U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Slovenia, February 1999
Released by the Bureau of European Affairs
U.S. Department of State
OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of Slovenia
Area: 20,273 sq. km. (7,906 sq. mi.) -- slightly smaller than New
Cities: Capital -- Ljubljana (1996 pop. 276,397); Other cities --
Maribor (132,860), Kranj (52,043), Novo Mesto (51,404), Celje (49,935).
Terrain: Mountains rising to over 2,500 meters (8,200 feet) in the
north, wide plateaus more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) high in the
southeast, Karst limestone region of caves in the south-southwest,
hills in the east, and approximately 50 kilometers (39 miles) of
coastline on the Adriatic Sea.
Land use: 54.2% forests, 39% agricultural land, 6.8% non-cultivated
Climate: Temperate, with regional variations. Average temperature in
the mountain region in January is below 0°C (32°F), in the
interior from 0-2 °C (32-36°F), and along the coast from 2-
4°C (36-39°F); in July, average temperature in the interior is
20-22°C (68-72°F), along the coast 22-24°C (72-75°F).
Average annual rainfall is from 800 mm. (31 in.) in the east to 3,000
mm. (117 in.) in the northwest.
Nationality: Noun and adjective -- Slovene(s).
Population: 2 million.
Annual growth rate (1997 est): -0.2%.
Ethnic groups: Slovenes 87.84%, Croats 2.76%, Serbs 2.44%, Bosnians
1.36%, Hungarians 0.43%, Montenegrins 0.22%, Macedonians 0.22%,
Albanians 0.18%, Italians 0.16%.
Religions: Predominantly Roman Catholic, although there are small
numbers of Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Languages: The official language is Slovene. Hungarian and Italian
are spoken in the border regions, and German fluency is common near the
Austrian border. English is widely understood by business people and
Education: Higher education enrollment -- 26.2%.
Health: Infant mortality rate -- 5.5/1,000; Life expectancy -- men
70.27 years, women 77.76 years.
Work force: 978,000.
Type: Parliamentary democracy.
Independence: On June 25, 1991 the Republic of Slovenia declared
independence from Yugoslavia. The United States and the European Union
recognized Slovenia in 1992.
Constitution: Adopted on December 23, 1991.
Branches: Executive -- President (head of state) directly elected for
a maximum of two consecutive 5-year terms. Legislative -- bicameral
legislature (Parliament is composed of the National Assembly, with 90
deputies directly elected on party basis for 4-year terms and the
National Council, with 40 members elected to represent social,
economic, professional, and local interests for 5-year terms.) Prime
Minister (head of government). Judicial -- Constitutional Court,
regular courts, and a public prosecutor.
Political Parties: Liberal Democratic Party (LDS) -- 25 seats in the
National Assembly; Slovene People's Party (SLS) -- 19 seats; Social
Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS) -- 16 seats; Christian Democratic
Party (SKD) -- 10 seats; United List of Social Democrats in Slovenia
(ZLSD) -- 9 seats; Party of Pensioners of Slovenia (DeSus); Slovene
National Party (SNS) -- 4 seats.
Suffrage: Universal over 18 years of age
Administrative divisions: 192 local administrative units.
Flag: horizontal tricolor (white, blue, and red) with Slovenia's
highest peak, Mount Triglav, displayed on the national coat of arms in
the upper left corner.
GDP (1997): $18,202 million; 3.8% growth rate (1998 est.: 4%).
GDP per capita income: $9,161 (1998 est.: $9,889).
Natural resources: coal, mercury, timber.
Agriculture/forestry/fishing (4.6% of 1997 GDP): Wheat, corn, pork,
poultry, milk, potatoes, orchard fruits, and wine.
Industry: Electrical equipment, chemical products, textiles, food
products, electricity, metal products, wood products, transportation
Trade (1997): Exports -- $8,372 million; types -- machinery and
transportation equipment, manufactures, chemical products, food and
live animals; Imports -- $9,358 million; types -- machinery and
transportation equipment, manufactures, chemical products, mineral
fuels; Trading partners -- Germany, Italy, Croatia, France, Austria.
Foreign Investment (cumulative, end 1997): $2,119.7 million.
The majority of Slovenia's population is Slovene (more than 87%).
Hungarians and Italians have the status of indigenous minorities under
the Slovenian Constitution, which guarantees them seats in the National
Assembly. Most other minority groups, particularly those from the
former Yugoslavia, immigrated after World War II for economic reasons.
Slovenes are predominantly Roman Catholic, though the country also has
a small number of Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Muslims, and Jews.
Slovene is a Slavic language, written in the Roman script.
