News roundup - Friday, 22 September

Ljubljana, 22 September - Below is a roundup of major events on Friday, 22 September:

Pirc Musar urges Security Council reform as she meets Guterres

NEW YORK, US - President Nataša Pirc Musar urged a comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council, as she met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday. "In the current geopolitical situation, the world needs a renewed commitment to the principles of the UN Charter. A comprehensive reform of the Security Council is needed to better enable it to fulfil its mandate, respond to crises in a timely manner and prevent conflicts around the world," Pirc Musar said at the meeting. She also met President of South Korea Yoon Suk-yeol, who told her that his country will open an embassy in Ljubljana.

Ministers meet to discuss Yugoslavia succession

NEW YORK, US - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon hosted in New York on Thursday what the Foreign Ministry said was the first meeting of successors to the former Yugoslavia at the ministerial level. Serbia did not attend. Slovenia initiated the meeting to encourage talks on the resolution of open issues pertaining to the succession to Yugoslavia. It was agreed that they will work closely to resolve outstanding issues and hold regular meetings, the ministry said.

Eyebrows raised over appointment of UN special mission head

LJUBLJANA - The government's appointment of Samuel Žbogar as head of a special mission for Slovenia's upcoming non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council has been met with mixed reactions with President Nataša Pirc Musar describing the decision as unusual. The prime minister's office refused to comment on her statement, whereas Žbogar, an experienced diplomat who most recently served as state secretary at the Foreign Ministry, said that Slovenia's Security Council bid itself had been unusual. Usually, such campaigns are announced and planned years in advance, which was not the case with Slovenia, he said.

Minister presents Slovenia's UNSC ambitions to Harvard students

BOSTON, US - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon delivered a lecture to Harvard University students in Boston, presenting Slovenia and its ambitions during its stint as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. She also presented the situation in the EU, with an emphasis on enlargement policy, the Foreign Ministry said. She highlighted feminist foreign policy as a new era in diplomacy, saying the concept was about promoting gender equality in all contexts and in all areas.

Minority in Italy opposed to Slovenian schools closing

TRIESTE, Italy - Senator Tatjana Rojc addressed a question to Italian Education Minister Giuseppe Valditara and Finance Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti after the ministries passed a decree that would close three schools with Slovenian as teaching language in Friuli Venezia Giulia between 2024 and 2027. According to the newspaper Primorski Dnevnik, the decree passed on 30 June has not been officially published but was presented to the members of the joint representation of Slovenians in Italy earlier this week. Rojc told the ministers that the closure of schools is against the law.

Bilingual schools made available to all children with special needs

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed legislative changes that enable special education bilingual Slovenian-Hungarian schools and schools with Italian as the medium of instruction to accept children with special needs who live outside the areas populated by the two ethnic minorities. The government-sponsored changes to the Act on Special Rights of Italian and Hungarian National Communities in Education, which was fast-tracked, were unanimously passed with 77 votes in favour.

Public Administration Ministry raising dust over costly New York trip

LJUBLJANA - A trip of Public Administration Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik and four of the ministry's employees at a forum on sustainable development held in New York in July has upset the public, as the price tag for the trip topped EUR 33,000. The minister insists the price was reasonable. Ajanović Hovnik took part in the forum along with deputy secretary general Maja Dimitrovski, while director general of the directorate for local government, NGOs and political system Mateja Mahkovec; secretary Nika Benedik; and head of the sector for analyses and development planning Simona Hočevar were there to provide support to the minister.

MPs pass resolution on equal opportunities for women and men

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed a resolution on the national programme for equal opportunities for women and men up to 2030. The document aims to ensure that both genders participate equally in all areas of public and private life, especially regarding employment, education, healthcare and social status. Passed with 70 votes in favour and none against, the resolution envisages measures aimed at ensuring that men and women have equal opportunities to enjoy all rights, develop their potentials and benefit equally from the results of societal development. This includes closing the gender pay gap. Currently, women in Slovenia are still paid less than men.

Higher property prices and fewer deals in Q2

LJUBLJANA - Real estate prices increased by 1.9% in the April-June period compared to the first quarter of the year and by 7.4% compared to the same period in 2022. The number of residential property sales was down by 5% quarter-on-quarter and by a third year-on-year, the Statistics Office said. In quarterly comparison, prices of new residential property went up by 3% in the second quarter after going down 8.4% in the first quarter. The increase was driven by the higher prices of new flats.

Vzajemna transformation bill passes first reading

LJUBLJANA - A bill transforming mutual health insurer Vzajemna into a joint stock company passed first reading as part of government plans to transfer collection of top-up health insurance onto the public health fund ZZZS as of 2024. Vzajemna opposes the bill, and its employees have described it as an attempt to destroy the company. Top-up health insurance was introduced in 1993 to meet the need for more money in healthcare, with ZZZS collecting both basic mandatory insurance and voluntary top-up insurance. When Vzajemna was founded in 1999 as a mutual health insurer, it took over top-up insurance.

