News roundup - Monday, 5 February

Ljubljana, 5 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Monday, 5 February:

Rapid progress and inclusivity in focus at AI ethics forum

BRDO PRI KRANJU - The rapid progress in the field of AI and developing AI that works for the benefit of all people are two of the main challenges in AI, said the participants of the two-day Global Forum on the Ethics of AI 2024, which started today and brought together over 600 reps of governments, international organisations, academic and research institutions, NGOs and businesses from 67 countries. UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay, who chaired the forum, said international cooperation had become more important in the new context of climate change and the digital revolution.

PM Golob discusses cooperation with UNESCO boss

LJUBLJANA - PM Robert Golob met UNESCO director general Audrey Azoulay to discuss the Slovenia-UNESCO cooperation, also advocating close cooperation within the UN Security Council, especially during the month when Slovenia will chair it. They touched on the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip, and an agreement the countries of the former Yugoslavia, including Slovenia, recently signed to restore a joint exhibition in the museum section of the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Štucin discusses EU enlargement to W Balkans in Rome

ROME, Italy - Marko Štucin, a state secretary at the Foreign Ministry, outlined a Slovenian-German proposal for a more effective enlargement process, as he took part in a meeting of the group of the Friends of the Western Balkans in Rome. The meeting, hosted by Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and featuring several foreign ministers and a European Commission representative, focused on the current situation in the region and in EU countries in terms of EU enlargement. He also met Deputy Italian Foreign Minster Edmondo Cirielli to discuss bilateral relations.

Budget surplus in January doubles y/y

LJUBLJANA - Preliminary data shows that the national budget had a surplus of EUR 333 million in January, more than double the surplus in the same month last year, the Fiscal Council said. Trade unions' demands for higher pay in the public sector are considered the biggest short-term fiscal risk. Standing at EUR 1.2 billion, budget revenue in January was up 10.5% year-on-year, while budget expenditure, totalling EUR 863 million, was down 7.3%.

2024 declared year of remembrance of Huda Jama mass grave

LJUBLJANA - The government commission for concealed mass graves has declared 2024 a year of remembrance of the victims of the Huda Jama post-WWII grave, which was discovered in 2009, and of dialogue on their decent burial, its chairman Jože Dežman said. It was on 3 March 2009 that forensics managed to break through a thick layer of concrete to find the remains of 1,400-plus victims of summary killings in the disused Barbara Rov coal mine near the village of Huda Jama, 50km north-east of Ljubljana. The commission will present the events it is preparing for the Huda Jama remembrance year in early March.

Slovenia's registered jobless total in January down 6.8% y/y

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's registered jobless total was at 51,610 at the end of January, up 6.7% on the previous month mostly due to expiry of fixed-term contracts, and down 6.8% year-on-year, the Employment Service said. A total of 9,266 jobless were registered anew in January, up 78.6% on December and 12.5% year-on-year.

Govt distributes EUR 6.5m to strengthen NGOs

LJUBLJANA - The Public Administration Ministry has distributed a total of EUR 6.3 million to over a dozen NGOs through a public call designed to strengthen NGOs, their role in local and regional policy-shaping and establish lasting partnerships between NGOs and public institutions, business and media. The funds were awarded for projects taking place between 2023 and the end of 2027. A dozen regional nexuses were selected, one horizontal network and a volunteer network.

Defence Ministry to cooperate with another university

MARIBOR - The Defence Ministry and the University of Maribor signed a cooperation agreement, about six months after similar accords were signed with the universities in Ljubljana and Koper. The agreements cover education, training, research and development and aim to strengthen cooperation that died down somewhat after 2016, when previous such agreements expired. Last year, similar agreements were also signed with the Maribor-based private Alma Mater Europaea university and the public Faculty of Organisation Studies in Novo Mesto.

