News roundup - Tuesday, 6 February

Ljubljana, 6 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 6 February:

Prime minister says he will accept justice minister's resignation

LJUBLJANA - Prime Minister Robert Golob said he would accept Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan's resignation over the ministry's purchase of a building in Ljubljana, after the minister met Golob on Monday evening and offered her resignation. Golob said the two of them agreed Švarc Pipan would present her findings regarding the controversial EUR 7.7 million purchase of a building that is supposed to house several court departments. The prime minister's office said that Golob was expected to start talks on the justice minister's successor next week. The purchase of the building is being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Commission for Corruption Prevention.

SD secretary general steps down amid turmoil over justice minister

LJUBLJANA - Secretary general of the junior coalition Social Democrats (SD) Klemen Žibert stepped down. He has been in the spotlight after Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan accused him of meddling in the ministry's operations in connection to the controversial purchase of a building meant to house several courts in Ljubljana. Žibert said that his resignation should relieve the party of the criticism he and his family have been the targets of in recent days. Fajon said she accepted Žibert's resignation and respected his decision, the SD wrote on X.

Left wants MP Kordiš out

LJUBLJANA - The deputy group of the Left, one of the junior coalition parties, proposed that one of its most prominent MPs, Miha Kordiš, be excluded from all parliamentary working bodies for misconduct. It expects him to leave the deputy group on short notice as well. Deputy group leader Matej T. Vatovec said that Kordiš had tried to pressure the deputy group and other party bodies into hiring a woman as a deputy group aide, a person "obviously very important to Kordiš". Kordiš disputed Vatovec, while saying that the appeal was perhaps less surprising if one took into account his political positions.

SD opposes fast-tracking govt legislation

LJUBLJANA - The opposition, but also the coalition Social Democrats (SD), expressed opposition to the government's plan to fast-track through parliament legislative changes that would allow the distribution of 13,000 laptops purchased in a deal that earned Digital Transformation Minister Emilija Stojmenova Duh an ouster motion. Jani Prednik of the SD said the changes were an attempt to "repair the shambles" created by the minister, adding that the SD no longer trusted her that the changes were written as they should be. "Therefore, we propose regular procedure," he said.

Two Slovenian MEPs join appeal to exclude Israel from Eurovision

STRASBOURG, France - Slovenian MEPs Matjaž Nemec (S&D/SD) and Irena Joveva (Renew/Svoboda) are among the politicians who addressed an open letter to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), protesting its decision to allow Israel to take part in this year's Eurovision song contest. Nemec said the context of war in Gaza should play an important role for the EBU, having been important enough to prohibit Russia's participation in 2022. Joveva condemned the treatment of Palestinians by the state of Israel and called on the EBU to apply the same standards to all participants.

Farmers, new minister agree several solutions at first meeting

LJUBLJANA - Mateja Čalušić, who took over as agriculture minister in mid-January, held her first meeting with farmer representatives to lay down some specific solutions, with the latter saying they would hold Čalušić to her word and see whether she is trustworthy in the course of future talks. Farmers' Union head Anton Medved said after the meeting that the the ministry had promised that direct payments would be paid out on agreed dates by 23 February, while payments for farming in less favoured areas will be exempt from tax base. Meanwhile 4% set-aside rule will remain in place.

Slovenia partners with US in exploring potential use of SMRs

LJUBLJANA - The US will provide technical advisory and consulting services to Slovenia as part of Project Phoenix, a programme for coal-to-nuclear small modular reactor (SMR) conversion, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy said, adding that Slovenia would look into the possibility of using the SMR technology. The ministry successfully applied to participate in the project in June 2023 at the invitation of the US Embassy. "Participation in Project Phoenix provides Slovenia with an opportunity to fulfil the commitments of the National Energy and Climate Plan, which includes examining the possibilities of introducing new nuclear technologies," State Secretary Tina Seršen was quoted as saying.

Slovenia believes Commission's emissions cap recommendation achievable

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will have to step up its efforts under the European Commission's recommendation that the EU cut greenhouse gas emissions by 90% by 2040 over 1990, Environment Ministry State Secretary Uroš Vajgl said, adding that the goal was achievable. The measures "currently entailed in the national energy and climate plan are sufficient for the 2030 targets," Vajgl said.

SDS wants emergency parliament session to discuss corruption

LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) requested an emergency session of the National Assembly, raising concern that the government had "serious issues with corruption". The opposition party expects the government to rethink whether it is still fit for the job. The motion for the session lists several allegations the SDS has raised against the government in the past. Among them are PM Robert Golob's ownership of a solar power plant that allegedly does businesses with the state-owned company Borzen, the allegedly contentious EUR 6.5 million laptop purchase and the purchase of an overpriced building by the Justice Ministry.

Major tech companies commit to UNESCO framework for ethical AI at Brdo forum

BRDO PRI KRANJU - Eight tech companies pledged to build more ethical AI in line with UNESCO recommendations as they signed an agreement to this effect at the Global Forum on the Ethics of AI 2024 in Slovenia's Brdo pri Kranju. The agreement, based on the 2021 UNESCO-forged recommendations that are the first international legal instrument and ethical framework for the use of artificial intelligence, was signed with the organisation by Microsoft, Mastercard, Lenovo, GSMA, INNIT, LG, Salesforce and Telefonica.

CoE head Pejčinović Burić hails importance of AI convention at Brdo forum

BRDO PRI KRANJU/LJUBLJANA - Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić paid a visit to Slovenia on Monday to address the participants of a forum on ethics and artificial intelligence at Brdo pri Kranju. She said the new convention on artificial intelligence, being drafted by the CoE in cooperation with numerous international partners, would be "groundbreaking not only for Europe, but for the whole world". She was also received by President Nataša Pirc Musar for an exchange of views on a number of topical issues, including the use of AI.

