Slovenia | Freedom House

Nations in Transit

Slovenia

Slovenia

Nations in Transit 2006

2006 Scores

Democracy Score
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.75

National Democratic Governance
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2.00

Electoral Process
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.50

Civil Society
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.75

Independent Media
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.75

Local Democratic Governance
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.50

Judicial Framework and Independence
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.50

Corruption
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2.25
Executive Summary: 

Slovenia held the country's first free and democratic elections in 1990 and declared its independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Fourteen years later, it is a democratic and economically stable country. It joined both the European Union (EU) and NATO in 2004. The country's democratic institutions are consolidated, with only minor details of institutional framework requiring additional improvement. However, the influence of the state and ruling coalitions on the economy remains substantial. The influence of political elites is especially strong in the financial sector of the economy, in infrastructure (public transport system, road management), telecommunications, and energy. Yet foreign investment in the country remains low.

The new ruling coalition and government that came to power in the October 2004 elections spent 2005 engulfed in the takeover process. The ruling coalition, comprising mostly right-wing political parties (Slovene Democratic Party, Slovene People's Party, New Slovenia-Christian People's Party, and Democratic Party of Slovene Pensioners), immediately began exercising its power over the economy by replacing numerous managers of state-owned or partially state-owned companies. Additionally, the coalition proposed a new management strategy for public broadcaster Radio Television Slovenia (RTS), the most influential media organization in the country. The new Law on Radio Television Slovenia was adopted by a slight majority in Parliament. Both the Slovene Association of Journalists and the opposition were dissatisfied with the law and demanded a referendum, which was held, however results confirmed the law and allowed it to stand.

In November 2005, trade unions organized mass demonstrations against a government-sponsored proposal for economic reform. One of the key topics of the reform package included the introduction of a flat tax. According to the trade unions, the introduction of a flat tax would seriously jeopardize the social status of workers. Furthermore, trade unions were dissatisfied with the level of dialogue between the state, employers, and trade unions. The resulting peaceful demonstrations were considered the largest mass protests in Slovenia in the last decade.

National Democratic Governance. Government power in Slovenia is divided among the three independent branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. A system of checks and balances exists but is not always effective; some Constitutional Court rulings have been incompletely enforced. The military is under efficient civilian authority. Civilian oversight of police and security services is assured by legislation, but in a case from September 2005, the Parliament failed in an attempt to inspect wiretapping procedures by the police. Despite the government's announced intention to withdraw from the economy, the mechanisms of government influence remain in place. Consequently, the government and ruling coalition's influence on the economy remains substantial. Since the formation of the ruling coalition established after the 2004 elections, the political elite's influence on the economy has become more visible. Slovenia's national democratic governance rating remains at 2.00.

Electoral Process. The referendum on the Law on Radio Television Slovenia was the key political event of the year, as no national elections were held in 2005. The law established new management for RTS. The referendum, with only a 30 percent turnout, confirmed the law by a slight majority. Referendums, along with national elections held in regular four-year intervals, provide a permanent forum for citizens to participate in decision-making processes. In the last decade, 10 national referendums were held on a variety of topics. As an electoral process, referendums are considered free and fair, but participation in democratic decision making is declining. Owing to the stable and mature nature of the electoral process, including referendums, the proposed rating for electoral process remains at 1.50.

Civil Society. The number of registered nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Slovenia grows every year, but some events indicate that receptiveness to civil society initiatives is declining. The recently adopted Law on Radio Television Slovenia will introduce a new way of representing civil society on the public broadcasting corporation's program council. According to the previous regulation, NGOs could autonomously appoint members to the program council. The new regulations stipulate that NGOs may only propose council members, who then must be approved by parliamentary election. Trade unions, dissatisfied with the low level of social dialogue on government-sponsored economic reforms, organized mass peaceful demonstrations. Gay and lesbian initiatives saluted the Parliament's adoption of the Law on the Registration of Same-Sex Partnership but claimed that the enacted legislation would lead to some forms of discrimination. On the other hand, the government responded positively to initiatives proposing partial segregation of pupils of Roma ethnic origin during school lessons in the region of Dolenjska. Protests from civil society and the referendum results offset the move requiring parliamentary approval for NGO representation in media, holding Slovenia's civil society rating at 1.75, though receptiveness to civil society initiatives merits close watch.

Independent Media. The effect of the new Law on Radio Television Slovenia will become visible in 2006, when the regulation will be enacted. However, the Slovene Association of Journalists has warned that the new regulation may increase state influence on the public broadcasting service. Currently, the media landscape in Slovenia is not exempt from the interference of powerful actors. The management board of Delo, the largest publishing company in Slovenia, replaced the chief editor of Slovenia's most influential daily newspaper, Darijan Kosir, claiming conflicting views on editorial policy. In the past, a clear division of responsibilities between the editorial and management boards existed to ensure that the management board did not interfere with editorial policy. Additionally, two cases came to light in 2005 of police failing to protect journalists from being victimized by powerful actors. Slovenia's independent media rating worsens from 1.50 to 1.75 owing to indications of increasing interference by political, private owner, and powerful state or nonstate actors, in editorial independence and news-gathering functions.

