News roundup - Tuesday, 23 January

Ljubljana, 23 January - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 23 January:

SDS to file ouster motion against digital transformation minister

LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) said they would be filing a motion for a vote of no-confidence against Digital Transformation Minister Emilija Stojmenova Duh. The SDS did not elaborate, saying it would provide details on Wednesday. The move comes as Stojmenova Duh's department has been under fire over purchasing EUR 6.5 million worth of laptops, with the opposition arguing that the public call had not been transparent. During the summer, the Digital Transformation Ministry purchased 13,000 laptops from four companies. They were intended for use in schools and for disadvantaged children, but the August floods led to a change in plans, with the government deciding that the computers could be given to flood victims.

House searches under way at Ljubljana's Town Hall, mayor's home

LJUBLJANA - Nearly 60 house searches were conducted as part of an investigation into corporate crime and corruption, including at Ljubljana's Town Hall and at the home of Mayor Zoran Janković. While police details are scarce, the mayor seems to be one of the main suspects regarding the C0 sewerage project and football club sponsorship. The news portal Necenzurirano said that police were investigating an open call related to sport, the hiring of an employee, and several other deals. Janković's lawyer Janez Koščak meanwhile said that the controversial C0 sewerage pipeline was being investigated.

Gross minimum wage to be raised by 4.2% in 2024 to EUR 1,254

LJUBLJANA - The gross minimum wage will be raised by 4.2% to EUR 1,253.90 this year, Labour Minister Luka Mesec announced. This is a minimum indexation required under the law, as the increase will adjust the minimum wage only to annual inflation recorded at the end of 2023, which is what employers proposed. The ZSSS trade union confederation regretted what it sees as a wasted opportunity to ensure a higher increase amid rising costs of living that outpace inflation, but welcomed the fact that the government abandoned the initial idea to freeze the minimum wage. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) welcomed the decision, noting that it takes into account inflation, as "any departure from this would be unacceptable."

Fajon to call for immediate ceasefire in Gaza at UN debate

NEW YORK, US - FM Tanja Fajon told reporters in New York ahead of her appearance in the UN Security Council's open debate on the Middle East that she would demand an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, adding that she believed that practically the entire world would do the same. "Ceasefire will be my main message. The killing of innocent civilians and children must stop. We have witnessed as many as 26,000 victims already, two-thirds of whom are women and children," she said, adding that talks were being conducted with the US to pressure it to endorse a Security Council resolution demanding ceasefire in Gaza.

Patients' rights advocates accuse Fides of exploiting patients

LJUBLJANA - Patients' rights advocates condemned the ongoing strike by the Fides trade union, accusing doctors and dentists of fighting for higher pay on the backs of patients. Patients' ombudsmen and the Association of Patient Organisations have received a number of complaints from patients, mostly concerning cancelled appointments and sick leave notes. The association has also called on Fides to publicly release its instructions to doctors on strike regarding the scope of services and what it calls arbitrary decisions about appointment cancellations, which are made without triage or doctors seeing the patients.

Finance minister appointed deputy prime minister

LJUBLJANA - Finance Minister Klemen Boštjančič became the third deputy prime minister, joining the foreign and labour ministers, Tanja Fajon and Luka Mesec. He was appointed by the government upon Prime Minister Robert Golob's proposal to fill the post vacated by Daniel Bešič Loredan when he resigned as health minister in July 2023. Golob's office said that the finance minister's role in drafting and implementing government policies is of paramount importance, especially with all the challenges until the end of the government's term.

Judges write to European Commission about their pay grievances

LJUBLJANA - The Judicial Council has once again turned to the European Commission, this time notifying it that the government and the parliament have failed to implement the Constitutional Court ruling on judges' pay by the 3 January 2024 deadline. This is the second such letter the Slovenian judges have addressed to the Commission. The Constitutional Court said in June 2023 that the pay judges receive is much too low compared to the other two branches of government and gave the legislature six months to remedy the situation.

