News roundup - Thursday, 13 April, until 3pm

Ljubljana, 13 April - Below is a roundup of major events on Thursday, 13 April, until 3pm local time:

Šketa gets committee nod for another term as state prosecutor general

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Credentials and Privileges Commissions endorsed Drago Šketa for reappointment as Slovenia's state prosecutor general at the plenary session of parliament. Šketa, 54, who has been serving at the post since May 2017, was the only candidate to apply for the job, Igor Lučovnik, the head of the Prosecutorial Council told MPs. In his presentation, Šketa pointed to acute staff shortages, saying that prosecutors were quitting, having responsible and stressful jobs they were not suitably paid for.

Government moves to freeze top-up health insurance premiums

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a decree that paves the way for a freezing as of 1 May of the top-up health insurance premium charged by private insurers as part of a mutual insurance scheme. The EUR 35.67 ceiling comes as a scrapping of the current top-up system altogether was recently set in motion in the wake of an announced hike in the premiums. The ceiling will formally be confirmed with a follow-up decree to be adopted on Friday and will be in force until the law abolishing the top-up insurance scheme is passed, Health Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan told the press.

Govt extends cap on electricity and gas prices until end of 2023

LJUBLJANA - The government extended the regulated retail prices of electricity and gas for households, small business consumers and protected users, as well as the regulated retail electricity prices for SMEs, both until the end of the year. The regulated prices will now be in place until 31 December, as is already the case for a number of different public institutions. Financially, the measure is within the planned funds and will cost less than the money reserved for it, Minister of the Environment, Climate and Energy Bojan Kumer told the press.

Goodyear Slovenia completes EUR 94m investment in expansion

KRANJ - The Kranj-based tyre maker Goodyear Slovenija announced it has increased production capacity by 25% and created 160 jobs as part of a EUR 94 million investment project that started in January 2019 and was completed last month when the last operating permit was issued. Two new buildings were added to the existing building complex in Kranj where advanced equipment for production of tyres was set up. The equipment reduces the amount of physical labour while creating greater demand for skilled workers, such as machine operators, maintenance workers and engineers. The project addresses increase in demand in Europe for large-wheeled cars.

Judge Kogovšek Šalamon disqualified from RTV Slovenija case

LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court has disqualified one of the judges, Neža Kogovšek Šalamon, from the high-profile case concerning public broadcaster RTV Slovenija while rejecting two more disqualification motions, the STA has learnt. One judge having disqualified himself before, it will now be up to seven judges to reach a final decision. Kogovšek was disqualified because she continues to work part-time at the Peace Institute, which took part in the campaign for the referendum on the RTV Slovenija act late last year. Two other disqualification motions were rejected on the grounds that they had not been tabled on time.

Fajon talks Slovenia's Security Council bid in Tanzania

DODOMA, Tanzania - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon met her Tanzanian counterpart Stergomena Lawrence Tax as she started a two-day working visit to Tanzania. They agreed that Slovenia and Tanzania can effectively cooperate in ensuring food safety, fighting climate change and in water management, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry tweeted. The minister also outlined to Lawrence Tax Slovenia's bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2024 and 2025.

Poklukar visits Rome, says situation in southern Italy will not affect border with Slovenia

ROME, Italy - Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar said after meeting Italian counterpart Matteo Piantedosi in Rome that Italy having declared a national state of emergency due to a surge in migrants would not affect the situation on the Slovenian border. Piantedosi assured him Italy had no plans of introducing controls there. "At the moment, the agreements we have with Italy are working ... Police cooperation in the mixed patrols is excellent," Poklukar told RTV Slovenija. Commenting on Austria's decision to extend border checks on the Slovenian-Austrian border, he described the measure as unnecessary.

Farmers outline biggest challenges to President Pirc Musar

LJUBLJANA - The representatives of four farmers' organisations outlined their biggest challenges to President Nataša Pirc Musar as she received them for a meeting at Presidential Palace. The farmers were happy that the president received them and openly discussed the pressing issues with them. The main challenges are Natura 2000 areas, attacks by large carnivores, tax changes, a regulation on sustainable use of phytopharmaceuticals and the water situation, Anton Medved, head of the Trade Union of Farmers, told the press after the meeting.

Draft national space strategy 2030 ready for debate

LJUBLJANA - A draft Slovenian space strategy until 2030 drawn up by the Ministry of Economy, Tourism and Sport in cooperation with the company SpaceTec Partners was presented in Ljubljana. The strategy is seen as an important step towards the country's full-fledged membership in the European Space Agency. "Slovenia is small on Earth, but it wishes to become big in space," said the ministry's State Secretary Matevž Frangež. The draft strategy will be in public consultation until 10 May.

Govt adopts national reform programme

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted Slovenia's 2023 national reform programme, a document laying down its key planned structural measures and investment, to be sent to Brussels together with the stability programme. It features reforms in the fields of pensions, health, housing, public sector, education, taxes and digitalisation. The national programme brings the government's planned priority tasks, key structural measures, and measures to achieve goals from national and EU strategic documents, the government said after its session.

