Freedom in the World
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Following elections in December 2011, Parliament elected Janez Janša prime minister in January 2012 and approved a new center-right government. In early 2012, the government proposed austerity measures amid a dual economic and banking crisis, leading to Slovenia’s largest public-sector strike in 20 years in April. The government approved the measures in May, and by November, was working on further emergency measures to stabilize the economy and avoid an international bailout. Former prime minister Borut Pahor won presidential elections in December.
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 Democratic Renewal Party (previously the Slovene branch of the League of Communists) in democratic elections, although former Communist leader Milan Kučan was elected president. The country declared independence from Yugoslavia in June 1991 and secured its status after a 10-day conflict.
After 1990, center-left governments led Slovenia for more than a decade, with Janez Drnovšek’s Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) dominating the political stage. 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 joined the European Union (EU) and NATO in 2004 and adopted the euro in 2007.
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 SDS candidate Alojz Peterle.
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 smaller 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 several international 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. Faulted for its handling of the economy, Pahor’s government fell after a September no-confidence vote. After Parliament failed to elect a new premier, President Türk called early elections for December 4. Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković's center-left Positive Slovenia won with 28 seats, upsetting the SDS, which took 26 seats, followed by the SD with 10. However, Janković failed to secure a parliamentary majority to form a government or become prime minister. In January 2012, Parliament elected Janša prime minister and, a month later, approved a new SDS-led coalition government; Positive Slovenia went into opposition.
With Slovenia in recession and its banking industry saddled with over $8 billion in bad loans, concern mounted that it would need an international bailout. In response, Janša’s government proposed a range of austerity measures, including cuts to public wages and benefits; the proposal prompted Slovenia’s largest public-sector strike in 20 years on April 18. The government nonetheless approved the austerity measures in May. It also passed a law, effective from November, enabling the state to buy bad loans.
In a presidential runoff on December 2, former prime minister Pahor defeated Türk with 67.4 percent of the vote to Türk’s 32.6 percent. Pahor called for broad political cooperation to tackle the country’s economic crisis.
A two-decade border dispute with Croatia—which concerns the delineation of the countries’ maritime border in the Bay of Piran, and parts of their common territorial border—remains a key foreign policy issue in Slovenia. 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. Following parliamentary approval in both states and a successful 2010 referendum in Slovenia, the Arbitral Tribunal held its first meeting in April 2012. No decision was reached by year’s end.
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. 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 Slovenia’s 80,000 public servants are subject to financial disclosure laws. Prime Minister Janez Janša faces an ongoing bribery investigation from his first term as prime minister, and opposition leader Zoran Janković was briefly detained in September 2012 in connection with a corruption probe into the construction of a sports complex. Slovenia was ranked 37 out of 176 countries surveyed in Transparency International’s 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Freedoms of speech and the press are constitutionally guaranteed. However, laws that prohibit hate speech and criminalize defamation are in effect. The government maintains stakes in a number of media outlets. In August 2012, Reporters Without Borders condemned a move by Janša’s government to dismiss four members of public broadcaster Radio Televizija Slovenija’s supervisory board before the expiration of their terms; the four had been appointed by the previous government. 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 requirements 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, 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 play a role in policymaking. Workers may establish and join trade unions, strike, and bargain collectively. The Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia has some 300,000 members and controls the four trade union seats in the National Council. In April 2012, nearly 80,000 clerks, police officers, doctors, and teachers demonstrated over planned wage and benefit cuts in the country’s largest public sector strike in 20 years.
The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government respects judicial freedom. Although the judiciary has an extensive backlog of cases, the government responded with the Lukenda Project, an initiative begun in 2005 to reduce the backlog and subsequently extended until the end of 2012. Prison conditions meet international standards, though overcrowding has been reported.
Incitement to racial hatred is a criminal offense. The so-called “erasure” of citizens of the former Yugoslavia remains an issue. More than 25,000 non-Slovene citizens, mostly from other constituent republics within the former federation who had remained in Slovenia after independence, were removed from official records after they failed to apply for citizenship or permanent residency during a brief window of opportunity in 1992. In 2009, Pahor’s government began enforcing a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling intended to provide retroactive permanent residency status to those who had been “erased.” In March 2010, Parliament adopted legislation to reinstate the legal status of those “erased” in 1992, but implementation has been problematic. In June 2012, the European Court for Human Rights ruled that the “erasures” had been grave human rights violations. Amnesty International urged Slovenian authorities to review the verdict and resolve the thousands of remaining erasure cases. Roma face widespread poverty and societal marginalization.
Women hold the same legal rights as men, but they remain underrepresented in political life and face discrimination in the workplace. There are 29 women in the National Assembly and 3 in the National Council. 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.