News roundup - Wednesday, 21 February

Ljubljana, 21 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Wednesday, 21 February:

MPs exchange accusations of corruption at emergency session

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. There was no vote on measures proposed by the largest opposition party since they were turned down on the committee on Tuesday. On the sidelines of the session SDS leader Janez Janša said his party was preparing a motion of no confidence in the entire government.

Changes to school act make foreign language mandatory from grade one

LJUBLJANA - Changes to the act on primary schools in line with which Slovenian students will have to learn a foreign language from grade one of primary school were passed by the National Assembly. Other major changes include nation-wide testing in third grade and stricter standards for homeschooled children. While support for pushing forward the compulsory start of foreign language learning from fourth to first grade was bipartisan, the changes as a whole were only backed by the coalition in a 46:24 vote.

Civil society groups urge govt to adopt measures against Israel

LJUBLJANA - A pro-Palestinian group and a number of other civil society groups called on the government to impose economic sanctions against Israel due to intensifying attacks on Gaza and to join South Africa's genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. They argue that calls for ceasefire alone are important but not enough, especially because they have not been successful so far.

Rally calling for release of Assange staged in front of British Embassy

LJUBLJANA - A rally in support of Julian Assange was held in Ljubljana as the hearing on a possible extradition of the Wikileaks founder to the US continued in London. Protesters, among them Amnesty International representatives and acclaimed journalists, believe Assange's extradition would set a dangerous precedent where the US government could demand the extradition of other journalists.

Most Slovenian EPP members unhappy with von der Leyen's work

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Most of Slovenian MEPs from the ranks of the European People's Party (EPP) are 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. Meanwhile, Ljudmila Novak (NSi) supports her. After a meeting of EPP MEPs with von der Leyen, Zver told the STA the decision whether to endorse her as the EPP's top candidate in the upcoming EU elections would be probably made at party level.

Slovenian and Croatian ministers talk flood protection at EUSAIR conference

ZAGREB, Croatia - Cohesion and Regional Development Minister Aleksander Jevšek attended in Zagreb an introductory conference of three projects supporting the EU strategy for the Adriatic and Ionian region - EUSAIR. He met Croatian counterpart Šime Erlić to discuss cross-border flood protection efforts. At the conference, the two ministers stressed the importance of cooperation among the countries of the Adriatic-Ionian region, with Jevšek saying such projects meant a great opportunity and a lot of responsibility.

Two former nuns speak out about abuse at hands of Slovenian priest

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. "He said I wouldn't grow spiritually if I didn't meet his sexual needs," said Gloria Branciani, an Italian who was a member of the Rupnik-led community until 1994. Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni told journalists the Vatican was gathering "all available information on the case" in order to "determine which procedures it would be possible and useful to implement".

Luhansk orphans likely to return to Ukraine

POSTOJNA - It is unclear whether the 15 Ukrainian children from a Luhansk orphanage that came to Slovenia in May 2022 will return to Ukraine or stay in Slovenia until their adoption procedures are finalised. The Ukrainian authorities are calling for their return, which for now seems more likely, while Slovenian organisations believe they should stay as Slovenia can offer them better care and support.

Ljubljana kindergartens to preserve autonomy

LJUBLJANA - After a backlash against the Ljubljana municipality's plans to merge the city's public kindergartens into one, Mayor Zoran Janković and Branimir Štrukelj, 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. This was after 1,851 of 2,600 staff at Ljubljana public kindergartens signed a petition against the megakindergarten.

Another unnecessary organ removal case due to mix-up brought to light

LJUBLJANA - After Slovenia was stirred last week by a report that a mix-up of tissue samples had led in November last year to a full stomach removal in a patient who did not really have cancer, RTV Slovenija revealed that another, almost identical mix-up case had occurred earlier in 2023, which involved a full prostate removal. In both cases, the histology testing providers failed to follow procedure and report to the Health Ministry until after journalists started looking into matter.

Court freezes Geneplanet assets, says report

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, according to Necenzurirano. In 2020 Geneplanet supplied ventilators to the state in what transpired to be a contentious deal that is a matter of an ongoing investigation. It is not clear why the assets were frozen but the measure is normally used when there is a risk of the accused selling the assets or make them hard to forfeit.

Conventa conference ups sustainability efforts

LJUBLJANA - Conventa, a three-day business-to-business conference for the meetings industry brought together 120 exhibitors from 16 countries and 160 event organisers from 31 countries. The organisers say this is the first event in the world organised under the new EU standards for sustainable reporting. Following the positive effects of Conventa on Ljubljana tourism, the Slovenian Convention Bureau hopes to expand the meetings industry across Slovenia.

Miners exposed increased gas levels in Velenje

VELENJE - Four miners at the Velenje coal mine were exposed to increased cave gas concentrations on Tuesday evening, but all remained responsive and conscious during and after the incident. One of them remains in hospital for further tests. Coal extraction at the site was suspended just briefly but resumed during the night shift. The outbreak of gases was momentary, according to the Natural Resources and Spatial Planning Inspectorate.

NGOs warn against forest road, skid trail development plan

LJUBLJANA - Environmental NGOs warned that, by earmarking additional forest area for commercial use, such as the development of forest roads and skid trails, Slovenia is losing important areas for the conservation of the most endangered animal and plant species. Thousands of kilometres of such roads and trails have been developed within the Natura 2000 nature protection areas alone in the last 20 years in Slovenia, the NGOs said, adding that the 2014-2020 rural development programme contained a measure that encourages new forest areas being opened for commercial use.

MENT music festival kicking off in Ljubljana

LJUBLJANA - The 10th iteration of the MENT music festival opened in Ljubljana with more than 80 performers from 23 countries taking the stage over the four concert days. New this year is the CE/MENT segment, dedicated to electronic music. A conference on the music industry will also be held as part of the festival. One of the hits of the opening night will be the London-based psychedelic rock band Los Bitchos.

Kek staying on as Slovenia head coach at least until November 2025

LJUBLJANA - Matjaž Kek agreed with the Football Association of Slovenia (NZS) to stay on as the head coach of the national men's team at least until the end of qualifying for the 2026 World Cup, in November 2025. The NZS said Kek and NZS president Radenko Mijatović finalised the agreement before the NZS committee gives its final stamp of approval. Kek, 62, has been serving his second stint as Slovenia's head coach since November 2018. After taking the team to the 2010 World Cup, he is taking Slovenia to Euro this year.

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