News roundup - Wednesday, 14 February

Ljubljana, 14 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Wednesday, 14 February:

Slovenia's economy expanded by 1.6% in 2023

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's economy expanded by 1.6% last year, driven by gross fixed capital formation and household expenditure, preliminary data released by the Statistics Office shows. This compares to 2.5% GDP growth in 2022. In the fourth quarter of 2023, the country's GDP grew by 2.2% over the same period in 2022. The Institute of Macroeconomic Analysis, the government macroeconomic forecaster, said last year's growth figure is in line with its autumn forecast. The Bank of Slovenia said data for the last quarter point to the strengthening of economic activity.

EUR 672m in incentives available for economy, tourism, sport

LJUBLJANA - A total of EUR 672.4 million in financial incentives will be available to businesses, tourism and sport this year from the Ministry of the Economy, Tourism and Sport's own funds and through collaboration with other institutions. The ministry aims to increase added value, Economy Minister Matjaž Han said. Around half of the sum or EUR 339 million will come from the ministry's own funds and the funds it manages.

Gen Energija in intense preparations for Krško 2

LJUBLJANA - Gen Energija, the state-owned power utility that will invest in the expansion of the Krško nuclear power station, is hard at work getting the necessary permits and studies for the planned second unit. It is also in talks with potential providers of the core technology, company officials said on Wednesday. Director General Dejan Paravan said the focus was currently on siting, which includes a study on the radiological impact of Krško 2 and preparations for an environmental report.

All but three SDS deputies sign loyalty statement

LJUBLJANA - Three of the 27 deputies of the opposition Democrats (SDS) have not signed a statement that the party's executive committee asked them to sign pledging that they will remain members of the party and deputies until the end of this term, among them Anže Logar, who founded a platform that many speculate will eventually evolve into a party. Logar was joined by Eva Irgl, a co-founder of the platform, and Dejan Kaloh, a high-profile MP from Maribor. Janša commented on this by saying that "a new deputy group will apparently emerge from the MPs who no longer follow the will of their voters", while Logar said that "confirming a political orientation that should restore optimism" required signing no statements.

FM signs Ljubljana-Hague convention on mutual legal assistance

THE HAGUE - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon signed in the Hague the Ljubljana-The Hague Convention on International Cooperation in the Investigation and Prosecution of Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, War Crimes, and Other International Crimes, a key international criminal law document adopted in Ljubljana last year. She underlined that what is the first major international criminal law treaty since the Roman Statute will consolidate the fight against impunity and the quest for justice for victims of the most atrocious international criminal acts.

Petition urges return of day of remembrance for victims of communism

BRUSSELS, Belgium - A petition by Slovenian historian Mitja Ferenc that urges the Slovenian authorities to bring back the National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Communist Violence, which was declared by the right-wing government of Janez Janša in May 2022 and abolished a year later by the Robert Golob government, was debated by the European Parliament's Petitions Committee. The committee will forward the petition to the European Commission and the Slovenian government.

Minister Novak says Koroška reconstruction ahead of plans

SLOVENJ GRADEC - Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Minister Jože Novak visited the Koroška region to inspect the reconstruction efforts in the wake of floods that devastated the area in early August 2023, saying that the work performed so far has exceeded plans. The funds for waterway maintenance work will be increased to EUR 40 million annually, with a substantial share of the funds going to Koroška, he announced. Local mayors expressed some optimism, while calling for more repair work to be done to ensure flood safety for all, and for more waterway repair teams to be sent to the affected areas.

Slovenia notes serious situation in Yemen at UN Security Council

NEW YORK, US - As part of the UN Security Council debate on Yemen, Slovenian representative Samuel Žbogar noted the serious humanitarian situation in the country and expressed Slovenia's support for the efforts of the UN to end the civil war that broke out in 2014. After the Security Council was briefed on the situation and presented the statistics, Ambassador Žbogar said that the humanitarian situation in Yemen was one of the worst in the world, as after years of conflict the country was facing food shortages, internal displacement and droughts and floods due to climate change.

Judiciary independence discussed at start of judicial year

LJUBLJANA - The start of the new judicial year was marked at the Court Palace with senior officials noting the importance of the separation of powers and the independence of judiciary. Issues, such as court premises and salaries, were also discussed. In his address, Supreme Court president Miodrag Đorđević noted the special position of the judiciary as the branch of government that controls the executive branch. The judiciary draws its strength from expertise, seemingly making it weaker than the other two branches based on political power, he said.

Committee okays commodity reserves bill

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Economy Committee endorsed a government-sponsored bill that would introduce a division between conventional commodity reserves and security reserves, the possibility to help other countries in the event of crisis, and the possibility of supplying soon-to-be-expired stock items to hospitals free of charge. The proposal enjoys the coalition's support, while the opposition is against it.

