Nations in Transit - Slovenia (2003)
|Author||Brian J. Pozun|
|Publication Date||29 May 2003|
|Cite as||Freedom House, Nations in Transit - Slovenia (2003), 29 May 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/473aff2b50.html [accessed 21 September 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This 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.|
Polity: Parliamentary democracy
Economy: Mixed capitalist
Private Sector as % of GDP: 65%
Life Expectancy: 76
Religious Groups: Roman Catholic (70.8 percent), other
Ethnic Groups: Slovene (88 percent), Croat (3 percent), Serb (2 percent), Bosniak (1 percent), other (6 percent)
|Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Framework||1.75||1.50||1.50||1.50||1.75||1.75|
Slovenia successfully broke away from the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) in 1991 after only 10 days of war. Already in the 1980s, the Slovene economy was surprisingly market oriented, though capital and ownership rights remained limited. Trade patterns were oriented toward the markets of the European Union (EU) and Western Europe as well, which softened the blow of independence and the subsequent loss of the domestic SFRJ market. As a result, Slovenia entered its democratic transition with many advantages. The modified socialism of Titoism allowed for a less painful transition to capitalism and a market economy. The rise of nationalists elsewhere in the SFRJ fed the growth of pro-Western sentiment in Slovenia. And the country's independence from the SFRJ was secured with minimal trauma.
Since 1991, the Republic of Slovenia has been a constitutional democracy characterized by free and fair elections, regular and peaceful transfers of power, a Parliament with full legislative power, and an independent judiciary. The country's political system is stable, and the current government enjoys a comfortable majority, further enhancing political stability. The country possesses few outstanding disputes with other states.
The highlights of 2002 were presidential and local elections. President Milan Kucan, who had led the country since coming to power in 1986, was ineligible for a third term and had to step down. After a two-round election, he was replaced by Janez Drnovsek, who had been the prime minister virtually uninterruptedly since 1991. Drnovsek promised to maintain continuity with Kucan's leadership. The local elections were significant because, for the first time, representatives of the Roma community were elected to 15 town councils around the country.
On November 21,2002, Slovenia received an invitation to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). However, domestic public opinion remains split, with much of the population favoring a return to the ideals of the NonAligned Movement and advocating neutrality for the country. All signs indicate that a referendum on NATO membership could go either way.
The issue of NATO membership was a hot topic throughout the year and prompted several controversies. For example, the Foreign Ministry issued a statement in January denouncing individuals who were trying to turn public opinion against the NATO bid. Newspaper journalists were also singled out for trying to turn public opinion. These moves were followed in June 2002 by revelations that the Foreign Ministry had prepared an analysis of anti-NATO viewpoints that had been published in the local press. The news weekly Mladina, which broke the story, suggested that the report could be used to prepare a blacklist. However, the ministry denied the allegation, claiming that the analysis was conducted for its internal use only. At year's end, the government was continuing to allege that the media is engaged in a campaign to turn public opinion against NATO membership. The media, however, maintains that it is merely facilitating democratic discussion of important issues.
In contrast, preparations for Slovene membership in the European Union progressed smoothly in 2002. At a historic summit in Copenhagen in December, the EU formally invited Slovenia, along with nine other nations, to join. Slovenia will hold a national referendum on membership in 2003 and, presuming a positive outcome, will join officially in 2004. The work completed to date toward fulfilling the requirements of EU membership is perhaps the most significant factor in the country's stability. Once Slovenia joins, its legislation and economy will meet Western European standards and its transition to democracy and a market economy will be both complete and irrevocable.
Slovenia's economy, in particular, has been a major source of stability during the post-Communist period. Growth has been steady since 1993, and observers consistently rank it the strongest economy in Eastern and Central Europe. The World Bank declared Slovenia "fully developed" in 2000. And in its 2002 report on accession, the European Commission noted that Slovenia is a functioning market economy with few problems, the most important of which are continuing high inflation and the need for further privatization.
In fact, the strength of the country's economy led to a minor controversy in 2002 when news leaked of the possibility that Slovenia will enter the EU as a net contributor. This would mean that Slovenia would actually pay more into EU funds than it would receive. Although few were pleased by this possibility, the news did little to sway public opinion against EU membership.
Electoral Process (Score: 1.50)
Since securing its independence in 1991, Slovenia has had a remarkably stable political system. Elections occur regularly and without significant irregularities. Transfers of power consistently take place without incident.
Presidential elections were held most recently in November 2002, with nine candidates running in the first round. The top two candidates moved to the second round: Janez Drnovsek, the prime minister and leader of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) Party; and Barbara Brezigar, a former state prosecutor and favorite of the opposition Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS) and New Slovenia – Christian People's (NSi) Party. The central issue of the election was the electorate's overall satisfaction with the state of the country. Drnovsek was seen to represent continuity with Kucan's presidency, while Brezigar was the candidate of the conservative opposition parties.
In the first round, Drnovsek won 44.41 percent of the vote, while Brezigar came in second with 31.03. In the second round, which took place on December 1, Drnovsek emerged victorious when he secured more than 56.51 percent of the vote. Drnovsek became the second president of independent Slovenia and was inaugurated on December 23.
The Law on the Election of the President of the Republic requires a prospective presidential candidate be proposed by at least 10 members of the National Assembly, by a party with the support of at least 3 members of Parliament or 3,000 voters, or by a group of at least 5,000 voters. Presidential elections have always occurred without significant irregularities in Slovenia. In the country's first presidential elections in December 1992, Milan Kucan, who had been the head of the Communist Party since 1986, won in a vote that was considered free and fair. In November 1997, Kucan was reelected with 65 percent of the vote. The second-place candidate, Speaker of Parliament Janez Podobnik, received only 18.4 percent of the vote. The remaining votes were distributed among six other candidates. Kucan was ineligible in 2002 to run for a third term.
Slovenia's presidency has less authority than in most other parliamentary systems. The president appoints ambassadors, Constitutional Court judges, and members of the Court of Audit and the board of the National Bank. The president also promulgates laws, awards amnesties, confers decorations, and serves as the commander in chief of the armed forces.
