Slovenia | Freedom House

Nations in Transit

Slovenia

Slovenia

Nations in Transit 2011

2011 Scores

Democracy Score
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.93

Regime Classification

Consolidated Democracy

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

2.00

Electoral Process
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

1.50

Civil Society
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2.00

Independent Media
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2.25

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

1.50

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

1.75

Corruption
(1 = best, 7 = worst)

2.50

Capital: Ljubljana
Population: 2.0 million
GNI/capita, PPP: US$26,470

Source: The data above were provided by The World Bank, World Development Indicators 2011.

*Starting with the 2005 edition, Freedom House introduced separate analysis and ratings for national democratic governance and local democratic governance, to provide readers with more detailed and nuanced analysis of these two important subjects.

NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.

Executive Summary: 

Slovenia underwent many parallel transformations in the period from the end of the 1980s to the start of the 1990s, including changing its economic and political system and establishing itself as an internationally recognized state. Having proclaimed its independence on June 25, 1991, Slovenia joined the United Nations in 1992, the Council of Europe in 1993, and the European Union (EU) and NATO in 2004. On January 1, 2007, the Slovenian currency, the tolar, was replaced by the euro, and at the end of December 2007 Slovenia entered the Schengen zone. In 2008 Slovenia passed another maturity test on the European stage by holding the Presidency to the Council of the European Union from January to July of that year as the first of the 12 new EU member states to do so. In July 2010 Slovenia became a full member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

National Democratic Governance. As Slovenia’s economy continued to struggle against sharply rising unemployment, the government coalition faced internal conflicts and instability. The Minister of Environment and Minister of Economy resigned, while the Democratic Party of Retired Persons of Slovenia, part of the coalition government, was strongly dissatisfied with the pension reform proposal. Two interpellations were raised against the Minister of Interior Affairs and Minister of Education and Sport. Dissatisfaction with government-proposed measures drew demonstrations from employees in the public sector and students. Slovenia’s rating for national democratic governance remains unchanged at 2.00.

Electoral Process. Local elections were held in Slovenia in 208 out of 210 municipalities on October 10, 2010 (and a second round in the mayoral elections on October 24). Due to a decision by the Constitutional Court, elections were not held in the municipalities of Koper and Trebnje, where new municipalities needed to be split off based on the results of a 2009 referendum. Independent candidates were the absolute winners in the mayoral elections, of whom 70 were elected, while in the municipal council elections the best results were achieved by the oppositional Slovenian Democratic Party. The local elections were marked by low turnout (50.28 percent in the first round and 48.81 percent in the second round), a large share of reelected mayors, extremely low share of elected women candidates, and the first elected black mayor in Eastern Europe. Slovenia’s electoral process rating remains unchanged at 1.50.

Civil Society. In 2010, controversy continued over the adoption of the Family Law Act, including a provision to allow same-sex couples to adopt, which was still at the level of debate in parliamentary committee. Another years-old controversy was resolved when a bill was passed on the status of the “erased,” the thousands of non- Slovene Yugoslavs remaining in the country when it achieved independence who didn’t file for Slovenian citizenship in time. With the new act on the so-called erased persons, the government allows these individuals to submit applications to obtain a permit for permanent residence in Slovenia. The government was also the focus of opposition from many civil society groups, primarily dissatisfied trade unions and students who opposed the Mini Job Act, which aims to regulate special forms of employment like student jobs and temp work. Slovenia’s civil society rating remains unchanged at 2.00.

Independent Media. There were several threats against journalists during the year, including a death threat by the son of the mayor of Ljubljana against a newspaper journalist. On October 20, the National Assembly adopted the new Act on Radio-Television Slovenia, but days later 32 deputies requested a legislative referendum, which was held December 12. Critics opposed the act because it would change Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVSLO) from a state to a public broadcaster, decouple RTVSLO employee pay from government worker pay, and require programming for minorities from the other former Yugoslav republics. Only 14.8 percent of voters participated in the referendum on the act, which was voted down by a margin of 44.6 percent. Slovenia’s independent media rating remains unchanged at 2.25.