Minister advocates for simplified EU cohesion policy and power to regions

MONS, Belgium - Cohesion and Regional Development Minister Aleksander Jevšek advocated for a simplification of planning and implementation of EU cohesion policy in the EU's next long-term budget at an informal meeting of relevant ministers in Mons, Belgium. Slovenia believes regions should have more power, his ministry said. "Cohesion policy should not be dependant on reforms," said Jevšek, adding that it should instead serve as a catalyst.

Annual inflation rate drops by almost a percentage point

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's annual inflation rate stood at 3.3% in January, down from 4.2% in the month before, as prices declined by 0.6% at the monthly level. Annual price growth slowed across all major categories of products and services, the latest Statistics Office figures show. The biggest contributors to annual inflation were food and non-alcoholic beverages, which were 3.2% more expensive and added 0.6 percentage points to the annual rate. However, this is much slower than the 4.6% recorded in December.

Slovenia's minimum wage eighth highest in EU

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's minimum wage is the eighth highest among the 22 EU member states that have set a minimum wage, shows data by Eurostat. In January the gross minimum wage in Slovenia increased from EUR 1,203 to EUR 1,254. Slovenia has been high on the list for some time and has had the eighth highest minimum wage since 2021. In January 2024 the minimum wage was the highest in Luxembourg at EUR 2,571 gross, and the lowest gross minimum wages were recorded in Bulgaria (EUR 477).

Tomc headlines SDS candidate list for EU election

LJUBLJANA - The executive committee of the opposition Democrats (SDS) has put together a list of candidates for the upcoming European Parliament election, nominating MEP Romana Tomc as the lead candidate, while SDS's other MEP, Milan Zver, is second on the list. The third candidate is party vice president Aleš Hojs, followed by MPs Franc Breznik and Branko Grims. Tomc thanked the executive committee on X for their trust and the opportunity. "Being the lead candidate, I accept this with great responsibility," she said, adding that the candidates would prove to be a winning team in the election.

Velenje and Šoštanj call on PM to lower heating prices

VELENJE/ŠOŠTANJ - The mayors of Velenje and Šoštanj, the towns whose residents are protesting against high heating costs, called on Prime Minister Robert Golob to take action to lower the cost of district heating. They ask that payments for emission coupons be excluded from the price of heating, and call on Golob to host a meeting on the topic as soon as possible. The price of heating for households in the Šalek Valley has increased by nearly 60% from January 2023 to January 2024, the mayors noted.

Police inaugurates third utility Agusta Westland chopper

BRNIK - The Slovenian police inaugurated a new multi-purpose transport helicopter, the third of its kind since the first was inaugurated four years ago. As a result, Slovenia has one of the most state-of-the-art police aviation fleets in the region, police officials said at the event at Ljubljana airport. The Agusta Westland AW 169, manufactured by Italy's Leonardo and costing EUR 10.85 million, was delivered to Slovenia last December. Police aviation unit head Dejan Kink said that it was a state-of-the-art helicopter equipped for all police tasks.

Slovenian and Indian science and innovation explored in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - The first Slovenian-Indian Science and Innovation Day took place at the Jožef Stefan Institute (IJS) to focus on cooperation of Slovenian and Indian researchers in scientific discoveries that can lead to innovation. Participants agreed that innovation is key for the advancement of national economies. The event initiated by the Foreign Ministry, high-tech companies, centres of excellence and research institutes is intended primarily to present specific research and technological achievements, especially in the field of natural, technical and bio-technical sciences.

Monument celebrates Slovenian polymath and ties with China

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's 18th century polymath Ferdinand Avguštin Hallerstein spent more than three decades at the Chinese imperial court and one of the achievements he is best known for is an armillary sphere that he built at the Beijing Observatory. A replica of the sphere has now been erected in Ljubljana as a symbol of Chinese-Slovenian friendship. At 3.7 long, 2.1 metres wide and 3.3 metres high, his armillary sphere was unique in that Hallerstein combined a heliocentric design then used in Europe, and an equatorial placement that had been customary in China at the time.

Late construction baron hid EUR 800,000 in cash from creditors

LJUBLJANA - The late Ivan Zidar, former director and owner of construction giant SCT, stashed some EUR 830,000 in cash in his home, out of reach of creditors, the newspaper Delo reported. Half of the money will end up in Zidar's bankruptcy estate and the rest belongs to his ex-wife Vincencija Lambergar. Both had declared personal bankruptcy. Zidar died in 2021 and did not live to see the end of the proceedings, but the case is still being pursued as a bankruptcy of a deceased person.

Ski jumper Peter Prevc decides to end his career after this season

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's ski jumping champion Peter Prevc decided to end what has been one of the most successful careers in the history of the sport after this season. The 31-year-old is bidding farewell after 15 World Cup seasons, one of which will be hard to ever replicate. He will finish his career with at least 35 World Cup victories, having also contributed to all of the 12 Slovenian wins in team events. Prevc has won seven medals at major events, including an Olympic gold medal in the mixed competition in Beijing 2022.

Newly discovered painting by Ivana Kobilca presented to public

LJUBLJANA - A gallery owner presented to the public a newly discovered painting by Slovenian Realist artist Ivana Kobilca (1861-1926). The painting of a nude woman, believed to be from the 1920s, has been certified by an art historian and will be put on show for the first time on Culture Day on Thursday at Kos Gallery in Ljubljana. Gallery owner Leon Pogelšek said the painting was found by another gallery owner and bought at a ridiculously low price, because it did not occur to the original owner that the painting might be a Kobilca. The painting has been valued at EUR 30,000-60,000 and may be put up for auction.

© STA, 2024