News roundup - Tuesday, 30 May

Ljubljana, 30 May - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 30 May:

Moderate optimism ahead of UN Security Council vote

LJUBLJANA - The UN General Assembly will hold elections for new non-permanent members of the UN Security Council for 2024-2025 on 6 June, with Slovenia, along with Belarus, vying for a seat in the Eastern European Group. Slovenian officials have been cautiously optimistic ahead of the vote, mired as it is in geopolitical confrontations over Ukraine. Slovenia was already a member of the UN Security Council in 1998-1999, when it was elected in the first round despite having two competitors in Macedonia and Belarus. In 2011, Slovenia made another attempt but was defeated by Azerbaijan after a marathon voting session.

National Assembly president meets top Armenian officials

YEREVAN, Armenia - National Assembly President Urška Klakočar Zupančič started a two-day visit to Armenia. Among others, she met the president and prime minister, Vahagn Khachaturyan and Nikol Pashinyan. The Armenian side expressed support for Slovenia's candidacy for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Klakočar Zupančič also met her counterpart Alen Simonyan. The sides shared the view that relations between the two countries are good and friendly, and that Klakočar Zupančič's visit is considered an overture to further strengthening of relations, the press release said.

Higher education employees on strike

LJUBLJANA/MARIBOR/KOPER - The Higher Education Union staged a strike, demanding an elimination of pay disparities in higher education and warning about the harmful changes to the Higher Education Act. All academic activities at Slovenia's three public universities were cancelled, including exams and final thesis defences. The central rally in Ljubljana ended with a call to the government to respect universities. The strike is a continuation of the strike that the Higher Education Union began in March of 2022. Minister Igor Papič regretted the strike, urging the union to show a constructive approach.

Business sector urges govt to launch N-reactor build ASAP

LJUBLJANA - A study commissioned by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) found that Slovenia should build a new nuclear generator in Krško as soon as possible. Presenting the study, co-author Jože P. Damijan, said a delay by only four years would double the price of electricity and undermine Slovenia's competitive edge. Drawn up by Grant Thornton consultancy, the study found that if a second reactor at Krško N-plant were to be connected to the grid in 2039 instead of 2035, the price of electricity would increase by up to EUR 70 per megawatt hour or EUR 1.4 billion at the annual level.

Magna agrees to return all subsidies plus interest

LJUBLJANA - Government and Magna representatives agreed that the Canadian-Austrian automotive group will return the state support it received for the now terminated investment in a paint shop in Hoče. Magna will return the EUR 18.6 million it got for the greenfield investment plus EUR 3.6 million in interest, Economy Minister Matjaž Han said. The funds are to be transferred in the week starting 12 June.

Google to launch quantum tech centre in Ljubljana

BLED - The US tech giant Google will be launching a quantum technologies centre in Ljubljana. Higher Education, Science and Innovation Minister Igor Papič told the STA that doctoral students could start as early as this autumn or next year at the latest. Several hundred engineers are expected to graduate annually. Papič said he did not know the cost of the investment, as it was in Google's hands. "The ministry has pledged to provide scholarships, training for students and help with their residence permits."

Insurer Triglav's net profit down 39% in Q1 despite 12% jump in revenue

LJUBLJANA - Insurer Zavarovalnica Triglav saw net profit decline by 39% in the first quarter to EUR 16.1 million, even as total revenue rose by 12% to EUR 350.4 million. It says the bottom line was affected by challenging business conditions, inflation, higher claim intensity, poorer health insurance result, and the transition to new accounting standards.

Shell plans to take over MOL service stations in October

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian subsidiary of British oil giant Shell plans to start taking over 39 service stations from Hungary's MOL in October and gradually build them up into sustainable mobility centres with charging stations for electric vehicles. Shell has acquired 39 service stations from MOL as part of a deal under which MOL was allowed to buy OMV Slovenija in exchange for offloading some of its assets to get the green light from regulators.

Energy bills to go up as VAT returns to 22%

LJUBLJANA - The government will not extend reduced VAT rate on energy products used for heating, one of the measures to help consumers cope with high energy prices during the winter. In force since 1 September last year, the measure will expire on Wednesday. Value added tax for the supply of electricity, natural gas, firewood and district heating and firewood for all consumers was reduced from 22% to 9.5% under legislative amendments passed in August 2022. The return to the previous level means energy bills will go up in June.

Slovenia susceptible to effects of grain surplus

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia is susceptible to secondary effects of surplus products on the EU market and price fluctuations, Agriculture Minister Irena Šinko told her EU counterparts as they discussed the embargo on imports of some agricultural products from Ukraine to five EU states. "Currently the biggest problems we are seeing are in grains, especially wheat," Šinko said. Slovenia is seeing a drop in prices of wheat, full storage facilities and high input costs.

Watchdog's report reiterates concerns about integrity breaches

LJUBLJANA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption's report for 2022 presented today reiterates concern about the most problematic areas - integrity breaches, conflict of interest, and breaches of incompatibility of dual-office and restrictions on doing business with the state. Disregard for the watchdog's decisions and recommendations also continues to be a problem.

Coalition MPs boycott session on communism victims

LJUBLJANA - The Commission for Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities debated an initiative to issue death certificates for victims of communist violence but failed to pass any conclusion due to a lack of quorum as only MPs from the ranks of the opposition Democrats (SDS) attended, along with some invitees. MPs from the coalition parties Freedom Movement and the Left boycotted the session, arguing it was called with the intention of abusing tragic events and victims of the Second World War for party motives.

