petek, julij 30, 2004

New issue of The Slovenia Times

The August issue of The Slovenia Times was published today. The issue features articles on the recent earthquake [The never ending story...], the removal of Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel [Foreign Minister Sacked], same-sex unions [The Revolution is Yet to Come] and ERM II [Tolar included in the ERM II].

One particularly interesting article is The six different faces of Slovene diplomacy, profiling the six foreign ministers which have served in the Slovene government since the drive for independence heated up in 1990.
Unfortunately, The Slovenia Times continues to bear the burden of typos, awkward English and unintentional double entendre (such as the title "Some like it hard" on the sports page!)

Two new dailies on the way

Despite problems with financers, a new daily newspaper called SlovenijaEkspress is slated for launch early next year. The paper is a project of journalist Marko Crnkovič. For now, the investors secured are: Austrian firm Styria, which also owns all or part of the daily Dnevnik and the free weekly Žurnal; DZS; Crnkovič himself; and business man Jurij Schollmayer [Finance / 4.7.04 / New Slovenian Paper Will Go Ahead, Says Crnkovič].

Starting up the new paper is expected to cost between eight and nine million euros, according to Styria [Finance / 5.7.04 /
SlovenijaEkspres Will Cost About Nine Million Euros].

Crnkovič made a name for himself in Slovene journalism through columns in
Delo’s weekly Sobotna Priloga , and as the final editor-in-chief of the magazine Razgledov. Most recently, he was a columnist for Finance.

Meantime, plans for turning the regional paper Primorske Novice, which currently publishes three times a week, into a daily is moving ahead at full steam. It was announced on 11 July that Hit will invest in the paper, as will Interuropa. The daily Dnevnik, which owns a 12 percent share of the paper, is planning a law suit to block any moves towards making Primorske Novice a daily.

Nevertheless, Primorske Novice has announced it will move to a daily publication schedule on 27 September [Finance / 11.07.04 /
V Primorske novice bo vstopil tudi Hit, Finance / 13.07.04 / V Primorske novice poleg Hita tudi Intereuropa, Finance / 13.07.04 / Konkurenca o novem dnevniku, Finance / 14.07.04 / Casnika Delo in Slovenske novice lahko pricakujeta nove tekmece].

For now, Slovenia has six daily newspapers: Slovenske Novice, Delo, Večer, Dnevnik, Ekipa and Finance.

Bill on same-sex unions deferred once again

Parliament voted on 13 July to postpone its decision on legalizing same-sex unions until after the upcoming elections, which will take place in October. [STA / 13.07.04 / Zakon o istospolni partnerski zvezi prepušcen naslednjemu mandatu DZ].

The law is being opposed by the conservative members of parliament of the SDS, NSi and SNS. The law is being championed by the ZLSD, which is appealing to respect for universal values which ensure equality of individuals before the law and respect for human rights and liberties including prevention of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The LDS, DeSUS and SMS also support passage of the law.

The bill was approved by the government on 22 April and sent to parliament for passage. According to the bill, same-sex unions would be legalized and would bear all of the rights and responsibilities of a marriage between a man and a woman, with one exception: members of a same-sex union would not be automatically eligible to adopt children. The Law on Legal Unions and Family Conditions, which regulates marriage, would be unaffected by the bill. [SB / 24.04.04 / Same-sex union debate to hit parliament].

The drive for same-sex unions began shortly after Slovenia’s independence, in 1993. The government founded the first working group on the issue in 1998, and only now have gay-rights activists and politicians been able to arrive at a mutually-acceptable text. The current bill is supported by an alliance of GLBT groups, including Legibitra, Škuc LL, Škuc Magnus and Škuc Roza Klub.

In June, representatives of Slovene gay and lesbian rights organizations met with then-Speaker of Parliament Borut Pahor to discuss the bill. Activists Miha Lobnik and Nataša Sukič hoped to convince Pahor to put the bill up for parliamentary debate before the end of the National Assembly’s June session [SB / 26.06.04 /
GLBT reps meet with Pahor].

In Europe, same-sex unions are currently legal in Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal and Sweden. On same-sex unions throughout Eastern Europe, see Boston Globe / 13.06.04 /
Same-sex unions debated in Eastern Europe.