Local Democratic Governance. The principles of local democratic governance are enshrined in legislation and respected in practice. However, since nearly half of the 193 municipalities have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants, the smallest among them do not always have sufficient resources to fulfill their responsibilities efficiently. The rights of ethnic minorities are protected by the Law on Local Self-Governance of 1993, but in the case of the municipality of Grosuplje, the local Roma population's right to representation on the municipality council has not been implemented. The Slovene ombudsman for human rights warned the municipality several times to amend the statute, but his warnings have gone unheeded. The proposed rating for local democratic governance remains at 1.50.

Judicial Framework and Independence. The Constitution and other national legislation provide protection for fundamental political, civil, and human rights, which are respected in practice. The Constitutional Court is considered independent, highly professional, and impartial in its interpretation of the Constitution. However, a few rulings have yet to be enforced. The Constitutional Court ruling demanding that the executive restore all rights to those individuals removed from the register of permanent residents of Slovenia in 1992 has not been completely enforced. For this reason, thousands of the country's residents lack Slovene citizenship and live in a seriously compromised social situation. Slovenia's rating for judicial framework and independence remains at 1.50.

Corruption. The Slovene Commission for the Prevention of Corruption began work as an independent body in October 2004. Surprisingly, the opposition Slovene National Party proposed amending the Law on the Prevention of Corruption, closing the commission, and transferring its competences to the parliamentary Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. The proposal was supported by the parties of the ruling coalition, but at the end of 2005 the non-parliamentarian Youth Party of Slovenia began collecting signatures for a referendum to halt the parliamentary procedure. Slovenia's rating for corruption worsens from 2.00 to 2.25 as transfer of the commission's competences to Parliament removes the assurance of independence.

Outlook for 2006. Three main processes will be important in 2006. First, the future of the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption will become clearer in the beginning of the year. However, shutting down the commission and transferring its competences to the parliamentarian body would represent a significant step back in Slovenia's institutional framework. Second, the government's commitment to independent media will be tested by the parliamentary election of civil society nominees to the council of the RTS. Third, with announced economic reforms and the peaceful mass demonstrations of 2005, the government's ability to establish fruitful dialogue with trade unions will be important for further civil society development in 2006.

National Democratic Governance: 

Slovenia has a democratic system of government, enshrined in the Constitution and national legislation and supported by a broad popular consensus among political parties and citizens. The country's governmental system has achieved stability without coercion, violence, or other abuse of basic rights and civil liberties. Furthermore, the government's authority is extended over the full territory of the country, and the ruling coalition has a comfortable majority in the Parliament.

The government is open to public participation and citizen involvement in the decision-making process. Referendums may be demanded by citizens on specific subjects or called by the parliamentary opposition. This avenue is often used; in 2005, the opposition demanded a referendum on the new Law on Radio Television Slovenia, which will regulate public radio and television. Voters adopted the law by a slight majority in September 2005.

The system of checks and balances among executive, legislative, and judicial authority is effective. Slovenia's Constitutional Court monitors the legality and constitutionality of government and Parliament decisions, and the Parliament can demand a no-confidence vote for the government. Deputies may demand explanations from government officials (cabinet members regularly answer these questions), and there has been parliamentary debate and disciplinary votes regarding the performance of certain ministers.

The Law on Access to Information of a Public Character  (similar to a freedom of information statute) was adopted in 2003, but implementation has been difficult. In June 2005, Jernej Pavlin, the government's press officer, sent an e-mail to all ministry spokespeople suggesting they have minimal contact with the weekly newspaper Mladina.  Had it been followed, Pavlin's suggestion would have disadvantaged Mladina reporters and effectively countermanded the Law on Access to Information of a Public Character. However, Pavlin's e-mail was leaked to Mladina, and he resigned shortly thereafter. Perhaps as a result, the media frequently invoked the law in the second half of the year with the government's cooperation.

Government influence over the economy remains substantial. The new government, formed after the October 2004 elections, appointed members to the supervisory and management boards of two state-owned financial funds, the Pension Management Fund and the Compensation Fund. Both own significant stock in nearly all large Slovene companies. Furthermore, infrastructure, telecommunications, and energy companies are mostly state owned, while the largest insurance company in Slovenia is not yet privatized and the country's largest bank is only partially privatized. As a result, the influence of the ruling coalition in the financial, energy, and telecommunications sectors, as well as other areas of the Slovene economy, is still very high. Public support for the national authorities is strong but began to decline in the second half of 2005 owing to the unpopularity of proposed economic reforms. The government's approval rating dropped from 61 percent in March to 46 percent in October 2005. 