The president's role in the parliamentary process is limited to calling elections to the National Assembly and nominating the prime minister. However, if the National Assembly fails to confirm the president's pick, it may name its own candidate. The president also has the power to dissolve Parliament if it cannot confirm a prime minister or form a government, and if the government fails a vote of confidence and cannot confirm a new prime minister. The president gives opinions on various issues as requested by the National Assembly. However, the only instance in which the president could exert real power would be if a state of emergency prevented the National Assembly from functioning. In such a case, the president would be permitted to rule by decree. Although the president is the most visible political figure in the country, the individual in the post has little more than moral authority.
Direct, multiparty parliamentary elections were first held in Slovenia in 1990, while it was still part of the SFRJ. Reformed in 1992, Slovenia's parliamentary system resembles Western models. Parliament is composed of two bodies, the National Council and the National Assembly. The 40-member National Council has limited powers to advise the National Assembly, call for a referendum, or request a parliamentary inquiry. The National Council has no legislative authority. The 90-member National Assembly is the sole legislative body. It also has electoral and enforcement functions. Slovenia's parliamentary system has been described as "incomplete bicameral."
Although elections to the National Council took place in November 2002, they had little resonance with the public since members are elected indirectly through special bodies. However, the system is actually designed to give civil society a voice in Parliament. Municipal administrations elect 22 members, and economic groups elect the remaining 18. Of these 18, nonprofit organizations elect 6 members; employers, 4; employees, 4; and farmers, small businesses, and professionals, 4.
In contrast, political parties dominate elections to the National Assembly. In a country of only 1.6 million eligible voters, 38 parties are currently registered. However, only the 8 parties currently in Parliament have national reach. The remaining parties either exist only on paper or enjoy little support. Local or regional parties usually win mandates in local elections. Independent candidates and candidates with multiple party affiliations also participate in national elections, but they generally have more success in local ones. No political parties have been banned or declared illegal.
The first postindependence elections to the National Assembly took place in December 1992. Liberal Democracy of Slovenia, led by reformed Communists, won the highest percentage of the vote. Although it is the role of the president to propose a candidate for prime minister, the person filling the post has always been the leader of the party proving most successful in an election. After confirmation by Parliament, the prime minister forms the government.
In early 1993, LDS leader Janez Drnovsek became the country's first prime minister. General elections were next held in 1996, when the LDS again won the highest percentage of the vote and set out to form a government. After three months of maneuvering, a grand coalition composed of the LDS, the center-right People's Party (SLS), and the Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS) took power.
When the governing coalition collapsed in April 2000, many called for early elections. Instead, the SLS formed a new government with Andrej Bajuk as the prime minister. Given the considerable resistance to Bajuk – it took three attempts and almost a full month to gain parliamentary approval for him – the fact that the entire process went according to prescribed processes was a strong indicator of stability. When the new government was finally composed in June, power was transferred properly.
Slovenia held its third parliamentary elections in October 2000. Eight parties received mandates: the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia, the SLS+SKD Slovene People's Party (formed in April 2000 when the Slovene Peoples Party (SLS) merged with the Slovene Christian Democrats (SKD)), the Social Democratic Party, the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), the Democratic Party of Pensioners, the Slovene National Party (SNS), the Slovene Youth Party (SMS), and the New Slovenia – Christian People's Party. In November 2001, Janez Drnovsek again became the prime minister.
Parliamentary Election Results, 1996 and 2000
|Party||2000 % Vote||2000 # Seats||1996 # Seats|
|Total||100||88 ||88 |
 In the 1996 election, the SLS and SKD ran as two parties. The SLS won 19 seats, the SKD 10.
 The remaining two seats are reserved for one representative of the Italian national minority and one representative of the Hungarian national minority.
Finance Minister Anton Rop became Slovenia's third prime minister since independence on December 11,2002, when Drnovsek resigned to become president. Eight days later, Rop's cabinet was confirmed as independent Slovenia's seventh government. Parliament accepted all of Rop's proposed ministers, who are holdovers from the previous government with three exceptions: a replacement for Rop in the post of finance minister, a new education minister, and a new minister without portfolio for regional development. The new government will be in power until spring 2004, when parliamentary elections will next take place.
The Rop government was formed on the basis of a coalition agreement renegotiated after Drnovsek's departure and signed by the heads of the LDS, ZLSD, SLS, and DeSUS. The coalition holds 58 out of 90 seats in the National Assembly. The SMS had aligned itself informally with the coalition until late in 2002; the party now considers itself part of the opposition. The government is made up of 17 ministers serving as heads of ministries and 2 ministers without portfolio. Three ministers are women.
Relations between the government and the opposition are active. The opposition in the National Assembly is led by the SDS and the NSi, which together are informally called Coalition Slovenia. Coalition Slovenia is critical of the LDS-led government and has tried to enhance the opposition's role. Initially, the group resorted to obstructionism, though over time, and particularly in 2002, it has moderated its tactics.
The current Law on Elections, passed in 2000, introduced a modified proportional system and raised the threshold for gaining seats in the National Assembly from 3.2 to 4 percent. The law is consistent with European standards. To form a party, 200 adult citizens must sign a petition that then must be registered with the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Parties with headquarters abroad are banned, as are contributions from foreign sources. When the country enters the EU, these rules will be revised. Parliament provides roughly 60 percent of funding to parties that hold seats in Parliament. These parties must provide financial reports to the National Assembly and to the Court of Audit, which monitor their budgets.
Parties are mass membership based, but membership figures are not widely circulated. Nevertheless, as part of a trend that has affected nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and trade unions as well, it is clear that membership levels in parties have declined steadily over the past 10 years. This is true in part because political apathy among younger voters has increased. For example, according to the survey "Mladina 2000" ("Youth 2000") conducted by the University of Ljubljana, 80 percent of respondents between the ages of 14 and 30 have little or no faith in political parties.
Minority participation in Parliament is ensured by the Constitution, which reserves one seat each for representatives of the Italian and Hungarian communities. Although changes introduced in 2002 led to the introduction of Roma representatives on 15 city councils around the country, the Roma community is still without representation at the national level. There are no significant minority-based political parties or movements.
