Republic of Slovenia
Area: 20,273 square kilometers (7,906 sq. mi.) slightly smaller than New Jersey.
Cities: Capital--Ljubljana (1998 pop. 325,373). Other cities--Maribor (132,860), Kranj (52,043), Novo Mesto (51,404), Celje (49,935).
Terrain: Mountains rising to more than 2,500 meters (8,200 ft.) in the north, wide plateaus over 1,000 meters (3,280 ft.) high in the southeast, Karst limestone region of caves in the south-southwest, hills in the east, and approximately 50 kilometers (39 mi.) of coastline on the Adriatic Sea.
Land use: 54.2% forests, 39% agricultural land, 6.8% noncultivated land.
Climate: Temperate, with regional variations. Average temperature in the mountain region in January is below 0�C (32�F), in the interior from 0�C -2�C (32�F-36�F), and along the coast from 2�C -4�C (36�F-39�F); in July, average temperature in the interior is 20�C -22�C (68�F-72�F), along the coast 22�C -24�C (72�F-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--Slovene(s). Adjective--Slovenian.
Population (2000): 2 million.
Annual growth rate: +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 students.
Education: Higher education enrollment ratio--26.2%.
Health: Infant mortality rate--5.5/1,000 births. Life expectancy--70.27 years for men, 77.76 years for women. Work force (2000): 875,060.
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 by the National Assembly to represent social, economic, professional, and local interests for 5-year terms.) prime minister, head of government, nominated by the president and elected by the National Assembly. Judicial--Constitutional Court, regular courts, and a public prosecutor.
Political parties: National Assembly seats--Liberal Democratic Party (LDS), 34 seats; Social Democratic Party of Slovenia (SDS), 14; United List of Social Democrats (ZLSD), 11; Slovene Peoples Party (SLS + SKD)-9; New Slovenia (NSi)-8; Pensioners Party of Slovenia (DeSUS)-4; Slovene National Party (SNS)-4; Slovene Youth Party (SMS)-4; Italian minority-1; Hungarian minority-1.
Suffrage: Universal over 18 years of age; permanent residents may vote in local elections.
Administrative divisions: 193 local administrative units.
Government budget (2000): 1,590 billion SIT (about U.S.$8.747 million); defense, 1.54% GDP.
GDP (2001): U.S.$18.8 billion; 3.0% growth rate; (2002 est., 3.2%).
GDP per capita income (2001): U.S.$9,451.
Natural resources: Coal, mercury, timber.
Agriculture/forestry/fishing (2.7% of 2001 GDP): Products--wheat, corn, pork, poultry, milk, potatoes, orchard fruits, wine.
Industry: Types--electrical equipment, chemical products, textiles, food products, electricity, metal products, wood products, transportation equipment.
Trade: Exports (2001, total U.S.$9.4 billion)--machinery, transportation equipment, electrical and optical equipment, basic metals and fabricated products. To U.S.--$244 million. Imports (2001, U.S.$10.0 billion)--machinery, transportation equipment, electrical and optical equipment, basic metals and fabricated products. From U.S.--$297 million. Major trading partners--Germany, Italy, Croatia, France, Austria.
Foreign direct investment U.S. $3.2 billion (cumulative, end 2001) U.S.$442 million (2001) U.S.$1.2 billion (2002 est.).
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 kilometers (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 around 90% of the surface 200 meters or more above sea level.
The majority of Slovenia's population is Slovene (over 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.
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. Today, with a growing regional profile, a participant in the SFOR deployment in Bosnia and the KFOR deployment in Kosovo, and a charter World Trade Organization (WTO) member, Slovenia plays a role on the world stage quite out of proportion to its small size.
Principal Government Officials
Prime Minister--Anton Rop
Ambassador to the United States--Davorin Kracun
Agriculture, Forestry, and Food--Franc But
Education, Science and Sport--Slavko Gaber
Environment and Spatial Planning--Janez Kopac
Foreign Affairs--Dimitrij Rupel
Information Society--Pavel Gantar
Labor, Family and Social Affairs--Vlado Dimovski
Transport --Jakob Presecnik
Minister without portfolio responsible for European Affairs--Janez Potocnik
Minister without Portfolio responsible for Regional Development--Zdenka Kovac
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Slovenia enjoys excellent relations with the United States and cooperates with it actively on a number of fronts. From 1998 to 2000, Slovenia occupied a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council and in that capacity 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 WTO, of which it is a founding member.
