News roundup - Monday, 29 January

Ljubljana, 29 January - Below is a roundup of major events on Monday, 29 January:

Slovenia, Germany propose more effective decision-making on EU enlargement

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia, Germany and another six countries presented at the EU's General Affairs Council an initiative for more effective decision-making on EU enlargement. Slovenian Foreign Ministry State Secretary Marko Štucin said they want decisions on opening individual sets of chapters in accession talks to no longer require consensus but qualified majority. Slovenia wants to use the geostrategic momentum brought on by the Russian aggression against Ukraine to speed up the enlargement process within the EU as well, he said, adding that the discussion showed the proposal enjoys the support of several member states.

Most administrative units on strike

LJUBLJANA - Clerks at 41 out of the country's 58 administrative units went on strike demanding higher pay by seven brackets, and more staff to cope with a surging number of cases, especially the processing of foreigners. While 26 units, including in the biggest cities of Ljubljana and Maribor, will be on strike for three days, the remaining 15 will only be on strike one day. As many as 85% of employees at administrative units in Slovenia, which employ 2,340 clerks, will be on strike, said trade union leader Frančišek Verk.

PM Golob says Slovenia will continue calling for peace in Gaza

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will continue to call for peace in Gaza and condemn the violations of international law, PM Robert Golob said in response to a question by coalition Left MP Nataša Sukič. Golob believes a permanent solution for the Middle East has to be found. "Our key orientation at the moment is working through the Security Council," he said. Before the plenary session, a group of activists unfurled several Palestinian flags on the gallery overlooking the session hall. They were escorted out by security.

Prime minister wants to get to bottom of dodgy court building purchase

LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob told the MPs he wanted to get to the bottom of who had misled the government regarding the controversial EUR 7.7 million purchase of a dilapidated building for several courts in Ljubljana. As for the fate of Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan, he said he would wait for the decision of her SocDems. The opposition Democrats (SDS) meanwhile filed a motion of no confidence in Švarc Pipan, arguing she is objectively responsible for the alleged irregularities in the purchase.

Golob doesn't see laptop purchase as uneconomical

LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob rejected allegations that the EUR 6.5 million purchase of 13,000 laptops by the Digital Transformation Ministry was uneconomical, as he answered MPs' questions in parliament. The purchase was the best possible measure for digital inclusion and the ministries involved will draft distribution criteria soon, he believes. The purchase earned Minister Emilija Stojmenova Duh an oster motion.

Changes on co-incineration emissions withdrawn from parliament agenda

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly withdrew changes to the Environment Protection Act from the agenda of the January plenary at the proposal of the coalition. The NGOs-sponsored changes concern emission standards for co-incineration plants, and the official reason for the withdrawal is an administrative misunderstanding related to the filing of additional amendments to the bill.

Govt to withdraw heating sources ban proposal

LJUBLJANA - The government will withdraw from the proposed energy bill a provision that would ban biomass furnaces as the primary heating source in new buildings, PM Robert Golob said as he responded to a question by Janez Žakelj from the opposition New Slovenia (NSi). He said that only 500 biomass furnaces are installed in new buildings a year, which does not pose a problem for air quality. A bigger problem is the 430,000 existing biomass furnaces, which are mostly old and should be replaced, Golob said.

Catholic media say media bill encroaches on media, religious freedoms

LJUBLJANA - Catholic media are very critical of the new media bill, which is in public debate, arguing it runs afoul of the constitution and treaties as it encroaches on editorial independence, freedom of enterprise, and religious freedom. "The bill narrows freedom of expression and unacceptably widens control of the expression of different viewpoints in all public service media in the country," Gabriel Kavčič from the Slovenian Bishops' Conference's media group told the press. The Catholic Church's two main media outlets in Slovenia are Radio Ognjišče and the newspaper Družina.

Government, ruling party continue to slide in ratings

LJUBLJANA - The government and the ruling party Freedom Movement continue to lose public support, whereas smaller parties are gaining ground and the bloc of undecided voters continues to grow, showed the latest poll run by POP TV on Sunday. The Freedom Movement polled at 13.7%, down almost two points, but the top-ranked party, the opposition Democrats (SDS), was likewise down, losing 1.5% to 23.4%. The government's approval rating was at 30.8%, down by four points, with the share of those who disapprove of its work rising by more than three points to 54.8%.

ZZZS finishes 2023 with EUR 76m loss

LJUBLJANA - ZZZS, the state-owned health insurer, posted a deficit of EUR 76.3 million last year, but covered it from the surplus from previous years. The preliminary results show ZZZS recorded growth in both revenue (9.6%) and expenditure (8.5%), the insurer's director general Tatjana Mlakar told the press. Revenue totalled EUR 4.32 billion and expenses amounted to EUR 4.4 billion. The increase in revenue can be attributed to higher income from contributions and a EUR 304 million transfer from the national budget.

Fuel off motorway network dearer as of Tuesday, diesel up 3%

LJUBLJANA - Regulated prices of fuel off Slovenia's motorway network will go up on Tuesday, while excise duties remain unchanged. Regular petrol is to be sold at EUR 1.411 a litre, up by three cents, and diesel will be 4.2 cents more expensive at EUR 1.457 a litre. The retail price of heating oil will also rise, by 4.6 cents to EUR 1.111 a litre. The new prices will be in place until 12 February, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy said.

Retail turnover down 11.5% in 2023

LJUBLJANA - Turnover from retail in Slovenia in 2023 was down by 11.5% in real terms year-on-year. It dropped the most, by 22%, in sales of motor fuels, the Statistics Office said. Turnover was down by 5% in retail trade with non-food products, by 2.9% in retail trade with food products. In December 2023, turnover in retail was down by 3.6% from November, ending a four-month upward trend.

Slovenian composer wins prestigious Austrian award

VIENNA, Austria - Slovenian composer Nina Šenk has won this year's Erste Bank Kompositionspreis. Conferred by the Austrian bank Erste Bank since 1989, it is considered one of the most prestigious awards in contemporary music honouring the winners' creative work to date. It includes a minimum of three performances of the winner's new work by the Klangforum Wien orchestra within 12 months. Šenk's new composition will premiere at the Wien Modern festival on 21 November.

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