News roundup - Thursday, 14 March

Ljubljana, 14 March - Below is a roundup of major events on Thursday, 14 March:

Govt adopts blueprint for quality in healthcare bill

LJUBLJANA - The government adopted a blueprint for a bill on quality in healthcare, which could be sent into public consultation in two weeks' time. The new legislation is to introduce quality indicators comparable between healthcare providers and internationally, and a public quality agency to monitor and oversee quality standards. Most countries in Europe use these standards, but some large countries have their own, Health Minister Valentina Prevolnik Rupel said after the government session.

Arčon named deputy prime minister

LJUBLJANA - Minister for Slovenians Abroad Matej Arčon was named deputy prime minister in charge of communication. "I want to perform this job with responsibility, seriousness, and with the awareness that a difficult period is ahead," said Arčon. His main task will be making sure the media receive all key information after government sessions. Arčon will also respond to current issues related to the government's work.

Govt confirms one of two candidates for Justice Ministry state secretary

LJUBLJANA - After Prime Minister Robert Golob initially refused to approve the two candidates for state secretaries put forward by new Justice Minister Andreja Katič, she and the prime minister managed to agree on the appointment of at least one, Andreja Kokalj from the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. Katič said she understood Golob's move as a "particular concern that the ministry gets the best team".

SDS wants consent of local communities for asylum centres

LJUBLJANA - The Democrats (SDS) tabled a bill under which government plans to erect asylum centres would require consent from local communities. The move comes in response to a joint session of three municipal councils which unanimously opposed the government's plan to establish an asylum centre unit in Središče ob Dravi, one of two new units of the Ljubljana Asylum Centre the government is planning to cope with a surge in illegal migrants and asylum seekers.

Slovenia remains among NATO members with lowest defence spending

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia raised its defence spending to 1.33% of GDP in 2023 from 1.25% of GDP in 2022 but it remains among the NATO members with the lowest defence expenditure, show figures released by NATO. Only Spain, Belgium and Luxembourg had lower defence spending relative to GDP. Slovenians are also quite sceptical of the country's NATO membership. Some 52% think it should remain a member, compared to 66% on average in the entire alliance. Only Montenegro has a lower share of NATO supporters, at 46%.

Russia claims five Slovenian mercenaries arrived in Ukraine since start of war

LJUBLJANA - Russia claims that there are five Slovenians among the 13,387 foreign mercenaries who have arrived in Ukraine in the past two years since the war began, according to report by the Russian press agency Tass. The Government Communications Office told STA that the claim could not be verified because the report does not list any names. However, they added, similar lists have appeared in the past, only to turn turn out to be false.

Up to three Slovenian soldiers to participate in EU NAVFOR Aspides

LJUBLJANA - The Slovenian Armed Forces will take part in the EU naval forces operation Aspides in the Red Sea, the government decided. Up to three Slovenian soldiers will participate. EU NAVFOR Aspides is the European Union's operation for the protection of merchant vessels in the Red Sea, where Yemen's Houthi rebels have been attacking ships since November 2023 in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza.

Slovenia sends more aid to Gaza

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia will send more material aid to Gaza in the form of 7,040 dry daily rations and 218,400 granola bars from the supplies of the Defence Ministry and the Slovenian Armed Forces, the government decided. Slovenia already sent material aid to the Palestine civilian population in February. The two shipments combined are valued at EUR 1.33 million.

Prosecutors stage another one-day strike

LJUBLJANA - Prosecutors staged a one-day work stoppage after going on strike on 31 January to express their opposition to the government over its failure to implement the Constitutional Court ruling requiring that judges' pay, to which the pay of prosecutors is pegged, should increase. "Prosecutors are angry and frustrated, not only because of our salaries, but because of the poor systemic situation in general, Barbara Prevolšek Rajić, head of the strike committee of prosecutors, told the STA.

Committee endorses changes to laws governing referendums

LJUBLJANA - The Home Affairs Committee endorsed on Wednesday amendments to the laws governing referendums that reflect constitutional changes. Members of all parties bar the opposition Democrats (SDS) expressed support for the amendments, which required the support of two-thirds of MPs present. Among other things, the changes abolish physical forms in the process of collecting 40,000 signatures in support of a request for a referendum.

Slovenia's bond issue raised by EUR 500m

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia extended the issue of the ten-year eurobond RS93 in international capital markets by another EUR 500 million to EUR 2 billion. The issue saw a large demand by investors, surging to EUR 3.1 billion. A third of investors come from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, 13% from France, 12% from Scandinavia, 10% from Central and Eastern Europe, including Slovenia, 9% from the Benelux countries and 23% from other countries.

NKBM group net profit almost doubled last year

MARIBOR - The banking group NKBM, which became part of Hungary's OTP group last year, posted a net profit of EUR 203.8 million last year, which is 92% more than in 2022. The group's total net operating revenue topped EUR 404 million in 2023, which is up almost 28% compared to 2022. Operating profit before tax almost doubled to EUR 206.6 million. The NKBM bank recorded a net profit of EUR 189.3 million, shows the annual report.

Slovenian company builds major waste treatment centre in Croatia

ZADAR, Croatia - Slovenian engineering company Riko has built one of the biggest waste treatment centres in Croatia, Biljane Donje near the coastal city of Zadar. The project, which was inaugurated on Thursday, is valued at EUR 90 million, with Riko's share worth approximately EUR 70 million. The centre stretches over more than 46 hectares and will process about 90,000 tonnes of waste annually, its director Dino Perović told the STA.

Rupel launches book on towering figures of Slovenia's independence

LJUBLJANA - Dimitrij Rupel, a long-serving former foreign minister, launched a book dedicated to the most pivotal political events in Slovenia between 1988 and 2009. Slovenia's Leaders (Voditelji Slovenije) focuses on the legacy of Jože Pučnik, Janez Drnovšek, Milan Kučan and Janez Janša, who Rupel said contributed decisively to Slovenia's independence. "There would have been no Slovenian state without these four," Rupel said.

Slovenia fined EUR 800,000 over electronic communications directive

LUXEMBOURG, Luxembourg - The Court of Justice of the EU has slapped Slovenia with a EUR 800,000 fine following a European Commission lawsuit of the country's much delayed transposition of the EU directive on electronic communications networks. While the deadline had been December 2020, Slovenian adopted the new electronic communications act only in September 2022, two months after being taken to court by the European Commission.

© STA, 2024