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 Kucan, concluded his second and final term in December 2002. Prime Minister Janez Drnovsek defeated opposition candidate Barbara Brezigar in the 2002 presidential elections by a comfortable margin, and was inaugurated as Kucan's successor on December 22, 2002. Finance Minister Anton Rop succeeded Drnovsek as Prime Minister in December 2002. His governing coalition commands an almost two-thirds majority in Parliament.
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 and NATO. 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.
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 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 SFRY 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 countries make up 66% of total trade in 2000) 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 6.6% (Dec. 2000), with 106,153 registrations for unemployment assistance. Inflation has remained below double-digit levels, 6.1% (1999) and 8.9% (2000). Gross domestic product grew by about 4.8% in 2000 and is expected to post a slightly lower rate of 4.5% in 2001, as export demand lags. 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. 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 its successes at the November 2002 NATO Summit in Prague and the December 2002 EU Summit in Copenhagen, Slovenia is poised to achieve two primary foreign policy goals--membership in the EU and NATO. Slovenia also participates in the Stability Pact, the Southeast Europe Cooperation Initiative (SECI), and is a member of Central and Eastern Europe Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA).
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.
Slovenia enjoys prosperity and stability that are too often the exception in central and eastern Europe. Slovenia's economic success clearly illustrates the benefits of embracing liberal trade, following the rule of law, and rewarding enterprise. This success, however, is not unprecedented for Slovenia. Although it comprised only about one-thirteenth of Yugoslavia's total population, it was the most productive of the Yugoslav republics, accounting for one-fifth of its GDP and one-third of its exports. The country already enjoyed a relatively prosperous economy and strong market ties to the West when it gained independence in 1991. Since independence, Slovenia has pursued diversification of its trade toward the West and integration into Western and transatlantic institutions vigorously. In so doing, it has made substantial progress in its transition to a market economy, particularly becoming party to a number of bilateral and regional free trade agreements. Slovenia is a founding member of the WTO, joined CEFTA in 1996. Slovenia also participates in SECI, as well as in the Central European Initiative, the Royaumont Process, and the Black Sea Economic Council.
Today, Slovenia is one the best economic performers in central and eastern Europe, with a GDP per capita reaching nearly U.S.$9,500--72% of the EU average. Slovenia's progress was duly recognized recently as the country received an official invitation in December 2002 to join the European Union (EU) in May 2004. Slovenia benefits from a well-educated and productive work force as well as dynamic and effective political and economic institutions. Although Slovenia has taken a cautious, deliberate approach to economic management and reform, with heavy emphasis on achieving consensus before proceeding, its overall record is one of success.
Slovenia has enjoyed healthy growth figures for the past 7 years, averaging 4.1% annual GDP growth. The European economic slowdown reduced the pace of growth somewhat beginning in 2001. GDP growth for 2002 is expected to reach 3.2% and 3.7% growth is forecasted for 2003. Slovenia's economy is highly dependent on foreign trade. Trade equals about 120% of GDP (exports and imports combined). About two-thirds of Slovenia's trade is with the EU, a primary motivation for seeking membership. Additionally, the country has penetrated successfully the south and east European markets, including the former Soviet Union region. This high level of openness makes Slovenia 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. Services, notably in the financial sector, contribute the most to the national output, accounting for more than 60% of GDP. Industry and construction comprise over one-third of GDP; and, agriculture, forestry, and fishing account for nearly 3% of GDP.
Economic management in Slovenia is relatively good. Public finances have shown modest deficits on the order of 1.4% of GDP through 2001. The recently adopted budgets for 2003 and 2004 constrain public deficit to 1% of GDP, well within Maastricht parameters. The debt to GDP ratio is 37% of GDP (2001). The habitual current account deficits experienced for the last 4 years have improved significantly as a result of stronger exports and a changed composition of imports by economic purpose. In 2001, the current account deficit was a negligible 0.4% of GDP (U.S.$67 million) and is expected to turn into a surplus in 2002. Controlling inflation remains a top government priority. While the authorities have been successful in stabilizing the Slovenian Tolar and in bringing inflation down from more than 200% in 1992 to an estimated 7.5% in 2002, inflation edged up from 1999 with the introduction of a value-added tax.
Due to its macroeconomic stability, favorable foreign debt position, and successful accession talks with EU, Slovenia consistently receives the highest credit rating of all transition economies--receiving the top regional honors in a recent Dunn & Bradstreet survey. Slovenia's ability to meet its growth rate objectives will largely depend on the state of the world economy, since exports demand in Slovenia's primary market has stalled. Foreign direct investment will take up the slack to some extent, as analysts forecast FDI levels will continue to increase with further privatization of state assets, including portions of the telecommunications, financial, and energy sectors. Slovenia must carefully address fiscal, monetary, and FDI policy, in light of the high deficit in pension accounts, its vulnerable Western export markets, and inflation concerns.