Film festival leaves Celje after just one year

On 8 July, news came that the annual Festival of Slovene Film will not take place in Celje this year as planned. Festival officials have decided that the city cannot handle the organization of the festival due to a lack of hotel rooms for the event due to other events which will be going on in the city in the first half of September, when the festival is to take place. The festival will most likely take place in Ljubljana between 15 and 18 September [STA / 08.07.04 / Festivala slovenskega filma v Celju ne bo].

After five years in Portorož, the Festival of Slovene film returned to Celje just last year. Until 1991, the festival was called the Week of Yugoslav Film and took place in Celje, In 1995, it was renamed the Week of Domestic Film, and in 1996 and 1997, it was called the Slovene Film Marathon and moved to Portorož. Finally, in 1998, it took on the name it carries today, the Festival of Slovene Film. [SB / 12.04.03 /
Festival of Slovene Film preparations underway]

On the 2002 Festival: “Hope in the Face of Adversity: The 5th Festival of Slovene Film
On the 2001 Festival: "Not Quite Cannes: The Fourth Festival of Slovene Film at Portorož"

Northwestern region rocked by quake

The northwestern region of Posočje was hit by an earthquake measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale on 12 July. The epicenter was 4km north of Kobarid, near the border with Italy. Aside from Slovenia and Italy, the tremor was also fet in Austria and Germany. An Italian mountaneer died as a result of the quake [Finance / 12.07.04 / Strong Quake Hits Western Slovenia]. Eleven others were injured.

Just six years ago, in 1998, another earthquake devastated the Posočje region. That quake, on 12 April 1998, was the strongest in Slovenia in a century and damage was in the billions [UVI / 13.07.04 /
Strong Earthquake in Slovenia].

This time, the damage was not as extensive, but insurance companies are expecting upwards of 400 claims [Finance / 13.07.04 /
Insurance Companies Shaking after Quake]. Some 127 buildings have been declared unsafe, and 136 people are now homeless.

A group of residents in Bovec, near Kobarid, are demanding to know why buildings rebuilt after the 1997 earthquake were destroyed by the latest one [Finance / 18.07.04 /
Bovec Quake Victims Seek Responsibility]. The government determined that the region qualifies for emergency aid and allocated 1.7m euros immediately, promising more to come. The total reconstruction bill is estimated at 12.5m euros  [SBW / 19.07.04 / Posocje Hit By Another Calamity, Finance / 22.07.04 / Government Changes Post-Quake, [SBW / 26.07.04 / MPs Amend Legislation for Swifter Post-Earthquake Repairs].

četrtek, julij 29, 2004

Tourism, travel news

Some 985,224 tourists visited Slovenia in the first six months of 2004, up 2 percent over 2003 [SBW / 26.07.04 / Visitor Numbers Down in June].

The numbers will be helped after 25 November, when
EasyJet will launch a new route linking Ljubljana with Berlin with fares as low as 4.49 euros. Finance reports, “Since the launch of its scheduled flights between Ljubljana and London at the end of April, EasyJet's capacities have been filled up to 93 percent, while the company's market share on the Ljubljana-London route reached 65 percent” [SBW / 26.07.04 / EasyJet to Fly to Berlin From Ljubljana in November, 24 ur / 22.07.04 / EasyJet tudi v Berlin, SBW / 12.07.04 / Ljubljana Visit a Last-Minute Decision for Most Easyjet Passengers].

Every Saturday through the end of September, Austria’s
Styrian Airways will be flying between Maribor and Corfu; in October, Styrian plans to lauch daily flights between Maribor and Paris starting in October [SBW / 5.07.04 / Styrian Starts Flights from Maribor to Corfu].

Meantime, 50m euros worth of improvements are underway at Ljubljana’s Brnik airport, in the form of a new terminal, parking lot and office building. The construction of these objects should be done by 2007, while a second tier of projects including a new road, hotel, storehouse and control tower, will be done around 2010 [SBW / 19.07.04 /
Ljubljana Airport To Expand and Offer More Flights, Finance / 11.7.04 / Big Investments at Aerodrom Ljubljana to Be Followed By Doubled Income].