Ruling coalition proposes changes to animal protection act

LJUBLJANA - MPs of the three ruling coalition parties filed in parliamentary procedure changes to the Animal Protection Act, which aim to promote responsible animal ownership and reduce the number of abandoned or tortured animals. If passed, the changes would introduce transitional stables for seized animals, a specialised animal protection inspectorate and mandatory in-house video surveillance in slaughterhouses. There would be a complete ban on tethering dogs, a ban on the use of animals for circus performances or displays, and animal torture would be defined as gross negligence.

Ministry approves culling of 230 brown bears for this year

LJUBLJANA - The culling of 230 brown bears was okayed for 2023 by the Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Ministry. The ministry said the aim was to gradually reduce the brown bear population in the country from an estimated 1,100 last spring to 800 so as to prevent major damage and keep people healthy and safe. This is the highest culling figure to date. Minister Uroš Brežan argued that the figure of 800 is considered "the goal enabling some form of manageable coexistence between bears and people", while stressing the bear's prominent role in Slovenia's biotic diversity and the need to protect the animal and its habitat.

Parliamentary body calls for repatriation of Slovenian diaspora

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Commission for Slovenians Abroad discussed ways to prevent brain drain. It unanimously urged the government to prepare a plan for repatriation of Slovenian diaspora and an office that would provide Slovenians abroad information on possibilities for cooperation with Slovenia, returning to the homeland and immigration. Dejan Valentinčič from the ASEF institute for education and research presented a survey conducted by ASEF, the Research Centre of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the Slovenian Migration Institute among over 2,000 Slovenians living in other countries.

Fmr Telekom chief supervisor quizzed about alleged indirect financing of Nova24TV

LJUBLJANA - Former chief supervisor of telco Telekom Slovenije Barbara Kürner Čad told the parliamentary inquiry looking into alleged illegal financing of parties through media that she had forwarded a memo about indirect financing of right-leaning broadcaster Nova24TV to Tomaž Seljak, Telekom CEO at the time, but added it was impossible that Seljak could have understood this as a sign that he must close the relevant contract. She was critical of the March 2021 appointment of prominent SDS member Cvetko Sršen as Telekom CEO. The rest of the session was held behind closed doors, but the STA learned that the findings do not bode well for the previous government. Details are to be presented to the public at a press conference next week.

Concert by Slovenian composer to be performed by Dutch Royal Orchestra

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - The Dutch Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra will play the Concerto for Orchestra by Slovenian composer Nina Šenk on Friday. The work commissioned by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra was first performed in 2020, conducted by Matthias Pintscher, who will be conducting the upcoming performance as well. Šenk said that the whole orchestra has the virtuoso-expressive role of a soloist. The concert will be reprised in Germany on Saturday at the end of the orchestra's residency at the Essen Philharmonic. In May Šenk's new composition for trumpet and brass ensemble will premiere at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Wanted son of Russian governor flees Italy via Slovenia

MILAN, Italy - Russian citizen Artem Uss, who was detained in Italy on an international arrest warrant, escaped from house arrest in Milan and returned to Russia via Slovenia, Italian media report. The 40-year-old businessman wanted by the US over a breach of sanctions imposed on Russia, escaped on 22 March by car, passing through Slovenia and Serbia, shows reconstruction of the escape presented on Wednesday. It was then when Aleksandr Uss, the suspect's father and the governor of the Russian region of Krasnoyarsk, thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and "friends abroad" for helping his son escape and return to Russia.

Former interior minister reports being assaulted in cafe

LJUBLJANA - Former Interior Minister Aleš Hojs reported being assaulted in a cafe in Ljubljana in the morning, when he was approached by a man who threatened him with physical violence and told him to "watch his back." Hojs told Nova24TV the man had thrown water in his face and clothes and then left the cafe. The former minister was meeting with former US ambassador Joseph Mussomeli when a man approached their table with threats of physical violence, according to Hojs. Hojs said that the assailant's words proved the assault was politically motivated.

Enigma centrepiece of new showcase at military museum

PIVKA - The Park of Military History in Pivka launched an exhibition about the Enigma, a cipher device that German forces used during WWII. An Enigma found in a sunken ship in the Adriatic is the centrepiece of the exhibition. "This is one of the largest exhibition projects in the park's history and the first time we have shed light on this historically important topic in Slovenia," said museum director Janko Boštjančič. Only a handful of machines have been preserved. The M4 model, which was used by the navy, is extremely rare but one of them has found its way into the Pivka museum in 2021. It was discovered by diver Zvone Kralj in the 1980s off the coast of Istria.

German driver unstoppable for 31km in wrong direction on motorway

POSTOJNA - A 65-year-old German driver drove in the wrong direction on the A1 motorway from Divača towards Ljubljana on Wednesday evening for more than 30 kilometres, stopping only when the police blocked the motorway with lorries. After she entered the motorway, the police soon caught up to her after receiving calls from drivers and signalised her to stop, but the driver continued to drive. The police blocked the road at the Postojna exit to stop the driver. She is facing charges for dangerous driving.

© STA, 2023