26th regular government session
At today’s session the government determined the draft act on emergency intervention to address high energy prices, and began discussing the draft act on aid to the economy to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis. The government also adopted a response to the report filed by FIDES regarding the violation of the code of ethics by the Deputy Prime Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan.
The increasing social hardship faced by the population and uncertain economic conditions due to the high energy prices have led the government to prepare new measures. At today’s session, the government adopted a draft act which, among other things, defines emergency actions to contain the high costs of energy and energy products, to simplify aid for new investments in renewable energy sources and to limit the surplus market revenue of electricity producers. It also began discussing the draft act on aid to the economy to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis for the next year. The government will coordinate the draft text of this act with the Economic and Social Council, and is expected to adopt it early next week at its correspondence session. The aim of the new measures is to maintain the prices of electricity and energy products at a level that is sustainable for final customers, and to ensure as predictable and as stable as possible an environment in which the economy is able to function. The increasing social hardship and uncertain economic conditions due to the high energy prices have led the government to prepare new measures. At today’s session, the government adopted a draft act which, among other things, defines emergency actions to contain the high costs of energy and energy products, to simplify aid for new investments in renewable energy sources and to limit the surplus market revenue of electricity producers. It also began discussing the draft act on aid to the economy to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis for the next year. The government will coordinate the draft text of this act with the Economic and Social Council, and is expected to adopt it early next week at its correspondence session. The aim of the new measures is to maintain the prices of electricity and energy products at a level that is sustainable for final customers, and to ensure as predictable and as stable as possible an environment in which the economy is able to function.
The government adopted a response to the report filed by FIDES regarding the violation of the code of ethics by the Deputy Prime Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan. After receiving the report, Prime Minister Robert Golob spoke with the Minister of Health and Deputy Prime Minister Danijel Bešič Loredan, who informed the Prime Minister about the content of the conversation and expressed his regret for the words uttered during the telephone call with the FIDES representative. In addition, the Minister made a public apology regarding the matter.The Prime Minister expects all ministers and other government officials to communicate with the public, both internal and external, in a respectful and professional manner, and deems the words of Danijel Bešič Loredan to have been inappropriate.The government wants all partners in healthcare, which are included in social dialogue, to contribute constructively to the search for the best solutions for the welfare of everyone living in Slovenia.Since day one, the government has been addressing healthcare issues as a matter of priority and is aware that it will be met with resistance from many directions, as thorough, systemic changes are planned for healthcare in Slovenia, which will conflict with the interests of many.The government expects the support of the largest medical union in solving healthcare issues, especially in condemning anomalies, proven acts of corruption and other instances of conduct that the Slovenian healthcare can in no way be proud of.After 30 years, it is time for everyone involved in the organisation of Slovenian healthcare to do everything that is necessary for the population to have unhindered access to a high-quality system.
The government discussed a draft act on aid to the economy for 2023 and presented the draft to the public
Today, the government discussed a draft act on aid to the economy to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis, and will present it tomorrow at the Economic and Social Council (ESS). After the discussion at the ESS, the government will finally adopt the draft act early next week. Aid for the economy includes subsidies to deal with the high prices of electricity, natural gas and technological steam, along with subsidies for two job preservation measures, and measures to ensure corporate liquidity. The aid scheme must then be confirmed by the European Commission.
The measure of co-financing the high energy prices has been prepared based on the new Temporary Crisis Framework of EU aid, which the European Commission prepared while also taking Slovenia’s suggestions into account, and which is similar to the aid provided this year, with several improvements benefiting Slovenia’s economy. The maximum allowed aid amounts will be increased and more resources will be provided. In addition to the three existing types of aid, the draft envisages two new types, as well as more relaxed entry conditions for eligibility, changed from double the price increase to 1.5 times the price increase in 2023 relative to the 2021 average. Conditions for energy-intensive undertakings have changed, and implementation will be simpler for businesses.
The total estimated financial value of measures to aid the economy for 2023 is expected to amount to EUR 1.2 billion.
Measure of co-financing high energy prices
In the period between 1 January and 31 December 2023, the government will provide subsidies for businesses to cope with high energy prices, although the scheme first needs to be confirmed by the European Commission. Companies, sole traders, economic interest groups and co-operatives, private institutes and societies, as well as chambers and unions, will be eligible for the aid, whereby all of them will have to meet the condition of performing an economic activity. The entities eligible do not include small commercial customers, as electricity and gas prices are already regulated for them, nor do they include entities performing financial or insurance activities; this is where the current draft act does not differ from the currently applicable measure. Legal entities or natural persons with outstanding financial obligations to the state amounting to EUR 1000 or more, or those undergoing bankruptcy or winding-up proceedings, will also not be eligible to receive the aid. In addition, applicants may not be subject to sanctions adopted by the European Union due to Russian aggression against Ukraine.
