|DEMOCRACY-PERCENTAGE Democracy Percentage||82.14 100|
|DEMOCRACY-SCORE Democracy Score||5.93 7|
By Marko Lovec
In 2019, there were no major changes in Slovenia. However, the country’s governance was noticeably hampered by a fragmented center-left ruling coalition kept together only by polarized relations with the political right. The traditional democratic roles of the media and judiciary were challenged by instrumentalization and interference from political actors, companies, and other interests. High-level corruption linked to the state’s role in the economy remained the biggest systemic challenge to democratic governance.
The center-left coalition government, established after the 2018 elections and led by the political newcomer Marjan Šarec and his List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ) party, was highly fragmented in 2019 as it consisted of all center-left parties—including LMŠ, Modern Center Party (SMC), Social Democrats (SD), Party of Alenka Bratušek (SAB), and Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS)—and depended on the external support of The Left (Levica) party for an absolute majority in the parliament. In November, following disagreements on social policies and declining support for the government, Levica terminated its cooperation with the coalition,1 meaning the government was forced to work with the opposition Slovenian National Party (SNS). Since individual members of parliament from DeSUS and SNS refused to back government proposals, the fate of the minority government was repeatedly at stake.2
In the second half of the year, tensions also appeared between the coalition partners, expressed in the overcontrol of state-owned companies3 as well as Prime Minister Šarec’s alleged interference in the upcoming DeSUS party elections.4 Still, compared to 2018 and prior years, the coalition was relatively stable and even enjoyed popular support of up to 60 percent (measured in June), which was substantially higher than the average government approval rating during the previous decade.5 Furthermore, the coalition government completed and implemented several important agreements (with public sector unions, among others) and moved forward on issues that had stalled in the past due to weak political support and blockades.
On the negative side, 2019 saw the continuous personalization of politics in Slovenia. LMŠ, in spite of relatively high support, was weak as a party, overly dependent on the person of Marjan Šarec, and at any time could have faced the same fate as the SMC under former prime minister Miro Cerar (which, after a landslide victory in 2014, lost support due to lack of experience and party structure, finding itself in 2019 on the edge of disappearing). Antagonism between the ruling coalition and the right-wing opposition, especially Janez Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), also remained a feature of the country’s politics, hindering progress on various issues requiring broader consensus. The European Parliament (EP) elections in May confirmed a bipolar political situation, with the coalition center-left parties and the opposition conservative parties gaining four seats each.6
Slovenia’s electoral system, long characterized by unequal representation from different constituencies as well as the strong role of political parties in setting candidate lists, has been in need of modernization. In 2019, the government—following a 2018 Constitutional Court decision on unequal representation in electoral districts7 —proposed changes to (and even the abolition of) districts along with the introduction of preferential voting. The country’s political parties held differing positions on these options. By the end of the year, two-thirds of the parliament appeared to have coalesced around a proposal to abolish districts and introduce a relative preferential vote,8 but the proposal had not been put to a vote by year’s end.
The media continued to labor under unstable and instrumental ownership. Media consolidation and a skewed advertising market negatively impacted the professional status and economic security of journalists. Other systemic challenges, including political and economic interference via advertising by state-owned companies and competition from partisan media, contributed to a biased and antagonistic public sphere. In 2019, some individual journalists and media outlets were subject to legal harassment and public shaming, among other attacks. A new draft media law did not present concrete solutions to these and other systemic issues.9
Judicial procedures and judicial self-management were heavily politicized and mediatized, raising doubts about judicial independence and the guarantee of equality before the law. In November, the SDS parliamentarian Žan Mahnič, after being prevented by the Constitutional Court from questioning public prosecutors as part of a parliamentary inquiry into allegedly political procedures against individuals close to the center-right, controversially commented that “the mafia was protected by the mafia.”10 Individual court members linked to particular political parties accused each other of biased decisions in cases politicized by those parties. The judge in the high-profile “Nović” case (see “Judicial Framework and Independence”) said in April that he faced undue pressure from the defense, prosecution, and court authorities,11 contributing to the public’s weak perception of judicial independence.
Corruption posed a central challenge in Slovenia in 2019, as in previous years. Changes made to the boards and management of state-owned companies and institutions, so common after elections, occurred during the year, raising serious concerns about nontransparency, political/partisan criteria, and the risks of clientelism and corruption. Some of the year’s major corruption cases were related directly to the cabinet12 or the coalition partners.13 These revealed clashes among political leaders and various lobbying groups, with all actors treating state-owned businesses as prizes to be won in private feuds. There was also evidence of nontransparency, inefficiency, and possible corruption in state-funded programs and major public services, such as healthcare and higher education. An unsuccessful lobbying effort in the parliament over tobacco legislation revealed problems posed by the country’s lack of a code of ethics and other relevant regulation. Meanwhile, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC), handicapped by past political decisions, remained hampered by low public trust.