According to the Constitution, the Slovene legislature is independent, and "deputies of the National Assembly are representatives of all the people and shall not be bound by any instructions."  In practice, however, parliamentary deputies are subject to party and coalition discipline. On only a few occasions did the parliamentary majority refuse to adopt the legislative proposals of the government. For example, the Parliament did not adopt a wine bill proposing to divide Slovenia into two wine regions. Instead, it insisted that Slovenia be divided into three wine regions to protect specific brands of wine.

Overall, the National Assembly is effective and accountable to the public. The legislative branch provides leadership and reflects social preferences by creating a forum for the peaceful and democratic resolution of differences. Parliamentary documents, including transcripts of parliamentarian debates, are available to the public online. Parliamentary sessions are open to the public, with the exception of sessions of the Commission for Supervision of the Intelligence and Security Services and some sessions of the Committee on Foreign Policy.  The legislative branch has autonomy from the executive. In the last decade, the parliamentarian professional apparatus has developed and strengthened the autonomous position of the Parliament. The Parliament's professional staff now effectively supports deputies during legislative processes. However, there is still insufficient staff to support effective investigative competences, and parliamentarians often fail to submit final reports related to specific investigative activities.

In 2005, the parliamentary opposition demanded a special investigation into the sale of shares in the largest Slovene company, Mercator, by the state-owned Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund. The opposition holds that the transaction--in which 29 percent of state fund shares in Mercator were sold to two private investors--was suspicious. According to the opposition, state-owned funds would have earned much more if they had sold the shares through a public offer. The ruling coalition, however, proposed a massive investigation of all Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund transactions in the last decade. The opposition disagreed with this move, as it would take years to review all transactions, leaving no time to investigate specifically the allegedly suspicious Mercator transaction.

The executive branch is independent and effective. It has the necessary resources to formulate and implement policies and reports extensively on the decisions of each session, publishing these reports on the government's information office Web site. Furthermore, the media generally have regular access to the executive for additional comments. In some cases, governmental officials avoid direct answers. The government administration has public relations officials, however, no officials are responsible for communicating with ordinary citizens directly. Nevertheless, public access to commentary on policy formulation and implementation is always assured.

Some details concerning the executive's role vis-a-vis other branches are not clearly defined, especially the foreign policy competences of the president, who is elected directly for a five-year term. On the one hand, the role of the president is considered ceremonial. Yet the current president, Janez Drnovsek, has decided on some foreign policy initiatives that were previously not in harmony with government policy. 

The young Slovene civil service functions according to democratic standards, but as of yet the sector lacks competence and professional standards. Each ruling coalition attempts to employ party loyalists inside the state apparatus. Professional diplomats especially complain that party loyalists have a better chance of obtaining ambassadorship positions.

According to legislation, defense, civil security services, and police are subject to the democratic supervision of a special parliamentary commission. In practice, however, this supervision is sometimes blocked. On September 14, 2005, for example, deputy members of the Commission for Supervision of the Intelligence and Security Services attempted to investigate the police practice of recording telephone conversations. The deputies arrived unannounced at the headquarters of the general police directorate and asked to inspect police documents, but they were not assisted. After this unsuccessful inspection, the minister of interior affairs apologized to the commission and promised that such an incident would not happen again.  Unannounced field inspections seem to be the legislature's only effective tool to control the practical activities of the security services. Likewise, the obstruction of field inspections indicates the security services' general attitude toward parliamentary supervision.

The military budget consists of two sections: basic development programs excluded from the general budget, such as the purchase of military equipment; and an administrative part, which is entirely transparent. Some details of basic development programs are presented only to the parliamentary Committee on Defense. Furthermore, the public does not always have accurate information concerning military and defense matters. In July 2005, Minister of Defense Karl Erjavec replaced key officials within the Ministry of Defense. The press sought a precise explanation for the replacements, as some of the officials played key roles in Slovenia's integration into NATO. The minister's cabinet answered that "replacements are in accordance with the accepted human resources plan of the government and that some ministries expressed their need for certain employee profiles." 

Electoral Process: 

The government's authority is based on universal and equal suffrage and the will of the people expressed by regular, free, and fair elections conducted by secret ballot. Electoral laws are fair, and all political parties are free to campaign in electoral contests. Polling is fair, and the last election took place without any reports of ballot tabulation irregularities. Furthermore, domestic observers considered the 2004 elections to be free and fair, and no international election monitoring was deemed necessary. Foreign powers do not interfere in the electoral process, nor do power groups dominate the people's choice.

The electoral system is multiparty, and barriers to participation are insignificant: Parties with representatives in the Parliament can automatically participate in elections without hindrance, while parties without parliamentary representation must gain at least 50 signatures in each of the 8 electoral districts (there are an additional 88 subdistricts).  In 2004, 20 political parties and 3 independent candidates participated in the parliamentary elections. Of these, 1,395 candidates ran on party election lists, including 347 female candidates (24.9 percent), a slight increase from the 2000 elections, where the proportion of female candidates was 23.4 percent.  As a result, 7 political parties entered the Parliament. Among those that did not enter the Parliament are 3 active parties: Youth Party of Slovenia, Active Slovenia, and Green Party of Slovenia. Others were more or less one-man initiatives.

