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Freedom in the World 2011 - Slovenia

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 1 August 2011
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2011 - Slovenia, 1 August 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e37f59530.html [accessed 22 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Capital: Ljubljana
Population: 2,043,000

Political Rights Score: 1 *
Civil Liberties Score: 1 *
Status: Free

Overview

The Slovenian Parliament amended legislation in March 2010 to allow thousands of people who had been removed from official records in 1992 to apply for permanent residency. In June, a majority of Slovenians voted in favor of a 2009 agreement between Slovenia and Croatia which would allow an international arbitration panel to resolve a long-running border dispute between the two countries. Local polls in October proceeded smoothly, and the first black mayor in Eastern Europe was elected in the town of Piran. Large-scale strikes staged in September by public servants over cuts to wages, pensions, and social benefits reflected the country's ongoing economic troubles.

The territory of modern Slovenia, long ruled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire, became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929) after World War I, and a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia following World War II. After decades of relative prosperity in Josip Broz Tito's Yugoslavia, various elements in Slovene civil society began to part ways with the Communist system in the 1980s. In 1990, the Democratic United Opposition (DEMOS) defeated the ruling League of Communists in democratic elections, although former Communist leader Milan Kucan was elected president. The country declared independence in June 1991 and secured its status after a short 10-day conflict.

After 1990, Slovenia was generally ruled by center-left governments, the most important component of which was Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democracy of Slovenia party (LDS). Drnovsek served as prime minister almost continuously from 1992 to 2002, when he was elected president. In the 2004 parliamentary elections, Janez Jansa's center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) finally unseated the LDS-led government, and Jansa became prime minister.

Slovenia has widely been considered one of Eastern Europe's success stories in the postcommunist period. In 2004, Slovenia joined both the European Union (EU) and NATO, and became the first of the former communist bloc states to adopt the euro as its official currency in 2006. The country was also the first former communist bloc state to hold the EU's rotating presidency in 2008.

In the 2007 presidential election, Danilo Türk, a law professor and former diplomat, ran as an independent with the backing of the Social Democrats (SD) and several other parties. He won the November runoff with 68 percent of the vote, defeating the government's candidate, Alojz Peterle, who took 32 percent.

In the September 2008 parliamentary elections, the SD captured 29 seats, followed by the SDS with 28 seats. SD leader Borut Pahor, who became prime minister, formed a coalition government with three small parties: the center-left Zares (9 seats), the Democratic Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (7 seats), and the once-powerful LDS (5 seats). The remaining seats in the 90-member lower house went to the far-right Slovene National Party (5 seats), an alliance of the Slovene People's Party and the Slovene Youth Party (5 seats), and the Hungarian and Italian ethnic minorities (1 seat each).

Due in part to the global economic crisis, the popularity of Pahor and his government suffered considerably in 2010. The October local municipal elections resulted in strong showings for the SDS, increasing its chances of returning to power in the next parliamentary elections scheduled for 2012. One of the most noted developments of the October polls was the election of a Ghanian-born doctor, Peter Bossman, as the mayor of Piran, making him the first black mayor of an Eastern European city.

After nearly two decades, a contentious border dispute with neighboring Croatia has remained Slovenia's most important foreign policy issue. The dispute concerns the delineation of the two countries' maritime border in the Bay of Piran, and parts of their common territorial border. In 2009, Pahor and his Croatian counterpart, Jadranka Kosor, agreed that Slovenia would lift its veto of Croatia's EU accession and an international arbitration panel would be allowed to settle the dispute, pending ratification by both states' parliaments. Slovenia's Parliament ratified the agreement in April 2010, but later decided to hold a national referendum on the issue at the opposition's request. The agreement was narrowly approved in a June referendum, with just 51.54 percent of Slovenians voting in favor of the deal. The agreement came into force November.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Slovenia is an electoral democracy. Elections since independence have been considered free and fair. The country has a bicameral Parliament. Members of the 90-seat National Assembly, which chooses the prime minister, are elected to four-year terms. Members of the 40-seat National Council, a largely advisory body representing professional groups and local interests, are elected to five-year terms. The president is directly elected for up to two five-year terms. One seat each is reserved in the National Assembly for Slovenia's Hungarian and Italian minorities, and Roma are automatically given seats on 20 municipal councils.