In 2020, the governing coalition, in spite of losing support, will stay above water so long as LMŠ maintains relatively strong public support compared to other coalition and opposition parties, many of which would perhaps fail to reach the parliamentary threshold if early elections were called. The possibility of the formation of other coalitions cannot be excluded, especially as the opposition New Slovenia party signaled some readiness to enter or form an alternative to the current government. However, such a move could also backfire, given the political fragmentation that would hound any alternate coalition and the forecasted macroeconomic deterioration. Moreover, cooperation among center-right and center-left parties is complicated by the antagonist role played by SDS leader Janez Janša. Overall, Slovenia’s political gridlock will continue to hinder progress in a variety of areas. In the media sector, further consolidation of ownership would likely intensify the risks to journalists and journalistic independence. One bright spot is the potential for an amended law on corruption and the nomination of a new head of the CPC, both of which could bring some improvements in this area.
- 1Al. Ma., G. K. Mesec: Levica je v polni opozicija … [Mesec: Levica is now fully in opposition] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/mesec-levica-je-v-polni-opoziciji-sarec… (17.11.2019)
- 2G.C. Al. Ma. Jurša o Mlinarjevi [Jurša about Mlinar] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/jursa-o-mlinarjevi-ne-gre-za-vojno-desu… (18.12.2019)
- 3Barbara Hočevar. Trenja se še kar stopnjujejo [The friction is still increasing] https://www.delo.si/novice/slovenija/trenja-se-se-kar-stopnjujejo-23517… (6.10.2019)
- 4STA. Vodja poslancev Jurša … [Head of MPs Jurša … https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/vodja-poslancev-desus-jursa-bo-na… (9.1.2020)
- 5La. Da. Podpora vladi 60-odstotna [60-percent support of the government] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/podpora-vladi-60-odstotna/492194 (16.6.2019)
- 6State election commission. Rezultati Evropskih volitev [European elections results] https://volitve.gov.si/ep2019/#/rezultati (26.5.2019)
- 7Constitutional court. Odločba U-I-32/15-56 [Decision U-I-32/15-56] https://www.us-rs.si/media/u-i-32-15.pdf (8.11.2018).
- 8G.C. Vrh slovenske politike o spremembi …[Four presidents summit to …] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/vrh-slovenske-politike-o-uvedbi-pokraji… (11.12.2019)
- 9Radio Prvi. Nova medijska zakonoaja [New media regulation] https://radioprvi.rtvslo.si/2019/08/studio-ob-17-00-86/ (30.8.2019).
- 10G.C. Ogorčen odziv na Mahničevo izjavo [Embittered reaction to Mahnič's statement] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/ogorcen-odziv-na-mahnicevo-izjavo-fiser… (17.11.2019)
- 11Andreja Lončar. Sodnik Radonjić: enfant terrible slovenskega sodstva? [Judge Radonjić enfant terrible of Slovenian judiciary] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/sodnik-radonjic-enfant-terrible-slove… (20.4.2019)
- 12Primož Cirman, Vesna Vuković. Afera Kralj: se spomnite … [Kralj affair. Remember …] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/afera-kralj-se-spomnite-petka-dimicev… (29.8.2019).
|Considers the democratic character of the governmental system; and the independence, effectiveness, and accountability of the legislative and executive branches.||5.756 7.007|
- Slovenia is a democratic country with functioning institutions, including a bicameral parliament (composed of National Assembly and National Council) that allows for oversight of the government by the opposition. However, there are areas of major disfunction, including close relations between the government and state-owned businesses, instability of the party system in recent years, a rise in lobbying groups that weaken the power of elected representatives, and strong political polarization that hinders political competition and cooperation across the political spectrum.
- The center-left minority coalition government, led by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec and his LMŠ party, was formed after the 2018 elections; Šarec, an actor-comedian and former mayor of Kamnik, entered national politics just before the elections as the popularity of the ruling coalition at the time was on the decline. In forming the coalition, LMŠ was joined by the parties DeSUS, SAB, SD, and SMC (see “Executive Summary”), all members of the previous ruling coalition except for SAB. To secure an absolute majority in the parliament, the coalition depended on the external support of Levica. In June and September, tensions between the coalition and Levica increased over the funding of various social programs.1 In November, before a vote on the next two-year budget, Levica formally terminated its cooperation with the coalition,2 forcing it to seek support from the opposition SNS. In November and December, individual members of parliament (MPs) from DeSUS refused to back government proposals, and with some SNS MPs switching to the opposition SDS, the government’s survival was at stake.3
- There also were tensions within the coalition, including over the control of state-owned businesses. LMŠ secretary general Brane Kralj resigned after being accused of interfering in the nominating procedures of one such business in August.4 In November, media reports revealed that SD MP Matjaž Han’s family company had done brisk business with and influenced a management shakeup at the oil company Petrol (co-owned by the state).5 Tensions between DeSUS and the rest of the coalition emerged after PM Šarec allegedly interfered in the party’s internal elections.6 The SMC was also a weak link in the coalition; environment minister Jure Leben of the SMC resigned in February7 over alleged involvement in abusing European Union (EU) funds earmarked for railway promotion to finance the party’s 2018 electoral campaign. SMC president and former prime minister Miro Cerar resigned from party leadership and was replaced by Zdenko Počivalšek in September, due in part to the scandal.
