News roundup - Thursday, 20 July

Ljubljana, 20 July - Below is a roundup of major events on Thursday, 20 July:

Žbogar appointed head of mission for Security Council membership

LJUBLJANA - The government appointed Samuel Žbogar, a former foreign minister who now serves as a state secretary at the Foreign Ministry, as head of a special mission for Slovenia's non-permanent membership in the UN Security Council. The special mission will be operational during Slovenia's membership in the UN Security Council and observer status, i.e. from 1 October this year until the end of 2025. The government also approved an additional 22 jobs for the project due to the new tasks and increased volume of work.

Sandoz planning biosimilars development centre in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - Generics producer Sandoz, part of which is Slovenian pharmaceutical company Lek, is planning to build a centre for development of biosimilars in Ljubljana. The US$90 million investment is to be completed by 2026, the company announced. "With this centre, Lek's Ljubljana location will become one of the key locations for the development of biosimilars in Sandoz," Sandoz said in a press release. The investment will create around 200 new jobs.

Govt approves several investments into army

Ljubljana - The government included three new projects into the army's 2023-2026 plan of development programmes - the purchases of 106 APCs, a ground-based air defence system, and six multi-purpose helicopters, while it expanded one project to buy a second tactical transport aircraft. The purchases will help the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) to simultaneously build a medium-sized battalion battlegroup and a reconnaissance battalion, the Defence Ministry said after the government session.

Slovenia supports more EU military aid to Ukraine in principle

BRUSSELS, Belgium - After Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief, presented a proposal for a EUR 20 billion fund for military aid to Ukraine in 2024-2027 to the EU foreign ministers in Brussels, Slovenia's Tanja Fajon backed the proposal in principle. "It's obviously a fact that we support it in principle, because it's a decision of the summit of leaders to stand by Ukraine financially, materially," Fajon said, adding that Slovenia would also have to make a consideration about its financial contribution.

FM says debate on Turkey's EU bid sensible if country's intentions are sincere

BRUSSELS, Belgium - A discussion about Turkey's EU membership bid makes sense if the country shows a sincere interest in this, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said ahead of a session of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council. Pointing to the country's strategic importance, she said cooperation with Turkey was extremely important. "If Turkey itself shows willingness, if it also shows willingness in meeting the conditions, I see no reason why we should not discuss this," Fajon said in Brussels.

Interior Minister Poklukar welcomes migration deal with Tunisia

LOGRONO, Spain - Attending an informal meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar noted the importance of cooperation with third countries in migration. He welcomed the agreement with Tunisia and called on the European Commission to continue such cooperation with countries such as Morocco and Egypt. "The approach applied in cooperation with Tunisia goes in the right direction, as agreements with third countries should be more comprehensive and cover broader aspects than exclusively migration. We thus expect the European Commission to continue such work with other countries," he said.

Slovenia to provide EUR 2.5m more for Ukraine war relief

LJUBLJANA - The government approved an additional EUR 2.5 million in humanitarian aid to meet the needs in Ukraine and the poorest countries affected by the food crisis as a fallout from the Ukraine war. Slovenia will make the contribution through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Upper chamber vetoes long-term care bill

LJUBLJANA - The National Council voted in favour of a veto on the long-term care bill, mostly taking issue with the funding plan, which also includes a contribution to be paid by employers at 1% of gross wages they pay to their employees. The veto was proposed by the councillors representing employers, local interests, farmers, tradespersons and sole proprietors, who argued that fast-tracking the bill was not justified for legislation that addresses such complex and sensitive topics. The lower chamber is expected to override the veto tomorrow.

Ministers caught apparently changing opinion on migration laws

LJUBLJANA - It transpired that some of the minister unwittingly and others willingly endorsed two sets of legislative amendments passed under the previous government that they as MPs in the previous term challenged at the Constitutional Court for tightening asylum and immigration legislation. They did so as the government backed a position drawn up by the Interior Ministry that the amendments were in compliance with the constitution. NGOs urged the interior minister to resign and for the consent to be withdrawn.

