sees positive rule-of-law developments in Slovenia

BERLIN, Germany/BRUSSELS, Belgium - In a report on the rule of law in 18 EU member states, the Civil Liberties Union for Europe, an NGO, has found that Slovenian democracy is recovering well after a change in government last year. The report mentions Slovenia as a country with "stand-out positive development" since the current government "has begun a series of reforms to depoliticise the public service media and restore it to independence after it was taken over by the previous far-right government". The chapter on Slovenia has been prepared by the Peace Institute, an NGO.

MEP Zver wants EU parliament to discuss media situation in Slovenia

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Milan Zver, an MEP for the opposition Democrats (SDS) and the European People's Party (EPP), has proposed in the wake of the Constitutional Court's decision to stay key provisions of the amended act on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija a debate in the European Parliament on the state of the media in Slovenia. Zver argues that the amended RTV Slovenija law is about immediately taking over the public broadcaster's management bodies and turning RTV into a government mouthpiece. He believes that the ruling coalition wants to completely subjugate the Slovenian media arena, "which is already 80% left-wing".

Calls to step up culling of large carnivores voiced in parliament

LJUBLJANA - A discussion in the upper chamber of parliament exploring the continuing human-wildlife conflict in Slovenia heard repeated calls to step up the culling of bears and wolves. Farmers and their representatives argued that carnivore populations in Slovenia are thriving, while the size of the "farming population" is shrinking fast. Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko agreed that some deciding to abandon farming due to livestock depredation "is something that definitely needs to worry us, in particular in these uncertain times", while Minister of Natural Resources Uroš Brežan responded by announcing the formation of a special task force.

New restrictions in place for disgraced Slovenian Jesuit

ROME, Italy - The Jesuit order has decided to prohibit Slovenian priest Marko Rupnik from pursuing his artistic activity after 15 more people, women and men, came forward with fresh accusations against him of spiritual, sexual and psychological abuse. In a report published today, Johan Verschueren, Rupnik's superior in the religious order, said that a number of people who do not know each other had come forward with similar accusations against the priest, which led to the conclusion that the allegations were "very credible". The order has tightened the restrictive rules against Rupnik, including a ban on leaving the Italian region of Lazio.

Consumer confidence slightly up in February, down year-on-year

LJUBLJANA - The consumer confidence index in February has increased by one percentage point compared to January, shows data from the Statistics Office. The only component of the index that has actually improved is expectations for the financial situation in the country, which is up by five points. The index dropped by 13 points year-on-year and by 12 compared to the long-term average. All four components dropped year-on-year, with expectations for the financial situation in Slovenia down the most (16 points).

Montenegro and Slovenia explore potential to boost business

PODGORICA, Montenegro - A business forum in Montenegro's capital Podgorica discussed how to tap into potential to enhance business between Slovenia and Montenegro and the region's economic integration into the EU. The event was organised by the Ljubljana-based Institute for Strategic Solutions and the SPIRIT Slovenija investment promotion agency in cooperation with the Slovenian Embassy in Podgorica, the Slovenian Business Club in Montenegro and the country's Chamber of Economy. Slovenian Ambassador to Montenegro Gregor Presker noted that around 150 Slovenian companies are active in Montenegro.

Ljubljana Uni Incubator joins DeepTech Alliance

LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana University Incubator (LUI) joined DeepTech Alliance (DTA), which connects the best European deep tech startups helping them access specialised programmes, corporations and investors and assisting them in their efforts to enter global markets. LUI is the first organisation from the broader region to join DTA. The goal of the alliance is to increase the success of the most technologically advanced and globally ambitious startups by providing them with comprehensive support, LUI director Jakob Gajšek said at a news conference. Deep tech companies are based on technologies such as AI, autonomous systems, robotics, biotechnology etc.

Slovenians join call on FIS to act over climate crisis

LJUBLJANA - Leading winter athletes, including four Slovenians, have called on the International Ski and Snowboard Federation (FIS) to overhaul sustainability strategy and demand action over the climate emergency, which is increasingly endangering winter sports, the British Guardian has reported. The four Slovenians that have joined the call are skiers Boštjan Kline, Nejc Naraločnik and Maks Jan Mrnik and snowboarder Žiga Erlač, shows the copy of the letter, published by Slovenian NGO Umanotera.

© STA, 2023