Slovenia: Thousands to Receive Refunds for Lockdown Fines

                        It might have been the most expensive fast-food item ever consumed in Ljubljana.

In Ljubljana, a particular burek—a Balkan fusion of a pie and a pasty—cost a hungry delivery rider €400 (£350). This hefty price tag was incurred simply because he sat down on the steps of a church to enjoy his snack during the Slovenian capital's initial Covid lockdown.

The incident, captured on camera, featured police surrounding the worker who was delivering food to others, portraying a stark symbol of the authorities' strict enforcement of Covid restrictions.

Now, the rider is set to receive a refund of his money, and his police record will be expunged. This restitution extends to over 60,000 other Slovenians who faced penalties for violating anti-Covid measures.

Over a span of more than two years, police issued fines totaling almost €6 million (£5.2 million). But as of this week, legislation to refund that money is coming into force.

However, this week, legislation is coming into effect to fulfill Prime Minister Robert Golob's promise made before his center-left Freedom Movement took office last year.

The prior right-wing administration, led by former Prime Minister Janez Janša, had implemented stringent restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly.

Slovenians, at different times, were restricted from traveling beyond their local areas, and a nighttime curfew was in effect.

The hungry food delivery driver was among many fined for violating a face mask mandate that extended to outdoor spaces as well. Engaging in activities without a Covid certificate became nearly impossible under these stringent measures.

The Constitutional Court invalidated all these mandates. However, it has taken until now for the authorities to roll back the penalties imposed on those considered to have violated these rules.
Environmental activist Rok Rozman, who received multiple fines for participating in protests, feels vindicated. 

"The decrees they used to impose the fines were not based in law," he says. 

"The government knew that - and if this means they now have to give the money back, that's how it goes. If you live in a country with the rule of law, that should apply to everyone."

This perspective aligns with the current administration. Justice Minister Dominika Švarc Pipan stated that repaying the fines would contribute to rebuilding Slovenians' trust in the rule of law, "which was significantly undermined by the use of excessive and unconstitutional repression during the pandemic."

However, the legislation for restitution has not received universal approval. A member of Mr. Janša's SDS party stated that repaying the fines "spits in the face of all those health workers who fought tirelessly for the lives of our fellow citizens."