Freedom in the World
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Slovenian voters, by the slimmest of margins, approved a new broadcast law in 2005 that was criticized by many journalists and media professionals. Slovenia's policies toward ethnic minorities continue to draw criticism both inside and outside of the country.
The territory now constituting Slovenia was part of the Hapsburg Empire from 1335 to 1918. At the end of World War I, Slovenia became a part of the new Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929), and after World War II, it became a constituent republic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 1990, Slovenia held its first postwar, multiparty, democratic elections, in which the Democratic United Opposition (DEMOS) secured victory. Voters also elected former Communist leader Milan Kucan president. Kucan was reelected in Slovenia's first postindependence polls in 1992 and 1996.
Slovenia was spared the war and destruction that accompanied much of the rest of the former Yugoslavia after the country disintegrated, and Slovenian society has enjoyed remarkable consensus in the postindependence period. Throughout the 1990s, a large majority of citizens agreed that Slovenia should concentrate on entering European and trans-Atlantic organizations, and domestic policy focused on maintaining a social-democratic model for Slovenian society. For most of this period, Slovenia was ruled by center-left governments, the most important element of which was Janez Drnovsek's Liberal Democratic Party (LDS).
In Slovenia's latest presidential elections, held over two rounds in late 2002, Drnovsek won 56 percent of the vote in a second-round runoff, comfortably outdistancing his opponent, the Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS) candidate Barbara Brezigar. Seventy-one percent of the electorate turned out to vote in the first round of the elections and 65 percent for the second round.
In 2004, the 12-year lock on power of Slovenia's left-of-center parties was broken after Prime Minister Anton Rop's LDS-led coalition suffered a number of political defeats, while in the October 2004 parliamentary elections, Janez Jansa's center-right SDS succeeded in unseating the LDS and becoming Slovenia's most popular political party. Turnout for the parliamentary elections was 60 percent.
Slovenia's most pressing civil rights problem in recent years has been resolving the fate of the "erased"-some 18,000 non-Slovene citizens of the former Yugoslavia who remained in Slovenia after independence, but who were administratively removed from official records after they failed to apply for citizenship or permanent resident status during a brief window of opportunity that was allowed in 1992. The erased were subsequently systematically denied driver's licenses, access to state health care, and pensions. Under pressure from the European Union (EU), the Slovenian government began drafting legislation in 2003 to restore these rights. In April 2004, an LDS-sponsored bill granting retroactive residency rights to the erased was rejected in a referendum called by the opposition; 95 percent of the electorate opposed the government-backed bill, although with a low turnout of only 31 percent of the electorate.
Twelve years after gaining independence, in 2004 Slovenia achieved its primary foreign policy goals of becoming a member of both the EU and of NATO, becoming the first of the former Yugoslav republics to become fully integrated into both organizations. Aiding Slovenia's successes in this regard were its relatively favorable geographical location and strong history of ties to Western Europe, a strong economy, and the advantages of being a largely ethnically homogeneous political entity.
Citizens of Slovenia can change their government demo-cratically. Voters directly elect the president to a five-year term. Slovenia has a bicameral parliament: members of the 90-seat National Assembly, which chooses the prime minister, are elected to four year terms, and the 40-seat National Council, a largely advisory body, represents professional groups and local interests. Elections throughout the postindependence period have been considered free and fair. Slovenia's main political parties since 1991 have been Drnovsek's LDS and the center-right SDS, currently led by Prime Minister Janez Jansa.
Although Slovenia enjoys a reputation for being the most corruption-free of the Central and East European states that recently entered the EU, corruption in Slovenia nevertheless remains a significant problem and is publicly perceived as such. The most general forms of corruption in Slovenia involve conflicts of interest among government officials, an intertwining of the public and private sectors, and private businesses' reliance on official connections to obtain lucrative government contracts. Slovenia was ranked 31 out of 159 countries surveyed in Transparency International's 2005 Corruption Perceptions Index.
The government respects the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and of the press, although insulting public officials is prohibited by law. Most print media outlets are privately owned and support themselves with advertising revenues. In September, Slovenia held a referendum on a new State Broadcasting Law, which voters approved by the narrowest of margins (barely more than 50 percent supported the reforms). However, critics charged that the new law increases the government's control over the main state-owned television and radio network (RTV). A major complaint against the various media is that they do not represent a wide range of political or ethnic interests. Some analysts believed that the new broadcasting law was an attempt by the government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa to acquire more control of the public broadcasting system, which they have argued is biased against the center-right. There are also reports of some degree of self-censorship resulting from indirect political or economic pressures on media outlets.