- The country’s political polarization continued in 2019, especially after the SDS—as the main opposition party and relative winner of the 2018 elections—failed to establish a ruling coalition. At the European Parliament (EP) elections in May, SDS candidates used more moderate rhetoric. However, associates of the SDS played key roles within the new ultra-nationalist party, the Homeland League, established in April to run in the elections.8 In the end, the SDS–Slovenian People’s Party (SLS) alliance won three seats, the opposition New Slovenia (NSi) party won one seat, the coalition partner SD won two seats, and the coalition leader LMŠ won two seats. Slovenia registered one of the lowest EP election turnouts in the EU (see “Electoral Process”).
- The government’s ability to legislate was hampered by political polarization during the year. For example, a draft law on private primary schools was proposed to finally implement a 2014 Constitutional Court decision after several failed attempts in past years. The proposal, prepared by Education Minister Jernej Pikalo (SD), provisioned public funding for only the mandatory parts of private education programs; this triggered opposition from the SMC as well as the center-right, which argued that the Constitutional Court decision mandated full funding of private education programs. Due to this disagreement, again no bill was passed, prompting legal experts to argue that Constitutional Court decisions should not be interpreted by politicians.9
- Despite PM Šarec’s lack of national political experience and the fragmented nature of his coalition, the government turned out to be relatively stable and effective, enjoying high public support throughout the first two-thirds of the year.10 Helped by positive macroeconomic conditions, it completed and implemented agreements with several interest groups (including public sector unions and doctors) and modified the tax system to increase personal incomes—moves that, although falling short of needed structural reforms, contributed to the government’s popular support. In this felicitous environment, NSi at one point offered to cooperate with the government and moved to the center with a new program presented in November,11 provoking the ire of the SDS, which maintains a position of hegemonic patronage over the center-right.
- Due to the bilateral border dispute with Croatia, Slovenia’s political and diplomatic relations with its neighbor remained poor in 2019. The instability and immaturity of the Slovenian party system was also exemplified in other foreign policy areas, such as PM Šarec’s refusal to address the EP in April,12 his comments showing a lack of understanding and engagement with EU policymaking and the further European political marginalization of Slovenia—a small economy that is heavily dependent on the EU.
- 1Barbara Hočevar. Trenja se še kar stopnjujejo [The friction is increasing] https://www.delo.si/novice/slovenija/trenja-se-se-kar-stopnjujejo-23517… (6.10.2019)
- 2Al. Ma., G. K. Mesec: Levica je v polni opozicija … [Mesec: Levica is now fully in opposition] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/mesec-levica-je-v-polni-opoziciji-sarec… (17.11.2019)
- 3G.C. Al. Ma. Jurša o Mlinarjevi [Jurša about Mlinar] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/jursa-o-mlinarjevi-ne-gre-za-vojno-desu… (18.12.2019)
- 4Primož Cirman, Vesna Vuković. Afera Kralj: se spomnite … [Kralj affair. Remember …] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/afera-kralj-se-spomnite-petka-dimicev… (29.8.2019).
- 5Marko Gregorc. Družinsko podjetje Matjaža Hana s Petrolom lani sklenilo [Last year family company by Matjaž Han made deals with Petrol worth…] https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/druzinsko-podjetje-matjaza-hana-s… (18.11.2019)
- 6STA. Vodja poslancev Jurša … [Head of MPs Jurša … https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/vodja-poslancev-desus-jursa-bo-na… (9.1.2020)
- 7G.C, G.K. Premier Šarec sprejel odstop … [PM Šarec accepts resignation …] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/premier-sarec-sprejel-odstop-ministra-l… (27.2.2019)
- 8V.Š. Desni politični pol dobil novo stranko … [New party on the political right …] https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/desni-politicno-pol-dobil-novo-st… (6.4.2019)
- 9Tanja Domniko. Avbelj: Zadeve niso več politično smešne [Issues are no longer laughtable] http://radio.ognjisce.si/sl/215/aktualno/29923/ (June 2019)
- 10La. Da. Podpora vladi 60-odstotna [60-percent support of the government] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/podpora-vladi-60-odstotna/492194 (16.6.2019)
- 11Uredništvo. NSI napoveduje prenovo … [NSI announces to renew …] https://www.domovina.je/nsi-napoveduje-prenovo-temeljnega-programa-in-p… (5.8.2019)
- 12G.K. Šarec: moj govor v Strasburgu … [Šarec: My speech in Strasbourgh] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/sarec-moj-govor-v-strasbourgu-bi-bil-la… (19.3.2019)
|Examines national executive and legislative elections, the electoral framework, the functioning of multiparty systems, and popular participation in the political process.||6.507 7.007|
- Elections in Slovenia are generally free and fair. One key issue, however, is the unequal representation of voters from different constituencies, a situation impacted by the current design of the electoral system as well as the country’s sociodemographic changes. Another electoral issue is the weak link between voters and their elected representatives of any given constituency, which is influenced by the way political parties nominate their candidates.
