Weekly review of events involving Slovenia, 16-22 February

Ljubljana, 23 February - Below is a weekly review of events involving Slovenia from 16 to 22 February:

FRIDAY, 16 February

MUNICH, Germany - The situation in Gaza topped the agenda as Prime Minister Robert Golob held separate talks with US Vice President Kamala Harris and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on the margins of the Munich Security Conference. He called for an immediate end to the fighting and the prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe in Rafah.

LJUBLJANA - Responding to the death of jailed Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, President Nataša Pirc Musar spoke of a heart attack on democracy in Russia, PM Robert Golob of a sad day for human rights, and FM Tanja Fajon of the loss of a figure whose fight for freedom and democracy will live on.

LJUBLJANA - As her term as justice minister formally ended, Dominika Švarc Pipan told MPs that she had gathered evidence "unambiguously showing" that a group of state officials had colluded to push through the controversial purchase of a building in Ljubljana meant to house several courts.

LJUBLJANA - Judges started filing compensation claims over Slovenia's failure to honour a decision of the Constitutional Court that ordered an increase in judges' and prosecutors' pay by early this year. Meanwhile prosecutors said they would go on strike again, on 14 March.

LJUBLJANA - Several NGOs took the Public Administration Ministry to court for having annulled last year's EUR 10.6 million open call to empower NGOs and support their active citizenship projects. The call was annulled due to suspected irregularities that led to the resignation of the public administration minister.

SATURDAY, 17 February

MUNICH, Germany - PM Robert Golob said in a panel debate at the Munich Security Conference that the timing is not right for UN Security Council reform, adding that Slovenia will focus on ending the misuse of the veto in the Security Council. The situation in the Middle East was in focus as he met several senior officials on the sidelines of the event.

MUNICH, Germany - PM Robert Golob reiterated his view that everything should be done to prevent an attack on Rafah, as he spoke to the broadcaster Al Jazeera at the Munich Security Conference. He urged enhancing humanitarian aid to Gaza, and called for more unity within the EU on the Gaza ceasefire.

MARIBOR - Opposition Democrats (SDS) leader Janez Janša said that the SDS is the most successful political project in Slovenia's history, as the party marked its 35th anniversary. "In the SDS, we don't do what is pleasing but what is right, which is the key difference between day-to-day politics and statesmanship," he said.

SUNDAY, 18 February

SAPPORO, Japan - Ski jumper Domen Prevc won a World Cup event in Japan's Sapporo for his sixth individual career victory in the World Cup. He scored 273.6 points to finish ahead of Japan's Ryoyu Kobayashi and Norwegian Kristoffer Eriksen Sundal.

MURSKA SOBOTA - The country's premiere league match in which Maribor led 2:0 against Mura was suspended in the 58th minute as Maribor's Viola ultras threw powerful pyrotechnics on the pitch. A strong explosion went off where Mura players were warming up, injuring five Mura players and a coach. The incident has been widely condemned and police have launched an investigation.

MONDAY, 19 February

LJUBLJANA - More than 9,000 Slovenian retail investors subscribed EUR 258.4 million worth of bonds with 3.4% yield between 1 and 16 February. While the government had planned to issue EUR 250 million worth of bonds, it now decided to meet the demand, so a total EUR 261 million in bonds will be issued on 23 February.

LJUBLJANA - A Vox Populi poll commissioned by Dnevnik showed a record low 24.9% approval rating for the government following the courts building scandal and public sector strikes. The ruling Freedom Movement party sank to 10.7%, as the opposition Democrats (SDS) climbed to 24%.

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said that Slovenia supports the call by Spain and Ireland to the European Commission to review the association agreement between the EU and Israel. She added that Slovenia will send humanitarian aid to Gaza shortly and will contribute to the new EU naval operation to protect cargo ships from Houthi attacks in the Red Sea.

LJUBLJANA - Emergency dispatchers went on strike, with the Defence Ministry's in-house trade union announcing that the action will last until an agreement is reached with the government. Dispatch services accessible via 112 emergency number operate without interruption despite the strike over what they perceive is low pay and failure to fill vacancies.

LJUBLJANA - Pensions in Slovenia increased by 8.2% in January and will go up by another 0.6 percentage points in February in line with the regular annual adjustment for inflation and rise in average pay, the public pension fund manager ZPIZ confirmed. The government also secured a 1.8% increase over October last year in November and December.

LJUBLJANA - Boštjan Lindav, the former acting police commissioner who has been at loggerheads with the government since being replaced in February 2023, announced his retirement in the face of what he says has been a concerted false allegations campaign against him that has culminated in lay-off threats.

