News roundup - Monday, 17 April

Ljubljana, 17 April - Below is a roundup of major events on Monday, 17 April:

Slovenia purchases four firefighting aircraft

LJUBLJANA - Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, acting head of the Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration Leon Behin and director of Air Tractor Europe S.L. Rafael Selma Beltran signed a contract for the purchase of four firefighting aircraft. The first two Air Tractors are due in Slovenia in June, and the other two next year. The deal is valued at just over EUR 23 million, including VAT. Each of the planes will be able to carry over 3,000 litres of water and get refilled with water on the ground.

Injured caver rescued in 30-hour effort

CERKNICA - A 33-year-old local caver was rescued early this morning after being trapped in a newly discovered cave near Cerknica unconscious with severe head injury for more than 30 hours. She was taken by a helicopter to UKC Ljubljana for further treatment. The hospital told the STA that the caver's injuries remained life-threatening and her condition unpredictable. The woman, an experienced caver, was brought out on a stretcher after miners expanded the shaft wide enough with explosives.

PM says tax reform to be presented soon

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob told the MPs during questions time that his government will present the tax reform soon, even though it is not a priority. He underlined the proposal "will definitely not be what some officials presented and will definitely not entail taxation of the vacation bonus, travel expenses, or new real estate taxes". "The tax reform was never meant to fill the state purse," he said in response to a question by opposition MP Jernej Vrtovec from New Slovenia (NSi).

PM says C0 sewer canal not in his purview

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob commented on the construction of the C0 sewer canal in Ljubljana during questions time in parliament, saying he had been assured that the contentious project had been granted a valid construction permit and that the project was not in his purview. "I cannot do anything more than seek assurances," Golob said as he was answering a question from Aleksander Reberšek from the opposition party New Slovenia (NSi).

Golob dismisses reports about abolition of small administrative units

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob dismissed in parliament reports that the government was shrinking the network of administrative units in the country. He said the plan was merely to redistribute the handling of cases from the busier administrative units to the less busy ones. Responding to a deputy question from Jani Prednik of the fellow ruling coalition SocDems, which had protested along with the opposition Democrats (SDS) against an alleged plan to reduce the number of administrative units from 58 to 12, Golob said the reform plans had been poorly communicated and thus misunderstood.

AI regulation must maintain human dignity, president says

VENICE, Italy - President Nataša Pirc Musar attended the special programme on Convention 108+ at the Privacy Symposium in Venice, and called on countries to accede to the modernised Council of Europe convention on personal data protection. "Artificial intelligence is here and now is the time to regulate its use to maintain human dignity and control over our personal lives," Pirc Musar said at the conference, sponsored by the Council of Europe.

Oversight body warns of limited wiggle room for fiscal policy

LJUBLJANA - The Fiscal Council examined the draft general government budgeting framework for the 2023-2026 period, finding that the policy set out in it was neutral on average, but projections suggested there was a rather limited wiggle room in the coming years without reforms. The indicators applied indicated compliance with the fiscal rules in 2025 and 2026, the body found, calling for systemic measures to ensure long-term sustainability.

NGOs say extensive bear culling in breach of EU law

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian NGOs say that the culling quota of 230 brown bears, set by experts from forest and nature conservation institutes and okayed by the Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Ministry on Thursday, is in breach of Slovenian and EU legislation. The animal welfare NGOs Lajka and AniMa and environment protection NGO Alpe Adria Green notified the European Commission and European Parliament in an open letter, arguing the EU Court of Justice should take action against Slovenia.

Constitutional Court will not be deciding on pandemic curfew

LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court has decided it will not be making a ruling on the substance of the government decrees that introduced and extended the curfew during the Covid-19 pandemic, arguing conditions for such a ruling had not been met. In a dissenting opinion, a judge warned that curfew could be introduced again and a substantive judgement is in order. The court has thrown out a petition to examine several measures imposed by the government during the pandemic. Judge Neža Kogovšek Šalamon said in the dissenting opinion the court should deliberate on the part of the petition pertaining to the ban on movement in public places during the night, which was in place for 174 consecutive days.

Some 1,400 international protection applications filed in Q1

LJUBLJANA - In the first three months of 2023, 1,400 applications for international protection were filed in Slovenia. In the same period last year, 1,576 applications were filed, while in 2020 and 2021 the numbers were approximately three times lower, the Interior Ministry said in response to a question by opposition SDS MP Anja Bah Žibert. According to the ministry, a total of 6,787 applications for international protection were filed in 2022, while in 2021 and 2020, the number stood at 5,301 and 3,548, respectively.

Farmer reps raise issue with changes to animal protection act

LJUBLJANA - The Chamber of Agriculture and Forestry (KGZS) labelled the coalition-sponsored changes to the Animal Protection Act as completely inappropriate. The changes "have not been coordinated with experts, so they are ill-conceived and introduce rash solutions ... that could cause more harm than good." The KGZS is most bothered by the idea to introduce authorised animal protection advisers, which it sees as "devaluation of the veterinary profession".

Salus earmarks EUR 7.3 million for dividends

LJUBLJANA - The shareholders of Salus, the Ljubljana-based pharmaceutical and medical equipment wholesaler, decided to spend EUR 7.3 million of the EUR 41.2 million in distributable profit from 2022 on dividends. This makes EUR 70 gross per share or 5 euros more than last year. Half of the dividend was paid out in January, while the rest will be paid on 28 April. The rest of the distributable profit for last year will remain undistributed.

Three former food company managers get suspended sentences

MARIBOR - Marko Volk and Martin Kovač, the former managers of the meat processing company MIP, and Ivan Mlinarič, the former director of the pig farm Prašičereja Podgrad, were given suspended prison sentences for abuse of office after making a plea deal with the prosecution. Volk and Kovač were also slapped with EUR 20,000 in fines. In imposing the sentence on the defendants in the case dating back to 2008 and involving millions of euros in damage, Maribor District Court judge Andreja Lukeš fully followed the proposal of the prosecution.

Only Balkan Warrior defendant not to plead guilty acquitted

Ljubljana - The Ljubljana District Court has acquitted Đemajli Mandžuka, the only defendant in the high-profile Balkan Warrior case who had claimed he had nothing to do with the alleged drug trafficking, the newspaper Večer reported. The ruling is not final yet, as the prosecution has filed an appeal. While the majority of the defendants, including chief defendant Dragan Tošić, pleaded guilty at the end of January, Mandžuka decided not to do so.

Marinblu in debt restructuring after worker abuse allegations

KOPER - Marinblu, the fish-packing company that found itself in the spotlight last year over reports of inhumane treatment of workers and poor sanitary conditions, has filed for court-mandated debt restructuring. In the motion, Marinblu director Rozana Šuštar said the company had found itself in trouble after a competitor reported it to the authorities, while the news portal Necenzurirano reported she and her husband want to buy time to build a new production facility so as to avoid repaying EUR 2 million in subsidies from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

Genre film festival Kurja Polt celebrates 10th edition

LJUBLJANA - The 10th genre film festival Kurja Polt, which translates as goose bumps, will kick off with The Party, a 1968 comedy by Blake Edwards, at the Kinodvor cinema in Ljubljana tonight. To celebrate the anniversary, the traditional thematic retrospective has been replaced with a retrospective of the organisers' favourite films, some of which did not make it to the festival before for a variety of reasons, including for not fitting any of the categories featured in the retrospectives.

© STA, 2023