- The EP elections in May were free and fair yet characterized by low turnout (28.29 percent), one of the lowest participation rates in the EU. Slovenia was a single constituency in the elections, meaning there was only a single nationwide voting list, and a relative preferential vote was applied (as opposed to national parliamentary elections with a number of constituencies and no preferential vote). Due to the small number of mandates up for grabs (only eight), there was an effective threshold of about 7–8 percent. The SDS–SLS alliance won 26.2 percent of the vote, which translated into three seats; SD won 18.7 percent, for two seats; LMŠ won 15.4 percent, for two seats; and NSi won 11.1 percent, for one mandate.1 A factor contributing to the low turnout was the weak and marginalized role of Slovenian parties within European party families, a result of the instability and dramatic changes in the country’s domestic party landscape over the past decade.
- Slovenia’s electoral laws are in need of significant modernization. The parliamentary allocation of seats is based on a distribution of total votes between parties and the relative share of votes in individual constituencies. Due to the country’s sociodemographic changes, the difference in the number of voters in different constituencies has increased, resulting in cases of under- and over-representation. Secondly, political parties play a strong role in influencing who gets elected by directly nominating candidates in constituencies where support for their party is high. Previous attempts to modernize the electoral laws have failed due to a lack of consensus across the political spectrum as well as within governing coalitions. In November 2018, the Constitutional Court decided that the difference in the number of voters between electoral units had become too large and was in contradiction with the principle of equal representation.2 In May 2019, the government proposed changes to the electoral laws,3 which included changing the boundaries of districts or abandoning districts altogether and introducing a preferential vote. Initially, there were substantial disagreements among the political parties: some supported the elimination of voting districts, others advocated relative preferential voting, and still others pushed for absolute preferential voting.4 By the end of the year, after seven rounds of talks hosted by President Borut Pahor, there seemed to be sufficient support in the parliament for introducing a relative preferential vote and abandoning voting districts. The less ambitious alternative of merely changing district boundaries was also proposed.5 However, neither initiative had advanced to a vote by year’s end.
- 1State election commission. Rezultati Evropskih volitev [European elections results] https://volitve.gov.si/ep2019/#/rezultati (26.5.2019)
- 2Constitutional court. Odločba U-I-32/15-56 [Decision U-I-32/15-56] https://www.us-rs.si/media/u-i-32-15.pdf (8.11.2018).
- 3Government of RS. Na mizi ostajata oba predloga [Both propositions remain on the table] https://www.gov.si/novice/2019-07-12-na-mizi-ostajata-oba-predloga-spre… (12.7.2019)
- 4M.Z.Volilna zakonodaja – kljub prvim soglasjem mnenja še vedno deljena [electoral laws – against initial agreement, views still divided] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/volilna-zakonodaja-kljub-prvim-soglasje…
- 5G.C. Vrh slovenske politike o spremembi …[Four presidents summit to …] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/vrh-slovenske-politike-o-uvedbi-pokraji… (11.12.2019)
|Assesses the organizational capacity and financial sustainability of the civic sector; the legal and political environment in which it operates; the functioning of trade unions; interest group participation in the policy process; and the threat posed by antidemocratic extremist groups.||6.006 7.007|
- Slovenia’s civic sector is vibrant and well organized, and operates within a legal framework that provides for sufficient autonomy. Two of the sector’s primary issues, however, are its financial dependence on few sources of funding and occasional political interference or even capture.
- Following the opposition from environmental groups to several state construction projects, such as the new Mokrice hydroelectric power plant, PM Šarec said in June that he would revisit government regulations, specifically, to reconsider which nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) should be accorded the special status to review construction permitting processes. In response, these NGOs said that current regulations were already sufficiently restrictive, and they criticized Šarec’s remarks as an attempt to weaken their oversight role.1 Earlier, in February, environmental NGOs warned that lobbyists from the energy sector were putting pressure on the environment ministry.2
- In May and September, the SDS and SNS called for the reduction of public financing for NGOs allegedly involved in helping migrants.3 No concrete actions followed, but these statements contributed to a negative perception of NGOs in Slovenia, especially those involved in politicized issues, such as environmental protection and human rights.
- During 2019, Štajerska Varda, a paramilitary group of 50 to 100 people, appeared on the Croatian border in uniform and armed with air rifles to stop irregular migrants and stage other provocations. The “guard” announced the establishment of additional outfits, while the government declared that it would amend the law to enable the prosecution of paramilitary activities. In March, Andrej Šiško, leader of Štajerska Varda and a member of the ultra-nationalist Party of the Slovenian Nation, was sentenced to eight months in prison for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. Another member of the group, Matej Lesjak (formerly of the SDS youth wing), was also sentenced.4
- The president of the Slovenian Farmers’ Union, an organization close to the SLS, faced death threats after pressuring the government to reduce the number of wild animals (such as wolves and bears) capable of attacking sheep and other domesticated animals. This was an isolated incident, but it nevertheless demonstrated that tensions between various interest groups can easily escalate.5
- In advance of the first Pride march held in Maribor (Slovenia’s second-largest city) in June, the event organizers were asked to pay for additional police protection (provided free of charge to the Pride parade in the capital Ljubljana). The march organizers were also rebuffed by several local private security companies. Besides some outbursts of hate speech and public shaming, no other incidents marred the event.6
- At the end of July, 27,854 NGOs were registered in Slovenia, of which 24,092 were associations (the remainder were institutes and institutions). Over the past few years, the number of NGOs has increased by about five hundred annually. About 3 percent of NGOs are estimated to be inactive.7 Although NGO revenues are increasing, most typically depend on a few unstable sources of funding, which vary depending on each group’s interests and activities.8
- 1STA. Šarec pozval k prevetritvi nevladnih organizacij [Šarec calls for checking the NGO lists] http://www.times.si/slovenija/sarec-pozval-k-prevetritvi-nevladnih-orga… (17.6.2019)
- 2CNVOS. NVO opozarjajo, da je pritisk …[NGO's warn that the pressure …] https://www.cnvos.si/aktualno/1939/nvo-opozarjajo-da-je-pritisk-energet…
- 3C.R. Poslanec SDS Žan Mahnič za takojšnjo ukinitev financiranja …[SDS MP Žan Mahnič in favor of immediate] http://www.demokracija.si/slovenija/poslanec-sds-zan-mahnic-za-takojsnj… (30.5.2019)
- 4Marko Rabuza, D.K. Štajerska varda izvaja tipične vojaško-policijske operacije [Štajerska varda is performing typical police-military operations] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/kako-se-bo-na-zahteve-sveta-za-nacion… (18.11.2019).