Corruption, while less extensive than in some other Central and Eastern European countries, remains a problem in Slovenia, usually taking the form of conflicts of interest and contracting links between government officials and private businesses. In August 2010, former prime minister Janez Jansa was indicted on corruption charges stemming from a controversy over military procurement orders during his tenure in office. Only 5,000 of the country's 80,000 public servants are subject to financial disclosure laws. Slovenia was ranked 27 out of 178 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Freedoms of speech and of the press are constitutionally guaranteed. However, newspapers that are critical of the government have faced difficulty securing advertisers. In an effort to avoid problems with their employers, journalists reportedly practice self-censorship and refrain from writing critical articles that could complicate relations with advertisers. In February 2010, Jansa sued the Finnish public broadcaster YLE and several other YLE employees for €1.5 million for a 2008 documentary, which implicated Jansa in corrupt arms deals. In August, Slovenian prosecutors formally filed corruption charges against Jansa, although he has denied any wrongdoing. In December, a government-sponsored law on the state public broadcaster, RTV Slovenia, was rejected by over 72 percent of voters in a national referendum. The government had argued that the law would reduce political interference in state broadcasting, while the opposition claimed that the legislation would have made it easier to ultimately privatize RTV Slovenia. There were no reports of government attempts to restrict internet access during the year.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and contains provisions that prohibit incitement to religious intolerance or discrimination. Approximately 58 percent of Slovenians identify themselves as Roman Catholics, although the number of practicing Catholics has dropped in recent years. In June 2010, the Constitutional Court annulled certain provisions of the 2007 Religious Freedoms Law, including the legal registration of religious communities and the payment of social security contributions to priests working in prisons and hospitals. Societal discrimination against the small Muslim community remains a problem. A 40-year effort to build a mosque in Ljubljana continues to face various legal challenges. There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom during the year.

The government respects freedoms of assembly and association. Numerous nongovernmental organizations operate freely, and the government generally supports the role they play in the policymaking process. Workers have the right to establish and join trade unions, strike, and bargain collectively; these rights do not apply to certain public sector employees, primarily police and the military. The Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (ZSSS) has some 300,000 members and controls the four trade union seats in the National Council. A wave of strikes hit Slovenia in September 2010, as public sector workers protested against government-sponsored efforts to reduce wages, raise the retirement age, and place further limitations on pensions and social benefits. The country requires serious labor reforms, but Slovenian politicians are unlikely to address the issue before the next parliamentary elections due to the country's poor economic conditions.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and judicial freedom is generally respected by the government. However, the judiciary is plagued by a very large backlog of cases; as of June 2010, there were some 266,221 cases. Political infighting over the appointment of judges also remains a problem. Prison conditions are in line with international standards, although overcrowding has been reported.

Incitement to racial hatred is a criminal offense. However, Slovenia has had persistent problems in dealing with various minorities – Italians, Muslim residents and guest workers, and citizens of the former Yugoslavia. Police harassment of Roma and residents from other former Yugoslav republics, the so-called new minorities, remains a problem. Some 18,000 non-Slovene citizens of the former federation who remained in Slovenia after independence had been removed from official records after they failed to apply for citizenship or permanent residency during a brief window of opportunity in 1992. However, in 2009, Borut Pahor's government began enforcing a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling intended to provide retroactive permanent residency status to the estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people that remained in the category of "the erased." In March 2010, Parliament adopted legislation meant to reinstate the legal status of those "erased" in 1992. The Slovenian newspaper Vecer called entire story of "the erased ... the most serious breach of human rights in the history of independent Slovenia."

Women hold the same legal rights as men but remain underrepresented in political life. There are currently 13 women in the 90-seat National Assembly, 1 in the 40-seat National Council, and 6 in Pahor's 18-member government. By law, 40 percent of the electoral lists for Slovenia's European parliamentary elections must be reserved for women. Some 60 percent of Slovenia's women are in the workforce, the largest proportion of any of the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004. On average, Slovenian women receive 93 percent of the pay of their male counterparts.

Domestic violence remains a concern. Prostitution has been decriminalized in Slovenia. International human rights groups have named Slovenia as a transit point and destination for women and girls trafficked from other Eastern European nations for the purpose of prostitution. According to the U.S. State Department's 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Slovenian government complies with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.

* Countries are ranked on a scale of 1-7, with 1 representing the highest level of freedom and 7 representing the lowest level of freedom.

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