Country Report: Slovenia
- Crisis Impact and Response
Slovenia was hit hard during the 2008 financial crisis and the sovereign debt crisis that followed. At the brink of receiving international help, the government initiated fiscal tightening, borrowed money on the markets and set up a bad bank. Having gone through the bail-out of a state bank in the preceding decade, Slovenians witnessed another bail-out in 2013. At the source of the financial problems is the corporate governance structure, where state, banks and businesses are opaquely interlinked. In the aftermath of the crisis, turmoil continues with respect to determining banking malpractices, banking regulation and the operations of the bad bank.
Slovenia, a Schengen borderland since 2007, has always been a transit country on the Balkan route for migrants trying to reach West Europe. In the 2015-16 ‘migrant and refugee crisis’, almost half a million people crossed the country in six months. As a result of the crisis, asylum demands in 2016 quintupled, which led the government to increase its asylum facility capacity. The International Protection Act (2016) implemented the minimal standards set in the EU law, and some rights were curtailed as asylum seekers were no longer eligible for an allowance if they disposed of funds.
Slovenia joined the EU relocation and resettlement scheme with the promise to resettle 567 individuals (now completed). In 2019, the government reiterated its commitment to the principle of solidarity and international burden-sharing.
Public opinion research has shown that the 2015-16 migration crisis has not changed much the way Slovenian perceive migrants and refugees. At least on a declarative level, Slovenians describe themselves open to migrants. This is important, as the government has committed to welcome more foreign labourers, currently standing at ten per cent of the labour force, to mitigate the domestic shortage of qualified labour.
Rule of Law Crisis
Viktor Orban and Fidesz regularly feature in the media and political debates in the country. These discussions reflect only in part genuine concerns over the rule of law in Hungary. Most of the discussions have been heavily politicised, drawing parallels on the rule of law and the media situations in Slovenia and Hungary.
Meanwhile, Slovenia has challenges of its own in meeting rule of law standards of strong democracies. A significant problem is the slow pace of justice. Several cases have been brought (successfully) against Slovenia at the European Court of Human Rights due to violations of the right to a hearing within a reasonable time.
Despite growing business relationships in the last couple of years, Slovenia is one of the least exposed EU markets to Brexit.  An economic analysis on the impact of Brexit commissioned by the Slovenian Government showed that gross domestic product would contract by 0,03 per cent over ten years. The loss of jobs is estimated to vary between 200 to 900 positions.
In a media interview, the Slovenian Ambassador to the UK said he was not expecting a drastic downfall of Slovenian immigration to the UK. Around 5,000 Slovenians live in the UK, while 800 UK nationals live in Slovenia. The Slovenian Government adopted a law, which in the case of a no-agreement guarantees British citizens who had been residing in Slovenia before Brexit the same level of rights they currently enjoyed (conditional on reciprocity).
The Government has expressed broad support for the negotiations position of the EU. On a political level, Slovenia supports a far reaching agreement and wishes to continue cooperation in matters of science, innovation, youth, culture and education also in the case of a no-agreement.
- Differentiated Governance
- Policy Differentiation. Please describe any EU policy fields in which the member state’s participation or status is different from other EU member states (e.g. opt-out, enhanced cooperation). In particular, point out differentiation in the field of EMU (e.g. single currency, etc), migration (e.g. Schengen, etc.) and Rule of Law (e.g. participation in European Public Prosecutor’s Office).
- Intra-EU Differentiation. Please describe whether the member state participates in forms of political or economic cooperation with a subset of EU member states (possibly also including non-EU member states) – e.g. Benelux, Visegrad 4, Nordic Council, etc.
- Territorial Differentiation. Please describe any territorial differentiation or anomaly that could lead to differentiated EU governance (the non-uniform application of EU law) with respect to the country in question. For example:
- Overseas territories: Does the country have e.g. former colonies or other overseas possessions? Are these considered part of or outside the EU? How and to what extent does EU law apply within these territories?