 

Table 1. 2004 National Parliament Election Results 
(Note: The top seven parties entered the Parliament.)

List of Candidates Number of Votes-2004 Percentage-2004 Percentage-2000
Slovene Democratic Party  281,710 29.08 15.81
Liberal Democratic Party 220,848 22.80 36.27
United List of Social Democrats 98,527 10.17 12.08
New Slovenia-Christian People's Party 88,073 9.09  8.66
Slovene People's Party 66,032   6.82  9.54
Slovene National Party 60,750 6.27 4.39
Democratic Party of Slovene Pensioners 39,150 4.04  5.17

Source: State Electoral Commission (www.rvk.si)
 

The public is engaged in the political life of Slovenia, but voter turnout has declined in recent years. In 2004, 60.6 percent of voters participated in national elections. Turnout was especially low (28.3 percent) during European Parliament elections.
 

Table 2. Voter Turnout for National Parliament

Year Percent
1992 85.6
1996 73.7
2000 70.1
2004 60.6

Source: State Electoral Commission
 

Two ethnic minorities, Italians and Hungarians, have the right to representation in the national Parliament. Their participation focuses mostly on the social, political, and economic status of minorities. Other ethnic minorities, such as the Roma, have the right to elect representatives only to local bodies of government. However, this right is not fully respected. For example, in the local community of Grosuplje, the Roma population does not have a representative on the municipal council.

Effective rotation of power among political parties representing competing interests is assured. At the end of 2004, a new government coalition was formed. The Slovene Democratic Party (SDS), the strongest oppositional party for a decade, won the elections and became the strongest member of the ruling coalition. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), the leader for more than a decade, became the opposition party. The LDS's inability to counter the argument that it had held power too long, especially as corruption scandals began to erode the party's image, contributed to its loss. The power rotation at the end of 2004 and the beginning of 2005 was smooth, despite a controversy surrounding the new ruling coalition's replacement of middle-ranking officials in the government administration. Furthermore, the coalition replaced a significant number of members of supervisory boards of the state-controlled Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund, which own a substantial portion of shares in nearly all large Slovene companies.  However, the political power of economic elites is weak and is dominated by political elites.

Civil Society: 

According to Slovenia's Constitution, "The right of peaceful assembly and public meeting shall be guaranteed. Everyone has the right to freedom of association with others. Legal restrictions of these rights shall be permissible where so required for national security or public safety and for protection against the spread of infectious diseases. Professional members of the defense forces and the police may not be members of political parties." 

Statistical data show that Slovene civil society is vibrant. According to the 2004 register of associations, some 19,246 different associations exist, and the number of registered associations increases every year. 

Table 3. Number of Registered Associations in Slovenia

Year       Number
1999      15,440
2000      16,194
2001      17,103
2002      17,950
2003      18,872
2004      19,246

Source: Ministry of Interior Affairs, Statistical Yearbook 2004

Even so, civil society was much more vibrant in the country before 1990. Initially, non-Communist political organizations appeared as farmers' trade unions in the spring of 1988 but were considered part of a network of civil society initiatives. In 1989, when the first political organizations began to appear in the form of political parties, civil society activists entered political parties. Only a few activists remained in civil society, insisting on their independent position. Hence, from 1989 the networks linking civil society initiatives disintegrated.

Currently, the majority of NGOs are more or less uninvolved in public affairs; in fact, very few associations concentrate specifically on public affairs. The majority of registered associations focus on sports (6,773), while more than 1,500 registered groups exist for volunteer firefighters, 450 for hunters, and 200 for bee breeders. Around 55 percent of the population is active in at least one civil society organization, most commonly trade unions and sports associations.

The legal and regulatory environment for civil society is generally free of excessive state pressure and bureaucracy. Basic registration of associations is not complicated. According to the Legal Information Center for NGOs, registration procedures are required to take no longer than three months to complete. Currently, out of the 19,246 registered associations, more than 4,200 are headquartered in the country's three largest cities--Ljubljana, Maribor, and Celje--confirming the general trend of civil society concentration in urban areas.

Forty religious communities are registered in Slovenia, including four communities that registered as recently as 2004.  The Islamic community, the second largest religious community in Slovenia according to the census, appears especially underprivileged among these groups. Attempts to build an Islamic religious and cultural center in the capital, Ljubljana, have persisted for more than three decades. Despite a general agreement by the Ljubljana City Council stating that the Islamic community has the right to build a religious and cultural center in a suburb of the capital, the community has been unable to complete the necessary bureaucratic procedures and subsequently has not started building.

