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20.08.2011 10:44
EVENTS, SLOVENIA, REVIEW, WEEK
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Weekly Review of Events Involving Slovenia, 13-19 August

Ljubljana, 20 August (STA) - Review of major events involving Slovenia in the week from 13 to 19 August:

MINISTER, PARTIES HAPPY WITH SOLE CANDIDATE FOR SLOVENIAN BORDER ARBITER
        Justice Minister Ales Zalar announced on 18 August that Jernej Sekolec, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague and a vice president of the London Court of International Arbitration, was the sole candidate to apply for Slovenian arbiter on the international tribunal that will decide on the Slovenian-Croatia border. Sekolec needs to be formally put forward by president Danilo Tuerk and confirmed by the National Assembly with an absolute majority (at least 46 votes in the 90-member National Assembly).
        "As a cabinet member, I can say that when the government takes a position on the candidacy, I will support Sekolec," Zalar said. Most parties also announced support to Sekolec, highlighting his expertise.
        The opposition Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) and People's Party (SLS) have yet to decide about their support, while the ruling Social Democrats (SD) have not commented on the candidacy. The opposition Democrats (SDS) said Slovenia should wait until after general election to appoint the arbiter.
        Sekolec holds a PhD in law and was a member of the secretariat of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) between 1982 and 2001, and a UNCITRAL secretary as well as the director of the international trade law division at the UN Office of Legal Affairs between 2001 and 2008.

EX-PM AND NSi FOUNDER BAJUK DIES
        The former Slovenian prime minister and former president of the conservative New Slovenia (NSi), Andrej Bajuk, died at the age of 67 as a result of a stroke on 16 August. President Danilo Tuerk, PM Borut Pahor and Speaker Pavel Gantar, as well as party leaders and other senior officials expressed condolences to the family, and books of condolence were open at the parliament and government buildings and the NSi headquarters.
        Tuerk said that Bajuk would be remembered as "a kind man who left a deep mark in various fields of his professional and political life, both in Slovenia and abroad". The government decided that Bajuk would be buried with military honours on 21 August.
        A doctor of economics, Bajuk had held senior positions at the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank before returning to Slovenia as an emigrant from Argentina and shooting to political fame almost overnight in 2000; he ran the government from June 2000, after the cabinet of Janez Drnovsek lost a confidence vote in parliament, until the general election at the end of that year, when the centre-left took the reigns once again.
        After spending the four intervening years in the opposition, Bajuk served as finance minister in the Janez Jansa government between 2004 and 2008. In 2005 The Banker magazine named him the best finance minister in the EU, and it was during his term as finance minister that Slovenia introduced the euro in 2007.

PARLIAMENT TAKES NOTE OF KRESAL'S RESIGNATION, PAHOR TO PROPOSE NEW MINISTERS IN AUTUMN
        The National Assembly took formal note of the resignation of Interior Minister Katarina Kresal at an extraordinary session on 19 August, thus formally ending her term. Kresal will stay on as caretaker until the appointment of her successor.
        Kresal irrevocably stepped down on 10 August after the Corruption Prevention Commission said it had found elements of corruption in the lease of a building for the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) from her acquaintance.
        Prime Minister Borut Pahor announced he would send to parliament a list of five names that are to succeed the recently resigned ministers in a package, along with a vote of confidence, in mid-September.
        Three months will have passed on 23 September since Education Minister Igor Luksic took over the Higher Education, Science and Technology Ministry from Gregor Golobic, whose Zares party quit the coalition. Three other Zares ministers also stepped down subsequently. All four ministries are now temporarily headed by three ministers from other departments and the PM.

SLOVENIA, AUSTRIA REACH AGREEMENT ON KARAVANKE TUNNEL
        Slovenia and Austria reached an agreement on 19 August to end the stand-off at the border tunnel of Karavanke over Austria's unilateral decision to ban traffic for lorries during weekends after earlier failed talks between transport ministers as well as PM Borut Pahor and Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann.
        Under the deal, Slovenian lorries will be allowed to go through the tunnel in special convoys at night. According to the Slovenian transport Ministry, convoys of lorries heavier than 7.5 tonnes, which are not allowed to use the tunnel from 10 PM on Fridays until 3 PM on Saturdays between 29 July and 3 September, will be let through at 1 AM, 3 AM and 5 AM.
        Slovenia proposed the formation of convoys of trucks, under which such convoys would be let through the tunnel at one hour intervals as a compromise at last week's meeting between Transport Minister Patrick Vlacic and his Austrian counterpart Doris Bures, but the Austrian side rejected this. Slovenian hauliers threatened with a blockade of the Karavanke tunnel should no agreement be reached.
        The head of the transport section of the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS), Andrej Klobasa, said he was not fully satisfied with the new deal, but noted that "any agreement is better than no agreement". He said hauliers would strive for a full lift of the ban, but announced no protests.

