News digest: Border tailback eases after agreement on cars taken to Ukraine

Cheaper fuel not in sight as coalition fights. Scientist delves into black hole pic. Learn more in today's digest.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Here is the Thursday, May 26 edition of Today in Slovakia - the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

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Border crossing tailback eases

A month-long permanent tailback at a border crossing with Ukraine has eased, according to customs officials.

A queue of cars which eventually stretched to kilometres began forming at the Ubľa - Maly Berezny border crossing almost a month ago as Ukrainians started to take home used cars they had bought in Slovakia.

They had flocked to the country to buy them after Ukrainian authorities removed customs and taxes on imported vehicles in a move designed to make it easier for both the Ukrainian army and citizens to replace destroyed vehicles. But some people were forced to wait days at the border as customs officials carried out checks.

According to Ukrainian journalist Natalia Bodnar, more than 500,000 cars have been destroyed since the start of the Russian invasion. For Ukrainians, buying cars abroad is worth it, despite the inconvenience.

Both Slovak and Ukrainian authorities have agreed on a temporary solution and adopted special measures which should help with the queues. Similar agreements between Ukraine and other neighbouring countries should also help.

Cheaper fuel not in sight

Since the beginning of the year, fuel prices have increased by a third. Yet the government has yet to agree on how to help people cope. On Wednesday, the parliament was supposed to decide whether a special tax on Russian crude oil proposed by Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) could be used to lower prices. However, no agreement was reached.

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According to Economy Minister Richard Sulík (SaS), the tax could be introduced by slashing others, for example VAT on petrol and diesel. But European Commission rules do not allow such a step.

Taxes are another in the long list of issues Matovič and Sulík disagree on. On Wednesday, it appeared they might reach common ground as the SaS party said it would like to negotiate an exemption and Sulík volunteered to lead negotiations with the Commission. Other coalition parties confirmed this.

But Matovič said nothing had been agreed on.

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Refugees from Ukraine

  • 1,656 women, 732 men and 448 children crossed the Slovak-Ukrainian border on May 25. The overall number of refugees who have come to Slovakia since the war started is almost 457,000 and more than 78,000 have asked for temporary protection.
  • The Slovak Radio Girls' and Children's Choir has prepared a concert for Ukrainian children in Slovakia. It will take place on Saturday, May 28, in the border village of Jenkovce, just seven kilometers from Uzhhorod.

Picture of the day

The picture shows works of students from the Department of clothing design of the School of Art Industry in Trenčín. As part of the school leaving exam for upper secondary education, students are required to present and explain their work. This part of the exam took place at the Miloš Alexander Bazovský Gallery in Trenčín.

Feature story of the day

Everything in the observations of the heart of the Milky Way galaxy pointed towards a supermasive black hole, or a group of several smaller ones. Astronomers saw stars orbiting an invisible object, drawn by its immense gravity.

On May 12, after many years of labour, scientists unveiled the first visual evidence that the object called Sagittarius A* is a supermassive black hole.

Slovak physicist Vladimír Balek of the Department of Theoretical Physics at Comenius University explains why it was difficult to take the picture, why a picture of a more distant black hole came three years earlier, what is shows and what it says about our galaxy.

Slovak scientist explains what new black hole image tells us about the galaxy Read more 

In other news

  • OĽaNO MP Milan Vetrák appealed to Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová to sign the anti-inflation package approved by the parliament. He said that if she vetoed the package, there would be more than 76 MPs to overturn her veto.
  • The city of Skalica did not join the strike alert announced by the Association of Towns and Municipalities of Slovakia (ZMOS). The strike alert was announced in protest against the anti-inflation package, as well as because of the state's long-term approach to local governments. The mayor of Skalica is Anna Mierna, who is also an OĽaNO MP. In parliament she supported the package.
  • The initiative Za slušné Slovensko (For a Decent Slovakia) and the non-governmental organisation Nie v našom meste (Not in Our City) are asking Juraj Šeliga (Za ľudí and co-founder of the initiative) to step down as an MP. According to the initiative, Šeliga betrayed their ideals by voting in favour of the pro-family package approval with extremists from the ĽSNS party which the NGO spent years fighting against.
  • US President Joe Biden will nominate Indian-American career diplomat Gautam A. Rana as the new Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Slovakia. Currently, Rana is Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Algeria. Earlier, he served on the same post in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
  • On Wednesday, Jozef Mikloško was named the new children's commissioner after a vote in parliament. He will succeed Viera Tomanová who has served as the commissioner since 2015. Parliament repeatedly failed to choose her successor.
  • MPs passed the law on rental housing. It should serve as the legal basis for the rental housing policy the coalition has set among its priorities. The law, authored by Sme Rodina, addresses problems regarding the lack of accessible housing for wide groups of inhabitants.
  • The parliament elected Ľubomír Andrassy as the new head of the Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic. Andrassy was the deputy chairman of the office.
  • In the second half of last year, floods caused damage of more than €6,5 million. With the exception of Bratislava and Nitra, six regions were affected, according to a report on the development and consequences of floods in Slovakia. Damages to the property of natural persons amounted to €120,746, to the property of legal entities and entrepreneurs amounted to €739,898. As far as municipal property, the sum was €3,224,364, in the case of higher territorial units €2,077,000.
  • In April, 4,495 people died in Slovakia, the lowest number in the last eight months. The figure is the closest to pre-pandemic levels. Among the most common causes of death were circulatory system diseases, tumors, and respiratory diseases.
  • The city of Poprad wants to show gratitude to health professionals for their work and commitment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Medics will get tickets to a concert of a dance ensemble, orchestra and the Lúčnica choir group.
  • After 40 years, the wastewater treatment plant in Levoča will undergo reconstruction and a completely new one will be built.

More on

Slovak people are not job hoppers Read more  Ancient Gerulata near Bratislava opens new exhibition Read more  From Slovakia to South Africa. Classical music travels all the way Read more 

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