News roundup - Thursday, 7 March

Ljubljana, 7 March - Below is a roundup of major events on Thursday, 7 March:

Assisted dying bill halted at first reading, to be put in referendum

LJUBLJANA - A bill on assisted dying, initiated by an NGO and supported by voter signatures, failed to pass the first reading in the National Assembly, being voted down 64:9. While the Freedom Movement supports the bill, the party that holds 40 seats in the 90-member parliament said it would initiate proceedings to hold a consultative referendum. Tereza Novak, an MP of the ruling Freedom Movement, said the purpose is to give people the hope to leave this world on their own terms without excessive suffering but stressed that "all the required opinions" must be obtained and "in-depth discussion conducted" before the final decision was made.

Bill on cultural rights of ex-Yugoslavian communities passes second reading

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly confirmed in second reading a government bill on cultural rights of national communities from the former Yugoslavia, but not before crossing out a contested provision that would enable children from these communities to learn their mother tongue in school. The key solution is the implementation of cultural programmes and projects of the members of the communities.

President urges Security Council to end killing in Gaza

LJUBLJANA - President Nataša Pirc Musar appealed to the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution for a ceasefire in Gaza. In the face of mass crimes against civilian population the right to veto no longer holds legitimacy, the president said. The international community has failed "the test of humanitarianism and humanity", she said, adding that the Security Council needs to send a clear message to Israel that the developments in Gaza and the West Bank are in breach of the UN Charter. Dead, injured, sick and starving children are not a matter of politics and national interests, alliances and self-defence, the president warned. "This is simply a crime and denial of any sort of humanity."

MPs pass act that bring more flexibility in commodity reserves use

LJUBLJANA - MPs backed in a 51:25 vote an act introducing a separation 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. Economy Ministry State Secretary Dejan Židan has said that the changes aimed to adjust the legislation to the many changes that have taken place in the 30 years since the adoption of the old law. They also take into account a 2021 opinion of the Court of Audit that warned about legislative ambiguity.

Slovenia in favour of new EU industrial policy

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Economy Minister Matjaž Han voiced support for a new EU industrial policy at a session of the EU's Competitiveness Council. He thinks the bloc needs it to "satisfy new strategic needs and gear up to narrow the gap to the demanding global competition." The discussion on industrial policy will serve as an input for coming conclusions being drafted by the Belgian EU presidency.

Telekom Slovenije Group net profit up by 25% to EUR 47m in 2023

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia's telecom incumbent Telekom Slovenije recorded a net profit of EUR 47 million in 2023, up 25% compared to 2022 and the highest profit since 2015. The group's operating revenue was up 7% to EUR 708 million, shows an unaudited financial report. Sales revenue rose by 7% to EUR 695 million. The core company generated EUR 602 million in sales revenue, up from EUR 576 million last year. Net profit was up by over EUR 3 million to stand at EUR 24 million.

Insurance group Sava's net profit in 2023 up 38% to EUR 65m

LJUBLJANA - The insurance group Sava increased its turnover in 2023 by 14% to EUR 910.1 million and its net profit by 38% to EUR 64.7 million. All the 2023 targets have been achieved, the core company Sava Re said in an unaudited report. Having posted EUR 79.6 million in pre-tax profit, the group exceeded the plans due to good business diversification despite a more modest performance in the wake of extreme weather events last year, including the massive floods in August. Growth was mainly driven by gross property insurance premiums, which grew by 20% in the Slovenian market and by 22% in foreign markets.

Cinkarna Celje's net profit down 87% to EUR 5.5m

CELJE - The chemical company Cinkarna Celje posted a EUR 5.5 million net profit in 2023, down 87% over 2022. Sales revenue was at EUR 176.5 million, a drop of 22%, the company said. With sales volumes and prices down, the management considers the results to be in line with forecasts. The drop in turnover was mainly a result of lower sales volumes and, to a lesser extent, lower average selling prices of titanium dioxide pigment, which is the company's main product, said its unaudited 2023 annual report.

