News roundup - Wednesday, 6 March

Ljubljana, 6 March - Below is a roundup of major events on Wednesday, 6 March:

Insurance group Triglav posts EUR 16m profit for 2023

LJUBLJANA - Zavarovalnica Triglav, Slovenia's largest insurance group, posted a net profit of EUR 16 million for 2023 on revenue of EUR 1.78 billion, a 12% increase on the year before, show preliminary figures released by the core company. The net profit for the year compares to a EUR 7 million net loss for 2022, even though the company's audited annual report for 2022 shows it had posted a net profit of EUR 110 million. Pre-tax profit amounted to EUR 21 million, compared to a EUR 10 million loss in 2022 according to the new calculations, as the company has transitioned to new accounting standards.

Trade with third countries underpins Slovenia's export growth

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's merchandise exports grew by 8.3% year-on-year in January on the back of a strong increase in trade with non-EU countries. Imports rose by 6.6%, likewise due to surging imports from countries outside the EU, shows Statistics Office data. Exports to the EU declined by almost 2% and exports to non-EU countries jumped by 20.8%, but even that increase was largely due to what are called "processing operations". Processing activities excluded, exports to non-EU countries rose by just 2.7%, and imports from non-EU countries were up by 2%.

Freedom Movement sec-gen steps down

LJUBLJANA - Vesna Vuković, secretary general of the ruling party Freedom Movement, decided to resign from the post as of late March. PM and party leader Robert Golob told the STA that she was leaving after achieving all the goals the two of them had set. Her decision was of her own free will, and she expressed this intention months ago, he said. This comes after speculations that he no longer has her back. She will be replaced by Rok Marolt, head of the Slovenian Air Traffic Control. The initially unofficial information was made public after a meeting of the party's governing bodies.

Judges turning to State Attorney's Office over pay issue

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Judges' Association handed over to the State Attorney's Office requests from judges for an amicable solution of the pay issue after the Constitutional Court ruled judges' salaries are too low, which breaches the principle of judicial independence and of the division of powers. Some 50 judges had filed the requests early and another 320 did so today, delivering them to the State Attorney's Office through the head of the Slovenian Judges' Association Vesna Bergant Rakočević and her deputy Andrej Ekart. The State Attorney's Office has three months to process the requests.

Katič takes over at Justice Ministry

LJUBLJANA - Andreja Katič took over as justice minister from her predecessor Dominika Švarc Pipan, announcing a lot of hard work. Her first decision was to temporarily revoke all delegated decision-making powers of senior ministry officials. She said she would provide more details about the handling of the court building case, which swept away her predecessor, in the coming days. Also among the challenges ahead is the implementation of the Constitutional Court's decision on judges' salaries, which the court deemed so low as to violate the principles of judicial independence and the division of powers.

Fajon calls for ceasefire in Gaza in phone call with Israel Katz

TEL AVIV, Israel/LJUBLJANA - Foreign Minister Tanja Fajon expressed Slovenia's expectation of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza during a phone call with her Israeli counterpart Israel Kazt. Slovenia expects the ceasefire agreement to include a deal on Israeli hostages, withdrawal of Israel's plan to attack Rafah and a guarantee of humanitarian aid and essential services for civilians in Gaza, the ministry said on X. Fajon called on Katz to provide explanations for Israel's actions.

Only one Slovenian EPP member supports Von der Leyen's bid

LJUBLJANA - The three Slovenian members of the largest political group in the EU, the EPP, are split on the candidacy of Ursula von der Leyen for lead candidate at the June EU elections. While New Slovenia (NSi) plans to vote for her at the EPP's congress in Bucharest, the Democrats (SDS) and the People's Party (SLS) will not. Delegations of all three parties are attending the congress, led by party heads Janez Janša (SDS), Matej Tonin (NSi) and Marko Balažic (SLS).

Slovenia sees elections, constitution as South Sudan's priorities

NEW YORK, US - Preparations for the general election and completing the constitution must be a priority for South Sudan, Slovenian representative in the UN Security Council Samuel Žbogar said during Tuesday's debate on the situation in the country. Ambassador Žbogar condemned the serious human rights violations, in particular sexual violence, including rape, attacks against civilians, and recruitment of children for soldiers. Žbogar also said that the agreed minimum quotas for women in transitional official bodies must be respected. "The humanitarian situation remains worrying," he added.

Slovenia condemns public executions and denial of women's rights in Afghanistan

NEW YORK, US - Slovenia strongly condemned public executions in Afghanistan and urged respect for women's rights during a UN Security Council debate on the situation in the country on Wednesday. Slovenian representative Samuel Žbogar argued that the Taliban's denial of basic rights to Afghan women hinders the country's progress towards a brighter future. He demanded the Taliban's immediate release of detained activists and the removal of restrictions on human rights defenders and journalists.

Doctors' overtime withdrawals mean no major problems for hospitals, minister says

LJUBLJANA - Hospitals do not expect major problems in March because of doctors withdrawing their consents to work overtime as part of their strike, said Health Minister Valentina Prevolnik Rupel after a meeting with heads of hospitals. Some non-urgent health services will be cancelled though, she added. The hospitals are working in line with the government's recent decree on additional medical services that doctors have to provide during their strike, the minister said.