- 5STA. Kmetu Medvedu grozijo s smtrjo [Farmer Medved received death threaths] https://reporter.si/clanek/slovenija/kmetu-medvedu-grozijo-s-smrtjo-in-… (22.8.2019)
- 6Larisa Daugul. Zakaj so v Mariboru morali plačati policijsko varovanje [why in Maribor they had to pay for police protection] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/zakaj-so-v-mariboru-morali-placati-poli…
- 7Andreja Gregorič. Nevladni sektor lani s skoraj milijardo prihodkov. [Last years revenues for non-governmental sector almost a billion] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/nevladni-sektor-lani-s-skoraj-milijardo…
- 8CNVOS. Objavili smo podatke o javnem financiranju [Infomration on public funding published] https://www.cnvos.si/novice/2349/objavili-smo-podatke-o-javnem-financir…
|Examines the current state of press freedom, including libel laws, harassment of journalists, and editorial independence; the operation of a financially viable and independent private press; and the functioning of the public media.||5.506 7.007|
- Media operate freely in Slovenia, but the sector is challenged by a range of issues, including unstable and instrumental ownership, the influence of politics and lobbying groups via advertising from (state-owned) companies, and, in recent years, partisan media and outlets controlled by local governments.
- Political parties directly pressured individual journalists and media outlets in 2019. In April, journalists from Reporter magazine protested SDS president Janez Janša, who had made a practice of shaming journalists on social media and urging readers to cancel their subscriptions.1
- Journalists also faced prosecution for their work. In May, a court action was initiated against four journalists and the daily Dnevnik for publishing a police recording that revealed the personal data of high-profile individuals (including the wealthy Slovenian Tomaž Lovše and influential lawyer Miro Senica) involved in a controversial acquisition in which a heavily indebted foreign company, Agrokor, bought Slovenia’s largest grocery chain, Mercator.2 The journalists faced a potential sentence of one year in prison.
- In September, reports revealed that media outlets related to Bojan Požar, a journalist and TV host who ran for parliament in 2018, received substantial advertising support during his campaign from state-owned companies like Telekom. The affair also exposed the extent to which Slovenian media could be instrumentalized by (and even owe their existence to) selling favorable coverage to companies, political actors, and other interests.3
- In June, the government presented draft media legislation4 proposing the regulation of hate speech. However, the bill’s vague definition of hate speech would leave decisions about the permissibility of expression up to media inspectors’ personal judgment. One journalists’ association warned that this could lead to possible abuses of power and pressure on the media. If found guilty of publishing hate speech, media could face fines of €1,000–10,000. The group also expressed concern about PM Šarec’s habit of accusing opposition media of hate speech as well as his suggestion that state-owned companies not advertise in media that allegedly publish hate speech.5 Other important elements of the draft legislation would allow for vertical integration across print, radio, TV, and other types of media. In addition, the draft bill failed to propose solutions to the issue of irresponsible media ownership manifested in partisan and municipal outlets. Moreover, it would not change the current provision that allows powerful individuals to demand that outlets publish a “correction” in their reporting on them, a right that is often abused to go far beyond merely correcting the facts of a story.6
- Media consolidation via mergers and acquisitions continued during the year, especially as the Slovenian press faced declining revenues. In October, the largest daily, Delo, announced massive layoffs.7 Foreign owners agreed to sell Pro Plus, Slovenia’s largest private TV news company, along with several other media in the region, to Petr Kellner, a Czech tycoon.8 In July, the Competition Protection Agency allowed owners to proceed with the merger of Dnevnik and Večer, Slovenia’s second- and third-largest dailies, respectively. The merger will likely negatively affect diversity, especially as the Maribor-based Večer represents an important regional perspective, and several journalists could lose their jobs.9
- 1ZNP. Odbor ZNP pri Reporterju protestira zopet politične pritiske iz SDS [ZNP committe at Reporter protests against political pressures from SDS] https://www.znp.si/english-texts-mainmenu-27/493-odbor-znp-pri-reporter… (24.4.2019)
- 2DNS. Neupravičen pregon novinarjev [Unfounded persecution of journalists] https://novinar.com/11589 (7.5.2019)
- 3Blaž Petkovič. Politično-edijski model prosto po Bojanu Požarju [Political-media project by Bojan Požar]. https://www.vecer.com/politicno-medijski-model-prosto-po-bojanu-pozarju… (24.9.2019)