Chair of parliamentary inquiry into pressure on police steps down

LJUBLJANA - Freedom Movement MP Miha Lamut has resigned as the chair of the parliamentary inquiry into alleged political interference in the police force, citing health reasons. Lamut explained that he has been on sick leave for some time and needs some more time to recover, which would hamper the commission's work. The resignation was confirmed by the Freedom Movement deputy group, which proposed deputy chair Aleš Rezar to replace Lamut. The latter has been recently in the spotlight for granting the intelligence agency SOVA access to sensitive behind-the-door testimonies before his commission.

Pahor calls for release of hostages and ceasefire in Gaza

KRAKOW, Poland - Taking part in two-day international conference on antisemitism hosted by the European Jewish Association (EJA) in the Polish city of Krakow, former President Borut Pahor called for the release of Israeli hostages and Israel's cessation of military activities in Gaza so that peace talks can start. Attending the conference on the rise of antisemitism in the aftermath of the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas, Pahor signed on Monday the charter of the EJA's Leaders' Forum, whose aim will be to combat antisemitism.

Audit finds Telekom not prudent in paying managers, selling subsidiaries

LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit has reviewed Telekom Slovenije's finances to find that the operations of the state-owned telco between the start of 2019 and the end of October 2022 were only partly efficient. It found flaws in its management of subsidiaries, including their sale, in remuneration policy, advertising, and sponsorships and donations. During the nearly four years, more than two of which were under the previous Janez Janša government, Telekom had three different chairmen of the management board, Rudolf Skobe, Tomaž Seljak, and Cvetko Sršen.

Ministry proposes seasonal work for foreigners in tourism, hospitality

LJUBLJANA - The Labour Ministry put forward a proposal for changes to the Employment, Self-employment and Work of Foreigners Act that transpose EU law and allow for seasonal work of foreigners to be expanded to tourism and catering. Because of staff shortages the proposed changes, which will be in public consultation until 6 February, expand seasonal work, which has until now been limited to agriculture and forestry. Transposing the relevant EU directive, it also reduces the minimal required duration of contract for highly qualified employment from one year to six months.

Consumer confidence up in January

LJUBLJANA - The consumer confidence indicator rose by three percentage points in January compared to December 2023 and by eight points year-on-year. The indicator is still five percentage points below the long-term average, the Statistics Office said. All four sub-indicators improved at both monthly and annual levels. In annual comparison, consumer confidence increased the most in the expected financial situation in the household and expectations for larger purchases (by eight points each).

Corruption watchdog to look into courthouse purchase case

LJUBLJANA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) will look into the purchase of an allegedly severely overpaid acquisition of a building meant to house several courts, which is already being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation. The KPK told the STA today it would launch its own investigation into the purchase of the dilapidated building on Litijska Road in eastern Ljubljana for EUR 7.7 million based on a report it received on Monday.

Info commissioner against long-term data retention in some cases

LJUBLJANA - The Information Commissioner has requested a constitutional review of the relevant segment of the law on police powers due to what the data protection authority believes to be a disproportionally long retention of personal data of innocent persons and victims in police records. It said that under the existing retention time limits it is not clear when individuals are allowed to ask the police to erase their personal data. It also noted that this kind of a system excessively encroaches on the right to privacy, the presumption of innocence and the right to personal dignity.

Slovenia warns against additional work for EU member states in forestry framework

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia warned against additional financial and administrative burdens as EU members discussed the establishment of an EU-wide forest observation framework as an agriculture ministerial. Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Eva Knez pointed out that forestry planning is in the exclusive domain of member states and new obligations stemming from the observation framework should not bring additional burdens. She also said that implementation at the level of member states must remain flexible. Slovenia also underlined that a comprehensive impact assessment is needed for cultured meat production.

Cooperative community solar plant launched in Hrastnik

HRASTNIK - A 300 KW photovoltaic installation was inaugurated on the roof of the Hrastnik primary school in central Slovenia in what is the first cooperative community solar power plant in the country. The power plant will supply electricity to 16 homes in nearby blocks of flats, the school, Hrastnik town hall and swimming pool, a shop and premises of two companies. The partners expect to save around 30% on their total electricity costs in the first 13 years, and around 65% once they have repaid the loan. They will only have to cover the maintenance and management costs.

