News roundup - Monday, 22 January

Ljubljana, 22 January - Below is a roundup of major events on Monday, 22 January:

Fajon: Palestinian state only guarantee for safety of Israelis

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The only guarantee for the safety of Israelis is a Palestinian state, Slovenia's Tanja Fajon said at a session of EU foreign ministers, which was also attended by their Israeli counterpart Israel Katz. Fajon said a permanent ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and serious talks on a two-state solution were needed. She will send a similar message at Tuesday's open session of the UN Security Council in New York, because of which she had to leave the Foreign Affairs Council session early.

Žbogar accuses Russia of double standards during Security Council meeting

NEW YORK, US - Slovenia's representative to the UN Security Council Samuel Žbogar urged Russia to end its aggression on Ukraine as the Council discussed the supply of arms from Western nations to Ukraine on Monday. He noted that Russia, which called the meeting, was accusing the West of double standards while being guilty of this itself. "We would like to express deep concern over the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea as well as Russia's import of ballistic missiles from North Korea. These actions represent serious violations of numerous Security Council resolutions, which should be dealt with," he stated.

Watchdog's Golob inquiry suspended as pre-trial proceedings take precedence

LJUBLJANA - The anti-graft watchdog told the press it suspended its investigation into the alleged pressure from PM Robert Golob on former Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar and other ministry employees after the prosecution said that revealing certain documents from the file to Golob would hurt the interest of the pre-trial proceedings in the matter initiated by the police in October 2023. The watchdog had to take into account that the proceedings by the police take precedence, being related to suspicion of criminal acts.

Diplomatic corps thanked for solidarity towards Slovenia

BRDO PRI KRANJU - Solidarity of other countries with Slovenia in the face of the August 2023 floods and support in Slovenia's successful bid for a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council was noted as President Nataša Pirc Musar and PM Robert Golob hosted the New Year's reception for the diplomatic corps. Among what he called a number of successes on the international stage in 2023, Golob singled out the election to the Security Council, saying: "I'm convinced that Slovenia will be able to justify the trust." Apostolic Nuncio Jean-Marie Speich addressed the meeting on behalf of the diplomatic corps.

More health services affected as doctors step up strike

LJUBLJANA - More services are being affected across the public healthcare system after doctors who are members of the Fides trade union stepped up their strike activities. While cancellations of non-urgent procedures continue, some doctors have also started to work to rule, strictly observing all provisions on working hours, rest and lunch breaks. Milenko Stanković, a Fides vice-president who works at UKC Ljubljana, said only the bare legal minimum of services would be provided at the hospital. Today's round of talks between Fides and the government brought no progress.

Internal investigation finds human error cause for December train accident

LJUBLJANA - An internal investigation by the national railways operator has shown that human error was entirely to blame for an accident that resulted in two deaths on railway tracks just south of Postojna in late December. It found that the signalman failed to inform the maintenance crew that a passenger train was approaching. In the month since the accident, Slovenian Railways has made mandatory a number of safety procedures that were only advisable before the tragic incident. Two other investigations into the accident are still ongoing.

Poll shows govt stability most affected by higher costs of living

LJUBLJANA - As many as 77.5% of respondents in a poll published by the newspaper Delo believe the cost-of-living increases have a significant or very significant impact on the stability of the government, more so than for instance the lack of reforms, strikes, or various allegations against ministers. Just over 44% of those polled expressed their support for the government, while 44% are in favour of early elections. "I was surprised that with everything that is shaking up the stability of the government, some 44% still hold out hope for the situation to improve," Mediana director Janja Božič Marolt commented.

Average gross pay up by 10% in November

LJUBLJANA - Average gross pay in Slovenia reached EUR 2,427.10 in November, which was 9.8% higher than in October in nominal terms and 10.9% higher in real terms, data from the Statistics Office show. Average net pay reached EUR 1,594.13, which was 11.1% higher than in October in nominal terms and 12.2% higher in real terms. Compared to November 2022, average gross pay increased by 8.1% nominally and by 3.1% in real terms. Net pay was 7.7% higher in nominal terms and 2.7% higher in real terms.

Slovenia needs long-term energy system development plan, debate hears

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia needs a development plan for its electricity supply system which must lay down production sources and grid development so as to ensure reliable energy supply. But there are many challenges: from funding and staffing to zoning, heard a consultation hosted by the Electrical Engineering Association and the Energy Chamber. Ferdinand Gubina from the Ljubljana Faculty of Electrical Engineering said the country needed a 30-year financially viable and professionally reviewed plan that will be properly communicated to the public.

Transparency at forefront of media bill debate

LJUBLJANA - Culture Minister Asta Vrečko stressed at a public discussion on a new media bill that she is aiming to revamp media legislation to be modern, transparent and in line with the development of technology, AI and social media. The debate featured foreign guests presenting good practices in media regulation after the Culture Ministry unveiled on 12 December 2023 a draft new media bill, which aims to increase the transparency of media ownership and financing. It is in public consultation until the end of the month.

Veterinary Chamber fined for limiting competition

LJUBLJANA - The Competition Protection Agency found the Veterinary Chamber of Slovenia violated the competition rules for almost eight years, as its 2015 rules of procedures directly or indirectly determined prices and other working conditions of veterinary organisations. The camber admitted the violations and was fined EUR 43,000, but is seeking a lower fine. This is the agency's first decision of its kind based on the new competition protection legislation that was amended a year ago.

Candles lit for Gaza victims in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - Some 300 people gathered in Republic Square in front of Slovenia's parliament this evening to light candles for those killed, wounded or went missing in Gaza, TV Slovenija reported. The candles were put on the symbolic graves made from snow in Friday's anti-war intervention by several art collectives, and under the flags of EU countries opposite the National Assembly. This is the latest in a series of events in Slovenia in support of Palestinians in Gaza.

Civil initiative in Velenje up in arms over high district heating bills

VELENJE - Ballooned utility bills owing to a jump in district heating costs in the municipality of Velenje have prompted a local civil initiative to threatened a referendum, lawsuits, criminal complaints and a blockade of Velenje if the costs are not halved. Individual social media posts suggests December heating bills rose up to EUR 300 and more for small flats. Municipal and utility officials attribute the hike to a combination of reasons, including alleged failure to adapt to more expensive energy with thriftiness. A protest rally is scheduled for Wednesday.

Train passengers endure hours of freezing delays during weekend

LJUBLJANA - The past winter weekend was among the bleakest for the Slovenian railways and will not be forgotten by 100-plus passengers who were freezing for hours in two separate incidents. On Saturday, a ride from Maribor to Ljubljana took eight instead about two hours hours, while on Sunday passengers aboard a Ljubljana-Sežana train were stuck on a bridge for five hours. The first incident was due to a train damaging a catenary and interrupting the power supply, and in the second, a passenger train got stuck on a bridge. The rail company admitted it took too long to address the situation, but pledged to reimburse the passengers for all the costs and try to find some other solution to make it easier for them or to make it up to them.

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