Freedom in the World
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After ten years of independence from the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has much to celebrate. The country remains a leading candidate for membership in the European Union (EU) and expects to receive an invitation to join NATO. It also boasts one of the highest levels of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in Central and Eastern Europe.
Slovenia was part of the Hapsburg Empire from 1335 to 1918, at which time it became part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. It became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia after World War II and remained a part of Communist Yugoslavia until 1991. Since then, independent Slovenia has adopted a new constitution, held repeated free-and-fair direct elections, and undertaken important economic and political reforms. In 1990, prior to independence, the Democratic United Opposition (DEMOS) secured victory in Slovenia's first multiparty parliamentary elections, and DEMOS leader Lojze Peterle became prime minister. Voters also elected former Communist leader Milan Kucan president. They elected Kucan the president of an independent Slovenia in 1992 and again in 1997.
After parliamentary elections in 1992 and 1996, Janez Drnovsek, the last president of the former Yugoslavia, formed center-left governments led by the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party. In April 2000, however, Drnovsek's government collapsed when the Slovenian People's Party (SLS) withdrew and he lost a confidence vote in the national assembly. The SLS joined forces with the Slovenian Christian Democrats (SKD) in a partnership that is commonly known as SLS+SKD and nominated Andrej Bajuk, an economist and an Argentine banker of Slovenian descent, to be prime minister. Parliament approved Bajuk after three rounds of voting.
An SLS+SKD coalition with the Social Democratic Party (SDS) proved short-lived, and Bajuk broke with the new party in August 2000 to form his own-the New Slovenian Party. He stayed in power until the October parliamentary elections, when Drnovsek's LDS won 36.21 percent of the vote and formed a coalition government with the SLS+SKD, the United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), and the Slovenian Democratic Party of Pensioners (DeSUS). Official election results were LDS, 34 seats; SDS, 14; ZLSD, 11; SLS+SKD, 9; New Slovenian, 8; DeSUS, 4; Nationalist Party, 4; and Youth Party, 4. Drnovsek was returned to power.
The European Commission (EC) announced in its 2001 "Report on Slovenia's Progress Toward Accession" that the country continues to move forward in meeting the requirements of EU membership. The report details a number of positive developments such as the adoption of a code of conduct for civil servants, progress in reducing the backlog of pending court cases, and the creation of a privatization timetable. The report also notes a new anticorruption office, which the government created in response to a Council of Europe report that cited a "disparity ... between the low number of offences detected, prosecuted or punished in Slovenia and the general perception of an increasing, quite widespread corruption." Nonetheless, the council report acknowledges that "Slovenia is one of the Central and Eastern European countries that seems less affected by corruption" and that "Slovenian authorities have made an impressive effort to follow international standards in the anti-corruption field."
Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy with independent legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. Voters can change their government under a system of universal, equal, and direct suffrage. They elect the president and members of the 90-seat national assembly. Parliament chooses the prime minister. There is also a 40-seat national council, a largely advisory body that represents professional groups and local interests.
Elections in Slovenia are free and fair. Former Communist leader Milan Kucan has been the president since 1990. He is not eligible to run in the 2002 election. The LDS and Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek have dominated Slovenia's post-Communist government for eight years. Drnovsek briefly lost power in 2000 to economist and center-right nominee Andrej Bajuk.
Parliament approved a new system of proportional representation in 2000. The new electoral code raises the threshold for securing seats from 3.2 percent to 4 percent and ends the use of preferential party lists for allocating seats to candidates who do not win direct mandates. This system guided parliamentary elections in October 2000, in which candidates from eight parties participated. When the LDS received a majority of the vote, it formed a new coalition government and returned Drnovsek to the post of prime minister. Slovenia's constitution entitles Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities to one deputy each in the national assembly.
In 2001, the constitutional court struck down Article 39 of Slovenia's law on local self-government for its lack of specificity on how to implement a provision that guarantees seats for Roma (Gypsies) in local governments. Also in 2001, the government pledged to support the country's German-speaking population through educational and cultural programs. The decision was intended to appease Austria, which has pressed for formal recognition of this ethnic minority in Slovenia.
The government respects the constitutional rights of freedom of speech, expression, and the press. Insulting public officials, however, is prohibited by law. Most print media outlets are privately owned and support themselves with advertising revenues. Some electronic media outlets, such as Slovenia Radio-Television (RTV), remain state-owned. RTV has three radio stations and two television networks. In 2001, parliament approved a controversial new media law that, among other things, regulates the protection of freedom of expression, prohibits the incitement of inequality and intolerance, requires domestic productions to account for at least 20 percent of television broadcasts, and compels media outlets to seek the opinion of their editorial staffs on the selection of editors in chief. The law also creates an agency for telecommunications and broadcasting.
The constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. In order to receive tax rebates, religious groups must register with the state. More than 70 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. In 2001, controversy surrounded the Catholic Church's claims on property seized under communism when two government ministries issued conflicting decisions on cases involving the return of property in kind versus financial compensation. The debate largely centered on interpretations of the 1991 Denationalization Act, which, according to the East European Constitutional Review, "restricts in kind restitution of property that is a public good."
The government respects the right of individuals to assemble peacefully, form associations, participate in public affairs, and submit petitions. Military and police personnel may not join political parties. Workers enjoy the right to establish and join trade unions, to strike, and to bargain collectively. According to the EC, Slovenia's trade unions actively participate "in the process of adopting relevant legislation ... and in decision-making on wage, labour and pension policies." In 2001, parliament revised the procedures on holding referendums. Among the provisions is a requirement that the national assembly carry through on the results of a referendum's within one year of the balloting.
Slovenia has an independent judiciary that consists of a supreme court, an administrative court, regional and district courts, and an appeals court. There is also a constitutional court. The constitution guarantees individuals due process, equality before the law, and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. While the EC has criticized the judiciary for long court delays, it acknowledged progress in 2001 in "reducing the backlog of pending court cases" and noted specific measures such as the creation of a program that makes rotating judges available to courts with large caseloads. However, it also noted concerns about increased police brutality.
Citizens of Slovenia enjoy many other personal rights and freedoms. These include the freedom to travel, move, and choose a place of residence; the right to privacy and the inviolability of the home; the right to health care and social security; and the freedom to work. The constitution provides special protection for marriage, the family, and children. It defines specific rights and obligations for parents.
Slovenia has a constitution that guarantees-and a government that respects-private property rights and free enterprise. Still, organizations like the International Monetary Fund have urged that Slovenia move faster to divest itself of large state enterprises, to reduce its budget deficit, and to cut inflation. According to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the private sector only accounts for about 55 percent of GDP. In January 2000, important legislation reforming the country's pay-as-you-go pension system took effect. In 2001, Prime Minister Drnovsek announced that his country might enter the EU as a net contributor to the budget.