Local Democratic Governance. In 2010, the controversial issue of establishing provinces in Slovenia was left on the back burner as in previous years. At the beginning of November, the government prepared legislation promoting balanced regional development and submitted it to the National Assembly for adoption. During the year there were controversial debates over Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic. While some argued that during Jankovic’s mandate the Slovenian capital had finally started to develop properly, others talked about the “Berlusconization” of Ljubljana and high local-budget debt. Despite all the critics, Jankovic convincingly won a new mayoral mandate. Slovenia’s rating for local democratic governance remains unchanged at 1.50.

Judicial Framework and Independence. In Slovenia, the judicial system remains overburdened with long trial delays. In 2010, the opposition was very critical of the work of Minister of Justice Aleš Zalar, threatening interpellation for his nomination of Branko Masleša as the new President of the Supreme Court. On the basis of journalistic reports, public questions were raised as to whether Supreme State Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar had ordered internal control over the work of State Prosecutor Branka Zobec Hrastar, who was directing the pre-trial proceedings in the controversial corruption case against the Finnish company Patria. This case included an indictment against Brezigar’s ally, former Prime Minister Janez Janša. Slovenia’s judicial framework and independence rating remains unchanged at 1.75.

Corruption. In August 2010, in the so-called Patria affair, an indictment was filed against five persons, including president of the Slovenian Democratic Party (and former Prime Minister) Janez Janša. Other corruption cases during the year were directly or indirectly linked to the construction sector. A deputy of the National Assembly was sentenced to imprisonment due to corruption and other criminal acts. Investigators also detained a District Attorney who was suspected of taking a bribe. At the end of May 2010, the Act on Integrity in the Public Sector was adopted to stimulate fair and transparent behavior among civil servants and good practices in decision-making processes. Slovenia’s corruption rating remains unchanged at 2.50.

Outlook for 2011. Slovenia will continue to face pressure to resolve the financial and economic crisis causing the country’s increasing rate of unemployment and lagging wages. The government coalition will continue working to resolve internal political conflicts and instability. Although the National Assembly at the end of 2010 passed pension reform legislation, this issue will also be high on the Slovenian political agenda in 2011. Controversial debates on adopting the proposed Family Law Bill will likewise continue. Nongovernmental actors have predicted initiatives to call referendums in 2011, especially concerning the adoption of the pension reform and Mini Job Act.

National Democratic Governance: 

The constitution defines Slovenia as a democratic republic based on the rule of law. The separation of powers is provided through checks and balances among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The country’s system of government has achieved stability without coercion, violence, or other abuse of basic rights and civil liberties. Citizens may participate in decision-making processes, and referendums have become a stable feature in Slovenian politics, although some experts argue they are frequently used in an undemocratic and illegitimate manner.[1]

The Slovenian parliament consists of the National Assembly and National Council. Owing to the limited powers of the National Council, however, the parliament is usually referred to as a “one-and-a-half-chamber system.” The National Assembly has 90 members, with a single representative each from the Italian and Hungarian national minorities. In general, the National Assembly is effective but overburdened. Parliamentary documents and sessions are available to the public via the National Assembly’s website, which has also posts transcripts of parliamentary debates since 1996. The public may attend all parliamentary sessions except those of the Commission for Supervision of the Intelligence and Security Services. Furthermore, the third program of the National Radio and Television Company (RTVSLO) is dedicated to the National Assembly and its working bodies, and thus represents additional democratic supervision of the Assembly by the general public. Access to government information is ensured by Article 39 of the constitution and by the Law on Access to Public Information, and is overseen by the Office of the Information Commissioner established in 2005. The President has a largely ceremonial role with limited decision-making powers, while the Prime Minister steers the ship of state.