Slovenian enterprises have a tradition of market orientation that has served them well in the transition period, as they moved 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 shareholders, 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's entry into the European Union, expected in May 2004, provides the impetus for further economic improvements. Economic policy will be geared largely toward EU accession over the next 2 years. The government will focus on adopting EU rules on the internal market, structural economic reform, reform of the judiciary and public administration, and introduction of E-administration. Harmonization with EU laws and regulations will remain a major challenge to the government for the next couple of years. Slovenia's position with respect to other CEE countries will decline without further vigorous reforms.
The EU expressed some dissatisfaction with the pace of harmonization in Slovenia and has joined the United States and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in urging Slovenia to expedite necessary structural reforms. Following a lukewarm report card from Brussels in November 2000, the government redoubled its efforts to that end, stressing implementation of newly adopted legislation. This resulted in a fairly positive EU assessment in October 2002. Slovenia's continued success will hinge mainly on the success of fiscal reform, wage restraint, removal of administrative barriers, and its ability to open its economy further. With the entry into force of Slovenia's Europe Agreement and the intensification of discussions in Brussels over EU membership, Slovenia has taken some important steps to free up its financial markets. This sector historically has been one of the most protected, reflecting Slovenian concerns over limited capacity to face global competition and a desire to maintain domestic control over finance.
A combination of market forces, changes in Bank of Slovenia regulations, and national legislation are moving this sector increasingly in a more globally oriented direction. By the end of 2003, it will become easier and more transparent to make both portfolio and direct investments in Slovenia and to conduct many financial operations, including banking, securities brokering, and undertaking various credit transactions. The banking sector also is showing signs of stirring from its relative inactivity, as pressures build to consolidate Slovenia's myriad banks build and as privatization of two of the largest banks proceeds. Insurance reform is still pending.
Government efforts and reforms designed to attract foreign direct investment have proven successful--FDI almost tripled from 2001 to 2002, accounting for nearly 6.5% of GDP. Slovenia's traditional anti-inflation policy in the past relied heavily on capital inflow restrictions. Its slow privatization process favored domestic investors and prescribed long lag time on share trading, complicated by a cultural wariness of being "bought up" by foreigners. As such, Slovenia has had a number of impediments to full foreign participation in its economy. However, a number of these barriers to FDI were fully removed in 2002. As a result, expected foreign takeovers of Slovenian blue chip companies, as well as EU membership, have fueled investors' interest in the country. Recent acquisitions by multinational companies--KBC of Belgium's takeover of Nova Ljubljanska Banka, and Swiss Novartis' takeover of Lek Pharmaceuticals--clearly demonstrate the attractiveness of the Slovenian economy, particularly to European investors seeking a platform to support expansion into southeastern Europe. U.S. investments in Slovenia have been more modest, Goodyear and Western Wireless International being the two largest American investors. Removal of administrative barriers, further liberalization of the financial sector, completion of privatization, and progress on company restructuring are necessary to improve economic performance at the macro and micro levels. Without these measures, employment and FDI figures may not reach their full capacity.
Slovene Armed Forces
After successful resistance to the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) following the 10-day war of independence in 1991, Slovenia faced the challenge of establishing independent armed forces. A major reorganization of the Slovene Armed Forces is currently underway, with the goal of changing from a conscription-based territorial defense force to a professional, deployable, and combat capable military with NATO. The Slovene Armed Forces currently consists of about 5,500 professional soldiers and about 34,000 conscripts and reservists. Conscription will end in June 2004, and compulsory reserve service will end by 2010. By the time Slovenia enters NATO in 2004, the professional force should number about 6,900 soldiers and about 12,000 reservists. The current force structure consists of one fully professional motorized infantry brigade and two cadre/reserve force mechanized brigades. The professional brigade represents Slovenia's deployable reaction force. The Slovene Armed Forces also include a small air force, equipped with helicopters and turbo-prop fixed wing aircraft, and a naval attachment, including a coastal patrol boat.
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.