TUESDAY, 20 February

LJUBLJANA - The Foreign Ministry summoned Russian Ambassador Timur Eyvazov for talks over the death of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny. FM Tanja Fajon said the ministry did that to express concern and outrage over Navalny's death, and that Slovenia called on Russia to allow an international and independent investigation into the circumstances of his death.

LJUBLJANA - FM Tanja Fajon and her Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza at a press conference as Safadi's visited Slovenia. The pair expressed support for a draft resolution on immediate ceasefire, which was later vetoed by the US in the UN Security Council.

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian banks had a good year in 2023, having posted some EUR 1.14 billion in pre-tax profit, up 109% year-on-year. Net profit stood at EUR 1.1 billion, an increase of 119%, while net interest income nearly doubled to EUR 1.44 billion, the central bank said.

LJUBLJANA - The development gap between the west and east of Slovenia grew wider yet again in 2022, shows Eurostat data. Western Slovenia's GDP per capita in purchasing power standards (PPS) was 109% of the EU average, while that of Eastern Slovenia was 73%.

LJUBLJANA - The Defence Ministry said that the Slovenian military patrol boat Triglav, which is to undergo EUR 13.1 million worth of upgrades, will be seaworthy for 30 years following the upgrade. It will not require further investments apart from routine maintenance, the ministry said, adding that a comparable new vessel would cost EUR 50 million before VAT.

WEDNESDAY, 21 February

LJUBLJANA - An emergency session of parliament called by the opposition Democrats (SDS) heard accusations of corruptive practices hurled from both sides of the aisle, as MPs discussed efforts to combat corruption. While there was no vote on measures proposed by the SDS, the party leader Janez Janša announced a motion of no confidence in the entire government.

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly passed changes to the act on primary schools under which Slovenian students will have to learn a foreign language from grade one. Other major changes include nation-wide testing in third grade and stricter standards for homeschooled children.

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Most of Slovenian MEPs from the ranks of the European People's Party (EPP) said they were unhappy with the work of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Romana Tomc (SDS) and Franc Bogovič (SLS) do not endorse her re-election bid, and Milan Zver (SDS) thinks she would have a hard time saving the EU's economy and agriculture.

ROME, Italy - More than a year after the public first learnt about allegations of sexual abuse against Marko Rupnik, an influential Slovenian priest who has since been expelled from the Jesuit order, two nuns went public in Rome for the first time to recount how he subjected them to sexual and psychological abuse.

LJUBLJANA - After a backlash against the Ljubljana municipality's plans to merge the city's public kindergartens into one, the mayor and the head of the teachers' union SVIZ reached agreement that only support services would be merged, while each kindergarten would keep its autonomy in teaching work, and council featuring representatives of staff and parents.

LJUBLJANA - The investigative portal Necenzurirano reported that the Ljubljana District Court had frozen the assets of Geneplanet, a biotech company involved in a scandal during the Covid epidemic. In 2020 Geneplanet supplied ventilators to the state in what transpired to be a contentious deal that is a matter of an ongoing investigation.

THURSDAY, 22 February

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest banking group NLB posted EUR 550.7 million in net profit in 2023, up 23% on the year before, showed the group's results. Net operating income totalled EUR 1.09 billion, an increase of 37%. NLB chairman Blaž Brodnjak said the good results would allow a significant increase in this year's dividend payout.

LJUBLJANA - Port operator Luka Koper reported EUR 312.8 in net revenue for 2023, which is on par with 2022, and a net profit of 54.4 million, meaning a 24% decrease. The company said the results exceeded expectations in the face of higher costs.

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted changes to the Investment Promotion Act under which an incentive could be awarded also to a foreign company registered at the latest at the time when the incentive is being paid. The government argued this is a step towards cutting red tape and an additional incentive for foreign investors to invest in Slovenia.

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a revised version of a bill meant to secure legal recourse for roughly 100,000 potential plaintiffs, both shareholders and holders of junior bonds, who were wiped out during the 2013 banking sector bailout. The bill is a new version of a 2019 piece of legislation that was annulled by the Constitutional Court in February 2023 because it made the Slovenian central bank responsible for all potential damage payments stemming from the EU-instructed bail-in valued at EUR 960 million. The Association of Small Shareholders of Slovenia is not happy with the bill.

NEW YORK, US - The end of the war in Ukraine depends on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently showing no will to end it, Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon said as she arrived in New York, where she will take part in discussions marking the second anniversary of the war in Ukraine at the UN General Assembly and Security Council.

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will provide EUR 500,000 to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said the government. It will also send material aid, estimated at EUR 434,105, to the Palestinian civil population.

© STA, 2024