The number of women in Parliament increased from 7 in 1996 to 12 in 2000. The State Election Commission does not collect data on female voter participation, but overall turnout has declined since a peak of 80 percent in Slovenia's first general election in 1992. General elections in 1996 had a voter turnout rate of around 74 percent. For the October 2000 elections, that number dropped to 70.4 percent. Local elections have much lower rates: in 1994,60 percent in the first round and 50 percent in the second; in 1998,55 percent. The first round of the 2002 presidential and local elections showed an increase in voter turnout, to 72 percent, though for the second round it dropped to 65.06 percent.
Civil Society (Score: 1.50)
Civil society movements in Slovenia broke onto the scene in the late 1980s, when the Communist Party began embracing political and social pluralism. The most significant movement of that era was the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, organized in 1988 to protest the highly politicized trial of Slovene journalists accused of possessing classified military documents. Less than a year later, more than 100 grassroots organizations and 10 alternative political parties were thought to exist.
Unfortunately, this promising start faltered once the political space opened up. The leaders of the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights left civil society to form Slovenia's first alternative political parties: the Slovene Democratic Union, the Slovene Farmers' Union (later the People's Party), the Slovene Christian Social Movement (later the Christian Democrats), and the Social Democrats. These parties were formally considered wings of the ruling Socialist Party, but in practice they were independent and separate. Though the formation of these parties was significant for Slovenia's political development, the loss of so many civil society leaders to political life left a vacuum that has never been adequately filled.
Civil society progressed in starts and stops in 2002. In February, illegal activities by the local Red Cross were discovered, and the Court of Audit, together with several ministries and the police department, investigated. The results of an audit released in late summer showed numerous financial irregularities between 1999 and 2001 that violated international conventions, the Law on the Red Cross of Slovenia, and other statutes and acts. The Slovene office of UNICEF and the nonprofit Fund for the Construction of Pediatric Clinics were also implicated.
However, positive progress was made in 2002 when a trio of men in drag called Sestre (the Sisters) won the right to represent the country at the Eurosong 2002 contest. A massive public discourse about gays and lesbians followed and saturated the media for over two months. Several high-profile antigay outbursts were denounced by gay rights and other NGOs at press conferences and demonstrations. The European Parliament demanded an explanation from the Slovene government, pointing out that the rights of sexual minorities are an important facet of human rights, which themselves are an important part of the EU membership criteria. By May, the controversy had died down, and Speaker of Parliament Borut Pahor met with NGO leaders to discuss the situation. This was the highest-level meeting ever in Slovenia between a politician and gay and lesbian leaders.
There are more than 16,000 NGOs in Slovenia today, focusing on a wide spectrum of issues, including the environment, religion, minority issues, sexual harassment, drug use, gay rights, and suicide. NGOs also work to increase levels of technical competence in business and public policy and to provide training for university faculty and media professionals.
A survey conducted in 1992, one year after independence, found that Slovenia had the lowest proportion of membership in NGOs in Central and Eastern Europe. A follow-up survey in 1999 showed that membership had almost doubled but was still well below the European average of 1992. Today, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) estimates that the percentage of citizens who are members of voluntary organizations in Slovenia is the lowest of all developed countries. Only volunteer fire brigades may be considered above average. The low level of public interest in civil society certainly contributes to its lack of vitality.
Numerous NGOs work with women's issues, and there are various crisis and help lines for women who are victims of violence. The Autonomous Women's Groups is a network of NGOs that cooperates with international and foreign organizations to promote women's issues. Major political parties have women's groups within them, and there are also professional groups for women.
Civic and cultural organizations exist for many minority groups, such as the Italians, Hungarians, Serbs, Bosnians, and Albanians. The Roma have been particularly successful in this regard. Most religious groups are quite small and do not possess sufficient resources to engage in extensive charitable work. The Roman Catholic Church is by far the largest, most influential, and most active religious group in the country. The significantly smaller Evangelical Church holds a special place due to its historical role as guardian of the Slovene national identity.
In 2001,27 NGOs founded the Center for Non-Governmental Organizations of Slovenia (CNVOS). It now has more than 70 members. CNVOS is intended to help develop and strengthen the NGO sector by improving legal, tax-related, and human resources conditions. It is an intermediary between the government and the NGO sector and is intended to give NGOs more of a say in the preparation of legislation and government policies. The governmental Service for European Affairs (SVEZ) provides partial funding.
In October 2002, the government established the Commission on Non-Governmental Organizations. While CNVOS acts as an interface between NGOs and the Slovene government, this new commission aims to expand cooperation between NGOs and the government specifically on European issues. Its mandate is to prepare a cooperation strategy and coordinate a project to involve NGOs in the EU accession process. The commission includes representatives of several ministries, including the Interior, Labor, Environment, and Finance Ministries.
Most NGOs have weak organizational structures, small memberships, and very few, if any, paid staff members. The nonprofit Legal Information Center of NonGovernmental Organizations (PIC) acts as the primary adviser to many NGOs on legal issues. Information about NGO management issues is widely available in Slovene.
A 1995 law regulates the activities of associations, foundations, and other nonprofit organizations. NGOs generally lack financial resources and depend on external sources of funding. Although they may earn income, NGOs may not be founded for the sole purpose of making a profit. Tax exemptions and tax-deductible contributions are permitted only under special conditions. Foundations and associations may receive government funding according to specific regulations and conditions. Foundations must submit yearly financial reports to appropriate governing bodies. Foreign financing is often distributed through regranting organizations.
Both the public and the government generally perceive the nonprofit sector positively. Media coverage of NGOs is frequent and generally accurate and fair. Interest groups or other associations are not consulted during the preparliamentary stages of the legislative process, but each piece of legislation must be submitted to the National Council, which often consults with NGOs on draft laws. In recent years, informal consultations with different interest groups have taken place during the preparation of major pieces of legislation.
Trade unions play a larger role in public life in Slovenia than in other southeast European countries. The Constitution protects the right to unionize, bargain collectively, and strike. According to the European Commission, approximately 50 percent of workers belong to trade unions. For a total national workforce of about 850,000, there are approximately 30 labor unions. There are also 2 major national labor unions with constituent branches throughout the country, several unions for government administrative workers, and a number of small-business associations.