Slovenia received an invitation to join NATO at the NATO Prague Summit in November 2002. If Slovenia and the current members of the Alliance ratify this decision, Slovenia will join the Alliance formally in May 2004. Since gaining independence, Slovenia avidly has sought NATO membership as part of its overall strategy of integration into the most important international economic, financial, and security organizations. With a view to becoming a full member, Slovenia deepened its institutional relationship with NATO through active participation in the EAPC and Partnership for Peace programs. Slovenia's current international commitments show Slovenia's willingness to become a co-provider of security in the region. Slovenia has contributed helicopters, medical personnel, military police, and an infantry company to SFOR.
Slovenia is a new nation in the process of building up a modern armed force capable of providing for its territorial defense and of contributing to regional stability. After independence, Slovenia was faced with having to build up most of its forces from scratch. The international embargo against arms shipments to the former Yugoslavia postponed a buildup until it was lifted in June 1996. The Slovene Armed Forces are currently in transition from a primarily conscript-based territorial defense organization to a professional force structure with NATO-interoperable units. Slovenia has devoted much energy and resources to this task and should realize these goals within the next few years.
The Slovene Government has diligently pursued its restructuring, reorganization, modernization, and procurement with the paramount goal of NATO-interoperability. Implementation of interoperability objectives as determined by the Planning and Review Process (PARP) and the negotiation of membership accession goals proceeds.
The United States has encouraged Slovenia to maintain the pace of reform, while actively seeking out avenues of greater engagement--within PfP, the EAPC, SECI, and other multilateral fora--and establishing closer links with other regional partners. Alongside NATO partners, the United States will continue to work with Slovenia in support of its membership aspirations.
FOREIGN RELATIONS AND REGIONAL COOPERATION
In regular public statements, Slovenia's highest politicians underscore their government's commitment to expanding cooperative arrangements with neighbors and active contributions to international efforts aimed at bringing stability to southeast Europe. Resource limitations are a concern for the government, which does not wish to see itself spread too thin. However, the Slovenes are taking concrete steps toward a more outward looking and constructive role in regional security arrangements, as resources allow.
Contributions to Bosnian Stability
Slovenia pledged personnel and logistical support to an OSCE-led verification mission in Kosovo. Slovenia's record supporting the U.S. position on Kosovo--both in regular public statements by top officials and on the Security Council--has been excellent. Top government officials have called repeatedly for Milosevic's compliance with NATO demands. Slovenia granted NATO use of its airspace and offered further logistical support. It also has pledged personnel to support NATO humanitarian operations in the region. Slovenia has pledged to help Macedonia deal with the refugee crisis by providing 880 million sit (U.S.$4.9 million) of humanitarian aid, in addition to granting a concession for imported agricultural products. The Slovene Government allocated 45 million SIT (U.S.$250,000) to help Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia, one-third of which went to the latter. Slovenia took in over 4,100 Kosovar refugees during the crisis.
Relations With Neighbors
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 did not normalize relations with the "Federal Republic of Yugoslavia" (Serbia and Montenegro) until after the passing from power of Slobodan Milosevic (although the Slovenes did open a representative office in Podgorica to work with Montenegrin President Djukanovic's government).
Succession issues, particularly concerning liabilities and assets of the former Yugoslavia, remain a key factor in Slovenia's relations in the region. On the whole, no conflicts mar relations with neighbors, which are on a sound footing. Numerous cooperative projects are either underway or envisioned, and bilateral and multilateral partnerships are deepening. Differences, many of which stem from Yugoslavia's time, have been handled responsibly and are being resolved.
Italy. Italo-Slovene bilateral relations are excellent. By mid-1996, property restitution disputes derived from World War II had been set aside, allowing a dramatic improvement in relations. In 2001, the Italian Senate voted final approval of legislation resolving some minor differences remaining over minority rights issues and over the compensation for property abandoned by Italian refugees fleeing communist Yugoslavia in the postwar period. Full and timely Slovenian integration into European and transatlantic organizations is a priority for Italy's current government.
Hungary. Relations are excellent with Hungary. Hungarian (as well as Italian) minorities in Slovenia are accorded special treatment under the Slovene constitution, including a permanent parliamentary seat. Within the Multilateral Cooperation Initiative between Slovenia, Italy, Hungary, and Croatia, cooperation exists in numerous fields, including military (Multinational Land Force peacekeeping brigade), transportation, combating money laundering and organized crime, non-proliferation, border crossings, and environmental issues.
Austria. Austro-Slovene relations are close. Although some disagreements over support for the other country's minorities have lingered, these appear to be on their way to resolution. Questions regarding nuclear power in Slovenia and the basis for the settlement of the Austrian State Treaty also appear to have been solved. Economic cooperation is expanding, including a joint project for development of border regions. As a concrete manifestation of the excellent state of regional relations, Slovenia, Austria, and Italy entered a joint bid to organize the 2006 Winter Olympic games.
