History of Slovenia
From as early as the 9th century, Slovenia had 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 Habsburg 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 and elimination of rival resistance groups, 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 version of communism. 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. Reflecting its success in these goals, Slovenia became a member both of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union in March and May, respectively, of 2004. As an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Troika member scheduled to be Chairman-in-Office in 2005, a continuing participant in the SFOR deployment in Bosnia and the KFOR deployment in Kosovo, one of the top foreign investors in the former Yugoslavia, and a charter World Trade Organization (WTO) member, Slovenia enjoys a growing regional profile and plays a role on the world stage quite out of proportion to its small size.
Since the breakup of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia has instituted a stable, multi-party, democratic political system, characterized by regular elections, a free press, and an excellent human rights record. 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 by the National Assembly for single 9-year terms.
Slovenia's first President, Milan Ku?an, concluded his second and final term in December 2002. Prime Minister Janez Drnovek defeated opposition candidate Barbara Brezigar in the 2002 presidential elections by a comfortable margin, and was inaugurated as Ku?an's successor on December 22, 2002. Finance Minister Anton Rop succeeded Drnovek as Prime Minister in December 2002. His governing coalition commands an almost two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.
The government, 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, which Slovenia joined May 1, 2004, and NATO. Slovenia officially became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on March 29, 2004 after depositing its instruments of treaty ratification in Washington, DC. 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. Slovenian 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.
As the most prosperous republic of the former Yugoslavia, Slovenia emerged from its brief 10-day war of secession in 1991 as an independent nation for the first time in its history. Since that time, the country has made steady but cautious progress toward developing a market economy. Economic reforms introduced shortly after independence led to healthy economic growth. Despite the halting pace of reform and signs of slowing gross domestic product (GDP) growth today, Slovenes now enjoy the highest per capita income of all the transition economies of central Europe.
The Slovenes have pursued internal economic restructuring with caution. The first phase of privatization (socially owned property under the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia , or S.F.R.Y., system) is now complete, and sales of remaining large state holdings are planned for next year. Trade has been diversified toward the West (trade with EU-15 countries makes up 66% of total trade) and the growing markets of central and eastern Europe. Manufacturing accounts for most employment, with machinery and other manufactured products comprising the major exports. Labor force surveys put unemployment at about 6.3% (December 2003), with 98,129 registrations for unemployment assistance. Inflation has remained below double-digit levels, at 7.5% in 2002 and 4.6% in 2003. Gross domestic product grew by about 2.9% in 2002; although final figures are not yet available, GDP growth is expected to post a steady rate of 2.7% for 2003. GDP is forecast to grow by 3.6% in 2004. The currency is stable, fully convertible, and backed by substantial reserves. The economy provides citizens with a good standard of living.
Over a decade after independence, Slovenia has made tremendous progress establishing democratic institutions, enshrining respect for human rights, establishing a market economy, and adapting its military to Western norms and standards. In contrast to its neighbors, civil tranquility and strong economic growth have marked this period. Upon achieving independence, Slovenia offered citizenship to all residents, regardless of ethnicity or origin, avoiding a sectarian trap that has caught out many central European countries. However, debate continues on how best to accommodate an estimated 18,000 undocumented non-Slovenes who were resident in Slovenia at the time of independence, but whose records were "erased" when they did not take citizenship. Slovenia willingly accepted nearly 100,000 refugees from the fighting in Bosnia and has since participated in international stabilization efforts in the region.
On the international front, Slovenia has advanced rapidly toward integration into the Euro-Atlantic community of nations. With successful NATO (66% in favor) and EU (91% in favor) referenda in March 2003, Slovenia achieved upon accession in 2004 its two primary foreign policy goals--membership in the EU and NATO. Slovenia also participates in the Stability Pact and the Southeast Europe
Cooperation Initiative (SECI). Slovenia is one of the focus countries for the U.S. southeast European policy aimed at reinforcing regional stability and integration. The Slovenian Government is well-positioned to be an influential role model for other southeast European governments at different stages of reform and integration. To these ends, the United States urges Slovenia to maintain momentum
on internal economic, political, and legal reforms, while expanding their international cooperation as resources allow. U.S. and allied efforts to assist Slovenia's military restructuring and modernization efforts are ongoing.
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