NEW BILINGUAL SIGNS ERECTED IN CARINTHIA
        First additional German-Slovenian signposts were erected in the province of Carinthia in line with the new Austrian law on minorities on 16 August, with Slovenian PM Borut Pahor labelling the day "a day of tolerance, peace and good neighbourly relations".
        The move marked the start of the implementation of the agreement on German-Slovenian town signs reached in April between the Slovenian minority and Austrian authorities and which envisages bilingual city limit signs in 164 localities in Carinthia.
        The main ceremony honouring the erection of the new biligual signposts was also attended by Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann, who pointed to the diversity of Carinthia, including the bilinguality. "We are proud of Carinthia and its diversity. It can serve as an example for the entire Austria."
        The erection of the signs was also welcomed by representatives of the National Council of Carinthian Slovenians (NSKS), a Slovenian minority organisation, and the Carinthian Unity List (EL), the only political party of the minority.

COST ESTIMATE FOR NEW TES GENERATOR RISES TO EUR 1.3BN
        The supervisors of the operator of the TES coal-fired power plant confirmed a new, fourth version of the investment programme for a new generator (TES 6) at the Sostanj-based plant on 18 August. The document estimates the cost of the entire project at EUR 1.3bn, up from the previous EUR 1.2bn.
        Termelektrarna Sostanj chairman Simon Tot listed cost escalation, the contract with the main supplier, French energy giant Alstom, and the inclusion of new elements in the investment programme among the main reasons for a higher estimate.
        According to the investment programme, the biggest risk to the controversial project is the possibility that the loan agreed on with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development would not be backed by a state guarantee. Tot expects that the state will issue a guarantee by October, as there is no contingency plan.
        "We can say that we have come very far with the implementation of the project," project leader Miran Zgajner said, adding that Alstom was currently building the generator and that the equipment for the cooling system was also being acquired.

CHRONOLOGY:
SATURDAY, 13 August
        MARIBOR - The vice-president of the ruling Social Democrats (SD), Transport Minister Patrick Vlacic, joined mounting calls for early elections and proposed partial privatisation of DARS, the state-owned motorway company, in an interview with the daily Vecer.
        LJUBLJANA - The equal opportunities ombudsman, Bostjan Vernik Setinc, told an interview with the STA that the fight against discrimination should be stepped up in Slovenia, by way of systemic changes that should involve creating a new and independent institution.

MONDAY, 15 August
        BREZJE - Ljubljana Archbishop Anton Stres highlighted the importance of Christian values, especially the family, as he gave a sermon to mark the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

TUESDAY, 16 August
        LJUBLJANA - Former PM and former president of the conservative New Slovenia (NSi) Andrej Bajuk died at the age of 67 after suffering stroke.
        KLAGENFURT, Austria - PM Borut Pahor attended the main ceremony honouring the erection of first of around 70 additional German-Slovenian signposts in the province of Carinthia in line with the new Austrian law on minorities, labelling it a day of "tolerance, peace and good neighbourly relations".
        KLAGENFURT, Austria - PM Borut Pahor and Austrian counterpart Werner Faymann failed to find a solution to the traffic regime stand-off at the border tunnel of Karavanke after Austria upset Slovenian hauliers by unilaterally expanding traffic restrictions for heavy lorries.
        LJUBLJANA - The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption said it would thoroughly check the assets of National Party (SNS) president Zmago Jelincic after his wife bought a beachfront lot near Koper for over half a million euros last week.
        LJUBLJANA - The latest poll by the daily Delo showed support for the opposition Democrats (SDS) and the ruling Social Democrats (SD) virtually flat over the month before, at 20.5% and 9.2%, respectively. The government's approval rating remained very low.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office said that after inching up in May, average monthly pay increased by another 0.3% at the monthly level in June to stand at EUR 985.95 net, up 2.1% year-on-year.
        LJUBLJANA - Chinese citizen Wu Zuxiong was found guilty of brutally murdering a Chinese couple on the outskirts of Ljubljana last June. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

