Weekly review of events involving Slovenia, 14-20 April

Ljubljana, 21 April - Below is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia from 14 to 20 April.

FRIDAY, 14 April
        DODOMA, Tanzania - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon concluded her mini Africa tour, as part of which she visited Ethiopia and Tanzania as she sought support for Slovenia's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council in 2024-2025.
        WASHINGTON, US - Boštjan Vasle, the governor of Slovenia's central bank, said that inflation remains a challenge for the world economy as he attended the annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank. However, although "in some cases the factors driving inflation are even growing stronger" and "even though economic growth is expected to ease, words such as recession have disappeared from the agenda", he added about the meeting.
        OTOČEC - Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko met her Croatian counterpart Marija Vučković to discuss ways to draw funds from the expiring Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. The pair touched on the CAP strategic plan for 2023-2027.
        ZAGREB, Croatia - Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik and her Croatian counterpart Ivan Malenica discussed public sector pay system reform and exchanged examples of best practice as they met in Zagreb.
        BRNO, Czechia - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Matej Arčon visited the Slovenian community in Brno. He stressed the importance of maintaining contacts with Slovenians living outside the country and praised the good cooperation, friendship and historical ties between the two countries. It is estimated that more than 400 Slovenians currently live in Czechia.
        LJUBLJANA - The news portal 24ur reported that the Specialised State Prosecutor's Office had asked for a court-led investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in ventilator purchases during the Covid pandemic levelled against former Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, his former aide Andreja Potočnik, and Marko Bitenc, CEO of ventilator supplier Geneplanet.
        LJUBLJANA - The management and supervisory boards of Petrol proposed for the energy company to pay a dividend of 70 cents gross per share this year despite the company posting a loss in 2022. The dividend will be about half that paid out last year.
        KOPER - After posting all-time high sales, profit and cargo throughput last year, Luka Koper, the operator of Slovenia's sole maritime port, said it expects net sales revenue to drop by 7% to EUR 290 million and net profit by 56% to EUR 32.3 million this year. The management proposes a dividend payout of EUR 2.5 gross per share, more than double last year's.

SATURDAY, 15 April
        ORMOŽ - German-owned caravan maker Carthago inaugurated its factory in Ormož in northeastern Slovenia, a EUR 50 million investment. The new facility, where the company will be making Malibu Van camper vans, is meant to create at least 80 new jobs, and the plan is to gradually expand capacities in the future.
        LJUBLJANA - Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan told the newspaper Dnevnik in an interview that her ministry was considering introducing the institute of conscientious objection for state attorneys to strengthen the autonomy of the State Attorneys Office.
        LJUBLJANA - A survey commissioned by the newspaper Dnevnik suggested that nearly 65% of Slovenians support the abolition of top-up health insurance in favour of the new EUR 35 mandatory contribution per month.
        UDINE, Italy - Writer Drago Jančar received the 30th Latisana per il Nord Est international literary prize for his novel In Ljubezen Tudi (And Love Itself) translated into Italian by Darja Betocchi.

SUNDAY, 16 April
        VALKENBURG, Netherlands - Slovenian cycling star Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) won the Amstel Gold Race, the biggest one-day race in the Netherlands, to bag his 11th win this season.
        LJUBLJANA - Olimpija of Ljubljana won the national football championship five rounds before the end of the season after defeating arch-rivals Maribor 2:0.
        KOPER - Slovenia's women's tennis team achieved an unlikely comeback to defeat Romania and reach the finals of the Billie Jean King Cup.
        LJUBLJANA - Producer prices in agriculture grew at an annual rate of 19.5% in February, a significantly slower pace than the month before as the food inflation curve appears to be flattening after almost a year of brisk growth. Animal products were 26.3% more expensive than a year ago. Crop prices increased by just 3.8%.

MONDAY, 17 April
        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 EUR 23 million contract for the purchase of four firefighting aircraft.
        LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob told parliament that the government would present the tax reform soon, even though it was not a priority. He underlined the proposal "will definitely not be what some officials presented and will definitely not entail taxation of the holiday allowance, travel expenses, or new real estate taxes".
        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. "AI is here and now is the time to regulate its use to maintain human dignity and control over our personal lives," Pirc Musar said.
        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 rather limited wiggle room in the coming years without reforms. The government said it mainly agreed with the assessment and that it planed to gradually reduce the general government deficit and debt in relation to the country's GDP in the coming years.
        LJUBLJANA - Judges issued a statement urging the government to immediately eliminate pay disparities in the public sector and raise their pay. Should it fail to act by the end of the month, judges will resort to "additional measures".
        LJUBLJANA - The Constitutional Court 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.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenian NGOs said 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, was in breach of Slovenian and EU legislation.