MPs vote down bill to limit terms of mayors

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly rejected the changes to the Local Elections Act that would limit mayorship to two consecutive terms with 69 votes against. Most deputy groups, except the coalition Left, were opposed to the changes, filed to parliament by the non-parliamentary Pirate Party and the Left. The changes were filed to the National Assembly in June along with 5,000 signatures collected by the Pirate Party and the Left.

EV sharing provider adds delivery vehicles to its fleet

LJUBLJANA - Avant Car, which runs Slovenia's biggest electric car sharing system - Avant2Go, is expanding its fleet of fully electric vehicles with delivery vans in what is the company's latest pilot project. The vehicles will be available for pick-up and return at Ljubljana's shopping and logistics hub BTC. The service will include Peugeot's E-expert vans, which have an estimated range of 330 kilometres. The project is a joint effort between Avant Car and the BTC Group.

Business sentiment improves further

LJUBLJANA - Business sentiment has improved for the second consecutive month in September, after it deteriorated for the first seven months of the year. It stands at -5.4 percentage points, which is up by 0.6 points on the month before but still 0.4 points lower than a year ago. The monthly gain was driven by improved indicators in services and among consumers, which rose by 0.3 and 0.2 points, respectively.

Public contracts worth over EUR 8bn last year

LJUBLJANA - More than a million public contracts were concluded last year with the total value surpassing EUR 8 billion, shows a report by the Public Administration Ministry. The share of public procurement in GDP stood at 14.11%, which is 0.65 percentage points lower than in 2021 but still the second highest share in the last 12 years. Small-value procurement accounted for 54.71% of the deals.

Ljubljana police wrap up massive property crime investigation

LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana police have concluded a three-month long investigation of property crime cases in the areas of Kočevje, Ljubljana and Grosuplje, having arrested 22 perpetrators who are suspected of having committed 72 criminal offences. Criminal complaints have been filed against all suspects, who have been detained after being brought before an investigative judge. The cases include the six burglaries into rectories, four grand larcenies in the Kočevje area, and three criminal acts of robbery, violent conduct and larceny in the Ribnica area.

Five-year concessions awarded to four public bus service providers

LJUBLJANA - The government signed five-year contracts with four selected concessionaires for the public service of scheduled passenger transport, which is expected to be provided as of July 2024. The companies Arriva, Avtobusni Promet Murska Sobota, Ljubljanski Potniški Promet (LPP) and Nomago will get a total of EUR 134 million in what was labelled as a major step in improving the quality of transport.

Bill filed to ban glyphosate in Slovenia

LJUBLJANA - A group of voters filed to parliament a bill to ban production, sale and use of the herbicide glyphosate in Slovenia. The National Assembly now has seven days to examine the bill and potentially urge its proponents to supplement it before it sets a 60-day deadline to collect the required 5,000 voter signatures. Should the bill be passed, Slovenia would become the first EU country to ban this herbicide, which its opponents say is carcinogenic while the European Commission has just recently proposed extending the permit for its sale until 2033.

NGOs submit signatures in support of stricter standards for co-incinerators

LJUBLJANA - A group of NGOs submitted more than the required 5,000 signatures to table a bill that would subject co-incineration plants to same emission standards as incineration facilities. They called on political parties to prioritise public health over the interests of capital and endorse the proposal. Joined in a campaign fighting for cleaner air and water in the area around the Anhovo cement plant in western Slovenia, the NGOs and civil society organisations collected over 6,000 signatures since 1 September.

Canoeist Benjamin Savšek wins world champion title in London

LONDON, UK - Slovenian canoeist Benjamin Savšek won the gold medal in the men's C1 event as the ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships at the Lee Valley White Water Centre near London. This is the second world title for the reigning Olympic champion and another in a series of medals for the veteran Savšek, one of the most accomplished Slovenian canoeist. He won gold in the C1 team event at the world championships in 2022, and boasts eleven medals at the European championships (seven golds).

All Olympic medallists to receive national sport prize under new rules

LJUBLJANA - Parliament discussed at second reading changes to the law on the country's top national prizes for athletes under which all winners of medals at the Olympics, Paralympics, Deaflympics and Chess Olympiad will automatically receive the Bloudek Prize in a bid to right the wrongs where not all Olympic medallists were honoured with the prize. The law will also apply retroactively to cover all Olympic medallists who have not yet received the Bloudek Prize since the Bloudek Awards Act was passed 29 years ago. The recipients are entitled to a financial reward, as well as a higher pension upon retirement.

Theatre director Ivana Djilas wins best essay prize

LJUBLJANA - Ivana Djilas, an award-winning theatre director who was born in Serbia but has lived in Slovenia since 1999, has won this year's Rožanc Prize for the best collection of essays for A Si Lahko Vsaj Enkrat Tiho (Could You Be Quiet for Once). The book "glows with sincerity and gives voice to immigrants who do not accept life on the margins, who do not seek excuses for failure, who do not give in to nostalgia, but confidently and equally co-create the literature, theatre, music and culture of the heart of their new homeland", the jury said. Djilas told the STA the award took her by surprise, because "I always feel I don't belong to any genre", including in theatre.

© STA, 2023