The Union of Workers in State Organs and Organs of Local Communities covers persons employed in state or local administration. It has some 13,500 members, or about 45 percent of workers eligible for membership. The Police Union, with 4,000 to 5,000 members, represents only public servants in the Interior Ministry. Most farmers are represented by their political parties. Unions are independent of the government, though individual union members hold positions in the legislature.
The principal small-business associations are the Association of Employers of Slovenia, the Chamber of Crafts of Slovenia, and the Association of Employers in Small Businesses, Catering, Intellectual Services, Tourism, Trade, and Freight Transport. These groups signed an economic and social agreement that set up a council to determine wage and social policies. According to the Chamber of Crafts of Slovenia, Slovenia's small manufacturing and skilled trades sector employs almost 130,000, or nearly 20 percent of the workforce.
The overall trend of falling membership in voluntary organizations also applies to trade unions. In the period from 1992 to 1999, union membership fell by some 12 percent. The trend continued through 2002, owing in large part to a lack of trust among citizens. According to the UNDP's 2000-2001 Human Development Report, the European average in 1992 concerning general trust in trade unions was 40 percent, while it was just 27 percent in Slovenia. The figure for Slovenia fell to 25 percent in 1995 and rose to 31 percent in 1999, but it still remains subpar.
Overall, Slovenia's educational system is free of propaganda and political influence. There are 814 primary schools in the country, 146 secondary schools, and 69 institutions of higher education, including 2 universities. Plans for a third university in the coastal Primorska region were nearly complete by the close of 2002. On November 29, the government approved the text of the Decision on the Establishment of the University of Primorska, and the university is expected to begin operations in 2003. Plans for a fourth university, based in Novo Mesto in the Dolenjska region, have not progressed significantly.
Independent Media (Score: 1.75)
True freedom of the press in Slovenia can be traced to the 1980s. The weekly Mladina was officially the organ of the socialist youth organization, but throughout the 1980s it took a highly independent stance and became quite critical of the regime. The magazine and its journalists played a major role in opening up the political and social space in Slovenia, along with the journal Nova Revija and the alternative radio station Radio Student. By the 1990s, however, the quality of the media had started to slip. One major reason is that intensely competitive market conditions have given rise to sensationalism.
Although Slovene media are generally editorially independent, self-censorship and political pressure do exist. Print media enjoy greater freedom than broadcast media, which rely to some degree on government funding. Slovene journalists have complained about the influence of economic and political interests, about inexperienced journalists who report crudely or ignorantly, and about the negative effects of economic competition. Nonetheless, the media offer a full range of opinions and ideas. The Law on Elections requires the media to offer free space and airtime to political parties during elections. Television networks routinely give viewers access to public figures and opinion makers from across the political spectrum via a broad range of public interest programming.
A significant accusation of censorship occurred at Radio-Televizija Slovenija (Slovenia Radio-Television, or RTVS) in April 2002, at the height of a national scandal over a new government airplane. According to the Finance Ministry, the plane cost $35 million. When RTVS journalists added in taxes and interest, they arrived at $57 million. The report was slated for broadcast once the figure was verified, but the news director refused to air the report just a half hour before it was to be broadcast. He maintained that the figure looked suspicious; RTVS journalists cried censorship and threatened to strike. The news director resigned soon after.
Freedom of the press is guaranteed by Article 39 of the Constitution, which secures the right to "collect, receive, and circulate information and opinions." As many as 14 articles in the penal code deal with libel. Article 169 of the civil code, which prohibits insulting officials, was last used in 1996 to prosecute a journalist. In April 1999, the criminal code was amended so that persons who disclose state or military secrets will not be punished if the disclosure aids in exposing "irregularities" in the organization of the intelligence services or the military, or if the disclosure or publication has no detrimental consequences for the state.
Parliament passed a new Law on Media in April 2001 after almost two years of deliberations. The new law, which replaced the 1994 Law on Media, increased state influence on the programming of state-run media. The new law contains special provisions on regulating the use of the Slovene language in media and on preventing and punishing the promotion of intolerance through the media. A controversial Fund for Audio Visual Materials was also included. The new law removed ownership restrictions and liberalized cross-ownership of media enterprises. There are no provisions regulating the Internet.
There are three serious daily newspapers in Slovenia: Delo (circulation 93,000; readership 241,000), Vecer (78,000; 187,000), and Dnevnik (71,000; 155,000). However, the tabloid-style Slovenske Novice (96,000; 333,000) is the most popular daily by far. Together, these four papers control some 90 percent of the total market. Additionally, there are two specialized dailies: the sports paper Ekipa (18,000; 42,000) and, as of February 2001, Finance (9,000; 80,000). There are also five regional, two national, and three local nondailies with a total circulation of about 330,000.
The national press agency, Slovenska Tiskovna Agencija (Slovene Press Agency, STA), was founded in 1991. STA offers regular materials in Slovene as well as additional materials in English. It is a member of the European Association of Press Agencies.
Audiovisual media are led by RTVS, which broadcasts over 3 radio stations and 2 television channels. There are 4 commercial national television stations – Gajba TV, Kanal A, POP TV, and TV3 – and at least 42 private local stations. There are also some 68 private national and local radio stations. The most popular include Radio Maribor and Radio Student.
As of 1997, all media in Slovenia had been privatized, with the exception of RTVS. One of three publishing houses has entered the stock market. A small domestic market and a lack of diversified funding contribute to intense competition among media. Previously state-owned operations tend to have greater capital assets. Four of the current dailies were established before independence, and most attempts to found new dailies have failed. In June 1991, Slovenec began publication but folded in November 1996; Republika published from 1992 until 1996; and Jutranjik lasted only for the month of June 1998. Only Slovenske Novice and Finance have entered the market successfully. Even well-funded papers cannot count on a diversified funding base to insulate them from sudden financial difficulties. Foreign investment in media is rare, especially in print media. There are currently no subsidies to stimulate plurality in the media. Independent vendors control distribution.