TUESDAY, 18 April
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly overrode an upper chamber veto on changes that simplify the hiring of foreign workers, open the labour market sooner to asylum seekers and postpone the enforcement of a basic language requirement for adult members of the families of third-country workers. While keeping the requirement in place itself divided the coalition parties, its postponement was the reason for the veto.
        LJUBLJANA - MPs reappointed Drago Šketa as Slovenia's state prosecutor general. The 54-year-old, who was the only candidate to apply for the job, will assume his second six-year term in early May.
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the Information Security Act to increase information and cyber security and resilience of individuals and the central information-communication system of the public administration, as well as provide more effective control over whether measures are being respected.
        LJUBLJANA - Changes to two emergency laws were passed that make gas suppliers that are balance responsible parties obligated to participate in joint purchases of natural gas at the EU level, and amend the system of windfall tax imposed on electricity suppliers to make only electricity producers and no longer traders taxable.
        LJUBLJANA - Representatives of farmers, who have been at loggerheads with the government over environmental and other restrictions and policies they said are making it near impossible to continue farming, walked away from negotiations after two weeks. Saying that proposed amendments to the Animal Protection Act that envisage authorised animal protection advisers for breeders had been the final straw, they announced a new protest rally next week and stepped up activities if needed.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia took part in the four-day NATO Locked Shields 2023 cybersecurity and strategic decision-making exercise for the third consecutive year. Organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallin, it featured over 2,600 participants from 38 countries and was the biggest cybersecurity exercise in the world.
        KLAGENFURT, Austria - Lawyer Rudi Vouk, a member of the Slovenian minority in the Austrian state of Carinthia, announced that his Klagenfurt-based law firm Grilc Vouk Škof had filed a complaint to the Austrian Constitutional Court over the country's recent decision to yet again extend controls at the border with Slovenia for another six months.
        BLED - Executives discussed Slovenia as a business destination at the traditional German-Slovenian Economics Day event, highlighting as major obstacles to doing business staff shortages, problems with transport infrastructure, and non-transparent procedures to win a public procurement deal or obtain a permit.

        LJUBLJANA - Opposition Democrats (SDS) head Janez Janša argued that nothing but a timeline reform was left from the long list of reforms announced as he presented the SDS's reasons for the government interpellation debate held in parliament. PM Robert Golob in turn hailed the government's tackling of the energy and cost-of-living crisis. The 14-hour session ended without conclusions or a vote of no confidence.
        BUDAPEST - Hungary is a neighbour with which Slovenia wants to continue to have close and friendly ties, President Nataša Pirc Musar told her Hungarian counterpart Katalin Novak as she paid an official visit to Hungary. The pair also discussed the Western Balkans and its EU prospects, the war in Ukraine, climate change and minority issues. Two days prior, Pirc Musar visited the roughly 8,000-strong Slovenian minority in Hungary to hear the greatest challenge was Slovenian language teaching and efforts to provide prospects for young Slovenians in the region.
        LJUBLJANA - After some EU countries imposed bans on imports of grain from Ukraine, the Slovenian Agriculture Ministry said Slovenia was committed to the principles of the EU's internal market and thus not in favour of unilateral moves. The ministry said it had not detected any impact of the bans on Slovenia.
        LJUBLJANA - Veterinarians voiced strong criticism of proposed changes to the Animal Protection Act that coalition parties presented week earlier. They argued that the bill, which also envisages authorised animal protection advisers for breeders, failed to address issues with animal protection and dilemmas surrounding the implementing of the existing law, while bringing some potentially harmful and even unlawful solutions.
        LJUBLJANA - Tomislav Čizmić, who had been heading retailer Mercator since 2017, was dismissed and replaced by board member Tomislav Kramarić. The decision was taken by the management board of Fortenova, the Croatian owner of Mercator.
        LJUBLJANA - Employers and trade unions in trades presented a new collective bargaining agreement for the sector, which was agreed on in March, more than four years after the previous agreement had expired. Affecting some 140,000 people, the deal puts the lowest basic salary at EUR 754 for 174 hours of work a month. Basic salaries will annually be adjusted for inflation as well as at the rate of half of GDP growth.
        LIEGE, Belgium - Slovenia cycling superstar Tadej Pogačar secured another historic achievement, winning the Fleche Wallonne race and becoming only the seventh rider so far with victories in all three Ardennes classics.
THURSDAY, 20 April
        LJUBLJANA - The government discussed the EU's joint purchases of ammunition for Ukraine and decided that once Defence Minister Marjan Šarec signs the project arrangement with the European Defence Agency, the government will endorse it by issuing a decree.
        BRDO PRI KRANJU - The climate crisis was in the spotlight of the first day of the 12th Africa Day international conference at Brdo pri Kranju. Promoting its bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, Slovenia said that, if elected, it would aim to step up climate security, as African officials urged global action against climate change.
        VIPAVA - Prime Minister Robert Golob said after meeting European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton that they shared the view that nuclear energy was part of green transition. He believes that funding for nuclear energy should come from EU funds.
        VIPAVA - Defence spending should be increased by supporting Slovenian high tech companies, PM Golob said after meeting European Commissioner for Internal Market Breton. Slovenia will play an important role in the development of advanced defence technologies, Breton said.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a supplementary budget proposal for 2023, which follows the government restructuring and accordingly redistributes funds between individual departments. Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič noted that expenditure was not increasing anywhere. The deficit is being reduced by EUR 376 million to EUR 2.9 billion, or 4.5% of GDP.
        LJUBLJANA - The government adopted changes to the insolvency legislation, transposing EU law and introducing solutions that should prevent insolvencies and improve the situation of creditors. The bill brings two major changes - a new procedure to eliminate looming insolvency and changes to the simplified procedure for small businesses.
        LJUBLJANA - Participants of the first international conference on active and healthy ageing discussed the issue of providing health services to the elderly living in remote areas of the Adriatic-Ionian region, stressing the importance of developing telemedicine. The participating countries - Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia - signed an agreement for healthy ageing.
        LJUBLJANA - Police said it recorded 8,133 illegal crossings of the border in the first three months of the year, more than four times more than in the same period last year. Most migrants come from Afghanistan, Morocco, Russia and Cuba. In the period 1,400 applications for international protection were filed, which compares to 1,576 in the same period a year earlier.

© STA, 2023