The Slovenian media launched its first-ever general strike on election day in October 2004 to protest low wages. Many of Slovenia's main media outlets, including three of the four main daily newspapers and state-owned RTV, joined the action. The strike was suspended after three days when the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists won a commitment for new negotiations to begin on a collective bargaining agreement with the Association for Press and Media in the Chamber of Commerce of Slovenia, which represents most of Slovenia's large media enterprises. There were no reports of government attempts to restrict access to the internet during the year.
The constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and religion. Most Slovenians are Roman Catholics, although the Roman Catholic Church appears to be suffering from a significant crisis among its adherents; between 1991 and 2002, the percentage of Slovenes who identified themselves as active Catholics dropped from 69.8 percent to 57.8 percent. Societal discrimination against Muslims remains a problem in Slovenia. For the past 30 years, Slovenian authorities have refused to allow the country's small Muslim community to build a mosque in Ljubljana, which some Slovenian officials have justified out of fear that it would provide "infrastructure for terrorism" in Slovenia. In July 2004, the Slovenian Constitutional Court blocked a proposed referendum challenging zoning laws allowing construction of the mosque to proceed, ruling that fundamental, universal human rights can overrule the democratically expressed will of the population. However, the mosque's construction is now being delayed by a denationalization claim filed by the Catholic Church for the property on which the mosque is supposed to be built. There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom during the year.
The government respects the right of individuals to assemble peacefully, form associations, participate in public affairs, and submit petitions. Numerous nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operate without government interference, and the government on the whole supports the role they play in the policymaking process. Workers enjoy the right to establish and join trade unions, to strike, and to bargain collectively.
According to the EU, the Slovenian judiciary enjoys "a high degree of independence." The judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, an administrative court, regional and district courts, and an appeals court, along with a Constitutional Court. A separation of powers is built into the political system, and the various branches of government generally respect each other's powers and authorities. The constitution guarantees citizens due process, equality before the law, and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The main problem facing the judicial system is the fact that it is overburdened, with some criminal cases taking two to five years. Prison conditions are in line with international standards, although some overcrowding has been reported.
According to Slovenia's Criminal Code, incitement to racial hatred is illegal. The constitution entitles the "autochthonous" Italian and Hungarian ethnic communities to one deputy each in the National Assembly, and Roma are automatically given seats on 20 municipal councils. Despite these official rights, however, Slovenia has had persistent problems in dealing with various ethnic minorities-Italians, Muslim residents and guest workers, and citizens of the former Yugoslavia. In December 2003, the Italian-minority member of Slovenia's parliament resigned from the presidential commission for minorities after claiming that the Italian minority was being pressured to assimilate.
There have been persistent reports of police harassment of Roma and residents from other former Yugoslav republics, who have become known as the "new minorities." Governmental and societal discrimination against Serbs, Croats, Bosnians, Kosovo Albanians, and Roma now living in Slovenia has been reliably reported. Public opinion polls conducted among non-Slovenes in 2004 showed that almost 10 percent of respondents "frequently encounter ethnic intolerance," 5 percent frequently hide their ethnic identity, and 36 percent occasionally do. An April 2004 referendum overwhelmingly rejected restoring a variety of rights to individuals who had been "erased" from official government registries after independence from the former Yugoslavia. The results of the referendum increased both domestic and international concern about the civil rights of non-Slovenians living in the country. The problem remains unresolved, as the Slovenian parliament continues to debate the issue.
According to the constitution, Slovenian citizens enjoy all recognized personal rights and freedoms, including the freedom to travel and to choose one's place of residence and the right to own private property.
Women enjoy the same constitutional rights and freedoms under the law as do men. On average, Slovenian women receive 89 percent of the pay of their male counterparts, which compares favorably with similar rates in Western European countries. At the same time, women remain underrepresented in political life. Currently, there are 14 women serving in the 90-seat National Assembly, 3 women in the 40seat National Council, and one woman in the 17-member Cabinet of Ministers. Countrywide, women make up only 13 percent of town council members and less than 6 percent of all local mayors. In February, the Slovenian parliament adopted a measure requiring that 40 percent of the electoral lists for the European parliamentary elections be reserved for women. Some 60 percent of Slovenia's women are in the workforce, the largest proportion of any of the 10 countries that joined the EU in 2004.
Domestic violence remains a concern. There are no laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace. Slovenia is primarily a transit country, and secondarily a country of destination, for women and girls trafficked from other parts of Eastern Europe for the purpose of prostitution. In November, the National Assembly passed a law on witness protection to prosecute forced-prostitution and trafficking cases more effectively.