The Slovene Journalist Society was established in 1944. Today, around 95 percent of journalists belong to it, but data on membership are not readily available. Overall, the society is not considered politically influential. Although there are trade unions for most media professionals, there are none for private television professionals.
In October 2002, the Slovene Journalist Society adopted a new code of ethics. The text is shorter, clearer, and easier to understand than the group's previous code. It is based primarily on the codes of ethics of the American Society of Professional Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists.
The Internet is increasingly making headway into Slovenia. According to Research on Internet in Slovenia (RIS), as of June 2002,317,000 used the Internet daily. A further 570,000 used it monthly, and 850,000 have used it at least once. Researchers predict that by July 2006,1, 260,000 people, or more than half the total population, could be regular users.
The majority of Slovenia's Internet users remain concentrated in the largest cities. The Ministry of Information Society began establishing e-schools throughout the country in 2001 in an effort to spread Internet access more evenly throughout the country. The e-schools offer free Internet access to the general public as well as training and educational programs. There are no restrictions on Internet access to private citizens.
Freedom House's annual Survey of Press Freedom rated Slovenia "Partly Free" in 1994 and 1995 but has categorized the country's media environment "Free" since 1996. According to the International Press Institute, Slovenia was one of only 11 member states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that did not violate press freedom in 1999 and 2000. In 2002, Reporters Sans Frontieres ranked Slovenia 14th on its index of international press freedom, higher than Switzerland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Italy. However, international appraisals of Slovene press freedom were affected when Vecer journalist Miro Petek was brutally attacked on February 28,2001, near his home in Slovenj Gradec. Two years later, the case remains unresolved and no suspects have been found.
From January to June 2002, the International Federation of Journalists conducted an inquiry into the police investigation and concluded that the attack was directly motivated by Petek's journalism. The fact that the case remains unsolved has led some journalists to be concerned about their safety and could lead to an increase in self-censorship, the report concluded. A special parliamentary commission also began work in February 2002 to investigate the role of the police and the possibility of involvement by public officials in the Petek affair. In the fall, the commission reported that it had identified several key witnesses and that enough information had been collected to prepare a report by December 2002; however, the report was not ready by the end of the year.
Governance (Score: 2.25)
Slovenia has legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Parliament is composed of two houses, but real legislative power is reserved for the lower house, the National Assembly. The Office of the President of the Republic of Slovenia heads the executive branch. The Constitutional Court and lower courts form the judiciary. The governmental system is stable.
The legislature can be considered effective and possessing sufficient resources to carry out its mandates. However, the speed of the legislative process is somewhat hampered by a tradition of compromise among parliamentary factions that was born in the early days of statehood. Difficult decisions are often made only after lengthy negotiations among all factions.
After various attempts since 1998, the National Assembly finally adopted new rules of procedures in March 2002 that are intended to streamline its work. Among the innovations are enhancements to the role of the Collegium, previously an advisory body to the Speaker of Parliament. According to the new rules, the Collegium will have appointment as well as organizational and agenda-setting functions, including the authorization to allot seats on parliamentary committees to parties and to determine which party will head the committee. Parliamentary committees also received new responsibilities, such as the power to adopt amendments to clarify issues relating to draft legislation. Limits on the amount of time allotted to members to speak on the floor of Parliament were also revised. The opposition opposed the new rules, fearing that its role in Parliament will be diminished. The new rules were used for the first time at the National Assembly's session in September 2002.
Executive and legislative bodies operate with a level of transparency that is comparable to international standards. State and local laws, acts, and other regulations are published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia, which is available in electronic and printed formats in Slovene and other languages. The Gazette also includes public tenders, public advertisements, judicial decisions, and international agreements or contracts signed or ratified by the government. In addition, the government regularly publishes economic statistics in accordance with regulations from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The office of the Ombudsman for Human Rights has warned that although access to non-sensitive information is guaranteed by Article 39 of the Constitution, additional legislation is required to carry out this guarantee.
Since Slovenia has only two million inhabitants, regional governments do not exist. According to the Constitution, municipalities may join and form provinces or other larger self-governing communities on the basis of referendums, but none have tried. In order to receive funds for regional development from the EU, the government was forced to formulate a regional structure. Several plans were proposed, but the government has settled on entering the EU with the entire country forming a single region. The scheme will likely be reformulated after 2006, when it is expected that three regions will be created – western, central (Ljubljana), and eastern Slovenia. Only the eastern region will be eligible for regional development funds at that time.
On December 24,2002, the government established the new Office for Structural Policy and Regional Development, which is led by Minister Without Portfolio Zdenka Kovac. The purpose of the new office is to coordinate the activities of various ministries, public agencies, and services to assure balanced regional development. The office is also mandated to coordinate activities for the implementation of the European Union's structural and cohesion policies.
The only subnational level of government is the local level. The current system of local government came into force in January 1995. Until 2002, there were 192 municipalities, including 11 urban municipalities. One new municipality was registered in 2002, bringing the total to 193.
The division of powers between the national and local levels was outlined in the 1994 Law on Local Government. This law reassigned various responsibilities previously administered by localities to the national government, which administers those responsibilities through local units linked to the national ministries. The officials in charge of these units are nominated by the central government. Local tasks are carried out through the municipalities, whose leaders are employees of the local government. The Constitutional Court decides disputes as to jurisdiction between the state and municipalities. Amendments to the Law on Local Government entered into force in June 2002. These included new regulations for the salaries of mayors, vice-mayors, and city councilmen; a requirement that 20 towns ensure representation for Roma on their city councils; and resolution of the status of Koper, where local elections have been out of sync for many years.
Municipal councillors and mayors are elected in free and fair elections every four years. The mayor represents the municipality and heads the local administration. Amendments to the Law on Local Elections and Political Parties entered into force in mid-June 2002. The biggest change concerned nearly 16,000 resident aliens, who are now able to vote in local elections in the towns where they are registered. They are also eligible to run for positions on city councils but are not permitted to run for the post of mayor.