On the other hand, the current right-wing ruling coalition grants the Roman Catholic Church a favored position. Catholic chaplains have jobs in the Slovene army. The Law on the Police, amended in 2005, also introduced police chaplains. Owing to opposition demands, however, the Constitutional Court will make the final decision concerning the introduction of chaplains into the police force. The material status of the Roman Catholic Church changed substantially in the last few years. According to government reports from December 2005, during the decade-long process of denationalization, the Roman Catholic Church received real estate worth approximately ¬144 million (US$ 183 million).

The country is not free from intolerant social initiatives. In the region of Dolenjska (in northeastern Slovenia), tensions between the local Roma population and the majority have been significant. A civic initiative led by the local functionaries of the majority SDS party proposed segregating pupils of Roma ethnic origin into an elementary school in Brsljin, in Novo Mesto (80 kilometers southeast of Ljubljana). The Ministry of Education and Sport, led by Milan Zver of the SDS, deemed the initiative legitimate and has allowed "soft" segregation of pupils during lessons.  Yet in general, the education system is free from political influence and propaganda.

The organizational capacities of civil society groups are sufficient, but only a small portion of associations are able to employ professionals. The Legal Information Center for NGOs plays an important role in providing training and assuring information on NGO management issues in the Slovene language. However, civil society groups face the obstacle of financial viability and lack the organizational capacity to raise funds. Among all associations, those focused on humanitarian issues and the handicapped are markedly stronger in fund-raising.

Associations, religious communities, private funds, and organizations and institutes established for ecological, humanitarian, benevolent, and other nonprofit purposes do not pay taxes on income. This includes donations, membership fees, gifts, and money received from public services. On the other hand, legislation does not provide tax incentives for donations to NGOs.

Dialogue exists between civil society and the state, but NGOs are not satisfied with the current level of government receptiveness. Gay and lesbian groups were especially dissatisfied with government receptiveness during parliamentary debate on the new Law on the Registration of Same-Sex Partnership, claiming that the enacted decisions would cause discrimination. The bill was adopted by the Parliament in June 2005, but according to gay and lesbian groups, it does not assure same-sex partners the same social security, health care, pension security, and inheritance rights as heterosexual partners. 

The new Law on Radio Television Slovenia, regulating the management of public radio and television, created significant changes in the representation of civil society groups in the media. The previous law assured that civil society associations could appoint members to the Council of Radio Television Slovenia, which in turn appoints key managers and editors. According to the new regulation, NGOs have the right to nominate respected citizens for council positions, but the Parliament decides who will represent civil society on the council.

The argument in favor of eliminating the autonomy of civil society organizations in the appointment process was based on the belief that political parties abuse NGOs for their own ends. Cited as an example, Janez Kocijancic, president of the RTS program council, officially represented the Olympic Committee of Slovenia but from 1993 to 1997 was president of the United List of Social Democrats, a parliamentary political party. Despite sharp protests by the Slovene Association of Journalists, the ruling coalition supported the law. The parliamentary opposition, however, demanded a referendum on the subject. With a 30.7 percent referendum turnout on September 25, 2005, 50.3 percent of voters supported the law. 

Media are the most receptive to civil society groups as a reliable source of information and commentary. However, the voice of civil society is much weaker in media than the voice of political parties.

The state fully respects the right to form and join free trade unions. Fruitful dialogue has existed among trade unions, employers, and government in the past. In 2005, dialogue declined, and trade unions organized massive demonstrations in November against announced government-sponsored economic reforms. Trade unions declared the dialogue with government insufficient and particularly opposed the introduction of a flat tax, which according to trade unions would jeopardize the social status of workers.

Independent Media: 

Article 39 of the Constitution protects freedom of the press. Excessive legal penalties for "irresponsible" journalism are not applied by courts in Slovenia. Yet despite solid legal protection, journalists face victimization by powerful actors. For example, in February 2001 investigative reporter Miro Petek of the daily newspaper Vecer was badly beaten, allegedly in connection with articles in which he described illegal business activities (in particular, money laundering at a bank) in the region of Koroska. In September 2003, five citizens were arrested and accused of carrying out the attack. The mere fact of their prosecution was considered an important step in defending the principles of media freedom, but the trial, which concluded in August 2005, was a debacle for police and prosecutors.

It came to light during the trial that police had paid a substantial amount of money to a "key" witness. According to police, Article 49A of the Law on the Police allows payment to those providing useful information. This "key" witness was also granted anonymity but revealed his identity and the fact that he had been paid for his testimony. The court decided that paid witnesses cannot be considered reliable sources. Furthermore, the additional evidence was deemed too weak, and as a result the accused were found not guilty. Thus, although the state prosecutor and police claimed for years that they had been working diligently on the case, the trial indicated otherwise.

In another case, the criminal police department in the town of Celje, without reasonable cause, gathered information on Damjana Seme, a local correspondent for the commercial POP TV . When the police report with details about the reporter's contacts and sources was sent to the parliamentary Commission for Supervision of the Intelligence and Security Services in May, the activities of the police were revealed and, according to legal experts, showed that the police had no competence to collect such information.

