News roundup - Tuesday, 18 June

Ljubljana, 18 June - Below is a roundup of major events on Tuesday, 18 June:

Slovenia signs agreement on full ESA membership

PARIS, France - Prime Minister Robert Golob and director general of the European Space Agency (ESA) Josef Aschbacher signed an agreement under which Slovenia's will become a full ESA member at the beginning of next year. "After this signature, the real work actually begins," Golob said, adding that Slovenia will actively participate and contribute with its know-how, expertise and innovative approaches, the government said in a press release. It added that agreement between the Slovenian government and the agency must now be ratified by parliament.

President: No major achievements two years into govt term

LJUBLJANA - President Nataša Pirc Musar said in an interview that she shared the view of many citizens that half of this government's term had passed without any major achievements, especially in strategic reforms. Health reform and public sector pay reform are both still open, she told commercial broadcaster POP TV on Monday evening. She hopes "that in the remaining two years, the government will complete the overdue reforms, rather than doing just some cosmetic corrections".

Golob on board with Renew regarding EU appointments

BRUSSELS, Belgium - Prime Minister Robert Golob echoed the positions of the Renew group of liberal parties as he arrived for talks in Brussels on the new EU leadership on Monday. He is in favour of Estonian PM Kaja Kallas as the head of EU diplomacy or Belgium's Alexander De Croo as a second option. Golob also advocated a second term for Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.

Slovenia meets renewables target last year for first time

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia met for the first time last year the renewables target and produced more than 25% of its gross energy consumption from renewables, Environment Minister Bojan Kumer announced. Slovenia will not have to purchase a statistical transfer as it did in the three years before, which cost nearly EUR 18 million. Kumer said that achieving the target increases the credibility of Slovenia and makes it more self-sufficient, the minister said. Projections for 2024 show that Slovenia could meet the target, while an estimate for 2025 cannot be given yet.

Fines of up to EUR 2,500 mulled for public display of Nazi, Fascist symbols

LJUBLJANA - In the latest reaction to a recent rally held in Ljubljana by what police say were around 70 masked radicals, the Freedom Movement proposed to the fellow coalition parties legislative changes explicitly banning the glorification of Nazism and Fascism. The draft defines such behaviour as a misdemeanour carrying a fine of up to EUR 2,500.

Slovenia down four more spots in IMD World Competitiveness Ranking

LJUBLJANA - Slovenia has lost another four spots in the annual IMD World Competitiveness Ranking, placing 46th among a total of 67 countries surveyed. The drop comes after Slovenia lost four spots in 2023 in what reflects the trend in most European countries. Slovenia's competitive advantages or areas where it ranks highest remain similar to previous years: international trade (8th place), price levels (18th), social framework ensuring high equality and security (20th), and education (24th).

Žbogar calls for dialogue, end to conflict in Sudan and South Sudan

NEW YORK, US - The road to lasting peace is not paved with war and weapons, but with dialogue and a political process, Slovenia's representative on the UN Security Council Samuel Žbogar stressed at a meeting dedicated the UN Secretary-General's report on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan. He said the "conflict has disproportionately affected women and girls and exposed them to the indiscriminate use of sexual violence as a weapon of war, which we unequivocally condemn."

Slovenia back to ten Michelin-starred restaurants

LJUBLJANA - Ten Slovenian restaurants have been deemed worthy of Michelin stars by the relevant restaurant guide, one more than in 2023. Ana Roš's Hiša Franko has retained three stars and restaurant Milka run by chef David Žefran kept its two stars. Seven restaurants have kept one Michelin star, while Restaurant Pavus is the only newcomer on the list. "Hiša Franko has its own identity and it did not change with the arrival of Michelin. We stayed who we are," said Roš.

Report says Celjske Mesnine sale under question

LJUBLJANA - The sale of a majority stake in Celjske Mesnine, a Slovenian meat processing company, to Croatia's Braća Pivac group, for which the contract was already signed in May, now seems uncertain as the Specialised State Prosecutor's Office got involved, Necenzurirano reported. According to documentation obtained by the news portal, the prosecution decided to suspend the sale because of a criminal case involving Celjske Mesnine.