Slovenia is situated at the crossroads of central Europe, the
Mediterranean, and the Balkans. The Alps -- including the Julian Alps,
the Kamnik-Savinja Alps, the Karavanke chain, and the Pohorje Massif --
dominate northern Slovenia near Austria. Slovenia's Adriatic coastline
extends for approximately 50 km. (39 mi.) from Italy to Croatia. The
term "karst" -- a limestone region of underground rivers, gorges, and
caves -- originated in Slovenia's Karst plateau between Ljubljana and
the Italian border. On the Pannonian plain to the east and northeast,
toward the Croatian and Hungarian borders, the landscape is essentially
flat. However, the majority of Slovenian terrain is hilly or
mountainous, with about 90% of the surface 200 meters or more above sea
From as early as the ninth century, Slovenia has fallen under foreign
rulers, including partial control by Bavarian dukes and the Republic of
Venice. With the exception of Napoleon's 4-year tutelage of parts of
Slovenia and Croatia -- the "Illyrian Provinces" -- Slovenia was part
of the Hapsburg empire from the 14th century until 1918. Nevertheless,
Slovenia resisted Germanizing influences and retained its unique Slavic
language and culture.
In 1918, Slovenia joined with other southern Slav states in forming the
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes as part of the peace plan at the
end of World War I. Renamed in 1929 under a Serbian monarch, the
Kingdom of Yugoslavia fell to the Axis powers during World War II.
Following communist partisan resistance to German, Hungarian, and
Italian occupation, socialist Yugoslavia was born under the helm of
Josip Broz Tito. During the communist era, Slovenia became
Yugoslavia's most prosperous republic, at the forefront of Yugoslavia's
unique, mixed economic system. Within a few years of Tito's death in
1980, Belgrade initiated plans to further concentrate political and
economic power in its hands. Defying the politicians in Belgrade,
Slovenia underwent a flowering of democracy and an opening of its
society in cultural, civic, and economic realms to a degree almost
unprecedented in the communist world. In September 1989, the General
Assembly of the Yugoslav Republic of Slovenia adopted an amendment to
its constitution asserting Slovenia's right to secede from Yugoslavia.
On December 23, 1990, 88% of Slovenia's population voted for
independence in a referendum, and on June 25, 1990, the Republic of
Slovenia declared its independence. A nearly bloodless 10-day war with
Yugoslavia followed; Yugoslav forces withdrew after Slovenia
demonstrated stiff resistance to Belgrade.
As a young independent republic, Slovenia pursued economic
stabilization and further political openness, while emphasizing its
Western outlook and central European heritage. Today, with a growing
regional profile, as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,
a participant in the SFOR deployment in Bosnia, and a charter WTO
member, Slovenia plays a role on the world stage quite out of
proportion to its small size (population 2 million).
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional republic.
Within its government, power is shared between a directly elected
president, a prime minister, and a bicameral legislature (Parliament).
Parliament is composed of the 90-member National Assembly (which takes
the lead on virtually all legislative issues) and the National Council,
a largely advisory body composed of representatives from social,
economic, professional, and local interests. The Constitutional Court
has the highest power of review of legislation to ensure its
consistency with Slovenia's constitution. Its nine judges are elected
for 9-year terms.
The present government is a "grand coalition," with the leftist Liberal
Democratic Party (LDS) sharing power with the rightist, rural-based
People's Party (SLS). This arrangement took some time to organize, and
the delay in forming a government (together with the "teething pains"
of this form of cohabitation) are widely held responsible for the
delays in adopting and passing a budget. It also underlies the delays
Slovenia has experienced in pursuing a host of pressing reform
measures, such as privatization of large state holdings, property
restitution, and some legislation needed for accession to the European
Union. Notwithstanding these differences, the government -- indeed
most of the Slovenian polity -- shares a common view of the
desirability of a close association with the West, specifically of
membership in both the European Union and NATO.
In the course of 1997, elections were held for the presidency (a
contest that the incumbent, Milan Kucan, won handily) as well as for
the upper house of Parliament, the National Council. In November 1998,
local elections were closely watched as a preview for general elections
due by the year 2000 and as a gauge of the direction of policy as
Ljubljana devolves authority to the local level -- a process that
includes the recent creation of 45 new local administrative units
(obcine), bringing that total to 192. The polls produced no major
upsets, confirming the predominance of the LDS and, in second place,
its major opposition rival, the SDS.
Slovenia's failure to be invited in the first round of NATO enlargement
sent a tremor through its political establishment, prompted the
resignation of the Foreign Minister, and led to a vote of confidence
lodged by the opposition parties -- the Social Democrats (SDS) and the
Christian Democrats (SKD). The ensuing debate resulted in the
government articulating a general strategy for NATO enlargement, while
leaving the governing coalition firmly in charge. The invitation by
the European Union to begin accession negotiations soon thereafter
calmed the political waters, as did the subsequent decision by the
United States to waive visa requirements for most Slovenian tourists.