Journalists and media can form their own professional associations. The Slovene Association of Journalists was among the most active in civil society during the referendum campaign on the Law on Radio Television Slovenia.

The media's editorial independence and news-gathering functions are not completely free from indirect interference by the government and private owners. For example, in July 2005 the managing board of the daily newspaper Delo announced the dismissal of its chief editor. Prior to this move, Delo had published articles criticizing the Competition Protection Office's decision allowing Pivovarna Lasko (Lasko Brewery) to take over Pivovarna Union (Union Brewery). Pivovarna Lasko owns 24.99 percent of shares in Delo's publisher (Delo). The other significant shareholders were the state-controlled Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund. However, the managing board claimed that "the decision for the replacement comes as a consequence of differing views on editorial policy."  According to media practice in Slovenia, responsibilities are divided between the chief editor and the managing board. The managing board is responsible for business functions, while the chief editor is responsible for editorial policy. Thus, any interference from the managing board in editorial policy is considered illegitimate.

There are three major daily newspapers with a long history in Slovenia: Delo, Dnevnik, and Vecer. Other major papers are: the business daily Finance, the regional daily Primorske Novice, two sports dailies, and two daily tabloids, Slovenske Novice and Direkt. Direkt is new, launched in 2005. It's advertising slogan ("No mercy!") is an accurate illustration of its editorial policy. The paper is owned by the same publisher as Dnevnik, so its appearance did not diversify the media landscape in Slovenia. Furthermore, newspaper distribution is privately controlled, but publishing companies are not satisfied with the level of competition in this area; only one company specializes in newspaper distribution.

Two major TV organizations provide quality news programming, the RTS and the commercial POP TV, owned by Central European Media Enterprises. Competition between RTS and POP TV seems to have a positive effect. At the local level, there are more than 60 radio stations and 24 television stations. 
 
Some groups, such as the Roman Catholic Church, complain that the media landscape is unbalanced and lacks diversity. On the other hand, the Roman Catholic Church controls an influential radio station, Radio Ognjisce, and a weekly newspaper, Druzina. Additionally, the Roman Catholic Church owned its own TV station until 2003.

RTS is a state-owned institution, while the commercial POP TV and local radio and television stations are privately owned. Print media are also privately owned, but the state-controlled Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund own a substantial portion of shares in some publishing companies. However, media ownership is moderately interlocked. According to some analysts, ownership interlocking may lead to excessive concentration. For example, Delo, the largest publishing company in Slovenia, owns 20 percent of the shares in Vecer, publisher of the daily newspaper by the same name; and Vecer owns 6 percent of the shares in the publishing company Dnevnik.

Currently, the financial viability of private media is subject only to market forces. Yet according to the coalition contract, the government plans to establish a special fund for the "pluralization of media," stating that such a move would "assure plurality of printed and electronic media."  It remains unclear precisely how the fund will function. According to some, the fund would assure additional financial resources to media that are closer to the present ruling coalition but as of yet are unsuccessful in the market.

Slovene society enjoys free access to the Internet; 48 percent of households have access, and 50 percent of those between 10 and 74 years of age use the Internet regularly.  Recently, competition among different Internet providers has grown stronger, an improvement over the period when state-owned Telekom dictated market conditions. The government makes no attempt to control Internet content or access, and many forums provide access to the expression of diverse opinions. Even so, public debate over hate speech on the Internet began only at the end of 2005.

Local Democratic Governance: 

The principles of local democratic governance in Slovenia are enshrined in legislation and respected in practice. Local self-government is assured by Article 138 of the Constitution. In 1993, the Law on Local Self-Governance, affecting the country's 193 municipalities, was adopted by the Parliament. It is expected, however, that the Parliament will adopt new laws, leading to the founding of new municipalities.

Government powers and responsibilities are partially decentralized. Local authorities are free to design and adopt institutions and processes of governance reflecting local needs and conditions. Central authorities consult the local government in decision-making processes that affect the local level. However, from time to time a decision accepted by the central authorities is made against the express will of the municipalities.

Local elections are free and fair and are held at regular four-year intervals. Both the mayor and members of municipal councils are elected directly. According to the Law on Local Elections (amended in 2002), foreigners with permanent resident status have the right to vote in local elections. In the last local elections in 2002, approximately 10,000 foreigners had the right to vote.

Along with political parties active on a national level, a substantial number of local initiatives participate in local elections. The number of local initiatives and independent lists of candidates in 2002 was greater than in 1998. In 2002, 17.1 percent of votes were given to independent lists or local initiatives, while in 1998 the proportion was 11.7 percent.