Ban on Sunday shopping ban...for now

Sunday shoppers were in luck in mid-July when the Constitutional Court ordered a temporary stay on the enforcement of a law which essentially bans stores from being open on Sundays. Mercator, Kompas MTS, Era and Petrol have all filed petitions claiming that enforcement of the law would cause them significant losses of profits which would lead to wide-spread layoffs. The law was set to enter into force on 15 September. [SBW / 12.07.04 / Constitutional Court Suspends Provisions on Opening Hours of Stores]

The ban is part of amendments to the Trade Act which were put before the electorate in a 21 September 2003 referendum. 57.7 percent of voters supported the ban, but turnout was only about 27 percent [SB / 21.09.03 /
Referendum decides against Sunday shopping].

Slovenia one step closer to euro

At midnight on 27 June, Slovenia officially entered the exchange rate mechanism II (ERM II), a step towards the adoption of the euro as the national currency. Candidates for joining the euro zone must function with ERM II for two years before it can join the currency. Since other convergence criteria must also be met, it is not expected that Slovenia will join the bloc before 2007 [UVI / 29.06.04 / Slovenia Entered Exchange Rate Mechanism II].

Finance declared the move the “Economic Event of the Year” [Finance / 27.06.04 /
Slovenian Tolar Tied to Euro at 239.64]. Denmark, Estonia and Lithuania all entered ERM II together with Slovenia. 

A report released not long after the adoption of ERM II by Fitch Ratings predicted that inflation is lowering at a rate that should make euro convervence by 2007 a sure bet [SBW / 19.07.04 / Fitch Says Slovenia Could Introduce the Euro in Early 2007

Parliamentary elections will be on 3 October 2004

President Janez Drnovšek  announced on 9 July that parliamentary elections have been scheduled for 3 October. Parties may campaign from 3 September through 1 October, with no campaigning allowed by law for the 24 hours before Election Day. [UVI / 12.07.04 / General Election on 3 October]

Elections are held every four years for the 90 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. The upper house, the National Council, is elected indirectly every five years by special electoral bodies. [UVI / 26.07.04 /
Autumn Election Stopwatch Starts Ticking]

Slovenia’s last parliamentary elections were held on 15 October 2002, after a new election law had been passed. Even though that law had raised the percentage of the vote required for a party to enter parliament, eight parties managed to win seats.

A survey for July published by the weekly Mag showed that some 56.9 percent of respondents oppose the government, while just 35 percent approve of it. The poll showed a spike in support for the conservative NSi party, from 4.3 percent in May to 11 percent for June. NSi had a strong showing in last month’s elections to the European Parliament.  [SB / 26.06.04 /
EuroParliament elections raise questions; ICE / 16.07.04 / Slovenia's European election results form opinion ahead of upcoming national elections]

Slovenia’s most popular party for more than a decade, the LDS, showed up with just 20.5 percent support on the Mag poll, follwed by the SDS at 16 and the ZLSD at 9. The SLS, SNS, SMS and DeSUS all got less than the 4 percent required to enter parliament. [STA / 14.07.04 /
Weekly's poll shows mounting support for opposition New Slovenia party]

Another poll, published on 26 July by Dnevnik showed the LDS with the support of 37 percent of respondents, followed by the SDS at 26.1, the ZLSD at 20 and the NSi at 9.5. This poll showed the SNS at 5.3 percent, DeSUS at 4.3 and the SLS at 4.1, which means they would remain in parliament, while only the SMS (with 2.4) would fail to make the cut.  [STA / 26.07.04 /
Liberal Democracy to get most votes in general election - poll]

Slovene Television in English on the internet

The latest episode of Slovenian Magazine, perhaps the only regular television program about Slovenia in English, is available on the internet for downloading. The 17 July episode presents the marshes of Jelovica, the ruins of Kamen Castle, Medieval swords from the Ljubljanica river, the painter Ivo Kisovec and a female clown named Eva Škofič Maurer.

The show’s archive can be found at

Finally, a mosque for Ljubljana?

The Constitutional Court ruled on 13 July that a referendum on banning the construction of Slovenia’s first mosque would be illegal. The 7:1 vote brings to an end decades of pushing on the part of Slovenia’s Muslims and resistance on the part of the Ljubljana City Council and many local residents. [STA / 22.07.04 / Prva džamija v Ljubljani in Sloveniji do konca desetletja; TOL / 19.07.04 / A Mosque in Your Backyard]

Muslims first requested a building permit for the mosque from the government in 1969 and only now does it appear that they will actually get one.