Brežice council unanimously against asylum centre in municipality

BREŽICE - The Brežice municipal council voted unanimously on Tuesday against the government's plan to erect an asylum centre at the Obrežje international border crossing with Croatia, located in their municipality (E). They are not convinced by the assurances that this is a temporary measure and that police will ensure the safety of residents. Should the government go on with the plan, some councillors said that locals would organise protests and block the border crossing. Another unit is to be set up in Središče ob Dravi (NE). The Democrats (SDS) filed a request for an emergency session of the parliamentary Interior Policy Committee to discuss the plan.

Excavation works completed in second tube of Karavanke tunnel

JESENICE - After three and a half years of excavation, workers broke through to the Austrian side of the Karavanke motorway tunnel on Tuesday, marking a major milestone in what is one of the biggest construction projects in Slovenia at the moment. The development occurred a few months later than expected. Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek said today she was happy that this moment had come, and that the construction of the second tube should be completed next year. Renovation works in the first tube will start immediately after that, so it will take a while before traffic will run on both tubes.

Jesenice railway station to be fully renovated

JESENICE - The Jesenice railway station, located just before the border with Austria, will be upgraded as part of a project whose cost estimate has increased from the original EUR 81 million to EUR 137 million. It seems it will rise even further, as the three bids that have arrived range from EUR 170 million and EUR 179 million. The contractor has not yet been picked. Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek told the press the investment was a very important project since the station was a railway hub.

US approves Pipistrel aircraft for flight training

AJDOVŠČINA - Electric aircraft Velis Electro by Ajdovščina-based plane developer Pipistrel has been granted an airworthiness exemption by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), allowing the aircraft to be used in the US for flight training, the US-owned company said in a press release. Velis Electro offers a cheaper and more sustainable learning platform for pilots in training, added the ultra-light aircraft maker, which was bought by US aviation company Textron in 2022.

SNG Drama moving to Šiška industrial zone in summer, renovation said to be on track

LJUBLJANA - The revived efforts to renovate the country's leading theatre SNG Drama in Ljubljana, which was originally slated for a facelift back in 2008, are proceeding as planned, Culture Minister Asta Vrečko told the press. The completion of the project is still expected by the end of 2026, and the estimated costs remain EUR 58.5 million. The theatre, whose building is no longer deemed safe after several postponed renovation attempts, will move to a temporary location in Ljubljana's Šiška borough this summer.

Doctors reiterate opposition to assisted dying legislation

LJUBLJANA - A day before the National Assembly is to debate a bill on assisted dying, which was filed by an NGO last year, the Slovenian Medical Chamber reiterated its strong opposition to the bill, saying that many doctors would raise conscientious objections if it is passed. The chamber's president Bojana Beović said at a news conference that their opposition was rooted in their basic wish to help patients.

Precious private collection of Slovenian art on show at National Gallery

LJUBLJANA - A collection of over 60 Slovenian works of art made from the second half of the 19th century to the late 20th century is being put on show at the National Gallery in what its director Barbara Jaki has described as one of the finest private collections of Slovenian art. Jaki wrote on the occasion that "the Kroples Art Collection is distinguished by its exceptional quality, exquisite taste and original concept". The show features 61 paintings and five sculptures.

Museum of Contemporary Art features Palestinian artist Sliman Mansour

LJUBLJANA - Ljubljana's Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova (+MSUM) has dedicated its Commentary series of mini exhibitions, located in the museum's entrance hall, entirely to Palestine this year. It is currently presenting a work by Sliman Mansour, a painter, sculptor, author and cartoonist, considered a leading figure among contemporary Palestinian artists.

Carinthian Culture Days opening with an exhibition

LJUBLJANA - The Carinthian Culture Days festival, which celebrates Slovenian culture in the Austrian region of Carinthia, is starting with the opening of Na Robu Barve (On the Edge of Colour), an exhibition by painter, writer and journalist Vincenc Gotthardt. The festival will bring a number of other events, including a concert, theatre plays and book presentations, until 14 April. It is hosted by the Club of Carinthian Slovenians in Ljubljana, two Klagenfurt-based minority associations and the Ljubljana Association of the Slovenian-Austrian Friendship.

Men's Alpine Ski World Cup slalom in Kranjska Gora called off too

KRANJSKA GORA - After already giving up on the giant slalom race on Tuesday in the face of unfavourable weather conditions, the organisers of the men's Alpine Ski World Cup meet scheduled for the coming weekend in Kranjska Gora cancelled the slalom event as well due to extremely heavy rainfall over the last 24 hours which completely destroyed the slope. "FIS has been working on a potential replacement, but due to time constraints, no solution has been found," International Ski and Snowboard Federation wrote on X.

Dončić's assistant coach to help Slovenia qualify for Paris

LJUBLJANA - Sean Sweeney, the assistant coach of the Dallas Mavericks, the NBA team of Slovenian superstar Luka Dončić, will join the coaching staff of the Slovenian men's basketball team for the Olympic qualifying tournament in Greece in July, the web portal Siol reported. Saša Dončić, the director of sport of the Slovenian Basketball Federation, and Luka Dončić's father, said regarding Sweeney that people in Dallas and Texas in general knew a lot about Slovenia and appreciated it because of Luka. He added that the basketball federation would try to make more additions to the coaching staff.

Armed man barricaded in house in Brežice, special unit intervening

BREŽICE - An incident occurred in the centre of Brežice in eastern Slovenia this afternoon, which allegedly also involved shooting as a man reportedly shot in the air in front of a local pharmacy and later barricaded himself in a house. A special unit and negotiators are intervening. Some locals say the armed man is a retired police officer. According to the first findings by the police, the man is in the house alone, but little else has been disclosed thus far.

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