Perutnina Ptuj aims at billion euros in revenue by 2027

PTUJ - The poultry producer Perutnina Ptuj marked the 50th anniversary of its Poli sausage brand to note that it had recorded last year a significant increase in production and revenue, which exceeded EUR 500 million. While the group sold 80,000 tonnes of chicken meat and products in 2018, last year the figure increased to 132,000 tonnes. Accordingly, earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation increased from EUR 30 million to EUR 90 million.

SSH's profits to go for post-flood reconstruction

LJUBLJANA - The government changed the articles of association of the Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), the custodian of state assets, to allow it to allocate its distributable profit for post-flood reconstruction. Around EUR 100 million will be channelled to a special reconstruction fund annually. SSH's profit will be one of the sources of funds for reconstruction post-August 2023 floods in line with the law on post-flood reconstruction passed last December.

SDS motion targeting work time records dismissed again, but changes in pipeline

LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly rejected for a third time a repeating motion by the opposition Democrats (SDS) to reverse legislative provisions requiring companies to record additional data on working hours to curb rights violations. Plans to relax the new rules a bit were however confirmed by government representatives. The SDS's Rado Gladek repeated that various professional groups continue warning about the time and money spent on having to record on a daily basis since 20 November the time of arrival and departure from work, use of breaks, hours in special conditions and unevenly distributed working hours.

Stricter co-incineration legislation unanimously passed

LJUBLJANA - Parliament voted 68:0 to pass changes to the Environment Protection Act that bring stricter emission standards for co-incineration. The bill was filed last autumn by several NGOs which campaign for clean air and water in the area of Salonit Anhovo, a cement factory in the Soča Valley, west, that also burns waste. The government will now have to set limit values for co-incineration plants such as Salonit as strict as set out in the best available technology (BAT) conclusions for incineration.

Brežice shooter arrested

BREŽICE - The police have apprehended the man who barricaded himself into his house in Brežice on Wednesday after having fired shots in front of the local pharmacy, and later at police officers. The Novo Mesto Police Department said today that the stand-off ended at around 2:30am and that nobody had been injured. Police apprehended the 59-year-old after throwing tear gas into the house following hours of failed attempts to negotiate. Subsequently, the man came out of the house to the balcony and surrendered.

Slovenia confirms withdrawal from Energy Charter Treaty

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Slovenia was among the EU member states that confirmed the EU's withdrawal from the Energy Charter Treaty, while the talks on updating the treaty for those members that want to remain parties to the treaty are ongoing. Slovenia will officially withdraw from the treaty in October. The withdrawal was confirmed in Brussels by the EU ministers in charge of competitiveness, including Slovenia's Matjaž Han, after it was endorsed on Wednesday by the deputies of the member states' permanent representatives to the EU. The matter will now be debated by the European Parliament, after which the Council of the European Union will have to give the final stamp of approval for the withdrawal.

Fides not satisfied with government proposal

LJUBLJANA - After it appeared earlier this week that an end to the doctors' strike may be on the horizon, the doctors' trade union Fides rejected a strike-ending agreement drawn up by the government. "Unfortunately, the proposal is not aligned with what we agreed at Tuesday's talks and does not represent headway towards the stabilisation of the health system," the union said in a written statement.

Govt proposes measures to improve domestic violence treatment

LJUBLJANA - The government presented a resolution on a national programme for prevention of domestic violence and violence against women in 2024-2029, which it sent to the National Assembly. The resolution aims to improve the quality of different programmes and ensure better treatment and protection of victims of such violence. The proposal for the first time addresses both domestic violence and violence against women and aims to recognise key areas where change would be needed, setting goals and measures for improvement.

Civil initiative's health bill voted down

LJUBLJANA - An emergency health bill aiming to stabilise the public health system that was tabled by the Voice of the People, a civil initiative, was voted down in parliament. The group, which spearheaded anti-government protests in 2020-2022, is staunchly opposed to the doctors' strike and has accused the Fides trade union of trying to privatise public healthcare.

