History & Background
The Republic of Slovenia (Republika Slovenije) is situated in southeastern central Europe. With Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Hungary to the northeast, and Croatia to the east and south, Slovenia has just 46.6 kilometers of coastline on the Adriatic Sea in the country's southwestern corner. The capital city, Ljubljana, sits directly in the middle of Slovenia. Measuring 20,253 square kilometers, Slovenia is slightly smaller than the U.S. state of New Jersey. Most of Slovenia's terrain consists of mountains and valleys; many rivers flow through the eastern part of the country.
Slovenia's status as an independent country is a very recent phenomenon, excepting a brief period of independence more than a thousand years ago. In the late sixth century, Slavs moved into the valleys of the Sava, Drava, and Mura rivers in what is now Slovenia and, pressed by the Avars, spread to the Black Sea, Friuli plains, the Danube River, the Adriatic Sea, and Lake Balaton. During the seventh century, various Slavic tribes united, and by the mid-eighth century, the area was part of the Frankish empire with the Slavs converting to Christianity and losing their independence. An independent state of Slovenes in Lower Pannonia was established briefly in the late-ninth century for just five years. Meanwhile, use of the Slovene language increased, particularly in religious services, and the first records written in Slovene, the Freising Manuscripts, were produced. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries, the Slovene regions came under the rule of the Habsburg monarchy.
In 1848 Slovene intellectuals published their first political program for a United Slovenia, but the Slovenes' liberation from Austro-Hungarian rule was not achieved until 1918 when the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was formed at the end of the World War I. During the World War II, Slovenes fighting the Nazis and the German, Italian, and Hungarian occupation of the region formed the Liberation Front (known as the "OF"). With the end of the war in Europe, Slovene became one of the six republics in the new Federal Peoples' Republic of Yugoslavia declared in November 1945.
As part of Yugoslavia, Slovenia experienced the nationalization of its businesses and industries and their placement under state control. Although Slovenia was relatively prosperous as a member of FPRY, by the 1980s the economy was deteriorating in Yugoslavia, and Slovenia suffered economic losses. A growing nationalist movement in Slovenia gained strength, and in a December 1990 referendum, 88.5 percent of the Slovenians who voted opted for independence. On June 25, 1991, the Republic of Slovenia declared its independence from Yugoslavia; two days later, the Yugoslav Army launched its attack against the newly independent country. Armed attacks only lasted about 10 days, however, as the peace agreement (the Brioni Declaration) signed on July 7, 1991, ended the Yugoslav Army's military campaign. By late October 1991, all Yugoslav soldiers had been pulled out of Slovenia; the next month, Slovenia published its "Law on Denationalisation" in the Official Gazette. The Slovene Constitution was adopted on December 23, 1991, and immediately came into force, confirming Slovenia's independence from Yugoslavia.
In mid-January 1992 the European Union recognized Slovenia as a separate country, and Slovenia joined the United Nations in May 1992. The first elections in the country were held in December of that year. In May 1993 Slovenia became a member of the Council of Europe. By September 1994 Slovenia had joined the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which evolved into the World Trade Organization that December—with Slovenia as one of the founding members. In January 1996 Slovenia joined the Central European Free Trade Agreement. Five months later Slovenia signed an association agreement with the European Union granting Slovenia associate membership status, an agreement that came into effect in February 1999. June 1996 also saw Slovenia joining the Western European Union as an associate partner. On January 1, 1998, Slovenia became one of the nonpermanent members of the United Nations Security Council, further establishing itself as a European state actively participating in the international arena. All together, Slovenia belongs to about 40 international organizations as well as the main international financial institutions.
Nonetheless, the 1990s also marked a period of social unrest and political challenges for Slovenia. During the Balkans wars of the 1990s, thousands of refugees from neighboring countries poured into Slovenia, especially from Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and the autonomous province of Kosovo in southern Serbia. The movement of peoples in Slovenia due to the Balkans wars changed the numbers and proportions of ethnic groups living in the country to a significant extent, though the actual size of these changes had not yet been officially measured at the turn of the millennium. The 1991 census showed the ethnicity of Slovenia's population to be as follows: about 88 percent Slovene, 3 percent Croat, 2 percent Serb, about 1 percent Bosnian Muslim (Bosniac), and with less than 1 percent each of Hungarians, Italians, and other minorities, including Roma. About 71 percent of the population reportedly was Roman Catholic, 1 percent was Lutheran, 1 percent was Muslim, 4 percent was atheist, and 23 percent was other, including small proportions of other Protestant groups and Jews. About 91 percent of Slovenia's population spoke Slovenian in the early 1990s, whereas 6 percent spoke Serbo-Croatian and 3 percent spoke other languages, including Italian and Hungarian—the two principal other national minorities in the country whose languages were used in some of the country's schools.
The population of Slovenia, estimated at 1.9 million in July 2000, had a growth rate that year of only 0.12 percent. About 50.3 percent of the country's population lived in urban areas in 1999, when the population density was 98.7 persons per square kilometer. By 1999 nearly all Slovenes ages 15 and up were considered literate—about 99.7 percent of adult males and 99.6 percent of adult females. The total fertility rate in Slovenia in 2000 was 1.28 children born per woman. Approximately 16 percent of the country's population that year was 14-years-old or younger while 69 percent of the population was between 15 and 64 years of age and about 15 percent was 65 or older. At that time, Slovenia had an infant mortality rate of 4.56 per 1,000 live births and an under-fiveyears child mortality rate of 6 per 1,000 in 1999. The average life span of Slovenes in the year 2000 was 75.86 years (70.97 years for men and 78.97 years for women—a significant gender gap).
For centuries the economic base of the Slovenes was agriculture and forestry. However, during the twentieth century, especially during the years Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia, the country's industrial output grew substantially, and Slovenia became heavily industrialized. In 1999 Slovenia's GDP was US$20.7 billion, and the annual growth rate was 4.9 percent of the GDP. That year agriculture contributed only about 3.7 percent of the GDP while 38.4 percent of GDP came from industry, and 57.8 percent was derived from services (all estimates value added). Slovenia's annual per-capita income (GNP per capita) was about US$9,890 in 1999, much better that the per-capita income of any of the other five states that once had belonged to socialist Yugoslavia. Foreign direct investment in Slovenia by the late 1990s was also quite good: US$181.2 million for 1999. The World Bank noted that "Slovenia enjoyed the highest standard of living among the Republics of Yugoslavia" and that in 1999 Slovenia was "the most prosperous country in Central and Eastern Europe." The unemployment rate in 1999 was 7.4 percent, although reportedly about twice that figure obtained unemployment benefits. In 1998 nearly 11 percent of the workforce was employed in agriculture, 39 percent in industry, and 50 percent in services. Slovenia received substantial assistance from the World Bank and other international donors during the 1990s to reform its economic structures in the direction of private ownership. In 1993 Slovenia became a member of the World Bank, and in July 1993 the Bank awarded Slovenia its first Bank loan, worth US$80 million, to help privatize the economy and restructure the financial sector. About US$128.4 million in Bank funds for four economic development and restructuring projects had been committed for Slovenia by April 2000. By May 2000 discussions already were underway to start the process of Slovenia's eventual graduation from the Bank, since the country's economic performance had significantly improved compared with what it had been in the 1980s and early 1990s, and its economy having turned in a positive direction in 1993.
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