Slovenia | Freedom House

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Freedom in the World 2012

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In September 2011, Prime Minister Borut Pahor's government collapsed after a no confidence vote, leading to early elections in December. Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković's center-left Positive Slovenia won in an upset but failed to form a government. A pension reform package was rejected in a June referendum. October saw protests outside the Ljubljana Stock Exchange amid Slovenia’s ongoing economic troubles.

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

After 1990, center-left governments generally led Slovenia, and Janez Drnovšek’s Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) was dominant. Drnovšek served as prime minister almost continuously from 1992 to 2002, when he was elected president. In the 2004 parliamentary elections, Janez Janša’s center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) finally unseated the LDS-led government, and Janša became prime minister.

Slovenia is considered one of post-communist Europe's success stories. In 2004, Slovenia joined the European Union (EU) and NATO. It was the first former communist bloc state to adopt the euro, in 2006, and to hold the EU’s rotating presidency, in 2008.

In the 2007 presidential election, Danilo Türk, a law professor and former diplomat, ran as an independent, backed by the Social Democrats (SD) and several other parties. He defeated the government’s candidate, Alojz Peterle, in the November runoff.

In the September 2008 parliamentary elections, the SD captured 29 seats, followed by the SDS with 28. SD leader Borut Pahor became prime minister and formed a coalition government with three small parties.

Partly due to the effects of the global economic crisis, the Pahor government weakened in 2010, and the SDS had a strong showing in the October municipal elections. Ghanian-born doctor Peter Bossman was elected mayor of Piran, making him the first black mayor of an Eastern European city.

At the urging of the International Monetary Fund and other economic watchdogs, the government proposed reforms in December 2010 to reduce public debt by increasing the retirement age to 65, implementing pension reform, and cutting social benefits. However, voters rejected the measures in a June 2011 referendum. Pahor’s government fell after two coalition partners, critical of his handling of the economy, departed his ruling coalition that summer, leading to a parliamentary no-confidence vote in September. After parliament failed to elect a new premier, President Türk called early elections for December 4. Though Janša’s SDS led in pre-election polling, Ljubljana Mayor Zoran Janković's center-left Positive Slovenia won with 28 seats, followed by the SDS followed with 26 seats, and the SD with 10. However, Janković failed to secure a parliamentary majority to form a government or become prime minister by year’s end.

After two decades, a border dispute with Croatia remains a key foreign policy issue in Slovenia. The dispute concerns the delineation of the countries’ maritime border in the Bay of Piran, and parts of their common territorial border. In 2009, Pahor and his Croatian counterpart, Jadranka Kosor, agreed that Slovenia would lift its veto of Croatia’s EU accession and allow an international arbitration panel to settle the dispute, pending ratification by both states’ Parliaments. Slovenia’s Parliament ratified the agreement in April 2010, but the opposition requested a referendum. Voters narrowly approved the agreement in June, and it entered into force in November 2010. The agreement was submitted to the United Nations in May 2011.

Political Rights and Civil Liberties: 

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

Corruption, while less extensive than in some other Central European countries, remains a problem in Slovenia, usually taking the form of conflicts of interest and contracting links between government officials and private businesses. Only 5,000 of the country’s 80,000 public servants are subject to financial disclosure laws. In August 2011, Interior Minister Katarina Kresal resigned over corruption allegations in a ministry deal to rent office space to the National Investigative Agency in 2010. Slovenia was ranked 35 out of 183 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index.

Freedoms of speech and of the press are constitutionally guaranteed. However, newspapers that criticize the government have faced difficulty securing advertising revenue, and journalists reportedly avoid coverage that could complicate relations with advertisers. The privatization of print media that began in the 1990s remains incomplete, with state-owned companies and other interests maintaining stakes in several newspapers. In 2011, there were reports of political pressure and harrasment against journalists, including anonymous death threats against Blaž Zgaga and Matej Šurc, who have reported extensively on the arms trade in Slovenia during the conflicts of the 1990s. Internet access is unrestricted.

The constitution guarantees freedom of religion and contains provisions that prohibit incitement to religious intolerance or discrimination. Approximately 58 percent of Slovenians identify themselves as Roman Catholics. In June 2010, the Constitutional Court annulled certain provisions of the 2007 Religious Freedoms Law, including requirments for legal registration of religious communities and the payment of social security contributions to priests working in prisons and hospitals. Though societal discrimination against the small Muslim community has been problematic in the past and 2011 saw isolated reports of faith-based discrimination, interfaith relations were generally civil during the year. After a 40-year struggle to build a mosque in Ljubljana, a design was selected in November 2011, with construction to begin once the Muslim community finalizes funding. There were no reports of government restrictions on academic freedom during the year.

The government respects freedoms of assembly and association. Numerous nongovernmental organizations operate freely, and the government generally supports the role they play in policymaking. Workers have the right to establish and join trade unions, strike, and bargain collectively, though police and military do not share these rights. The Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia (ZSSS) has some 300,000 members and controls the four trade union seats in the National Council. The ZSSS demonstrated its political strength by successfully pushing for the June 2011 referendum on pension reform, stymying pension reform legislation. In October 2011, over 100 people gathered for days outside the Ljubljana Stock Exchange to protest corporate greed.

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respects judicial freedom. Although the judiciary has an extensive backlog of cases, the government has taken steps in recent years with the Lukanda Project, an intitiative begun in 2005 to reduce the backlog. As of June 2010, 266,221 cases were still backlogged. Prison conditions meet international standards, though overcrowding has been reported.

Incitement to racial hatred is a criminal offense. However, tensions remain between police and various minorities, including Italians, Muslim residents and guest workers, and citizens of the former Yugoslavia. Some 18,000 non-Slovene citizens of the former federation who remained in Slovenia after independence had been removed from official records after they failed to apply for citizenship or permanent residency during a brief window of opportunity in 1992. However, in 2009, Pahor’s government began enforcing a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling intended to provide retroactive permanent residency status to the estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people among “the erased.” In March 2010, Parliament adopted legislation to reinstate the legal status of those “erased” in 1992. In February 2011, Parliament passed a declaration recognizing the right of groups belonging to the former Yugoslavia to organize based on ethnicity and to use their native language to bolster multiculturalism in Slovenia. Roma are on the margins of society. In March 2011, Amnesty International admonished the government to protect the rights of Roma after publishing a report revealing that many Roma lack access to adequate housing and clean water.

Women hold the same legal rights as men but remain underrepresented in political life. Following the December 2011 elections, there are 28 women in the 90-seat National Assembly and one in the 40-seat National Council. More than 65 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. Prostitution has been decriminalized in Slovenia. Slovenia is a transit point and destination for women and girls trafficked for the purpose of prostitution.