Dončić helps promote Slovenia in US

DALLAS/AUSTIN, US - Business and tourism cooperation between Slovenia and Texas is being boosted further in this US state as part of a campaign that is under way between 21 and 27 January and builds strongly on the huge popularity of Slovenian NBA star Luka Dončić. Visiting San Antonio, Dallas and Austin, the Texas Feels Slovenia campaign features two business forums aimed at presenting Slovenia to the business community there as an attractive trading partner that has many investment opportunities to offer.

Andreja Ravnak Travel Photographer of the Year

LONDON, UK - Slovenian photographer Andreja Ravnak has been declared the overall winner of the Travel Photographer of the Year 2023, having impressed the jury with her images of hops growing in the Savinja Valley and the rolling fields in Italy and the Czech Republic. Declaring the winners, the competition founder Chris Coe praised the "subtle elegance" that comes through in both of Ravnak's winning portfolios.

Top minority award goes to politician Karel Smolle

KLAGENFURT, Austria - The Slovenian minority in Austria honoured on Monday politician Karel Smolle with the 45th Tischler Award, given to Slovenians or Slovenian institutions promoting the cause of the Slovenian minority in the Austrian state of Carinthia. The National Council of Carinthian Slovenians, an umbrella organisation of the minority in Carinthia, and the Christian Cultural Association honoured Smolle's long-standing political activity at the federal and state levels in Austria and for extraordinary achievements to the benefit of the Slovenian minority in Carinthia, TV Slovenija reported.

Tolmin landslide clean-up to take months, one farm cut off

TOLMIN - The landslide that buried and killed a man in the Tolmin municipality on Monday was triggered naturally, said the geologist who visited the site. The landslide currently poses a threat to a restaurant at the entry to the Tolmin Gorge park, said geologist Jože Janež. A 100-metre landslide fence will be set up to prevent large rocks from rolling down. One such rock rolled down to the parking lot in front of the Tolmin Gorge park, a popular tourist site. Clean-up efforts are expected to be complex, so the road will be closed for several months.

Slovenian accused of helping US-wanted Russian businessman escape arrested

LJUBLJANA - A Slovenian man believed to have assisted in the March 2023 escape of US-wanted Russian businessman Artyom Uss from Italy to Russia was apprehended by police in the Ljubljana area last Friday, the General Police Directorate confirmed on Monday. The 39-year-old has been placed under house arrest. While the details are not know, a December report by the Italian news agency Ansa on the European arrest warrant issued for Uss and his helpers said the only Slovenian citizen among the defendants was Matej Janežič.

Moldovan citizen dies on ambulance ride after police intervention

GROSUPLJE - A Moldovan citizen died Monday night during an ambulance ride to the Ljubljana psychiatry clinic. After he threatened the paramedics, the vehicle stopped and police intervened. The man lost consciousness and died despite attempts at resuscitation. The cause of the man's death has not been established yet. There will be a thorough investigation into all circumstances and any potential link between the death and the use of coercive means, said the Ljubljana Police Department.

Man threatens with shooting at Celje emergency

CELJE - Yet another security incident at an emergency centre was reported, as a man accompanying a sick child first broke into the exam room and later threatened over the phone that he would "shoot everybody" at the Celje general hospital this weekend. "The incident has left many who are on hand to the residents of our region in a state of shock and worry," the hospital said, adding that the matter has been handed over to the police. This is not an isolated case, last year, several similar cases were reported. The hospital added that the incident could not be chalked up to the ongoing doctors' strike.

Slovenia clinch fifth place match at handball Euro

HAMBURG, Germany - Slovenia wrapped up the main round at the European Men's Handball Championship with a 28:25 win against the reigning world champions Denmark to earn the fifth place match, which will be played in Cologne on Friday. Slovenia's opponent is yet to be determined. Slovenia have already matched their third-best result at the European championships, even if they finish sixth. The best result remains silver in 2004 in Slovenia, followed by the fifth place in 2000 in Croatia.

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