Croatia. Though somewhat rocky at times, Croatian-Slovene relations are improving. Outstanding issues include a few remaining border disputes, joint management of the Krsko nuclear power plant, property rights, and Croatian depositors' savings in the Ljubljanska Banka from SFRY times. In a series of high-level meetings since the latter half of 1998, Slovenia and Croatia have been engaged in settling bilateral differences, a process which accelerated after the death of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman in 1999. In order to aid the stabilization of this part of Europe, Slovenia has supported Croatia's efforts to draw closer to European institutions.
Since Slovenia achieved its independence in 1991, the United States and Slovenia have developed strong, cooperative relations on a broad range of issues, from promoting regional security to developing closer bilateral trade and investment ties. The United States is encouraging Slovenia to enter into a vital partnership with the developed democracies of the Euro-Atlantic area in pursuit of common goals.
The first official U.S. presence in Slovenia dates from the early 1970s, when the United States Information Service (USIS) opened a library and American press and cultural center in Ljubljana. From its opening through 1992, the American Center worked to develop closer grassroots relations between the United States and the people of the then-Slovenian Republic of Yugoslavia.
On December 23, 1990, the Slovene people voted in a plebiscite to separate from greater Yugoslavia. On June 25, 1991, the new Republic of Slovenia officially declared its independence from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. A 10-day war commenced, during which Slovene territorial troops fought off incursions by the Yugoslav National Army. The United States formally recognized the new republic on April 7, 1992. To develop U.S. diplomatic relations with the new state, the United States opened a new embassy in Ljubljana in August 1992.
Since 1992, the United States and the Republic of Slovenia have developed an impressive track record of cooperation on bilateral, regional, and global issues. The United States has worked closely with the Slovenes to resolve succession issues stemming from the break-up of Yugoslavia. Slovenia provided invaluable assistance to the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by facilitating the deployment of an international peacekeeping force, IFOR, to Bosnia after the conclusion of the Dayton accords. Slovenia also is a participant in the follow-on to that effort, SFOR. With strong U.S. support, Slovenia has established an international trust fund for demining and assistance to mine victims in southeast Europe, including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo, and Macedonia.
On the economic front, the United States has worked to develop bilateral trade and investment with Slovenia. U.S. trade (imports and exports) with Slovenia for 2000 stands at $547 million. Under the Support for Eastern European Democracy (SEED) Act, the U.S. provided technical assistance on enterprise competitiveness, banking and pension reform, competition policy, and debt restructuring. Reflecting the progress Slovenia has made in these areas, Slovenia was among the first transition countries to "graduate" from the SEED program.
The United States supports Slovenia's accession to the North Atlantic Alliance and is working with the Slovene military to promote greater cooperation and interoperability with NATO forces. The United States and Slovenia hold periodic high-level security consultations to help Slovenia achieve this national objective. The U.S. European Command provides a liaison team which works with the Ministry of Defense full-time to develop greater familiarity with NATO structures and procedures. As NATO set forth in its July 1997 Madrid Summit communiqu� and reinforced in its April 1999 Washington Summit communiqu�, the U.S. supports an open door for the continuing enlargement of the Alliance. Slovenia received an invitation to join the Alliance at the November 2002 NATO Summit in Prague.
In addition to regular diplomatic relations, numerous top-level visits on both sides have strengthened bilateral dialogue and contributed to deepening relations. President Bush met with then-President Milan Kucan and then-Prime Minister Janez Drnovesk in Slovenia during the June 2001 Bush-Putin summit. Then-Prime Minister Drnovsek met again with President Bush in Washington in May 2002. Defense Minister Anton Grizold and Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel traveled to Washington in September 2002. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Ljubljana in November 2002, following the NATO summit in Prague. In October 1997, Slovenia joined the group of countries--now numbering 28--whose citizens enjoy the privilege of visa-free travel to the United States.
Given Slovenia's relative economic success and location on the periphery of stable Europe, its history, language, business ties, and insights into the region, Slovenia can be a partner in advancing the shared goal of regional political and economic stability. More than geographically, Slovenia is a bridge from developed Europe into the Balkans, the area of the continent that poses the greatest diplomatic and military challenges. As a stable democracy and transition Europe's most prosperous country, Slovenia suffers none of the shortcomings that plague southeast Europe. Where U.S. initiatives clearly build on Slovenia's strengths and enlist Slovenian collaboration on common concerns, there is a willing partner.