Local elections were last held in November 2002 simultaneously with the presidential election. Mayoral races were held in the 193 municipalities, of which 132 were concluded in the first round and 61 in the second round. Overall, the SLS won the most mayoral posts, 46, followed by the LDS (29), the SDS (18), the ZLSD (14), the NSi (4), the SNS (1), the National Labor Party (1), and the Union for Primorska (1). A total of 61 elected mayors ran as independents, while 18 ran under the banners of more than one party.
In the country's 11 urban municipalities, the ZLSD had the strongest showing, winning the mayoral post in Ljubljana, Maribor, Nova Gorica, and Velenje. The LDS won the mayoral post in 3 municipalities, while the SLS won only in Celje. Independent candidates won in two urban municipalities, while the new mayor of Novo Mesto ran under the banners of the LDS, the ZLSD, DeSUS, the SNS, the SLS, and the Sport List.
Municipalities have authority over town planning, trade and industry, housing, utilities, sewage, trash collection and disposal, roads, transport, ports, education, social services, health care, fire and civil protection, parks, cultural institutions, and tourism. Cities and towns that have the status of "urban municipality" may also be required to carry out certain tasks that fall under the jurisdiction of the state but are related to their own development.
In a 2001 report, the Council of Europe noted the lack of fiscal independence among Slovenia's municipalities and strongly criticized the government for ignoring legislation that calls for a settlement to have at least 5,000 inhabitants in order to be registered legally as a municipality. By law, municipalities must be self-financed from local taxes, duties, and revenues received from municipal property. Taxes generally account for 46 percent of local revenues; economically underdeveloped municipalities may receive additional funding from the state. However, according to the Council of Europe, only 25 percent of municipalities are actually self-financed, primarily because they have too few inhabitants to support themselves. The rest receive state subsidies that limit their constitutionally guaranteed autonomy and drain the national budget.
According to the European Commission's 2002 regular report, "Slovenia has made considerable progress on public administration reform by adopting the laws on civil servants, public agencies and state administration." The report added that "[w]ith the adoption of these laws, the framework legislation for public administration reform is now in place. It is important that these laws are now fully implemented." Regulation of the civil service is of great importance in Slovenia since the majority of complaints addressed to the ombudsman continue to be related to poor government administration.
A new code of conduct for civil servants, new laws on the wage system in the public sector, an order on hours of operation and working hours in the state administration, and an order on the criteria for dismissal from a position in the public sector were all passed in 2001. A new Law on Civil Servants was passed in 2002. The year 2002 also saw the adoption of the Law on Wages in the Public Sector. However, the law was not applied to all civil servants because several unions negotiated separate agreements with the government. The State Administration Act, which consolidates several older laws dealing with the duties and responsibilities of the administration and relations among the various levels of government, was also passed during the period covered by this report.
Constitutional, Legislative, and Judicial Framework (Score: 1.75)
The Slovene Constitution has been in force since December 1991. Since then, it has been altered only twice. Article 68 was amended in 1997 to allow foreigners to own property, and Article 80 was amended in 2000 to reflect changes to electoral procedure. The EU is requiring several other amendments as part of the accession process. The Commission for Constitutional Changes was established in 2001 to prepare the amendments.
For EU membership, changes are needed to articles in the Constitution dealing with the formation and composition of the government, regionalism and local government, the appointment and election of judges, the Judicial Council, referendums, and sovereignty. Article 68 must be amended again, this time to abolish the principle of reciprocity, whereby EU citizens have been treated in Slovenia the same way Slovenes are treated in individual EU countries. With the amendment, EU citizens will all have the right to own property in Slovenia regardless of whether Slovenes can own land in other EU countries. Other amendments not required by the EU have also been proposed, such as one allowing the country to change its flag to a more unique design.
The Constitution lays out three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) and provides for a system of checks and balances among them. The legislature is the effective rule-making institution. The highest judicial authority in the country is the Constitutional Court. It is composed of nine judges appointed by the National Assembly upon presidential recommendation for a single nine-year term. The Court's mandate is to ensure that laws, decrees, and regulatory acts issued by local authorities are consistent with the Constitution, international treaties, and the general principles of ratified international law. It also rules on appeals. The president, the government, or one-third of the National Assembly may ask the Court to rule on whether an international treaty is consistent with the Constitution. Article 160 of the Constitution empowers the Constitutional Court to rule on jurisdictional disputes between courts and other state bodies.
A 2001 Constitutional Court ruling had major ramifications in 2002. The ruling required that the city council of Novo Mesto include a representative of the Roma community and extended that requirement to 19 other towns. It also required amendments to the Law on Local Self-Administration. By the time of the 2002 local elections, 14 towns had amended their statutes to accommodate the change; 6 refused.
Grosuplje was one town that refused. Leaders there petitioned the Constitutional Court for a ruling on the constitutionality of the amendments, arguing that political representation for Roma should be carried out on the national level (that is, in Parliament), as is done for the Italian and Hungarian communities, rather than on the local level. The Constitutional Court ruled only in late November, after the local elections had already taken place.
Its decision was that the amendments to the Law on Local Self-Administration are constitutional and that the six towns must bring their statutes into accordance with the law within 45 days of the first session of the newly elected town councils. They also must call supplementary elections for Roma representatives no later than 30 days after their revised statutes are published in the Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia. This will take place in 2003.
Roma representatives were ultimately elected in 15 of the 20 towns. Of those, Murska Sobota has provided Roma representation on its city council since the 1994 elections. Although Trebnje was one of the 6 towns that failed to amend its statutes in time, it did allow the election of a Roma representative. Ethnic Roma candidates also ran for regular city councilmen seats in Semic, Murska Sobota, and Maribor.
Slovenia's criminal code entered into force in 1995 and was amended two years later, along with the Law on Criminal Procedure, to bring Slovene legislation in line with European standards and to address "new" forms of crime, such as money laundering, corruption, and computer hacking. Amendments to the Law on Penal Procedures related to the use of special investigation methods entered into force in January 1999.
The Constitution prohibits abuse and "humiliating punishment or treatment" of prisoners, and no such treatment has been reported. No human rights organizations have complained about prison conditions or abuse. However, the European Commission has reported that prisons are overcrowded.