- 4Predlog nove medijske zakonodaje [Draft new media regulation] https://e-uprava.gov.si/.download/edemokracija/datotekaVsebina/393836?d… (18.11.2019)
- 5ZNP. Statements about intervening in the freedom of speech in Slovenia. https://www.znp.si/english-texts-mainmenu-27/499-statement-about-interv… (19.9.2019)
- 6DNS. Komentar na predlog novele ZMED [comments on draft media legislation] https://novinar.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Komentar-DNS-n… (27.8.2019)
- 7J.Z. Delo napovedalo veliko odpuščanje [Delo announced big layoffs] https://www.zurnal24.si/slovenija/delo-napovedalo-veliko-odpuscanje-335… (18.11.2019)
- 8Anja Hreščak. Pro Plus bi prevzel najbogatejši Čeh [Pro Plus to be sold to richest Czech] https://www.dnevnik.si/1042912305 (28.10.2019)
- 9DNS. Pri združitiv Dnevnika in Večera naj bosta v ospredju … [with the merger of Večer and Dnevnik …] https://novinar.com/11652 (29.7.2019)
|Considers the decentralization of power; the responsibilities, election, and capacity of local governmental bodies; and the transparency and accountability of local authorities.||6.507 7.007|
- Municipalities in Slovenia have traditionally been politically autonomous and possess substantial authority. However, local democracy is constrained by a number of factors, including the strong role of mayors vis-à-vis city councils, dependence on state financing, and inefficient governance due to administrative fragmentation and lack of regional structures.
- After the 2018 local elections, individuals with no political experience took positions in several municipalities. This created problems for some, such as Piran, where a series of inappropriate Facebook posts by the mayor led citizens to question his basic competence.1 In Slovenia, a city council can only remove a mayor if the municipal budget is not passed for two consecutive years. This can create a lack of accountability. In the capital Ljubljana, farmers and environmentalists protested Mayor Zoran Janković and his majority on the city council after they decided to build a wastewater treatment facility above a freshwater reservoir in spite of the risks involved and by circumventing relevant regulation.2
- There were moments of tension between state institutions and local communities in 2019. In July, an independent analysis of soil and groundwater in the municipality of Moravče revealed that a local mining company had caused substantial pollution despite previous inspections showing that the company was respecting environmental regulations. The new mayor of Moravče argued that the state was protecting the individual dumping waste in his community.3 In April, border municipalities protested against an influx of migrants and refugees,4 while other locales protested increased vehicular traffic or attacks by wild animals.5 In all of these cases, local voices argued that they were being overlooked by national interest groups and central authorities.
- In September, the government presented a draft law that would introduce a system of 11 regions in 2023. The draft law was based on previous proposals that were stalled after the 2009 financial crisis and the political instability that followed. The proposal envisions the transfer of state competencies and was generally welcomed as an impetus for regional development. There were disagreements, however, over the configuration of the proposed regional units. Moreover, the questions of which competencies would be transferred and what the costs of regional governance would be remained open at year’s end.6
- In July, the finance ministry proposed lump-sum fiscal transfers to municipalities for 2020 and 2021. Though this represented a funding increase, municipalities argued they would actually be worse off because of the growing costs of the services they provide.7 These objections were partly addressed in the 2020–21 compromise budget adopted by the parliament.8
- 1Lea Širok, Tjaša Škamperle. Zakaj je Zadkovič pisal Trumpu …[why did Zadkovič write to Trump …] https://www.rtvslo.si/radiokoper/novice/zakaj-je-zadkovic-pisal-trumpu-… (3.5.2019)
- 2Barbara Vidmajer, alenka Bevčič. Kmetje na Ježici neuspešno skušali prerpečiti gradnjo kanalizacije [Farmers at Ježica unsuccesful in trying to prevent construction of waste water pipeline] https://www.rtvslo.si/lokalne-novice/ljubljana/kmetje-na-jezici-neuspes… (18.11.2019)
- 3KH/STA. Kaj je pokazala analiza tal v Moravčah [What did the soil analysis in Moravče show] https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/kaj-je-pokazala-analiza-tal-in-vo… (11.7.2019)
- 4Uroš Škerl Kramberger. Jutri protest proti migracijam v Jelšanah [tomorrow protest against migration in Jelšane] https://www.dnevnik.si/1042884450 (18.11.2019)
- 5STA, Luka Mlakar. Protest proti napadom divjih zveri … [Protest against attack of wild animals] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/protest-sindikata-kmetov-proti-divjim… (18.11.2019).