SocDems call on govt to dismiss Oncology Institute council

LJUBLJANA - The deputy group of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) urged the government to dismiss its members of the council of the Ljubljana Oncology Institute and appoint new ones. The appeal comes after Erik Brecelj, a surgeon at the cancer treatment hospital who also chairs the government's strategic council for healthcare, publically accused the SD of having "captured" the hospital. The SD MPs belive a new council should immediately report possible unlawful practices or suspicion of criminal acts.

Woman stabbed on Ljubljana city bus

LJUBLJANA - A woman was stabbed by an acquaintance on a Ljubljana city bus this morning, according to a statement from the Ljubljana Police Department. She was taken to UKC Ljubljana for treatment while the assailant was arrested. News portal Siol reported that the victim was not in mortal danger and that the man was restrained by other passengers. Police will provide more information on Tuesday. Ljubljana's public transport company LPP said nothing like this had ever happened on a Ljubljana city bus before.

Wizz Air no longer flying from Ljubljana to London

BRNIK - Wizz Air will no longer connect Ljubljana with London's Luton airport due to problems with Airbus's engines, which grounded dozens of Wizz Air's planes, web portal Exyuaviation reports. The last flight will be made next Tuesday. But the Slovenian capital will continue to be connected to London by British Airways and easyJet. The former will fly to Heathrow up to seven times a week this week, and the latter will offer up to six flights to Gatwick.

Competition watchdog approves ownership concentration changes at KDD

LJUBLJANA - The Competition Protection Agency (AVK) approved on 25 January ownership concentration of Spira Pet, a company owned by businessman Leopold Poljanšek, over KDD, the Central Securities Clearing Corporation. Spira Pet owns 65% of KDD. The decision comes about half a year after a disagreement between owners and management led to the wipe-out of certain owners holding over 80% of the company.

Hourly rate for pensioners raised as part of minimum wage indexation

LJUBLJANA - Statutory gross hourly pay for part-time work by pensioners will rise from EUR 6.92 to EUR 7.21 in March as part of a harmonisation with the 2024 minimum wage increase. The existing rates will remain in place for 12 months. The changes were laid down in a regulation published by the Ministry of Labour in the Official Gazette today. The pensioners' additional annual income cap will be increased from EUR 10,347 gross to EUR 10,781.

Last sculpture by Modernist artist Ivan Zajec discovered

LJUBLJANA - A sculpture by Modernist sculptor Ivan Zajec (1869-1952), presumably his last sculpture created before his death, was discovered in a private collection in January. The Kiss will be exhibited in the Gallery Novak in Ljubljana on 8 February, Culture Day. Zajec made a number of public monuments, tomb sculptures, busts and other small-scale pieces. His most notable work is the sculpture of Slovenian Romantic poet France Prešeren in Prešeren Square in Ljubljana.

Slovenia's cave divers well prepared for challenges

NOVA GORICA - In a recent evacuation of a group from the Križna Jama cave rescue divers played a key role. In Slovenia there are 16 trained cave divers, equipped for the most difficult rescue efforts, head of the unit Damir Podnar told the STA. The unit, founded in 1989, is part of Civil Protection. Before, foreign divers, mainly from Switzerland and France, had to be called in when accidents happened in Slovenia, while the Slovenian team now helps out in other countries. Most recently it helped in North Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Two migrant smugglers run from police, cause accidents

BREŽICE/KRŠKO - The Novo Mesto Police Department apprehended nine drivers who tried to smuggle third-country citizens into the country over the weekend. Two of the drivers did not stop when instructed by police, but kept driving and caused accidents that resulted in minor injuries. Both drivers were detained and face criminal charges.

Slovenian handball referee pair Lah-Sok declared best in 2023

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian handball referees Bojan Lah and David Sok have been named the best referee pair in 2023 in a vote from journalists, experts and fans organised by the renowned handball portal Handball Planet, the Slovenian Handball Federation said on X. Last year, Lah and Sok officiated the final match of the EHF Champions League in Germany's Cologne and the final match of the World Women's Handball Championship in Norway's Herning.

© STA, 2024