In 2010, the country continued to see very poor economic conditions. According to the Slovenian Office for Macroeconomic Analysis and Development, economic growth for 2010 would be around 0.9 percent, slower than in the Euro area as a whole. Economic growth in Slovenia is heavily dependent on foreign demand, which showed some improvement in 2010, but exports are not expected to return to a pre-crisis level before mid-2011. The domestic environment remains very weak, reflected in several high-profile corporate bankruptcies, the construction industry, and labor markets, where there are no signs yet of recovery.[2] By the end of 2010, the number of unemployed persons was expected to be around 105,000, showing an increase in the unemployment rate for the third year in a row, from 6.5 percent in June 2008 to 9.3 percent in October 2009 and 10.6 percent in August 2010.[3]

As a result, the government was the target of critics during the year, mostly from the opposition Slovenian Democratic Party, but at the same time faced internal conflicts and instability. In January 2010, Minister of the Environment and Spatial Planning Karel Erjavec, who also heads the coalition party Democratic Party of Retired Persons of Slovenia, resigned over a municipal waste collection scandal. Then, in July, Minister of the Economy Matej Lahovnik resigned over corruption allegations against several fellow Zares Party members and ministers. And in October, Andrej Magajna left the ruling Social Democrats, claiming that the current government reforms deviated from the social democratic path.

In 2010, interpellations were raised against Minister of the Interior Katarina Kresal and Minister of Education and Sport Igor Lukšic. Dissatisfaction with proposed government measures was also demonstrated in a strike by public-sector employees, which caused problems at border crossings. Students showed great dissatisfaction with the proposed Mini Job Act, which seeks to limit student work, and organized mass protests in Ljubljana that ended with violence.

In 2010, Srecko Prijatelj, a member of the Slovenian National Party, became the first deputy of the National Assembly in the history of Slovenia to be imprisoned, receiving a sentence of five years and two months for convictions on charges of extortion, arbitrary and illegal trafficking, and production of weapons or explosives.

In November, the National Assembly passed the budget for the next two years without the support of coalition party DeSUS, and then in December passed the pension reform bill, again without DeSUS support. It is anticipated that employee interest groups and DeSUS will make use of all possible institutional veto points (including a veto vote in the National Council and an initiative to call a referendum) such that the pension reform will likely not enter into force. In the wake of DeSUS opposition to the budget and pension reform, the coalition will be challenged to maintain the necessary majority in 2011.

Electoral Process: 

The Slovenian government gains its authority through universal and equal suffrage, and the will of the people is expressed by regular, free, and fair elections conducted by secret ballot. The electoral system is multiparty-based, where political parties have equal campaigning opportunities, and the public’s choices are free from domination by any specific interest groups. In 2010, Slovenia held local elections; additionally, a referendum was called on the new Slovenian National Broadcast Act, conducted on December 12.

Deputies to the National Assembly are elected on the basis of proportional representation with a 4 percent threshold. To establish a political party, only 200 signatures are required, and there are few barriers to political organization, registration, and participation in elections. In practice, it is much easier for parliamentary parties to participate in elections, while non-parliamentary parties and independent candidates must obtain 50 signatures from 8 electoral districts.According to the constitution, professionals in the defense forces and police may not be members of political parties. Similarly, members of the Office of the State Prosecutor and the judiciary may not hold office in a political party, as the Constitutional Court supervises political parties. The Slovenian party system is relatively open, formally speaking, yet new entrants into the Assembly are few; also noteworthy is the absence of an anti-system party, although during the 1990s some parties occasionally challenged the legitimacy of the elected elite or called for extraordinary (early) elections. In parliamentary elections, voter turnout declined from 85.8 percent in 1992 to 60.6 percent in 2004, while turnout at the last general elections of September 2008 increased slightly to 63.1 percent.