- 6N.P. Predlog, ki z začekom leta 2023 Slovenijo razmejuje … [Proposal which starting with 2023 divides Slovenia into …] https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/predlog-ki-slovenijo-z-zacetkom-l… (14.8.2019)
- 7Združenje občin. Združenje občina na vlado RS naslovilo … [Association of municipalities calls upon government of RS …] http://www.zdruzenjeobcin.si/nc/novice/preberi/detajl/zdruzenje-obcin-s… (11.9.2019)
|Assesses constitutional and human rights protections, judicial independence, the status of ethnic minority rights, guarantees of equality before the law, treatment of suspects and prisoners, and compliance with judicial decisions.||6.006 7.007|
- While the reputation of Slovenia’s judiciary has improved in recent years, attempts by political parties to delegitimize individual proceedings, including those in the Constitutional Court, continue to threaten judicial independence. Furthermore, allegations of interference in judicial nominating procedures and the self-government of the judiciary have reduced public trust in the justice system.
- In October, Constitutional Court justice Klemen Jaklič, who is closely linked to the SDS, accused another justice, Matej Accetto, of lying about his ties to the SMC and failing to recuse himself in matters related to SMC interests. Jaklič himself has openly advocated for the SDS in several cases.1 This incident highlighted the role of political parties in the Constitutional Court nominating procedures and its impact on the perception of the court’s impartiality.
- The judge in the high-profile “Nović” case, in which an ex-employee of Slovenia’s National Institute of Chemistry was accused (and eventually acquitted) of murdering his former boss, said in April that he faced undue pressure from the defense, prosecution, and court authorities.2 The Ethics and Integrity Committee of the Judiciary Council later ruled that his claim was inappropriate and unfounded, beginning a disciplinary procedure against him.3
- The parliament’s judiciary committee debated several legal cases from past years related to individuals of the center-right. The courts reacted negatively to this development, since some of the cases were still open, and the Constitutional Court prevented public prosecutors from appearing at a parliamentary inquiry into these cases. In response, SDS MP Žan Mahnič said, “The mafia was protected by the mafia,” adding that “while many countries have a mafia, in Slovenia, the mafia has a country.”4 This comment was met with negative reactions from court representatives, fellow politicians, and experts, but it nevertheless damaged public perception of the judiciary.
- In August, a court tentatively forgave debts owed by the son of the mayor of Ljubljana (facing several charges himself but never convicted) totaling nearly €29 million.5 This move by the court provoked public outcry, confirming a pattern of perceived abuses by influential and well-connected individuals.6
- According to the European Commission’s 2019 scoreboard, the efficiency, quality, and independence of Slovenia’s judiciary is generally improving except in select areas, such as gender equality (in 2017, 75 to 80 percent of judges on first- and second-instance courts were female, while the share of female judges on the Supreme Court was 40 percent) and the quality of judgments. The justice system’s perceived independence improved somewhat but was still ranked among the lowest in the EU in 2019. According to survey respondents, this perception is driven by interference from politics and interest groups.7
- 1Primož Criman, Vesna Vuković. Zakaj je Klemen Jaklič zamudil priložnost biti tiho [Why did Klemen Jaklič miss the opportunity to shout] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/zakaj-je-klemen-jaklic-zamudil-priloz… (16.10.2019)
- 2Andreja Lončar. Sodnik Radonjić: enfant terrible slovenskega sodstva? [Judge Radonjić enfant terrible of Slovenian judiciary] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/sodnik-radonjic-enfant-terrible-slove… (20.4.2019)
- 3T.K.B. Sodniku v primeru Novič Radonjiću grozi disciplinski postopek [Judge in the Novič case facing discipline procedure] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/sodniku-v-primeru-novic-radonjicu-grozi… (23.9.2019)
- 4La. Da. Odbor za pravosodje zavrnil predlog SDS glede zlorab in pritiskov [Judiciary committee rejects proposal by SDS on abuses and pressures in judiciary] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/odbor-za-pravosodje-zavrnil-predlog-sds… (10.5.2019)
- 6Tarča. Postopki zoper Jankoviča [Target: proceedings against Jankovič] https://4d.rtvslo.si/arhiv/tarca/174643598 (18.11.2019)
- 7European Commission. Justice scoreboard 2019 https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/justice_scoreboard_2019_en.p…
|Looks at public perceptions of corruption, the business interests of top policymakers, laws on financial disclosure and conflict of interest, and the efficacy of anticorruption initiatives.||5.255 7.007|
- Corruption is a systemic issue in Slovenia, and the year 2019 saw several high-profile cases along with the nontransparent administration of state-funded programs, state-owned businesses, and public procurement processes. These negative developments were compounded by insufficient regulation of lobbying and the weak role of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC).
- The change of government in 2018 was followed by a shakeup on the boards and management of corporations owned or controlled by the state, such as Slovenian Sovereign Holding, Telekom, and Petrol. In several cases, these changes were ill-founded and nontransparent, demonstrating that political parties and interest groups still view state assets as spoils.1 Some of these cases directly involved the prime minister’s office; in August, for instance, LMŠ secretary general Brane Kralj inappropriately lobbied for the appointment of a political ally to the directorship of a state-owned publishing company.2 Media reports also revealed that SD MP Matjaž Han’s family company had earned a substantial share of its revenues by doing business with Petrol.3
- Staffing procedures in state and public institutions were also politicized. In September, media reports revealed that the National Security Agency had employed a former colleague of PM Šarec despite her questionable qualifications.4 Similarly, former SD and SMC members were nominated to positions in the education and environment ministries.5
- In August, the Agency for Commodities Reserves contested an order from the information commissioner to reveal documents related to the purchase of fencing erected on Slovenia’s southern border.6 Facing allegations of corruption, the agency argued that the documents were a matter of national security and should remain secret.