Persons held in custody for the alleged commission of a crime must be advised in writing within 24 hours, and in their own language, of the reasons for detention. Detention may last up to six months before charges are brought. In some instances, criminal cases have taken up to five years to come to trial. According to the U.S. State Department, the problem is not widespread, and defendants are released on bail except in the most serious criminal cases. Courts authorize searches and issue warrants.
Human rights are explicitly addressed in section II of the Constitution. Although there is a provision for the suspension of these rights in a state of emergency, certain rights, such as the inviolability of human life, may not be suspended at any time. The Constitution covers most rights generally found in Western constitutions, such as due process, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom of conscience. Intellectual property rights are also covered.
Business and property rights are guaranteed under Articles 66 through 79 of the Constitution, but the property rights of foreigners are limited. According to the European Commission, slow progress has been made with denationalization. A special office was established in March 1999 to act as a coordinating body, but its mandate is not clear. A land registry exists but is not computerized. The government expects to complete denationalization by 2003. The majority of simple cases have already been resolved, while the more complex and politically sensitive ones by and large remain to be settled.
The Constitution also mandates an ombudsman who is responsible for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in matters involving state bodies, local government bodies, and statutory authorities. In 2002, the Office of the Ombudsman's seventh annual report showed no serious or systematic human rights violations in the country. From January 1 to December 31,2001,3, 304 cases were opened by the ombudsman. Of these, 28.5 percent referred to court and police procedures and 15.8 concerned administrative affairs. These figures were up 8 percent over 2000.
In March 2002, the city of Maribor appointed the country's first ombudsman for patients' rights. The ombudsman is mandated to call attention to health care issues and to offer free legal advice to individuals who believe their rights have been violated. A similar initiative failed in Ljubljana after the city council decided that the post should be created at the national, not the local, level.
While anti-bias and anti-discrimination laws exist, there are certain gaps. According to the European Commission, Slovenia has signed but not ratified Protocol 12 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, prohibiting discrimination on any grounds. The commission warned in its 2002 regular report that "[f]urther progress is needed to ensure the full transposition and implementation of the EC antidiscrimination legislation."
Although commonly seen as ethnically homogeneous, Slovenia's population does have diversity. Article 64 of the Constitution grants Slovenia's Italian and Hungarian minorities the right to education, media, and legal defense in their own languages. These two communities also enjoy cultural autonomy in those regions in which they are the dominant ethnic group. Each group is represented by a deputy in the National Assembly who has the power to block the adoption of laws that concern the exercise of the specific rights of these communities or their status. The Italian and Hungarian communities also have the right to promote their ties with Italy and Hungary.
Although a general protection law on the Roma community (estimated to number between 7,000 and 10,000) has not yet been passed, that community is protected under Article 65 of the Constitution, the 1993 Law on Local Self-Government, the Law on Local Elections, and education regulations. According to NGOs, the community's situation varies around the country. In the northeastern Prekmurje region around Murska Sobota, the situation is exemplary. However, in the southeastern Dolenjska region around Novo Mesto, the Roma are considerably worse off.
The Slovene government has satisfied a long-standing demand of the Austrian government to recognize a 728-member German-speaking minority. A cultural agreement regulating the group's position was signed in 2001 and ratified in February 2002. The agreement explicitly states that German-speaking individuals enjoy rights under Article 61 of the Constitution. The minority is scattered throughout the country and does not form a majority in any settlement.
International observers praise the protection that the government has given these groups, though much larger groups are accorded no special status. Some 47,097 Serbs live throughout the country and are officially considered nonautochthonous. However, Serbs have lived in the Bela Krajina region since at least 1530. Certain Croatian communities on the border between Slovenia and Croatia can also claim autochthonous status, though this is officially unrecognized. Of the 53,688 Croats in Slovenia, 18,657 live on the border, while around 13,000 Slovenes live on the Croatian side. (The figures for Croats in Slovenia are taken from the 1991 Yugoslav census; the figures for Slovenes in Croatia are taken from the 2001 Croatian census.) The Bosnian (Muslim) community numbered 26,725 in the 1991 census, but unofficial statistics suggest the number today is between 70,000 and 100,000.
The Constitution guarantees the equality of men and women and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender or sexual orientation. There is a governmental Office for Equal Opportunities that has monitoring and advisory functions. The Law on Equal Opportunities and the Employment Relations Act were both passed in 2002 to fulfill EU requirements. The Law on Equal Opportunities forms the legal basis for a national program on equality. It also provides for the creation of an ombudsman to handle cases of suspected discrimination. The Employment Relations Act of 2002 prohibits discrimination by employers on the basis of, among other things, gender and sexual orientation. It establishes a framework for the settlement of such disputes and sets down requirements for equal pay for men and women, equal access to employment, training, promotion, and parental leave.
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and religious groups generally function freely. The country's Muslim community, however, has faced resistance from residents and the city council for the past 10 years to its request to build a mosque in Ljubljana. Influential figures such as the ombudsman for human rights and the mayor of Sarajevo have drawn attention to the issue, but no progress has been made.
In addition to the Constitutional Court, Slovenia's judicial system consists of district courts, regional courts, and a court of appeals. Judges, who are elected by Parliament on the nomination of the Judicial Council, are independent and serve indefinitely, subject to an age limit. The Judicial Council is composed of six sitting judges elected by their peers and five presidential nominees elected by the State Assembly.
Overall, Slovene judges rule fairly and impartially. Though the judiciary is linked to the Ministry of Justice, international observers report that it operates as an independent branch of government and is not linked to any executive body. According to the European Commission, the main problem facing the judiciary is inefficiency. The Constitution guarantees the right of a defendant to an attorney, and this is respected in practice. Judicial decisions are effectively enforced.
Corruption (Score: 2.00)
The Office for the Prevention of Corruption presented Slovenia's first formal definition of corruption in February 2002: "Corruption is any violation of an obligatory process due to a directly or indirectly promised, offered, given, accepted, demanded or expected benefit to oneself or to another." The office was established in 2002 and is mandated with creating anticorruption measures and investigating the magnitude of official corruption in the state.
