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Slovenia begins refunding thousands of COVID fines

November 29, 2023
Anti-vaccination protesters gather near parliament in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021
Anti-vaccination protesters gather near parliament in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021

LJUBLJANA — The Slovenian government is repaying thousands of fines issued to citizens who broke masking and social distancing orders during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The total amount issued in COVID fines between March 2020 and May 2022 was around €5.7 million. Under legislation put forward by the country's center-left government, the €1.7 million that had actually been paid in penalties will now be refunded.

All infractions will be redacted from peoples' official records and proceedings to enforce penalties will be halted.

Among the tens of thousands expecting a refund is a delivery driver who was infamously photographed surrounded by police after lowering his mask to eat a snack while sitting outdoors well away from anyone else.

The footage of the man, who was fined €400, rankled many Slovenians who considered the police's enforcement of lockdown instructions to be excessive.

Passed in September, the bill was explicitly framed by the current justice minister, Dominika Švarc Pipan, as an effort to make up for the excesses of pandemic policing under the previous government – or as she put it, "the injustices that were committed against citizens through the abuse of criminal law and unconstitutional and excessive encroachment on human rights".

Like many nations around the world, Slovenia saw protests against some of its stricter pandemic measures, and not just from relatively extreme anti-vaccine groups.

Among the measures introduced by the right-leaning government were restrictions on movement, assembly and a requirement to wear masks outdoors.

In the country's last parliamentary election, held in April 2022, that government was replaced by a center-left coalition. Among the key issues in the campaign was public alarm at the previous administration's authoritarianism, which many Slovenians worried was taking the country down a path similar to Viktor Orban's Hungary.

On the night of his election, now-prime minister Robert Golob celebrated "a victory that will enable us to take the country back to freedom". — Euronews


November 29, 2023
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