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Slovenian report
by Euro Reporter
2015-06-15 10:21:37
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Man seeks, finds "angel" in Slovenia who helped him 43 years ago

Forty-three years ago, San Diegan Bill Wirant — lost and confused in Eastern Europe — received some much needed help from a kind woman he calls his “angel.” Now, a series of amazing events has led him back to her, and on Thursday, he again saw her face-to-face. “I have butterflies in my stomach now, but I think I’ve got them flying in formation now,” said Wirant as he prepared to reunite with his one-time savior over Skype. Their first meeting happened in 1972 as Wirant made an emergency trip to what was then Yugoslavia. There, his parents had been on vacation, but the trip turned nearly tragic when a crash left them with life-threatening injuries. With hastily made plans, Wirant arrived in a Yugoslavian city that was a train ride from Ljubljana, where his parents were hospitalized. But when he arrived at the train station, he had missed the last one. Hopping on the next train the following day would force him to abort his plans for returning home with his parents. At his wits’ end, Wirant was approached by “this beautiful young lady” who asked how she could help.

slovenia_400_01“She said, ‘I’m going to Ljubljana, and I will escort you, get you to the bus, help you buy the ticket, and when we get to Ljubljana, I will find a hotel for you,’” said Wirant. True to her word, she made the trip with him and ensured he got to his injured parents. Because of her timely intervention, he was able to get his family safely back to the U.S., he told NBC 7. The one thing he left behind was the woman’s name. For decades, Wirant continued to meditate on this mysterious woman’s generosity. “I can’t let it go because her act of kindness had such an impact on me,” he said. “And there’s also a sense of a bond between me and this young lady that I began to refer to as ‘my angel.’” So when he and his wife returned to what is now Slovenia last year, he made it his mission to find his angel again — a seemingly impossible task. But his first break came when they stayed at a person’s home through Air BnB. Their host, hearing their story, suggested they contact a local TV station. There they met Ursa, who gladly recorded an interview with Wirant and aired his story on Slovenian TV the following Monday, as he and his wife were traveling back to San Diego.

“When we get into town Tuesday morning,” Wirant recounted, “I have an email from a young lady who says, ‘I don’t know if you found the lady you’re looking for, and I don’t want to get your hopes up too high, but I think I know who she might be.” The young lady, Dalia, had her mother, Jozi, in mind, and they soon discovered her suspicions were correct. When both Jozi and Wirant were shown pictures of each other from the 70s, both confirmed, “That’s the person I remember,” Wirant said. On Thursday, the two reunited over Skype — 43 years older but apparently bonded despite the time and distance. “Jozi, my angel!” Wirant greeted her, as if they were old friends. “It’s a wonderful morning, good to be able to talk to you and to thank you again. How much your kindness — it was such a wonderful act of kindness that made such an important impact on our family and me and to be able to tell you that in person…” Jozi thanked him, but humbly began to downplay her actions. “I still this it was nice, what I did, but I think it’s normal. All people should help to each other, right? And this world would be nicer for all of us — would be a wonderful place to live.” Wirant, amazed by the “act of God” that brought them together again, told his angel he hopes others hear their story and decide to mirror Jozi’s kindness. The two plan to talk again next week.


Slovenia should pursue privatisation

Pursuing privatisation would boost Slovenia's economy, the European Commission's deputy president Valdis Dombrovskis said on Friday, urging the country to sell all 15 firms it said it would privatise in 2013. Slovenia, which narrowly avoided an international bailout for its banks in 2013 in the wake of the global financial crisis, returned to growth in 2014 but the government expects the expansion to slow down this year. "We welcome the privatisation plans of the Slovenian government, including the list of 15 companies already approved by parliament," Dombrovskis told Reuters in an interview during his one-day visit to Ljubljana. "We believe that the completion of these privatisations would provide an additional boost to Slovenia's economy and also show Slovenia as an attractive place for foreign investment," he added.

There is growing uncertainty over whether the largest company on the privatisation list, Telekom Slovenia, will be sold to sole bidder investment firm Cinven. So far only four out of 15 firms that were earmarked for privatisation have been sold. Late on Thursday state-owned investment firm SDH, which is coordinating the privatisation, said it would ask the government to decide whether Telekom should be sold. While Prime Minister Miro Cerar's Party of Modern Centre supports the sale, its junior coalition partner the centre-left Social Democrats party is against it.

The Finance Ministry was unable to say on Friday when the government will take the decision on Telekom sale, but Cinven said earlier this week that its offer will expire on June 10. Sources close to the sale process say Cinven is offering up to 130 euros per share for Telekom, which would value the company at 850 million euros. Telekom closed 2 percent lower on Friday at 99 euros, while the blue-chip SBI lost 0.44 percent. Slovenia has been reluctant to sell its major companies over the past decades, so the government still controls about 50 percent of the economy and as much as 60 percent of the banking sector. The government expects the economy to expand by 2.4 percent this year versus growth of 2.6 percent in 2014, mainly on account of an expected smaller increase in exports


Slovenia needs reforms to reduce public debt

Slovenia must reform its pension and health systems and cut the number of state agencies and funds to reduce the pressure of growing public debt on its finances, the head of the national budget-supervisory body said on Tuesday.Slovenia was paying annual interest on its debt that was higher than the state's entire annual investment budget, Tomaz Vesel, the president of the Court of Audit, told Reuters. The Court of Audit supervises public spending in Slovenia, which narrowly avoided an international bailout because of its debt-laden banks in 2013. From this year to 2017, Slovenia will have to pay about 1 billion euros a year in interest on its debt. That equals about 13 percent of annual budget revenues, Vesel said.

The public debt rose to 30 billion euros, or 80.9 percent of GDP, in 2014 from 21.6 percent in 2008, as the export-oriented country was badly hit by the global crisis. The government also poured more than 3 billion euros of its own funds into local banks to rescue them in 2013. The government expects debt to rise to some 81.6 percent of GDP this year, then fall from 2016 on. "Budget spending on pensions has been growing over the past years, so the pension system is not sustainable and needs to be reformed as soon as possible," Vesel said. "Another option would be to raise taxes, but we cannot afford that because it would worsen Slovenia competitiveness," he said.

Last year, Slovenia spent almost 5 billion euros on pensions, up from 3.5 billion euros a decade before, mainly because of its rapidly ageing population. In 2013, the country enforced a pension reform that will gradually raise the retirement age to 65, from 59 now. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, however, said earlier in May that was not enough to make the system sustainable. Vesel said Slovenia should also cut the high number of state agencies and funds. It now has 23 agencies, which regulate securities markets and supervise insurers, oversee public data, regulate auditing, and supervise Slovenian film production, among other things.

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