The criminal code penalizes criminal offenses against the economy. Bribery in commercial enterprises is defined in Articles 247 and 248, while bribery of officials is included in Articles 267 and 268. The Law on Penal Procedures was amended in October 1998, and the penal code was amended in March 1999. Both sets of amendments contain anticorruption measures. Recent legislation relevant to the fight against corruption includes the Law on Money Laundering and the code of obligations, both adopted in 2001, and the Law on Civil Service, adopted in 2002.
Mechanisms to prevent conflicts of interest between officials and private businesses are included in the Law on Workers in State Organs (LWSO). For example, Article 27 of the LWSO prohibits senior officials from performing the same or similar types of jobs for private businesses and companies that they perform within the administration. Lower-level officials are allowed to work for private businesses and companies on a contractual basis, but only if they obtain explicit authorization from the heads of their administrative units. Inspectors are not allowed to perform jobs outside the administration in the field of their competence. These ethical standards are observed in practice.
The current system of public administration provides for several internal and external control and oversight mechanisms. Higher administrative bodies may verify the legality, the professional nature, or the appropriateness of a decision by a lower administrative body. An inspectorate may be established to supervise the execution of laws and legal norms in a ministry's area of competence. The Constitution provides for a Court of Audit, the powers and administration of which are determined by the 1994 Law on the Court of Audit. This court functions independently and is responsible for auditing state finances, the state budget, and funds spent for public purposes, including those spent by local self-governing bodies. The National Assembly, on the proposal of the president, appoints members of the court. Aside from budget inspection and the Court of Audit, there are no wide-ranging mechanisms for preventing corruption. Only certain officials are subject to financial disclosure.
The country's first major corruption scandal began in 2000 and continued throughout 2002. State Secretary of the Ministry of the Economy Boris Sustar was convicted to three years in prison and ordered to pay a fine in spring 2001 for accepting a bribe. In May 2002, Sustar's appeal came before the Ljubljana High Court. Both the defense and prosecuting attorneys called for the regional court's verdict to be canceled, which the high court did in June, citing irregularities in the legal process. The regional court must now retry the case.
Sustar maintains that his arrest and conviction were politically motivated. He believes that after he fell out of favor with his party, the LDS, he was sacrificed to higher interests: the need to prosecute a high-profile corruption case to prove the government's commitment to fighting corruption. Helsinki Monitor agrees that the Sustar case was exploited to demonstrate to the EU that Slovenia is serious about tackling corruption. Sustar maintains that bribery between corporations and the government is common, even among some prominent politicians.
Slovenia is party to several Council of Europe treaties on corruption, including the Agreement Establishing the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) and the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption. In September 2001, Slovenia ratified the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
Officially, there is a markedly low occurrence of corruption. According to the governmental Office of Statistics, there were 15 convictions in 1995, compared to 36 allegations of corruption that were reported to authorities. The proportions for 1996 (19:34) and 1997 (13:19) were aggressive, but successive years are far less impressive. The proportion for 1998 was 16:36; for 1999,15:74; and for 2000,9:27. There were 58 allegations in 2001, but data on the number of convictions are not yet available.
The country's small size helps to hinder corruption to an extent, and the fact that the gross base pay of civil servants is comparable to that of workers in the private sector also lessens the potential for corruption. The average monthly salary of a private sector employee is about $850, whereas the average monthly base salary of a civil servant is around $784. Base pay ranges from around $460 at the lowest level to about $1,960 for the head of an administrative unit. In addition to base pay, public servants receive bonuses depending on the number of years worked, the conditions of work, the number of hours worked, or special responsibilities. Some fringe benefits, such as housing and payment of tuition fees, may also be included in a civil servant's pay.
In October 2002, Ljubljana University released the results of a study of public perceptions of corruption, which showed that while the public believes corruption is a significant problem, few have encountered it personally. Asked to gauge the problem of corruption, the majority of the survey's 914 respondents said that it is very great (25.6 percent) or great (27.1 percent). About 33 percent said that it is neither a great nor a small problem, while 6.9 percent said it is a small or very small problem. About one-third of the respondents believes that corruption has increased greatly since Slovenia gained its independence from Yugoslavia in 1990. Nearly 30 percent believe it has increased somewhat. Roughly one-quarter believe that corruption has either stayed the same or lessened.
International agencies, including the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and Transparency International, consistently rate Slovenia among the least corrupt countries in the region. A December 2000 report by GRECO stated that "corruption is not, in general, perceived as being a major threat to society." However, GRECO did report a serious need for an anticorruption program and stronger legislation.
The GRECO report also stated that many incidents of corruption may go undiscovered or unreported and that offenders may be convicted on charges other than corruption. This could explain why there is a high public perception of corruption at the same time that official corruption remains low. Anecdotal evidence suggests that bribe requests are not standard practice in the attainment of services. A report by the EU/Council of Europe Corruption and Organized Crime in States in Transition project stated that many corruption cases related to privatization are concealed under criminal charges of abuse of position and fraudulent contracts because corruption is difficult to prove. There are still opportunities for corruption to grow within the privatization process, as it is not yet complete. No anticorruption public education efforts are taking place at this time.
In November 2002, an Open Society Institute report on corruption in Slovenia stated that while corruption is not a significant problem, it does seem to be on the rise. The report states that although "there is little direct evidence that corruption is serious in any particular area of public life, institutions of prosecution and enforcement appear to be weak, the effectiveness of several other institutions of oversight is questionable, and conflicts of interest appear to be a widespread phenomenon."
In 1999, Transparency International ranked Slovenia 26th out of 99 countries in its Corruption Perceptions Index, making it the least corrupt in the region. The following year it fell behind Estonia, to 28th. For 2001, Slovenia ranked 34th , behind both Estonia (28th) and Hungary (31st), but still ahead of EU member state Greece (42nd). In 2002, Slovenia rose to 27th place, ahead of Estonia (29th), Italy (31st), Hungary (33rd), and Greece (44th).
Brian J. Pozun has contributed to Time, Central Europe Review, Ljubljana Life, and other publications on Slovenia and Balkan affairs.