Local elections were held in Slovenia in 208 out of 210 municipalities on October 10, 2010 (with a second round in the mayoral elections on October 24). Due to a Constitutional Court decision, elections were not held in the municipalities of Koper and Trebnje because Ankaran and Mirna voted in two referenda to establish themselves as independent municipalities. The National Assembly, however, did not support the proposals, and Ankaran and Mirna brought the issue to the Constitutional Court, which supported the initiative. Some law experts criticized the Court’s decision and the quality of its written opinions, which some argued could even have a crippling effect on the Slovenian constitutionality system.[4]

As in the 2006 local elections, in 2010 most mayors were elected from the Slovenian People’s Party. In terms of overall wins, second place went to the Slovenian Democratic Party, and third place to the biggest parliamentary party, the Social Democrats. Among governmental parties the least successful was Zares, as none of the 26 proposed candidates was elected. By contrast, 8 candidates from the non-parliamentary party New Slovenia were elected. The absolute winners in the mayoral elections were independent candidates, of whom 70 were elected.

The Slovenian Democratic Party had the best results in the municipal council elections with 18.7 percent of votes. The biggest government party, Social Democrats, won second place with 12.1 percent. Liberal Democracy of Slovenia did half as well as in 2006, coming in fifth with 7.4 percent, while the Democratic Party of Retired Persons of Slovenia won almost 10 percent, 4 percent better than in 2006.

The 2010 local elections represented a warning to the center-left government coalition, especially to the so-called government trio (Social Democrats, Liberal Democracy of Slovenia, and Zares), while the Democratic Party of Retired Persons of Slovenia was the only governmental party that significantly improved its electoral result compared to the 2006 elections. In addition, the elections were marked by the absolute win of independent mayoral candidates, low turnout (50.28 percent in the first round and 48.81 percent in the second round), a large share of reelected mayors, extremely low share of elected women candidates, and the first elected black mayor in Eastern Europe (Peter Bossman in Piran), which also attracted considerable attention in foreign media.

At the request of 32 deputies of the National Assembly, a legislative referendum on the National Radio and Television Company (RTVSLO) Act was conducted on December 12, 2010, with a convincing vote against (72.33 percent) and only 27.67 percent in favor. But the referendum had extremely low turnout (14.78 percent)[5], and some critics spoke out against the use of referendums in the country. Former Constitutional Court judge Matevž Krivic urged changes to the referendum legislation, while Andraž Teršek, as a representative of the younger generation of constitutionalists, once again emphasized how use of the referendum in Slovenia does not contribute to genuine democracy and the legitimacy of the democratic political process.[6]

Civil Society: 

In Slovenia, the right to assembly and association is guaranteed in Article 42 of the constitution. Legal restriction of these rights is permissible where so required for national security or public safety, such as protection against the spread of infectious diseases. Most statistics show that Slovenian civil society is vibrant; of the country’s almost 21,000 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), the majority are organized as associations and work at the local level in the fields of sports, culture and art, and fire brigades, with others taking the form of private foundations and institutes. Yet civil society in Slovenia struggles with a personnel deficit. Following the “golden era” of civil society during the 1980s, which featured the establishment of an independent state and the transition to democracy, today most NGOs are not involved in public affairs in Slovenia.

After the last parliamentary elections in 2008, the center-left government led by Prime Minister Borut Pahor presented itself as open toward civil society participation and inclined to a consensual style of politics, which has at times drawn criticism. The center-left government has publicly expressed the importance of social dialogue and appointed a cabinet-level secretary responsible for the organization and management of social dialogue. Nevertheless, in 2010 the government received opposition from many civil society groups, primarily trade unions unsatisfied with the social partnership and students violently opposed to the Mini Job Act.

In the fall of 2010, the government’s inability to pay an agreed-upon thirdquarter wage adjustment led to a strike by public-sector employees. The government’s Mini Jobs Act proposed limiting student work and the introduction of a new form of occasional part-time work as the most flexible type of employment in the Slovenian labor market, but the proposal was vetoed in the National Council and awaited a new vote in the National Assembly at year’s end. The measure was met with student protests in front of the National Assembly, with protestors throwing granite tiles and causing serious damage to the parliamentary building.