WEDNESDAY, 17 August
        LJUBLJANA - Top state and party officials signed the books of condolences which opened at the National Assembly and the government building, to honour the memory of former prime minister, minister, MP and New Slovenia (NSi) president Andrej Bajuk.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Borut Pahor officially notified the National Assembly speaker that Interior Minister Katarina Kresal had stepped down.
        LJUBLJANA - Development and European Affairs Minister Mitja Gaspari said Slovenia would benefit from a closer fiscal union in the eurozone, which has been proposed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
        LJUBLJANA - Simobil, Slovenia's no. 2 wireless carrier, reported revenues of EUR 47.3m for the second quarter of 2011, up 12% over the year before.
        LJUBLJANA - The opposition Democrats (SDS) deputy group called on Transport Minister Patrick Vlacic to scrap an international call for the setting up of the electronic free-flow motorway tolling system for lorries, saying the project was "completely out of place" and "inappropriate" for a time of crisis.
        LJUBLJANA - The Statistics Office said Slovenia's registered unemployment rate fell in June by 0.2 percentage points compared to May to stand at 11.4%.
        LJUBLJANA - Czech Ambassador Petr Voznica unveiled a memorial plaque to honour the 160th anniversary of the birth of the Czech-born violinist and conductor Hans Gerstner, who lived and worked in Ljubljana from 1871 until his death in 1939.

THURSDAY, 18 August
        LJUBLJANA - Justice Minister Ales Zalar announced that Jernej Sekolec, a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague and a vice president of the London Court of International Arbitration, was the only candidate for Slovenian arbiter on the international tribunal that will decide on the Slovenian-Croatia border.
        LJUBLJANA - Social Democrats (SD) deputy group head Dusan Kumer told the STA that PM Borut Pahor was to send to parliament a list of five names that were to succeed the recently resigned ministers, along with a vote of confidence, in mid-September.
        LJUBLJANA - The supervisors of the operator of the TES coal-fired power plant confirmed a new, fourth version of the investment programme for a new generator (TES 6) at the Sostanj-based plant, putting the cost of the entire project at EUR 1.3bn, up from the previous estimate of EUR 1.2bn.
        LJUBLJANA - The Court of Audit found numerous faults in the management of public infrastructure that it said made the management of infrastructure, including motorways, inefficient and non-transparent.
        LJUBLJANA - Tool maker Unior Kovaska industrija announced it would be listed on the Ljubljana Stock Exchange, quoted under UKIG on the basic market, as of Monday at the reference value of EUR 41.77 per share.
        LJUBLJANA - The Farmers Trade Union criticised the Finance Ministry's plans to introduce a centrally controlled system of tax registers, labelling it costly and complicated. While the Finance Ministry defended the idea, Agriculture Minister Dejan Zidan sided with the farmers.

FRIDAY, 19 August
        LJUBLJANA - The National Assembly took formal note of the resignation of Interior Minister Katarina Kresal at an extraordinary session.
        LJUBLJANA - Former Prime Minister, MP and New Slovenia (NSi) president Andrej Bajuk, who died at the age of 67, was praised as a selfless patriot and an excellent financial expert at remembrance sessions held in his memory in parliament and by his former cabinet colleagues.
        LJUBLJANA - PM Borut Pahor endorsed the proposal put forward by the leaders of France and Germany for steps to strengthen the eurozone through closer fiscal union, saying this was "the direction that Slovenia has been thinking about".
        LJUBLJANA - PM Borut Pahor condemned the continued and persistent violence against peaceful protesters in Syria and subsequent mass violations of human rights by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his regime.
        LJUBLJANA - Slovenia and Austria reached an agreement to end the stand-off at the border tunnel of Karavanke over Austria's unilateral decision to ban traffic for heavy lorries during weekends.
        LJUBLJANA - The Ministry of Labour, the Family and Social Affairs announced new programmes aimed at promoting self-employment, tackling unemployment in SE Slovenia and improving employment prospects of the young, envisaging subsidies for self-employment in the amount of EUR 4,500.
        LJUBLJANA - The group around the NKBM bank leased the brands of magazine publisher Delo Revije to media group Krater. Business daily Finance reported that Krater offered EUR 1m per year for a period of ten years.
        LJUBLJANA - Energy company Petrol purchased 74.9% of EL-TEC Mulej, a company specialising in district heating systems, water distribution systems, lighting, and energy management of buildings, for an undisclosed sum.
        MARIBOR - 3LAN, a small IT firm which launched a EUR 9.325m bid in 2010 to buy a 79.24% share in the Maribor-based newspaper publisher Vecer, backed down after the Culture Ministry had said it could not yet approve the sale.

mab/mab
20.08.2011 10:44

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