- Microstates: Is the country contiguous with a microstate (e.g. San Marino, Monaco, Andorra), and what is its differentiated status within the system of EU governance?
- Disputed territory: Is the country associated with a dispute over territory (e.g. Northern Ireland, Gibraltar, Northern Cyprus) that results in a differentiated relationship with EU governance?
Slovenia is a relatively well-integrated Member State. As part of its accession treaty, several restrictions and derogations applied to Slovenia, but fewer compared to most countries joining the EU in 2004. Since then, Slovenia was the first among the ‘big-bang’ enlargement countries to adopt the euro and is a member of the Schengen area. Slovenia has also participated in the reforms that the EU adopted during the Euro crisis (e.g. Fiscal Stability Treaty) and in the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. There is a certain unease among Slovenian politicians whenever discussions on policy differentiation in EU reprise, since integration on an equal footing with West European Member States continues to be a source of pride and prestige.
Slovenia has strong ties with countries in the Western Balkans and has an interest in their accession into the EU. In 2006, together with Croatia, Slovenia initiated and the Brdo-Brijuni Process, which is a forum in Southeast Europe for dialogue on security and enlargement. Among others, Slovenia is a member of the Berlin Process, Central European Initiative, Regional Council for Cooperation and the Adriatic Ionian Sea Initiative. During its first presidency to the Council of the EU, Slovenia was a promoter of a more coherent policy towards the Mediterranean neighbourhood. It remains active in particular in bringing partnerships in higher education and research.
Slovenia has a long-standing land and sea border dispute with Croatia, which has had a significant impact on the political scene in both countries. After years of trying to resolve the dispute bilaterally, and Slovenia blocking Croatian accession to the EU, the two countries agreed to settle the dispute with arbitration. In 2017, the Arbitral Tribunal in the Hague made rules on the border, but Croatia has so far refused to implement the decision. In an attempt to make Croatia abide by the arbitration, Slovenia brought a case unsuccessfully in front of the ECJ. Currently, the dispute has reached a stalemate.
- Covid-19 and the Recovery Fund
Slovenia was minimally touched by the first Covid wave (spring 2020). The second (autumn 2020) and third (spring 2021) waves recorded much higher infection rates. At one point in time, Slovenia had one of the highest death rates per capita due to covid despite stringent pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical measures. The central government has led the response to the crisis, while local authorities have very little manoeuvre to adapt locally. The government limited the freedom of movement to municipality lines, which proved to be one of the least supported measures given Slovenian municipalities’ fragmentation and small size. Citizens and civil society organised several protests to express dissatisfaction with school closures and to protest the corruption in the procurement of protective and testing equipment. Covid related protests were sometimes organised in parallel to anti-government demonstrations held regularly since a right-wing coalition took office in spring 2020. Political parties were not immune to conflict on covid measures. For example, the necessity for children to wear masks at school became a political issue. On a more positive note, in summer 2021, all parliamentary parties co-signed an appeal to citizens to get vaccinated. By mid-August 2021, Slovenia’s vaccination rate amounted to 40 %, with some health and care professionals refusing the vaccine. Overall, Covid furthered polarised Slovenian society with a new ‘vaccinated versus non-vaccinated’ cleavage arising.
Slovenia is eligible to draw 2.5 billion euros from the Recovery and Resilience Facility. The European Commission approved the Slovenian plan in July 2021. The plan meets the set requirements by dedicating over 40 per cent of the funds for green objectives and over 20 per cent for digital objectives. The government appointed a special strategic council to prepare a list of priorities on the Slovenian digital agenda and established a new department for overseeing the Recovery and Resilience Plan implementation. The political opposition lamented that they and other stakeholders were not sufficiently included in the plan’s design and expressed concerns that the plans are not sufficiently ambitious.