Official appointed to coordinate nuclear unit 2 project

LJUBLJANA - The government appointed a new state secretary at the prime minister's office to coordinate implementation of the project of a second unit at the Krško nuclear power plant. Appointed was Danijel Levičar, so far serving as chief operating officer at GEN Energija, the owner of the Slovenian half of the Krško plant. His appointment was announced by Prime Minister Robert Golob in June when he said the government would take a decision in principle on Krško 2 by 1 August.

Mutual health insurer to be transformed into public company

LJUBLJANA - The government put forward a bill to transform Vzajemna, Slovenia's only mutual insurance company, into a public company. Vzajemna was initially incorporated to provide top-up health insurance, which will be transformed into a mandatory contribution going to the national health insurance fund starting from 2024. The Finance Ministry says the bill seeks to tackle and protect the property status of the Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS) as Vzajemna's founder and more than 700,000 insured persons who are members of Vzajemna. Their stakes would be transformed into shares. Vzajemna opposes the plan.

Housing Fund to get EUR 25.5m capital injection

LJUBLJANA - The government decided to provide EUR 25.5 million to recapitalise the national Housing Fund. Part of the funds will be spent on building own rental flats and the rest on a new scheme of co-funding non-profit flats to be built by municipalities, local housing funds and non-profit housing organisations. Minister for Solidarity-based Future Simon Maljevac said the injection was the largest increase in the Housing Fund's assets in 20 years.

Medical Chamber dismisses allegations of illegal euthanasia

LJUBLJANA - The Medical Chamber rejected recent claims by an assisted dying bill sponsor Andrej Pleterski, who said that euthanasia was being performed in Slovenia illegally. No matter the circumstances, it is not performed in healthcare institutions, the chamber said as it condemned attempts to draw media attention with scaremongering and untrue statements. By making such statements in public, Pleterski is putting his own credibility under question, the press release read.

Campaign financing of two presidential candidates flawed

LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit has audited campaign financing of four candidates standing in last year's presidential election, issuing a positive opinion for winner Nataša Pirc Musar and runner-up Anže Logar. The other two audited campaigns, those of Milan Brglez and Vladimir Prebilič, received a qualified opinion for some minor flaws. The Social Democrats (SD) as the organiser of Brglez's campaign opened a dedicated bank account nine days after the deadline and paid from it some bills that were not part of the campaign.

Review Commission rejects audit request for UKC's X-ray tender

LJUBLJANA - The National Review Commission dismissed an audit request for a public tender for X-ray and CT scan devices issued by the UKC Ljubljana hospital in March. Arguing against the view of GH Holding that the procedure had been rigged to favour Siemens Healthcare, the commission said UKC had good grounds for the requested technical specifications.

Ombudsman meets reps of Albanian community

LJUBLJANA - Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina and his deputy Miha Horvat met a delegation of representatives of the Albanian ethnic community living in Slovenia. Topics discussed at the meeting ranged from the community's cultural rights and education issues to integration of immigrant children in schools and media coverage of the Albanian community.

Authorities urge caution as more bad weather expected

LJUBLJANA - Civil Protection commander Srečko Šestan warned that weather in Slovenia will remain unstable until Saturday, urging the public and event organisers to follow the forecasts and not take any risks. Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said members of the armed forces would be on stand-by to jump in to provide assistance. Wednesday's storms claimed one life, while several people were injured. They caused extensive damage. The Forest Service estimates that in forests alone some 100,000 cubic meters of timber were knocked down or damaged. Since last week more than 450,000 cubic meters of timber has been damaged.

Boost in wholesale and retail sales last year

LJUBLJANA - Turnover from the sale of goods in Slovenia was up for the second time in a row in 2022, totalling EUR 35.6 billion, which is a 17.2% increase from the year before, shows fresh data from the Statistics Office. Retail turnover was up by 11.4% year-on-year and amounted to EUR 15.4 billion, with sales of motor fuels increasing the most, by 76.6%.

Slovenia out of Nations League final round in quarter-finals

GDANSK, Poland - The Slovenian men's volleyball team is out of the final round of the Nations League, having conceded to Japan in the quarter-finals in straight sets. Japan, the second-ranked team in the preliminary round, played stifling defence to stop the main point of attack by Slovenia. "Japan deservedly won, we were not better than them in any segment of the game. They had excellent serve reception, they were good in side-out, better in serve, we have to congratulate them," Slovenia captain Tine Urnaut said.

© STA, 2023