Eligible entities will be able to request aid in an amount ranging between 40 and 80% of eligible costs, namely over 1.5 times the price increase of electricity, natural gas and technological steam in 2023 – and the price comparison will be calculated given the average price in 2021. With regard to simple aid, the draft act determines the maximum allowed average prices for 2021 for electricity, gas and steam. If the eligible entity has a lower average price, they shall claim the latter. In calculating simple aid, the actual amount of the energy used in 2023 will be taken into account, while 70% of the energy used in 2021 will be taken into account with specific aid. In total, the maximum allowed aid for the same costs and period can amount between EUR 2 million and up to EUR 150 million per eligible entity.
The eligible entity will be able to claim only one type of aid from among the five types available.
With simple aid, the eligible entities will be reimbursed for 50% of eligible costs or up to EUR 2 million of total aid. Agricultural aid will be lower, amounting up to EUR 250,000, while fisheries aid will go up to EUR 300,000.
What is more, the draft act distinguishes four further types of specific aid. The basic specific aid can comprise 50% of eligible costs and up to a maximum of EUR 4 million of total aid; specific aid for reduced economic performance can comprise 40% of eligible costs and up to EUR 100 million; specific aid for energy-intensive undertakings can comprise 65% of eligible costs and up to EUR 50 million, and specific aid in specific sectors can comprise 80% of eligible costs and up to EUR 150 million. The draft act also determines additional conditions for each individual aid category. With specific aid, any aid arising from the Temporary Framework and received by all parent and subsidiary undertakings shall be added together.
The draft act envisages a simplified manner of payments according to this year’s measure. The eligible entity will complete a digital application in the SPIRIT Slovenia app by no later than noon, 28 February 2023. The initial payment will be made by the end of March 2023, and will comprise aid in the amount of 80% of the estimated aid value for the first quarter (January–March). This will be followed by regular monthly payments in the amount of 80% of the estimated aid value for each individual month. The eligible entities will be able to receive the remaining 20% of the aid upon the balance of actual costs in February 2024, provided the actual costs are higher than the aid paid out during the year. The aid paid out will amount up to the maximum of the aid value estimated in the application. Should a business have actual costs lower than the aid paid out during the year, the business will have to return the difference to the general government budget.
Co-financing of job preservation measures
The draft Act includes two job preservation measures: a temporary measure for partial reimbursement of wage compensation for short-time work, and a temporary measure for partial reimbursement of wage compensation for furloughed workers. Both measures will enable eligible employers to shorten working hours, or to furlough employees so they can work from home, which means the employee will be entitled to compensation according to the Employment Act for this period. The measures take into account the aspect of greatest preservation of workers’ rights.
The partial reimbursement of wage compensation for short-time work is intended for employers who are entitled, or would be entitled, to aid according to the provisions of the Act on aid to the economy to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis, on condition that they cannot provide at least 30% of employees with 90% work. The measure will make it possible for employers to introduce reduced working time with the possibility of instructing a worker with a full-time employment contract to work reduced hours in tandem with temporary furlough – due to the temporary inability to provide work for business reasons. This is in order to provide the worker with at least part-time work. If they make use of this measure, the entitled employer will receive compensation amounting to 80% of the paid wage compensation (gross), and the amount of compensation will be limited by the amount of the average monthly wage for October 2022.
The partial reimbursement of wage compensation for furloughed employees can be benefited from by employers who are entitled, or would be entitled, to aid according to the provisions of the Act on aid to the economy to mitigate the impact of the energy crisis, from 1 January to 30 June 2023, for a period of 30 days, on condition that in the following 24 months they invest the funds received from the above measure in the green transition. The draft Act will also make the measure apply in the event of activities being prohibited, from 1 January to 31 March 2023, for the duration of the prohibition. If they make use of the furlough measure, the entitled employer will receive compensation amounting to 80% of the paid wage compensation (100% gross in the event of activities being prohibited), and the amount of compensation will be limited by the amount of the average monthly wage for October 2022.