NSi wants PM to get involved in doctors' strike negotiations

LJUBLJANA - Opposition New Slovenia (NSi) head Matej Tonin assessed the situation in healthcare has become serious to the point of endangering human lives, and urged PM Robert Golob to get involved in negotiations with the Fides trade union of doctors and dentists to end its month-long strike. Tonin pointed to a warning issued by the Medical Chamber that entire wards may be forced to shut down over the course of the coming weeks due to doctors' refusal to work overtime as part of the strike. The key to an agreement will be restoring the credibility of talks, which has been undermined, he added.

A quarter of savings bank for sale

LJUBLJANA - Hranilnica Lon, a small savings bank, is about to undergo ownership changes as a stake of just under 25% currently held by a bankrupt Switzerland-based company backed by Chinese investors is up for sale. The current owner of the stake, Kylin Prime Group, had been unsuccessfully trying to increase its stake beyond 25% for years, but its efforts have been thwarted by regulatory decisions. The central bank has identified several violations at Hranilnica Lon in recent years, having to do with credit risk and corporate governance.

Slovenia saw biggest drop in industrial production in EU last December

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - Slovenia recorded a 10.2% year-on-year drop in industrial production in December and a 7.4% decline on a monthly basis in what are the biggest decreases at EU level, Eurostat reported. Industrial production in both the euro area and the EU as a whole increased in December by 2.6% month-on-month. Both figures went up 1.2% year-on-year.

Turkish workers on Koper-Divača rail track call off strike

LJUBLJANA - Turkish workers building the Koper-Divača rail track in southwest Slovenia cancelled the one-day strike planned for 15 February, as they have managed to negotiate practically all of their demands with their employers - four Slovenian subsidiaries of Turkish construction companies, the ZSSS confederation of union announced. The agreement entails a 15-18% pay rise, an allowance for transport to remote construction sites, and one-off performance bonus of EUR 150 net to be paid in March to more than 500 people who work for the subsidiaries Yapi Merkezi, YM Construction, Yorpol and Türkcan.

FAO boss and minister discuss good practices in agriculture

LJUBLJANA/IZOLA - Qu Dongyu, the director general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), visited the Slovenian coast with Agriculture Minister Mateja Čalušić at the end of his three-day trip to Slovenia. The minister presented to Qu the various areas of cooperation with FAO and good practices in cooperation with stakeholders, participation of women, young farmers and research in agriculture, the ministry said. Qu visited Slovenia at the invitation of President Nataša Pirc Musar and started his visit on Monday when he met with Slovenian Beekeepers' Association president Boštjan Noč.

Equality advocate: Minority languages must be recognised as official on IDs

LJUBLJANA - The equality advocate recommended that Italian and Hungarian be recognised as official languages on Slovenian identity cards, after an appeal from the two MPs representing the Italian and Hungarian minorities. Currently, they are listed as foreign languages, even though they are official languages in areas where the two minorities live. Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar discussed the issue with the minority MPs, assuring them the intention behind the design of the biometric ID card was not to discriminate against the minorities or to decrease the importance of Italian or Hungarian as official languages in areas where the minorities live, the ministry said.

MPs draw attention to Roma issues

LJUBLJANA - The parliamentary Commission for Petitions, Human Rights and Equal Opportunities heard on Tuesday that Roma-related issues are becoming increasingly serious and that the government has not yet drawn up legislative changes to improve the situation. Participants stressed the importance of concerted action in efforts to tackle these issues. The commission decided to call on the government to prepare a detailed report of the task force's work so far and inform the commission of its activities planned for 2024 within three months.

Slovenia's birth rate hits historic low

LJUBLJANA - The number of newborn children in Slovenia dropped to 16,800 last year, which is 5% fewer than the year before and the lowest number since the start of records in 1922, preliminary data from the national Statistics Office (SURS) shows. The most significant reason for the drop in births in recent years is a decline in the number of women of childbearing age, that is between 15 and 49 years old. Their number fell by 18% in between 2000 and 2022, SURS official Martin Bajželj said.

Two persons sexually abused by staff at care institution

IG - Two persons in the care of the Draga Centre for Training, Occupation and Care near Ljubljana have been sexually abused by carers, according to recent media reports. The newspaper Slovenske Novice reported that both alleged perpetrators had been fired from the institution that is part of a network of centres that provide services for people with intellectual disabilities, including children, who may also live there. The Ministry for Solidarity-Based Future said that the management had handled both cases in line with the law, and the police said that charges had been filed with the prosecution.

Ciglič's joyful 20th century photos on show at Ljubljana Castle

LJUBLJANA - An exhibition of photographs portraying the joys of everyday life in the 20th century Slovenia will be put on display at a gallery in Ljubljana Castle as the first in a series of events marking the centenary of the birth of Marjan Ciglič (1924-1998), a prominent Slovenian photographer and photojournalist. An exceptional portraitist, Ciglič has received several awards for his work.

© STA, 2024