Rally in Jesenice raises awareness of child sexual abuse

JESENICE - The emerging organisation White Flower organised on Wednesday a rally against child sexual abuse in Jesenice, after the town in northeastern Slovenia was recently shocked by a case of a former headmaster who sexually abused the child of his then partner. The rally advocated certain procedural changes in the processing of such cases and noted the importance of awareness. A study from 2019 shows that 9.5% of women and 2.6% of men experienced some form of sexual abuse before they turned 18, the rally organisers said, adding that nearly 25,000 children in Slovenia were sexually abused.

New, costlier open call for train terminal upgrade published

LJUBLJANA - Another call for bids has been published to find a contractor for a major upgrade of the train terminal in what is the central part of the Ljubljana Passenger Centre project. Both bids in the first open call were rejected for being too high, but the new one estimates the upgrade to be costlier than before. The Infrastructure Agency published the initial call in November, having estimated the project at EUR 136.6 million excluding VAT, or EUR 166.7 million including tax After the open call fell through, the agency's estimate without tax is now higher by roughly 20%, standing at EUR 173.3 million.

Koper to get centre of competence for olive growing

KOPER - The Koper Science and Research Centre (ZRS Koper) has obtained a building permit for a Centre of Competence for Mediterranean Cultures, which will focus on olive growing and other forms of Mediterranean agriculture. It will be located near the coastal town of Škofije on the coast, and is planned to be completed in 2026. The ZRS Koper said that the new complex will provide adequate premises for the Institute of Oliveculture, its laboratory, and all accredited activities, while also housing the recently established Institute of Viticulture and Wine Production.

Agriculture needs long-term policy, debate hears

LJUBLJANA- Agriculture has reached a point where it needs a clear and long-term vision, agreed the participants in a debate on the green future of European agriculture, hosted by Vesna, a non-parliamentary green party Wednesday evening. Good, environmentally-friendly farming practices should be supported, they said. Slovenian hill farms will not survive without society's support, said head of the Association of Hill and Mountain Farmers Irena Orešnik. "The survival of these farms is based on the love for farming, which we cannot count on in the next generation," she said. Head of the Agriculture and Forestry Chamber Roman Žveglič said that in 50 years there will be no more professional farmers.

Slovenian minority opposed to schools closing

KLAGENFURT, Austria - The National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS) expressed opposition to a recent decision by the Austrian authorities to shut down two small bilingual schools in Mali Šentvid/Klein St. Veit and in Šentilj/St. Egyden in Carinthia due to low enrolment. The NSKS said it does not accept the decision and that small schools are "an educationally valuable introduction to school life". While unable to organise large events, small schools pose interesting challenges for parents and teachers, benefit children and help strengthen rural areas, the NKSK said.

Less waste collected in 2023

LJUBLJANA - In 2023 more than 11.8 million tons of waste were collected, which is 4% less than the year before. More bulky waste was collected at the annual level than ever before, largely due to the August floods, the Statistics Office said. Construction waste accounted for the majority of all waste at 82% or nearly 9.8 million tons. Just over one million tons of municipal waste were collected, down 3%. The share of waste collected separately increased by six percentage points to 77.3%. The amount of bulky waste more than doubled to 85,000 tons, largely due to the August floods.

One more unexploded bomb found at Nova Gorica construction site

NOVA GORICA - The third unexploded bomb was discovered in less than two weeks in Nova Gorica, just north of the former Solkan border crossing, as an upgrade of the town's train station is under way and the first bomb was found by workers. All three bombs will be deactivated at the same time, the Nova Gorica municipality said. The bomb weighs about 100 kilograms and has one mechanical fuse. Experts have not yet identified its origin, but the two bombs found before were aerial bombs respectively manufactured in the US and UK during the Second World War.

© STA, 2024