- Conference on the Future of Europe
The Conference on the Future of Europe has not been a subject of extensive political debates and media reports outside the launch of the Slovenian Presidency to the Council of the EU. Pro-EU parties, including the government coalition, have well received the idea to further the discussion on the future of Europe with citizens. Slovenia has a well-developed tradition to involve citizens via legislative referenda and, more recently, participatory budgeting, but it lags behind deliberative forums such as the citizen assembly organized in Ireland to consider thorny issues or more permanent deliberative forums as see in Belgium (the Ostbelgien model). Similar to other European citizens, Slovenians believe the Conference is a positive development for democracy in the EU but do not expect too much to change.
 Pristavec Đogić, M. and Marjana Križaj (2016) Migrantska kriza primer Slovenije. Ljubljana: National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia, p. 3. Available at: https://fotogalerija.dz-rs.si/datoteke/Publikacije/Zborniki_RN/2016/Migrantska_kriza_v_Sloveniji_-_primer_Slovenije.pdf (27. 5. 2020).
 Pristavec Đogić and Križaj, 2016, p. 4. UOIM (2020) Oskrbovani prosilci za mednarodno zaščito v Republiki Sloveniji po letih. Ljubljana: Urad Vlade Republike Slovenije za oskrbo in integracijo migrantov. Available at:
 Pristavec Đogić and Križaj, 2016, p. 5. See also IOM, https://www.iom.int/news/slovenias-first-refugee-resettlement-programme-completed-after-arrival-last-syrian-family (29. 5. 2020)
 Government of the Republic of Slovenia (2019a) Strategija na področju migracij, p. 5. Available at: https://www.gov.si/assets/ministrstva/MNZ/SOJ/STR17072019.pdf (27. 5. 2020)
 Zavratnik, Simona, Falle Zorman, Rebeka, Broder, Živa (2017). Javno mnenje in migracije. Teorija in praksa, letnik 54, številka 5, str. 857-884, 913-914.
 Government of the Republic of Slovenia, 2019a, pp. 17-18.
 British Embassy Ljubljana (2020) UK Ambassador to Slovenia meets Slovenian Foreign Minister ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-ambassador-to-slovenia-meets-slovenian-foreign-minister-ahead-of-the-uks-departure-from-the-eu (27. 5. 2020)
 Damijan, J. P, Č. Kostovec in Tjaša Redek (2019) Analiza Posledic Različnih Scenarijev Brexit Na Notranji Trg In Trgovinske Odnose Z Združenim Kraljestvom Velike Britanije. Available at: https://www.gov.si/assets/ministrstva/MGRT/Dokumenti/DNT/Studija-vpliva-Brexit.pdf (27. 5. 2020).
 STA (2020) BREXIT: Status v Združenem kraljestvu doslej uredila okoli polovica tam živečih Slovencev. Available at: https://www.sta.si/2719432/brexit-status-v-zdruzenem-kraljestvu-doslej-uredila-okoli-polovica-tam-zivecih-slovencev (27. 5. 2020).
 Act Regulating Certain Issues Regarding the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union without a Withdrawal Agreement (2019). Avalable at:
http://www.pisrs.si/Pis.web/pregledPredpisa?id=ZAKO8007 (27. 5. 2020)
 Government of the Republic of Slovenia (2019b) Odgovor na poslansko vprašanje dr. Franca Trčka v zvezi s posamičnimi dogovarjanji britanske vlade s članicami Evropske unije o bilateralnih »mini-brexit« sporazumih. Ljubljana: National Assembly. Available at:
 Annex XIII of the 2004 Accession Treaty to the EU.
 Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2020) Poročilo o dejavnostih Slovenije na Zahodnem Balkanu v letu 2019. Available at: https://www.gov.si/assets/ministrstva/MZZ/Dokumenti/skupna-zunanja-in-evropska-politika/siritev-in-JV-evropa/Porocilo-o-dejavnosti-Republike-Slovenije-ZB-2019.pdf (28. 5. 2020)