In the October local elections, a 30 percent “women quota” was introduced for candidates but to little effect, as women candidates were typically placed lower on party lists and only a few obtained seats on municipal councils. As a result, there were only ten women candidates elected as mayors, only 23 percent of municipal councillors elected are women, and nine municipalities remained without a single female councillor.

In 2010, discussion of the minority rights of the “erased,” which had been top on the agenda over the last few years, was finally concluded. With the new act on the so-called erased persons, the government allowed these individuals to apply for a permit for permanent residence in Slovenia, with a supplementary decision that their stay in Slovenia would be retroactively legalized. Also, debate continued o ver the controversial Family Law bill, which proposes the right of same-sex couples to adopt, which was still in parliamentary committee at year’s end.

There were several successful civil society public actions that received especially wide media attention in 2010. First, “Ecologists Without Borders” organized an action called “Clean Slovenia in one day.” According to estimates, the campaign drew about 200,000 (or 10 percent of Slovenians). Second, the group EKO KROG achieved some success in negotiating with the government on the heavy pollution caused by the cement factory LaFarge in Trbovlje. Lastly, the group “Society For the Rule of Law,” led by economist Rado Pezdir, implemented several highly successful actions, including forcing banks to return several million euros to clients unjustly charged for ATM withdrawals in a cartel-like scheme.

Independent Media: 

In Slovenia, media ownership and the role of the state in the media sector have direct impact on media freedom and journalist autonomy. The privatization model established in the early 1990s enabled the state to keep significant ownership in privatized companies through state-controlled funds. In the period 2005–07 there were controversial changes to media regulations and takeovers of several daily newspapers, the public service radio and television, as well as the press agency. In those outlets, the governing bodies, managers, editors, and reporters have in many cases been replaced by professionals loyal to the political parties in power.

In 2010, after the local election results were declared, Jure Jankovic, son of incumbent Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic, issued a death threat against the Finance newspaper journalist Jaka Elikan.[7] Jure Jankovic later apologized, but the incident underscored continual accusations alleging that companies owned by the mayor’s two sons buy cheap agricultural land that the Ljubljana Municipal Council then converts into construction plots. Journalists, including Elikan, have investigated the issue, and more accusations were reported on the day election results were announced. The president of the Association of Journalists and Commentators, Igor Kršinar, and the president of the Association of Journalists of Slovenia, Grega Repovž, condemned the threat on Elikan as representing a serious threat to press freedom. Mayor Jankovic also condemned his son’s act, but at the same time sent a warning to investigative journalists. Just days later a second threat was made against an RTVSLO journalist who reported on alleged irregularities in the refurbishing of a house owned by Simona Dimic, then-chief of the Prime Minister’s cabinet. Although the threat was indirect (an unknown person suggested “it would be better if she would do something else”), the journalist felt the incident was serious enough to report to the police.

Political pressure on the public broadcaster is a permanent practice in Slovenia, which strengthened in 2005 when the center-right government passed a new Law on Radio-Television Slovenia introducing a new formula for the composition of the supervisory council. Enhancing political and government influence, the new law entitles MPs to appoint the majority of council members, while in the past civil society organizations played a larger role in the council appointment process. After a year of preparation, on October 20, 2010, the National Assembly adopted a subsequent new Act on Radio-Television Slovenia, but days later 32 deputies requested a legislative referendum on the act, which critics opposed because it would change Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVSLO) from a state to a public broadcaster, decouple RTVSLO employee pay from government worker pay, and require programming for minorities from the other former Yugoslav republics The referendum was held on December 12, 2010, with the participation of only 14.8 percent of voters. Of these, 72.3 percent voted decisively against the act, while only 27.7 percent voted in favor of the government proposal.