Culling of brown bears stayed after 180 already killed

LJUBLJANA - In the latest development in the tug-of-war between institutions and environmentalists over culling quotas for carnivores, the Administrative Court has temporarily halted the culling of 230 brown bears okayed in mid-April. NGO Alpe Adria Green is nonetheless up in arms, as 180 bears have already been culled. The 23 May court decision was announced by Alpe Adria Green, which said the culling had continued despite it having filed a lawsuit against the culling decree and a proposal for its temporary suspension.

Ministry earmarks EUR 1.7m to co-fund war veteran NGOs

LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry will allocate some EUR 1.7 million this year to co-finance 13 war veteran NGOs, the ministry said, as Minister Marjan Šarec met the organisations' representatives and signed the co-financing agreements. The ministry would like to see its cooperation with the NGOs further strengthened, Šarec said at the meeting as quoted by the ministry, adding that the ministry's door was always open.

NIJZ celebrates 100th anniversary

BRDO PRI KRANJU - The National Institute for Public Health celebrated its centenary with a ceremony at the Brdo pri Kranju estate. In her address President Nataša Pirc Musar thanked the institute and its employees for their contribution to improving public health. The ceremony was also attended by Director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control Andrea Ammon, Director of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction Alexis Goosdeel and WHO Regional Director for Europe Hans Henri P. Kluge. Kluge said Slovenia was very successful in public health.

Report: Fmr HSE boss to get compensation for dismissal

LJUBLJANA - The Supreme Court has ruled that the dismissal of Stojan Nikolić as director general of the HSE energy group in November 2020 was unlawful, the newspaper Dnevnik reported. Because of the contract he signed at his appointment, HSE will have to pay him EUR 120,000 in compensation. Nikolić was dismissed by the HSE supervisory board, which was overhauled soon after the government of Janez Janša took over. Viktor Vračar, previously director general of the TEŠ coal-fired power station, was appointed new director general.

Steel producer SIJ gives EUR 5.8m for dividends

LJUBLJANA - The shareholders of steel group SIJ allocated EUR 5.8 million for dividends this year, or EUR 6.01 gross per share. The rest of a total of EUR 102.7 million in distributable profit will remain undistributed. SIJ is 72.2% owned by Dilon, a company indirectly in Russian ownership through the Zubitskiy family. The Slovenian state owns a controlling stake of 25% plus one share. SIJ made record EUR 1.3 billion in sales revenue and EUR 95.4 million in profit last year.

Nataša Matjašec Rošker wins 2023 Borštnik Ring for lifetime achievements

MARIBOR - Nataša Matjašec Rošker, a member of the SNG Maribor theatre, is the recipient of this year's Borštnik Ring, the highest accolade theatre actors can win in Slovenia apart from the Prešeren Prize for various genres of art. "The essence of her acting is elusive, it evades being categorised, because the actress never stops in her search, constantly searching for new avenues of acting and means of expression," the festival's organisers said. She will receive the award at the closing ceremony of the Maribor Theatre Festival on 18 June.

Slovenian artist Rimele featured in book on top contemporary artists

LONDON, UK - Slovenian artist Oto Rimele is featured in the sixth book of the series Top 10 Contemporary Artists, published by Masters of Today in London. Rimele is represented by two series of his artworks that play with light and shadow, accompanied by short texts written by the artist. His work is also featured on the cover. The book showcases Rimele's series The Light and the Ladder, in which he added wire ladders atop of wooden painting objects, and the Berlin Portraits, where Rimele portrayed 13 Berlin residents, using 13 different types of wood.

Late writer Pahor honoured with exhibition in Brussels

BRUSSELS, Belgium - An exhibition dedicated to Slovenian writer Boris Pahor (1913-2022) opened in Brussels this evening to mark the first anniversary of his death. Pahor, an outspoken fighter against totalitarianisms from Trieste and a recipient of the European Parliament's European Citizen's Prize, died on 30 May last year aged 108. The initiative for the exhibition was given by MEP Matjaž Nemec, who when Pahor died on 30 May 2022 said that the author should be commemorated in a special event in a year's time.

Patti Smith to give concert on Slovenian-Italian border

GORIZIA, Italy - Patti Smith, a celebrated punk poet, singer and artist, will give a concert at a new venue at the former border crossing of Rožna Dolina/Casa Rossa between the Italian and Slovenian cities of Gorizia and Nova Gorica. The 5 October concert is part of events in the run up to the two cities' 2025 European Capital of Culture project. In a statement distributed by the organisers of the concert, Smith wrote that she was "looking forward to perform in the future capital of culture".

Lesbian Quarter fest returning to its roots

LJUBLJANA - The 9th Lesbian Quarter kicked off with a DIY cabaret, returning to the art forms that the organisers say are "overlooked as a rule". The festival's varied programme will take place until Sunday at the intersection between the cultural, the socially critical and the introspective. The opening show, Feminism Is No Joke!, will set the tone with a spectacle that due to its non-normativity is not seen on established stages, says the ŠKUC Association - Lesbian Quarter.

Slovenian gets suspended sentence for involvement in Vienna attack

VIENNA, Austria - A Slovenian citizen got a nine-month suspended sentence for providing the attacker in the 2020 Vienna terrorist attack with a gun loaded with bullets. The 32-year-old admitted this, but claimed that he had not handed the weapon directly to the attacker, whom he had never met, and that he had not been aware of the attacker's intentions. He also expressed remorse.

© STA, 2023