The City Council proposed the referendum several months ago, and Ljubljana Mayor Danica Simšič led the charge against it. In February, she condemned the referendum plan, saying, “I believe that such a referendum would represent a constitutionally-forbidden encroachment on the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of a religious minority, in this case the Muslim community in Slovenia" [SB / 24.04.04 /
Mosque Referendum?].

There are about 47,000 Muslims in Slovenia. The percentage of Muslims in the total population rose from 1.5 in 1991 to 2.4 according to the 2002 census, making them the second largest religious community in the country. Catholics are the largest, and Orthodox are in third place at 2.3 percent.

The mosque could be finished within ten years. It will be located at cesta dveh cesarjev, on the southern fringe of the capital. [Finance / 22.07.04 /
Slovenia to Get First Mosque by 2010]

Pahor steps down as Speaker of Parliament

Borut Pahor stepped down from his post as Speaker of Parliament on 7 July, in preparation for assuming his new duties as one of Slovenia’s seven member of the European Parliament. Four other newly elected Euro MPs stepped down as well, including Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mihael Brejc.

The day before, the National Assembly confirmed Slovenia’s Euro MPs: Alojz Peterle and Ljudmila Novak (NSi), Jelko Kacin and Mojca Drčar Murko (LDS), Mihael Brejc and Romana Jordan Cizelj (SDS) and Borut Pahor (ZLSD).

The Law on the Election of Slovene Representatives to the European Parliament states that one cannot be a member of the Slovene parliament and the EuroParliament simultaneously. The European Parliament held its first session on 20 July.

Pahor’s party, the ZLSD, forwarded Feri Horvat as their preferred candidate to replace Pahor at the helm of the National Assembly. He was confirmed on 12 July in a vote of 74:8 as Slovenia’s fifth Speaker of Parliament [UVI / 13.07.04
/ New Parliament Speaker Elected].

Rupel loses job, kicking and screaming

Dimitrij Rupel was expelled from the post of foreign minister on 5 July, by a National Assembly vote of 50:22. [STA / 05.07.04 / Slovene parliament sacks foreign minister]. Prime Minister Anton Rop requested the vote on 24 June, because he no longer felt he could trust Rupel. Rop told the press that Rupel has too actively supported the opposition in domestic politics and has criticized the government on several occasions.

The final straw was when Rupel attended the conservative parties’ recent Assembly of the Republic after Rop and other LDS leaders advised him not to. The vote for Rupel’s dismissal attracted a wide range of support, from the coalition LDS, ZLSD and DeSUS parties to the opposition SNS and SMS and independent member of parliament Igor Štemberger. Rupel found support from the opposition NSi, SDS and SLS parties as well as from Hungarian minority representative Maria Pozsonec.

Rupel told the press that Rop’s request to replace him was akin to the disciplinary tactics used by the old League of Communists. [STA / 03.07.04 /
Slovene foreign minister likens premier's dismissal move to "coup d'etat"]. Later, on 3 July in Delo he suggested that the LDS was using him as a whipping boy for its disappointment over the party’s recent poor showing in the elections to the European Parliament. Rupel also has suggested that former president Milan Kučan recommended his dismissal, a charge which Kučan denies [STA / 06.07.04 / Ex-Slovene president denies he recommended foreign minister's dismissal].

Just after the vote in parliament, Rupel announced he is leaving the LDS; several days later, he announced he is joining the opposition SDS [STA / 06.07.04 /
Ousted foreign minister leaves Slovenia's ruling party]. Rupel has been a member of the LDS since 1994, when the Democratic Party merged with the Liberal Democratic Party to form the present Liberal Democracy of Slovenia.

In Rupel’s stead, Rop proposed current Slovene ambassador to Germany Ivo Vajgl to assume the post of foreign minister [SBW / 12.07.04
/ Ivo Vajgl New Foreign Minister]. Vajgl was approved by the National Assembly on 6 July, while Rupel returned to the rank and file of parliament as an MP. Rupel held the post of foreign minister from 1990-1993, again from February to June 2000 and finally from October 2000 until now. [STA / 07.07.04 / New foreign minister "very bad choice for Slovenia's reputation" - party leader; Delo / 07.07.04 / "Interesting" foreign minister replaced by "boring diplomat" - Slovene daily].