For all the apparent bitterness that divides left and right wings,
there are few fundamental philosophical differences between them in the
area of public policy. Slovene society is built on consensus, which
has converged on a social-democrat model. Political differences tend
to have their roots in the roles that groups and individuals played
during the years of communist rule and the struggle for independence.
Slovenia maintains an embassy in the United States at 1525 New
Hampshire Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036 (tel: 202-667-5363; fax:
202-667-4563). It also has a consulate in New York at 600 Third
Avenue, 21st Floor, New York, NY, 10016 (tel: 212-370-3006; fax: 212-
Slovenia was the most productive of the Yugoslav republics and today is
the most prosperous country of transition Europe. Its high level of
openness makes it extremely sensitive to economic conditions in its
main trading partners and changes in its international price
competitiveness. Keeping labor costs in line with productivity is thus
a key challenge for Slovenia's economic well-being, and Slovenian firms
have responded by specializing in mid- to high-tech manufactures.
Agriculture, forestry, and fishing comprise a comparatively low 4% of
GDP, while industry and construction comprise over one-third of GDP.
As in most industrial economies, services make up an increasing share
of output (nearly 60%), notably in financial services. Slovenia's
entry into the European Union, expected by the year 2005, will
accelerate a host of economic reforms.
Economic management in Slovenia is relatively good. Public finances
have only recently shown so-far modest deficits, and the outlook
indicates deficits on the order of 1% of GDP to persist into 1999.
This outlook depends critically on the government reversing the
explosive growth in pension expenditures. Other accounts are fairly
robust: Slovenia usually has a balanced current account, and its
overall debt/GDP ratio is a modest 23%. While the authorities have
been successful in stabilizing the Slovenian tolar and bringing
inflation down from more than 200% in 1992 to 8.4% in 1997, further
progress on inflation will be modest in the medium term as the
government liberalizes administered prices and introduces a value-added
Slovenian enterprises have a tradition of market orientation that has
served them well in the transition period, as they move energetically
to reorient trade from former Yugoslav markets to those of central and
eastern Europe. However, in many cases under the Slovenian brand of
privatization, managers and workers in formerly "socially owned"
enterprises have become the majority share-holders, perpetuating the
practices of "worker management" that were the hallmark of the Yugoslav
brand of communism. Difficulties associated with that model are
expected to decrease under competitive pressures, as shares in these
firms change hands and as EU-oriented reforms introduce more Western-
oriented governance practices.
Slovenia presently occupies a non-permanent seat on the UN Security
Council and in that capacity has distinguished itself with a
constructive, creative, and consensus-oriented activism. Slovenia has
been a member of the United Nations since May 1992 and of the Council
of Europe since May 1993. Slovenia signed an association agreement
with the European Union in 1996 and is a member of the Central European
Free Trade Agreement. Slovenia also is a member of all major
international financial institutions (the International Monetary Fund,
the World Bank Group, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development) as well as 40 other international organizations, among
them the World Trade Organization, of which it is a founding member.
Slovenia's bilateral relations with its neighbors are generally
harmonious and cooperative. However, there remain a few unresolved
disputes with Croatia related to the succession of the former
Yugoslavia, including demarcation of their common border. In addition,
unlike the other successor states of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia
has yet to normalize relations with the "Federal Republic of
Yugoslavia" (Serbia and Montenegro). Relations with Belgrade remain
strained over succession issues, particularly concerning liabilities
and assets of the former Yugoslavia.
As part of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia was never a member of the
Warsaw Pact. Today, the foreign policy priority of NATO membership
drives Slovenia's defense reorganization. Once many countries lifted
the arms embargo on Slovenia in 1996, the country embarked on a
military procurement program to bolster its status as a NATO candidate
and to aid its transformation into a mobility force. Active in the
SFOR deployment in Bosnia, Slovenia is a charter member of the
Partnership for Peace and a regular participant in PFP exercises.
Slovenia enjoys excellent relations with the United States and
cooperates with it actively on a number of fronts.
The United States provides bilateral military assistance to Slovenia,
including through the International Military Education and Training
(IMET) program, the State Partnership Program (aligned with Colorado),
and the EUCOM Joint Contact Team Program.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
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disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other
relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks
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Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs
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Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: 301-946-
4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal
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terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is
info. (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries
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Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain
information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can
be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government
Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone:
202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be
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Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at
877-FYI-TRIP (877-394-8747) and a web site at
http://www.cdc.gov/travel/index.htm give the most recent health
advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on
food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet
entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication
number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see
"Principal Government Officials" listing in this
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous
areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a
country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in
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Further Electronic Information
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