At the end of 2005, however, the Law on Local Self-Governance was amended.  These new regulations could present a substantial obstacle for independent lists and local initiatives. Specifically, nonparty initiatives will have the right to nominate a candidate for local elections only if they succeed in collecting 2 percent of voters' signatures in the municipality. In larger municipalities, the number of signatures is set at 2,500. Signatures must be verified by the local office of the state administration. Calculating, collecting, and verifying the signatures, however, involves complicated bureaucratic procedures and may jeopardize the universal right to vote and be elected. By contrast, political parties represented in the Parliament would have fewer competitors, as political parties automatically have the right to nominate a candidate.

In some local communities, local government procedures hinder minority representation. According to Article 39 of the Law on Local Self-Governance, the Roma population has the right to elect a representative to 19 municipal councils. In November 2002, however, the right to elect representatives of the Roma population was not assured in six municipalities, as municipal councils failed to bring municipal statutes in line with the rules of the Law on Local Self-Governance. In the community of Grosuplje, Roma still lack representation on the local community council. On several occasions, the Slovene ombudsman for human rights Matjaz Hanzek appealed officially to Grosuplje to amend the local community statute, but his warnings have gone unheeded. 

In 2002, 723 candidates ran for mayor in 193 municipalities. Overall, the participation of women in bodies of local self-government is not adequate; women constitute only 423 of the 3,231 members of municipal councils. However, the situation has improved in the last decade.
 

Table 4. Percent of Women in Municipal Councils

Year Percentage
1994 10.7
1998 12
2002 13

Source: Statistical Yearbook 2003

Economic oligarchies do not dominate local voting, and voter turnout in local elections is high. In 2002, turnout was higher than in 1998, as presidential and local elections occurred simultaneously. A lower turnout is expected for the 2006 local elections, as public interest in local government appears to be waning.
 

Table 6. Voter Turnout for Local Elections


Year      Voter Turnout (in percent)
1994     61.10
1998     58.29
2002     72.06

Source: Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia

 

Local governance is responsible for city planning, but citizens, businesses, and other groups are invited to participate in public debates on the issue. Individuals and civil society groups are free to submit petitions, organize demonstrations, or initiate other activities that influence local decision making. Yet despite the dialogue between local governments and civil society, the government is not very receptive to the ideas of civil society groups. Perhaps this phenomenon results from the relatively new establishment of authority within local government.

Nevertheless, the media occasionally report on the views of local civic groups, the private business sector, and other NGOs concerning local government policy. Local radio stations especially play a significant role in covering local government policy. Furthermore, according to the Law on Access to Information of a Public Character, citizens and media are guaranteed regular access to public records and information. In some cases, however, local bureaucracy avoids these obligations. Regardless, the media are free to investigate and report on local politics and government without fear of victimization.

The central authorities respect the local authorities' decision-making capabilities and independence. Local authorities are free to pass and enforce legal acts inside the framework of local government competence. They have the right to judicial remedy to protect their powers. And according to the Constitution, municipalities have the right to form associations on the regional level, but they have not yet exercised this right.

According to the Law on Local Self-Governance, municipalities should have at least 5,000 inhabitants. If economic, geographic, historical, or other reasons exist, municipalities may have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. Among the 193 municipalities, nearly half have fewer than 5,000 inhabitants. All local governments regularly receive due resources from the central authorities, yet these resources are sufficient only for larger communities; smaller communities have problems assuring quality services to inhabitants due to the lack of financial resources. Regardless, small communities are still being founded, and it is expected that by the 2006 local elections, there will be more than 200 municipalities.

Local authorities are subject to clear and consistent standards of disclosure, oversight, and accountability. They are autonomous in setting their budgets and allocating resources.
Municipalities are empowered to set staff salaries, but these are expected to remain within the overall framework of the public sector. They are also free to define staff size and staff patterns, and recruitment is based primarily on merit and experience. In general, the services provided by local government are sufficient. However, some smaller municipalities do not have sufficient resources to provide quality services.

Local authorities are free from the domination of power groups. In some cases, especially with city planning strong pressure comes from economic lobby groups, but it would be unfair to say that local governments execute the demands of power groups rather than representing the needs of citizens.

Judicial Framework and Independence: 

The Slovene Constitution and other national legislation protect fundamental political, civil, and human rights. Freedom of expression, association, conscience, and religion, as well as business and property rights, are assured by legal acts and in practice. State and nongovernmental actors respect fundamental political, civil, and human rights. Equality before the law is assured in the Constitution and, generally speaking, in practice. In cases where equality before the law is violated, citizens have the power to appeal effectively to the Constitutional Court.
 
The Constitutional Court is an independent body considered to be highly professional and impartial in its interpretation of the Constitution. However, some court rulings have not been enforced, as the Parliament has not amended those statutes that are subject to the rulings.

Criminal code reform has been effective. Presumption of innocence is respected by authorities yet is sometimes misunderstood by the media. The Constitution, legislation, and practice assure access to a fair and public trial and an independent public defender and guarantee the independence of prosecutors. The Slovene judiciary uses a continental system of jury trials.