One particularly disturbing development in 2010 was the exorbitant libel damages sought by former Prime Minister Janez Janša from a Finnish journalist and others who reported on a corruption story concerning Janša and his party in 2008. The former prime minister sought €1.5 million in damages for bribery allegations. However, in August 2010, charges were filed against Janša in the case.

Local Democratic Governance: 

The basic unit of local self-governance in Slovenia is the municipality. In accordance with legislation, the territory of a municipality comprises one or several settlements bound together by the common needs and interests of residents; local affairs may be regulated by the municipality autonomously. With the prior consent of the municipality or wider self-governing local community, the state may by law vest specific state duties in the municipality if the state provides financial resources and oversight for this purpose. In principle, a municipality is financed from its own resources, but in the case of insufficient economic development it is assured additional funding by the state in accordance with principles and criteria provided by law. Over the last two decades inter-municipal cooperation in Slovenia has been largely unsuccessful. The Slovenian constitution offered a “bottom up” approach to regionalization, but this led to the fragmentation of the country’s subnational level. In 1994, the Law on New Municipalities established 147 new municipal units, but in the following years a majority of these separated into smaller units so that, to date, the number of municipalities in Slovenia has grown to 210 (in a country with a total population of only 2 million). As a result, a vast majority are very small, have limited financial and political power, and are inadequately staffed.

Slovenia has no historical tradition of regional government and the country’s political-administrative regionalization process required changes to the constitution of 1991, which finally occurred in mid-2006. However, the constitutional changes manage the issue of regions only in principle, while the procedures for setting up regions, their size, number, responsibilities, financing, and other related issues will need to be arranged under a special law on provinces. In 2007 the government proposed an act establishing 14 provinces, but the National Assembly rejected the proposal in 2008 and 2009, and in 2010 the debate on establishing provinces was largely put on the back burner.

At the beginning of November 2010, the government proposed a new act on the promotion of balanced regional development, which would provide an expanded set of instruments of regional policy in areas with development problems. The Government Office for Local Self-Government and Regional Policy of Slovenia also started a so-called Territorial Review process with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It is expected that the OECD review will be discussed in the OECD Territorial Development Policy Committee in June 2011.

During 2010, Ljubljana mayor Zoran Jankovic was embroiled in a number of controversial debates. Some argued that during Jankovic’s mandate, the Slovenian capital had finally started to develop properly, while others talked about the “Berlusconization” of Ljubljana and the high local-budget debt. Despite all his critics, the incumbent Jankovic won a convincing new mandate in the 2010 local elections. During the year, the most controversial issue was the construction of the Stožice sports park, with a new football stadium, basketball hall, and shopping center. Due to the financial crisis many questioned the appropriateness of such a huge project, and the conclusion of the project was indeed threatened. Consequently, the Ministry of Education and Sport announced a July tender for cofinancing sports infrastructure of “strategic” importance. According to opposition opinion, the tender was prepared explicitly for the Stožice project to help the mayor implement his own interests, and that the tender was a coalition “repayment” to the mayor, who publicly supported the so-called left-trio (Social Democrats, Liberal Democracy of Slovenia and Zares) before the 2008 national parliamentary elections. Opposition parties even raised an interpellation against Minister of Education and Sport Igor Lukšic, but unsuccessfully.

In 2010 the Act on Integrity in the Public Sector was adopted. One of the bill’s original provisions sought to introduce the principle of incompatibility of two functions (for example, being a deputy and a mayor at the same time). Though this has been a longstanding debate in Slovenia, the strong mayoral lobby in the National Assembly once again removed the stipulation into the final draft. About one-third of Assembly deputies are also mayors.

Judicial Framework and Independence: 

Slovenia’s judicial branch of government consists of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court. Judges are independent and are not allowed to participate in political party organs (though they may be members formally). They are elected by the National Assembly after being nominated by the eleven-member Judicial Council. The National Assembly elects five members to the Council on proposal of the president from among law professors and attorneys; the remaining six are judges chosen by their peers holding permanent judicial office. The members of the Council select a president from among their own number. The Constitutional Court is composed of nine judges nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly; these nine judges elect the president of the Constitutional Court from their own number for a term of three years. Despite reform efforts, the judicial system remains overburdened with long trial delays.