- In June, following a lobbying campaign by the tobacco industry, 38 MPs decided to support the postponement of more restrictive tobacco legislation, going against the view of the National Institute of Public Health, which argued that the legislation would be cost-efficient and effective in reducing smoking and therefore should be implemented immediately. The MPs proposed the postponement via accelerated procedure, hindering public debate. But after the affair came to light, the attempted postponement was shot down. This incident demonstrated the pitfalls of not having an MP code of ethics and relevant regulation on lobbying that would strengthen accountability and increase transparency in Slovenia.7
- In September, journalists uncovered that prominent doctors working in procurement in public hospitals had received substantial undisclosed financial support from the pharmaceutical industry. The public healthcare system has long been a well of corruption, with a number of affairs related to procurement of medicines and equipment.8
- Also in September, an audit revealed that faculty and staff at the University of Maribor, Slovenia’s second-largest public university, were illegally and irregularly appropriating funds. In spite of this revelation, university authorities failed to sanction those responsible.9
- The number of complaints sent to the CPC continued to decline in 2019; during the year, the commission received 687 complaints, up from 541 in 2018 but still far lower than in previous years,10 thus demonstrating a lack of trust in the institution. The CPC continued to experience tensions among employees due to the commission’s weak leadership and other personnel issues, as revealed by media reports in October.11
- New draft amendments to the Law on Integrity and Prevention of Corruption,12 still being considered in the parliament at year’s end, envision improvements to the body’s nominating procedures. Additionally, they would widen the range of public functionaries required to report assets as well as enable the CPC to publish data on the assets of most politicians and high-level functionaries. Still, some experts argued that a more comprehensive anticorruption regime is needed in Slovenia to address such issues as lobbying abuses, conflicts of interest, revolving-door employment, and the protection of whistle-blowers, among other concerns.13
Author: Marko Lovec is a Research Fellow and Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana.
The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 7 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 1 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year. The Democracy Percentage, introduced in 2020, is a translation of the Democracy Score to the 0–100 scale, where 0 equals least democratic and 100 equals most democratic.
- 1CPC. Zaznana tveganje in podana priporočila komisije pri postopkih kadrovanj [Identified risks and propositions made in employment procedures] https://www.kpk-rs.si/2019/05/30/zaznana-tveganja-in-podana-priporocila… (30.5.2019)
- 2Primož Cirman, Vesna Vuković. Afera Kralj: se spomnite … [Kralj affair. Remember …] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/afera-kralj-se-spomnite-petka-dimicev… (29.8.2019).
- 3Marko Gregorc. Družinsko podjetje Matjaža Hana s Petrolom lani sklenilo [Last year family company by Matjaž Han made deals with Petrol worth…] https://www.24ur.com/novice/slovenija/druzinsko-podjetje-matjaza-hana-s… (18.11.2019)
- 4STA. Inšpektorat v prioritetni nadzor zaposlovanja na Sovi. [Priority control of emplyoment at Sova] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/sarcevo-posredovanje-pri-zaposlitvi-n… (10.10.2019)
- 5STA, G.B. Šarčeva vlada kadruje na polno [Šarec government is staffing] https://demokracija.si/slovenija/sarceva-vlada-kadruje-na-polno-nekdanj… (18.11.2019)
- 6G.K. al. Ma. Zakaj država skrvija dokumente o nakupu ograje na meji [Why is state hiding documents on purchase of fance at the border] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/zakaj-drzava-skriva-dokumente-o-nakupu-… (22.8.2019)
- 7L.L. KPK sumi na nezakonito vplivanje pri tobačnem zakonu [CPC suspects illegal influencing on tobacco law] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/kpk-sumi-na-nezakonito-vplivanje-pri-to… (14.6.2019)
- 8Alenka Marovt. Kateri zdravniki so prejemniki farmacevtskih milijonov [which doctors received millions from pharmaceutical companies] https://www.24ur.com/novice/dejstva/kateri-zdravniki-so-prejemniki-farm… (17.9.2019)
- 9Janez Krušič Stergulc, Nina Mrzlikar. Nepravilnosti na mariborski unvierzi [Irregularities at University Maribor] https://www.rtvslo.si/slovenija/nepravilnosti-na-mariborski-univerzi-50… (20.9.2019)
- 11Marko Rabuza. Anonimka na KPK številne nepravilnosti [anonymous report: numerous irregularities at CPC] https://siol.net/novice/slovenija/anonimka-na-kpk-stevilne-nepravilnost… (10.10.2019)
- 12Predlog zakona ZIntPK-C [Draft regulation ZIntPK-C] https://www.gov.si/novice/2019-10-07-predlog-zakona-o-spremembah-in-dop… (18.11.2019)
- 13STA. Novela zakona o integriteti [Amended law on integrity] https://www.iusinfo.si/medijsko-sredisce/v-srediscu/244966 (18.11.2019)
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