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Public debate on challenges and opportunities of the Obalno-kraška region

The Government delegation concluded its visit to the Obalno-kraška (Coastal-Karst) region with a public debate on the development of the Obalno-kraška region in Lipica, discussing the challenges and opportunities in the region with representatives of local communities and business.

Slovenian government at the public debate on challenges and opportunities of the Obalno-kraška region.

Slovenian government at the public debate on challenges and opportunities of the Obalno-kraška region. | Author Kabinet predsednika vlade

Prime Minister Janez Janša began by saying that the Government had already reviewed in great detail the potential of the Obalno-kraška region at its morning session and also studied the issues facing the region in various areas.

The Director-General of the Statistical Office, Tomaž Smrekar, presented the statistical data of the Obalno-kraška region and pointed out that the region was very attractive for migration, both from abroad and from Slovenia. In fact, 24% of its population was born outside Slovenia. The region is made up of eight municipalities, of which four are coastal and four are in the Karst region. In terms of density, it is an above-average populated region. Slovenia has 104 inhabitants per square kilometre, while the Obalno-kraška region has 114. The region has the third-highest life expectancy in Slovenia, which applies to both men (79 years) and women (84 years). The share of GDP is 5.5%. GDP per capita is EUR 22,894, which is the third highest GDP per capita in Slovenia.

The State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Alenka Forte, presented the epidemiological situation in the region. Vaccination coverage in the region is lower than in Slovenia as a whole, with 47% of the population vaccinated with both doses, and COVID-19 infections are on the rise. Of the municipalities, Komen, Ankaran and Divača are have the highest vaccination rate. She stressed that the activities of local communities play an important part in raising awareness of vaccination among the population.

The first to answer questions and respond to suggestions from the audience was the Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning, Andrej Vizjak, who with regard to the spatial planning act  said that the Government had already adopted the act and had sent it to the National Assembly, where it passed the first reading. The act considerably simplifies and de-bureaucratises spatial planning procedures, shortens the preparation of municipal spatial plans, and at the same time establishes a mechanism for regulating the different positions of state authorities on the same matter, which falls under the aforementioned act. The Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning is also working on a digital platform where all environmental data on every plot in any municipality in the whole country can be obtained. Digitalisation will take several years to complete given that all the background technical documentation needs to be prepared.

As regards Piran, Minister Vizjak said that the construction of an anti-flood wall was planned to improve the town's flood safety. The Government has also launched a project that aims to provide Slovenian Istria with drinking water in the long term, as the issue of drinking water becomes particularly pressing during the summer. The project is estimated at EUR 120 million.

Regarding the acquisition of building permits, Minister Vizjak said that municipalities, and no longer administrative units, would now provide an opinion on compliance with the spatial-planning act. The eBuilding (eGraditev) website, which will offer the possibility of issuing electronic building permits, is also being introduced and is expected to be in place in 2024.

The Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, spoke in favour of privatisation given that in Slovenia, and especially on the coast, 70% of large hotel capacities are owned by the state. He pointed out that tourism needed to start monitoring added value, carbon footprint, guest satisfaction and the satisfaction of the locals who live in and around tourist destinations. He underlined that without new investments there would be no post-COVID tourism, and that Slovenia, with its dispersed nature, had the potential to be a tourist destination for 12 months of the year.

The Minister of Public Administration, Boštjan Koritnik, said that 51 new quotas and another 23 trainees had been introduced in administrative units due to staff shortages.

On the subject of pharmacy practice, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Alenka Forte, drew attention to the Government's proposal for amendment that would allow pharmacies to be established in smaller municipalities if the local authorities so decide and if there is healthcare activity there.

On the use of agricultural land, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Food, Jože Podgoršek, pointed to the need to find middle ground in all discussions, which will allow for the development of municipalities and localities, while at the same time ensuring that food security is preserved. The new coronavirus epidemic, as well as the current issues with energy products, have made it clear that we need local self-sufficiency.

Prime Minister Janez Janša concluded that EUR 200 million was earmarked for primary healthcare in Slovenia, which is probably the highest amount in 30 years. According to him, one way of to reduce bureaucracy and centralisation is to ensure that not all state institutions are based in Ljubljana, so the office for demographic policy will be located in Maribor. Regarding cyber defence, the Prime Minister said that cyber defence professionals were at the top of the most sought-after job profiles. He commended the University of Primorska for introducing such a study programme and added that Slovenia was working within the EU to establish a special cyber unit.