In 2010, the opposition threatened interpellation of Minister of Justice Ales Zalar on a number of issues: the highly controversial nomination of Branko Masleša as new President of the Supreme Court, mandatory instructions for the use of the State Prosecutor’s order, the amended act on the Public Prosecutor’s Office that suggests abolishing the special group of prosecutors for organized crime, and announced amendments to the criminal code. There were complaints about the appropriateness of the nomination of Masleša, who in the past had allegedly made enthusiastic comments about the shooting of a deserter on the Yugoslav-Italian border as well as spoke out harshly against Slovenian independence. The opposition also doubted his professional references. Nonetheless, Masleša was elected President of the Supreme Court in the second half of November.

On the basis of journalistic reports, a public question was raised as to whether Supreme State Prosecutor Barbara Brezigar had ordered internal control over the work of State Prosecutor Branka Zobec Hrastar, who has been directing the pre-trial proceedings in the controversial case of the Finnish company Patria. The Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office replied that Brezigar had not ordered the internal control, and that any assignment of oversight of a public prosecutor is an internal matter of the Public Prosecutor’s Office and not the media, with the Attorney General ordering controls in accordance with law and as necessary.

In the beginning of November 2010, Prime Minister Borut Pahor and Minister Zalar visited the Supreme Public Prosecutor to discuss improving the prosecution of organized crime related to the new law on Public Prosecutor’s Office, and they agreed to establish a new, 12th District Prosecutor’s Office for this purpose. They also discussed where to install the Public Prosecutor’s Office and whether it should be closer to the executive power, an independent judicial body, or closer to the judicial branch of government, agreeing finally that the Public Prosecutor’s Office should be an independent judicial authority. Taking into account past allegations of political pressure on prosecutors, and the constant disputes between the Minister of Justice and the Supreme State Prosecutor, this meeting represented a positive trend in the future position and work of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Corruption: 

Slovenia adopted the Law on Prevention of Corruption in 2003, and then in 2004 adopted the country’s first anti-corruption strategy with 172 measures to eliminate the conditions for corruption in Slovenia. These measures were prescribed for the areas of politics, state administration, investigative, prosecuting and judicial bodies, business, nongovernmental organizations, the media, and the general public. In October 2004, the five-member Commission for the Prevention of Corruption began operations, and although it struggles with various problems, including threats of abolishment, the commission appears to be an effective enforcer of the Law on Prevention of Corruption as well as a confident watchdog of public employees. The tasks of the three-member commission are mostly preventive, ensuring that officials do not abuse their public office for private business gain.

In September 2010, the commission met for its second term. By law, members cannot be reappointed. Goran Klemencic, former secretary in the Ministry of the Interior, replaced Drago Kos, who had been head of the commission since its establishment. President of the Republic Danilo Türk nominated as deputies the economist Jože Koncan and journalist Rok Praprotnik. However, Koncan withdrew his nomination, citing concerns about the possible politicization of the office, and was replaced in December by nominee Liljana Selinšek, an attorney and former adviser in the Office of the Information Commissioner. At year’s end, the commission still had only two confirmed members.

The biggest corruption story in Slovenia in 2010 was the continued Patria affair and its unproven claims that the Finnish company bribed Slovenian officials to help finalize the purchase of armored personnel carriers for the Slovenian army. This political controversy reached a peak just three weeks before the 2008 national parliamentary elections, when the Finnish national television YLE published an investigation implicating the corruption of several Slovenian civil servants, including then prime minister Janez Janša. YLE, in a broadcast entitled “The Truth about Patria,” reported that the company had paid EUR 21 million (US$29 million) in bribes to civil servants in Slovenia’s Ministry of Defense as well as politicians, including a figure identified simply as “J.” In August, an indictment was filed against five persons, including Janša, still the president of the Slovenian Democratic Party. According to the Slovenian weekly Mladina the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office accused Janša of attempting to receive gifts, while others involved were accused of accepting gifts, giving gifts for illegal mediation, and providing assistance.

