News roundup - Thursday, 22 February

Ljubljana, 22 February - Below is a roundup of major events on Thursday, 22 February:

NLB group's net profit up by 23% in 2023

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's largest banking group NLB posted EUR 550.7 million in net profit in 2023, up 23% on the year before, show 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. Profit before impairments and provisions increased by 75% to EUR 591.4 million, net interest revenue was up by 65% to EUR 833.3 million, while net non-interest revenue decreased by 11% to EUR 260 million.

Koper port 2023 revenue on par with 2022, net profit down 24% to EUR 56.4m

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. Earnings before interest (EBIT) were down by 27% to EUR 60.9 million, with Luka Koper highlighting the impact of the shortening of the storage time of container and thus a EUR 21 million lower revenue from storage fees as a result of the stabilisation of global logistics.

Govt adopts changes enabling foreign investors to get incentives easier

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 argues this is a step towards cutting red tape and an additional incentive for foreign investors to invest in Slovenia. The proposed changes, which follow changes in EU law, include certain terms that make it clear that an investor can submit an application for an investment incentive even if it does not yet have a registered company or a subsidiary of a foreign company in Slovenia.

Govt adopts new bill on legal recourse for investors subjected to bail-in

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 disappointed with the bill.

Fajon says end of the war in Ukraine depends on Putin

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 on Friday. Asked whether she agreed with Prime Minister Robert Golob that, with all the conflicts, now was not the time to reform the Security Council, the minister told Slovenian reporters in New York that reform was necessary, but how realistic it was at this time was another question.

Slovenia to further finance UNRWA and send aid to Gaza

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. The government's decision to continue financing UNRWA came as a response to the call for continued funding by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. UNRWA's lack of funds poses a risk for a total collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, as well as on the West Bank and in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, the government said.

Slovenian army to take part in international exercise

LJUBLJANA - Slovenian troops will participate in the Dragon 24 international military exercise, held in Poland from 29 February to 18 March, the government said in a press release. The exercise will be held as part of the Steadfast Defender, the largest NATO military drill since the Cold War. The Dragon 24 exercise will be held as part of the NATO exercise Steadfast Defender, which began at the end of January and will last until 31 May. Some 90,000 soldiers from all NATO member states and Sweden will participate, including around 200 Slovenian soldiers, who will also attend the Cobra 24 and Black Swan 24 exercises.

Injured caver rescued after 18 hours

LJUBLJANA - An injured caver has been rescued from a cave near Kočevje in the south of the country 18 hours after he slipped and plunged about six metres deep to around 160 metres underground. Walter Zakrajšek, the head of the cave rescue service, described the rescue operation as excellent. He told the STA that the injured caver recovered from dizziness, which enabled the rescuers to pull him out without a stretcher, which made the rescue operation significantly shorter. His assessment is that the caver is in excellent condition except for injuries to his ribs and right elbow.

Govt okays public health insurer's financial plan

LJUBLJANA - The government approved the public health insurer's financial plan for 2024, which projects revenue at EUR 5.34 billion, up by 24% over the year before. Expenditure is expected to increase by 21%, likewise to EUR 5.34 billion. The bulk of the increase in both revenue and expenditure is attributed to the transformation of supplementary insurance under which the ZZZS fund will handle all health insurance. Expenditure for health services is planned at EUR 3.52 billion, and for medicines, medical devices and vaccines at EUR 1 billion, with medicines accounting for EUR 842.4 million.

Healthcare services not expected to be disrupted as of 1 March

LJUBLJANA - The heads of healthcare institutions at the secondary and tertiary levels presented to the government work plans for after 1 March, when the withdrawals of overtime work consents of doctors as part of their strike will enter into force. The continuity of services is not expected to be disrupted, but some non-urgent services will not be provided, said the directors.

ECHR tells govt to pay EUR 390,000 in damage to surgeon Dolenc over Israel case

STRASBOURG, France - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that the government must pay neurosurgeon Vinko Dolenc EUR 390,000 in damages plus VAT and interest. It found that Dolenc had suffered material damage because Slovenian courts had recognised Israeli court judgments in proceedings incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECHR previously awarded Dolenc EUR 15,600 in damages for non-pecuniary costs, but it now expanded its ruling to include the EUR 390,000 in pecuniary damage plus VAT and interest.

Govt allocates EUR 2m to border municipalities for beefed up surveillance

LJUBLJANA - The government has set aside EUR 2 million to partly reimburse border municipalities for their costs due to increased border surveillance carried out this year, the government said. The municipalities will be reimbursed for the costs of maintenance of municipal roads and public paths that are subject to additional pressure as a result of the increased surveillance, costs for the lighting of municipal roads and public paths, and other costs municipalities have with the measures increasing the safety of their citizens as a result of the increased surveillance of the national border.

Scattered protests by farmers continue

PTUJ/MURSKA SOBOTA/CELJE/GORNJA RADGONA - Several protest rallies by farmers were staged again in north-eastern Slovenia, which farmer representatives said are meant as support to the EU-wide protests and to again put the spotlight on the main grievances raised in recent months. The protection of farmland in the face of planned anti-flooding measures that could encroach on it, more support for farms in less-favoured area, less red tape and taxation, and more local food in institutions were some of the demands highlighted at the rallies held in Murska Sobota, Gornja Radgona, Ptuj and Celje.

Consumer confidence decreases slightly in February

LJUBLJANA - The consumer confidence indicator for Slovenia was down by one percentage point in February over the month before and up by five points year-on-year. It was still six points below the long-term average, the Statistics Office said. The drop on a monthly basis is attributed mostly to the more pessimistic expectations regarding the state of the country's economy and the expectations regarding the future financial situation in the household (down by two points each).

Govt raises gas margins, excise duties for tobacco products

LJUBLJANA - The government slightly increased petrol and diesel margins after repeated calls by fuel distributors. The maximum margin for diesel will be set at EUR 0.0783 per litre, up from EUR 0.0683 per litre. The maximum margin for unleaded petrol will be EUR 0.0794 per litre, up from EUR 0.0794 per litre. The margin for heating oil remains unchanged. The regulation will enter into force on 27 February and will be valid until 25 March. It also adopted a draft amendment to the Excise Duty Act, proposing increased excise duties for cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Officials announce stricter sanctions for hooligans

LJUBLJANA - After a stun grenade incident injured six people at a football game on Sunday, ministers and sports officials met to discuss security measures at sporting events. They announced they will work to implement stricter measures and sanctions for hooligans. Everyone should feel safe at sporting events, said Economy, Tourism and Sport Minister Matjaž Han. "So we have to also take measures that could ban hooligans from events for life," he said.

Slovenia starts EuroBasket 2025 qualifiers with a win

KOPER - Slovenia's basketball team defeated Ukraine with 87:73 in the first match of the qualifiers for the EuroBasket 2025. Slovenia's captain Klemen Prepelič was the best shooter of the match with 30 points. Ukraine started the match strong, leaving Slovenia one point behind after both first and second quarter. In the third quarter Jaka Blažič scored three consecutive three-pointers and Slovenia quickly gained ground. It was able to stay ahead in the final quarter and secured the first win of the qualifiers.

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