Suspects and prisoners are protected from arbitrary arrest, searches without warrants, detention without trial, torture, and abuse. However, extensive delays persist, creating a key problem within the judicial system. At the end of 2004, there were more than 566,000 unsolved cases in the Slovene courts. According to the ombudsman for human rights, approximately two-thirds of some 700 Slovene complaints lodged with the European Court of Human Rights referred to the lack of adjudication within a reasonable time frame. Thus, reducing delays is a priority of the current coalition and judicial authorities.

Judges are appointed in a fair and unbiased manner; they are nominated by the Judiciary Council and elected by the Parliament. Judicial training is intensive, and candidates are expected to pass the bar exam after two years. After passing the bar, candidates must have at least three years of experience to be elected to a judicial position. Once a candidate is elected, the office is permanent, according to the Constitution.  However, the opposition Slovene National Party has proposed the reelection of judges after eight years.

Judges rule in a fair and impartial manner, and their judgments are free from political influence. However, the executive branch has some influence on the appointment of the presidents of local, district, and higher courts as well as the Supreme Court.

The legislative, executive, and other government authorities generally comply with judicial decisions, but some rulings have not been enforced effectively. For example, in 1992 the Ministry of Interior Affairs erased from the register of permanent residents of Slovenia more than 18,000 residents who did not declare Slovene citizenship. According to a Constitutional Court ruling, the status of the erased should be completely restored, but many remain without registration, leaving thousands in a seriously compromised social situation. 

Corruption: 

Corruption allegations contributed significantly to the right-wing ruling coalition's victory in the 2004 elections in Slovenia. Indeed, some unofficial networks of potential corruption were weakened following the government's recent transition. The government's most important anticorruption initiative began in October 2004 with the adoption of the Law on the Prevention of Corruption. The law requires financial disclosure and prohibits conflicts of interest, and the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption is an effective enforcer. The commission has five members: two proposed by the president, one proposed by the parliamentary Commission for Mandates and Elections, one proposed by the Judiciary Council, and one proposed by the government.

All five members of the commission have been confirmed by the Parliament. Its tasks are mostly preventive, but already nearly 5,000 functionaries of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches and local self-governments have reported their assets to the commission. In addition to monitoring the assets of functionaries, the commission ensures that functionaries do not abuse their public office for private business interests (some local self-government functionaries do not hold their public position as paid employees). The commission is also tasked with elaborating the new national anticorruption strategy but lacks investigative competences.

Surprisingly, a few months after the start of the Parliament's new term, the opposition Slovene National Party proposed amending the Law on the Prevention of Corruption. The party proposed closing the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption and transferring its competences to the parliamentary commission under the Law on the Prevention of Corruption. The initiative was supported by the parties of the ruling coalition. Some indications suggest that the bill was in fact prepared by government officials in order to remove the instrument of control. The initiative is still under parliamentary discussion, but it is likely that the commission will be closed down and its competences transferred to the parliamentary body. In this case, anticorruption policy would be executed by the Parliament without an assurance of independence.

According to a public opinion survey conducted by the Center for Public Opinion of the Faculty for Social Science of Ljubljana University 65 percent of those who were informed about the potential closing of the commission are against the proposal and 27 percent are in favor.  The nonparliamentarian Youth Party of Slovenia began an initiative to call for a referendum on the closing of the commission; 40,000 signatures are required to hold the referendum sometime in early 2006.

The Slovene economy is not free from excessive state involvement. Some financial institutions and telecommunications, energy, and infrastructure companies are not yet privatized. On the other hand, the government-controlled Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund own a substantial portion of shares in nearly all of Slovenia's major companies. In August 2005, the Pension Management Fund and Compensation Fund sold 29 percent of the stock in the biggest Slovene company, Mercator, without a public offer. According to some estimates, the shares sold for an unusually low price. An investigation into the matter by the Securities Market Agency has yet to be completed.

Participation of government officials in Slovenia's economic life is substantial. Deputy ministers and other government officials occupy positions on the supervisory boards of numerous significant companies, including the two largest Slovene banks, Telekom, Post of Slovenia, Pension Management Fund, Slovene Railways, Motorway Company and Port of Koper. On the one hand, very strict regulations prohibit the state from conducting business with companies owned by members of Parliament. On the other hand, senior state officials occupy positions on the boards of key Slovene companies. Furthermore, the government is obliged to publish tenders for all large jobs and contracts.

The public displays a high intolerance for official corruption. However, anticorruption activists do not play a significant role in public life. Journalists dealing with cases of corruption enjoy legal protection, but the unsuccessful investigation into the attack on Miro Petek has discouraged investigative reporting. Nonetheless, allegations of corruption in the media receive extensive media coverage. Still, there is a common expectation that a special group of prosecutors investigating more complex forms of crime will be established. Significantly, a Law on Witness Protection is currently undergoing parliamentary procedure.