Other cases in 2010 involving corruptive acts were directly or indirectly linked to the construction sector. In October, the first hearing was held in the case of the socalled Clean Paddle affair, involving directors of Slovenian construction companies and an air-traffic controller who conspired to take advantage of the construction of a new tower at the Ljubljana airport. Second, the bankruptcy case of the construction company Vegrad also uncovered many irregularities and foul dealings by the company’s leadership. The greatest amount of public interest surrounded the illegal building or renovating of houses and apartments, and according to some sources, more than one hundred apartments were suspiciously obtained by leaders in Vegrad as well as high ranking police officials, public figures, and directors of the largest Slovenian enterprises.

One high-profile case involved Simona Dimic, former head of the Prime Minister’s cabinet, and irregularities in the refurbishing of her house. In an interview Dimic explicitly stated that Vegrad did not renovate her house, while only a few days later she was flatly contradicted by Vegrad director Hilda Tovšak. After additional irregularities were publicized, Dimic resigned from the cabinet. Also in 2010, a deputy of the National Assembly was for the first time in Slovenian history sentenced to imprisonment for corruption and other crimes. And at the beginning of November investigators detained the District Attorney, who is suspected of taking a bribe. All these cases indicated a significantly higher perception of corruption in Slovenia, especially during the past year.

At the end of May 2010, the Act on Integrity in the Public Sector was adopted to stimulate fair and transparent behavior among civil servants and good practices in decision-making processes. The law confers the central role in implementing these goals on the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, including the normative regulation of lobbying. This is the first time that lobbying is to be regulated in Slovenia, after a first attempt to adopt the Act on Lobbying in the mid- 1990s was unsuccessful.

Notes: 

[1] See Andraž Teršek, “Referendum kot okno politicne realnosti” [Referendum as a Window of Political Reality], Delo.si, 12 July 2008, p. 5; and Andraž Teršek, “O zlorabi referenduma, s primerom ‘votlosti’ referendumskega odlocanja” [On Abuse of Referendum with a Case of Hollowness of Referendum Decision-Making], Revus-European Constitutionality Review No. 4 (2005): 75–82, http://www.scribd.com/full/26480773?access_key=key-1ubtvradsxpecm8b1kne (in Slovenian).

[2] “Gospodarska rast pocasnejša kot v evro obmocju” [Economic growth slower than in Euro area], Aktiv.si, 3 November 2010, http://www.aktiv.si/novice/20101103/Gospodarska_rast_pocasnejsa_kot_v_ev... (in Slovenian).

[3] “Avgusta v Sloveniji 10,6-odstotna brezposelnost” [August in Slovenia: 10.6 percent unemployment], Delo.si, 18 October 2010, http://www.delo.si/clanek/125671 (in Slovenian).

[4] See “Tlakovanje poti v ustavno krizo?” [Paving the way to constitutional crisis?], Dnevnik.si, 24 December 2010, http://dnevnik.si/objektiv/komentarji_in_mnenja/1042412493 (in Slovenian).

[5] See National Electoral Commission, http://www.dvk.gov.si/ (in Slovenian).

[6] Andraž Teršek, “Placujemo za zlorabo demokracijeTh DragoTh” [We are paying for the misuse of democracyTh DearlyTh], Mladina.si, December 2010, http://www.mladina.si/tednik/201050/placujemo_za_zlorabo_demokracije__drago (in Slovenian).

[7] IFEX, “Journalist reports alleged death threat from mayor’s son,” IFEX Alert, 15 October 2010, http://www.ifex.org/slovenia/2010/10/15/jaka_elikan_threat/.