Slovenia and Austria enhancing cooperation in digitisation

VILLACH, Austria - Slovenia and Austria signed a memorandum of cooperation in digitisation and innovative technologies and the exchange of good practices, and an agreement has also been made to establish a task force for this purpose, the Slovenian Digital Transformation Ministry announced. The memorandum includes the transfer of knowledge and experience and cooperation in the development of digital skills, cloud computing, digitisation at local levels, cyber security, e-government, AI, digital green solutions and processors and semiconductors with low energy consumption.

Slovenian teens perform below average in creative thinking

LJUBLJANA - The PISA 2022 survey shows that 15-year-olds in Slovenia perform below average in creative thinking compared to their peers from other countries. They also view different aspects of creativity more negatively and are less open to obtaining new knowledge and experience. Slovenian students scored on average 30 points on the scale from 0 to 60, which is below the OECD average at 33 points.

Ministers reach no conclusion on border checks

GORIZIA - The interior ministers of Slovenia, Italy and Croatia, Boštjan Poklukar, Matteo Piantedosi and Davor Božinović, said that cooperation in the fight against illegal migration is yielding good results as they met in Italy's Gorizia. They expressed hope that border checks will be abolished soon but did not announce any specific steps. Poklukar told his counterparts that the joint patrols on external EU borders could serve as an alternative to control on the internal borders. Slovenia is ready to take part in such patrols, he added.

Off-motorway regular petrol and diesel cheaper as of Tuesday

LJUBLJANA - The price of regular petrol sold outside the Slovenian motorway network dropped by 2.8 cents to EUR 1.445 a litre, and diesel is now 0.8 cents cheaper at EUR 1.455 per litre. The price of heating oil per litre went down by one cent to EUR 1.089. The new prices will be in place through 1 July, the Ministry of the Environment, Climate and Energy said late on Monday evening.

Farmers complain about wheat prices being too low

GORNJA RADGONA - As grain harvesting has begun in Pomurje, northeast, starting with barley, farmers said that the prices they anticipate to get for their crops are yet again lower than production costs. The farmers are afraid of a repeat of last year when they suffered a loss of EUR 500 per hectare due to cheap Ukrainian wheat imports, said Franc Küčan, vice-president of the Slovenian Farmers Trade Union. If there is no state aid, many farms which have suffered a loss of around EUR 500 per hectare for two consecutive years will probably reconsider growing wheat, warned Küčan.

Tunnel excavation work on Koper-Divača rail track completed

KOZINA - Excavation work on all seven tunnels on the new railway line between the port of Koper and the Divača hub has been completed, the state-owned company managing the investment 2TDK announced. Together with the service tunnels, a total of ten tubes, 37.4 kilometres long, have been excavated. The last two tunnels excavated, Lokev and Beka, are the longest on the route. In the latter, a major karst cave was recently discovered, which slowed down the work in the last month.

Lent festival returning to its original venue

MARIBOR - The annual Lent Festival, starting in Maribor on Friday, is returning to the Drava riverfront which gave it its name. After Lent was thoroughly renovated the festival's stage will again be set up by the Old Vine House, home of what is considered the world's oldest vine. The main stage remains in Leon Štukelj Square. The 32nd Lent festival, which is considered the largest outdoor summer festival in Slovenia, will run until 29 June and will bring concerts of popular music, classical music and jazz, as well as stand-up comedy performances and folk dance events.

Mavs fail to win NBA ring, Dončić proud of their season

BOSTON, US - Slovenian basketball star Luka Dončić and his Dallas Mavericks had to concede defeat to the Boston Celtics in game 5 of the NBA finals on Monday evening (EST) in what was a 4:1 final result of the series. Dončić came short of achieving his dream of the NBA championship ring, but he pointed out his team had a great season. In a post-game statement he said he will reveal his Paris Olympics plans, which have been put into question due to his injuries, in a couple of days.

Survey shows 61% sat behind the wheel after taking drugs

LJUBLJANA - The Road Safety Agency presented the results of an online survey among over 3,300 people, which shows that a majority of those who took drugs in the past year, or 61%, decided to nevertheless drive. It showed that more than a quarter of respondents had used drugs in the last year. More than a third, 34%, had used them at least once a year. The agency said the figure is alarming given that driving under the influence is a major threat to road safety.

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