Before making a decision to order reduced working time or to furlough workers, the employer will have to consult with their trade union and the works council concerning the amount of work, the number of employees to be furloughed, and the duration of this measure. They must also obtain a written opinion from the body representing the workers. The employer will be able to order an individual worker to undertake part-time work, or to furlough a worker in the eligible period (from 1 January to 31 March 2023 for the part-time work measure, and from 1 January to 30 June 2023 for the furlough measure), and refer them for temporary furlough for this time. The sum of the worker’s wage when they are actually working and the wage compensation must not be lower than the minimum wage in the Republic of Slovenia.
In the period in which they are receiving partial reimbursement of wage compensation and six months after this period, the employer must not begin a procedure to terminate an employment contract for a worker who has been working part-time, for business reasons. Neither will they be allowed to terminate the employment contracts of a large number of employees on business grounds
Measures to improve companies’ liquidity
The draft Act also foresees favourable loans to improve companies’ liquidity. The Slovenian Enterprise Fund and the Slovenian Regional Development Fund will earmark EUR 30 million in 2023 and EUR 20 million in 2024 for favourable loans. In cooperation with the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology, the SID Bank will also offer favourable loans amounting to EUR 150 million, which will be intended both for investments as well as for working capital.
In cooperation with the Ministry of Infrastructure, the SID Bank will earmark part of the funds for financing the operations of road transport providers during the energy crisis.
Source: Ministry of Economic Development and Technology
Slovenia to accept 50 Syrian and Afghan citizens from Turkey
The Slovenian Government has decided to accept 50 Syrian and Afghan citizens from Turkey, who are registered with the UNHCR as refugees, and who can be granted refugee status in Slovenia. In cooperation with the Slovenian Migrant Welfare and Integration Office, the Ministry of the Interior will prepare an implementation plan for receiving these people by 31 January 2023.
According to the UNHCR, the number of refugees throughout the world has been steadily increasing in recent decades, and reached 21.3 million at the end of 2021. Moreover, in the past year the critical state of migrations has further been marked by tragic events in Afghanistan and Ukraine, leading to new humanitarian emergencies and further migrations. For the seventh year in a row, Syrian refugees represent the population with the greatest global need for migration, followed by refugees from Afghanistan. Turkey remains the largest host country, with the highest estimated resettlement needs in the world. Syrian refugees account for more than 92% of Turkey’s resettlement needs, while refugees from Afghanistan make up 3%. The crisis in Syria is entering its twelfth year and remains the world’s largest refugee crisis. Meanwhile, in 2021, humanitarian conditions have also deteriorated further in Afghanistan. Through its Pact on Migration and Asylum, the European Commission encourages Member States to actively help migrants.
In discussions on an EU level, Slovenia has on many occasions expressed its support for the European Commission’s efforts in connection with permanent resettlements and migrations. Measures connected with permanent resettlements are one of the most important elements of EU migration policy. Member States may use permanent resettlements as an important element of solidarity for offering protection to individuals who require international protection, as well as it being a strategic instrument for managing migrations. They thereby help reduce incentives for human trafficking and enable people who require protection to reach the EU legally.
In determining the number of people to be accepted, we have taken into account migration trends, crisis focal points, and above all the fundamental statistics on the number of persons requesting international protection and those who have acquired international protection, capacities for integration, and past experiences in the field of resettlements and migrations. The decision to accept 50 Syrian and Afghan citizens from Turkey is an expression of solidarity, and the number is in proportion to the burdens and capacities of the system for integrating persons with recognised international protection, in relation to the number of requests accepted in recent years.
On the basis of quotas, persons may be granted refugee status if they fulfil the necessary conditions, as defined by the International Protection Act, and if the country in which they are safe from persecution does not provide suitable conditions for integration. To confirm whether individuals meet the conditions for being accepted in Slovenia, we will consider the report which will be prepared for each person by the official representative of the competent authority – the UNHCR. The report must include an opinion on the conditions for integration in the country in which the person is located, and an opinion concerning the fulfilment of the conditions necessary to be granted refugee status, in line with the International Protection Act.
The project will receive 75% of funds from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), and 25% from the budget of the Republic of Slovenia. For every person accepted, Slovenia will receive a lump-sum payment of EUR 10,000 from the AMIF. In 2023, it is expected that Slovenia will use EUR 220,000 of the EUR 500,000 it will receive from the EU for this project. The actual use depends on the implementation of the plan, which depends on when these people arrive, which in turn depends on the situation in the region.
Source: Ministry of the Interior