CIVICUS

MonitorTracking civic space

Slovenia

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Last updated on 28.11.2018 at 15:39

Slovenia-Overview

Slovenia has an extensive civil society, with relatively high levels of volunteering. There are institutionalised processes to involve CSOs, particularly trade unions, in policy-making in several fields; however, guidelines that relevant CSOs should always be involved in policy formulation seem to be ignored more than they are observed. CSOs also experience ongoing problems of limited financial and human resources.

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New government moves to open space for dialogue with civil society

New government moves to open space for dialogue with civil society

A number of ministries in Slovenia's new coalition government have moved to create more space for constructive dialogue with CSOs.

Association

Slovenia's new coalition government has already demonstrated a desire for constructive cooperation with the non-governmental sector. On 1st October 2018, the Minister of Interior Boštjan Poklukar invited 17 representatives from non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in various fields for a working meeting to discuss issues from domestic violence to tackling Slovenia's drug problem. During the meeting, Minister Poklukar said:

“NGOs are our important partner, which is why today's meeting is considered the beginning of the dialogue, with which we will continue in the future. The migration crisis in 2015 and 2016, faced by the Republic of Slovenia, showed that without such active assistance of NGOs, such a large volume of migration would not be successfully and effectively managed.” (Translated from Slovenian).

The parties involved in the meeting also agreed to establish a regular basis for this kind of multilateral dialogue in addition to bilateral meetings between individual organisations and government institutions aiming at tackling specific issues.

Notably, Minister Poklukar distanced himself from comments made by the previous Minister of Interior about CSOs working on migration. As previously reported by the CIVICUS Monitor, at the beginning of September 2018, the former Minister of Interior Vesna Györkös Žnidar accused non-governmental organisations of "extremely controversial practices" (translated from Slovenian) by allegedly supporting migrants to cross the border into Croatia and “exasperate” the police. Those allegations caused distress amongst NGO workers.

In separate developments, the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning is taking forward a promise made by the Minister of Environment Jure Leben before his appointment. Leben had committed to establishing a ministerial Council of Cooperation with civil society. The CIVICUS Monitor had also previously reported that environmental NGOs had traditionally experienced resistance from the ministry when attempting to meaningfully engage in dialogue with the government on issues of concern in the sector. Leben's proposal was therefore warmly received. Under the plan, the national platform for NGOs, CNVOS, will appoint the ten representatives of civil society from different sectors. According to the plan, the Council will meet once a month to discuss draft legislation, funding and NGOs' support for environmental issues in Slovenia.

Positive steps have also been taken by other ministers in the new government. For instance, the Minister of Culture appointed Jadranka Plut, a previous president of the network of cultural NGOs Asociacija, as his cabinet consultant for cultural NGOs. Plut will lead the process of drafting the new national strategy for culture for the next three years. 

Separately, CNVOS, in cooperation with the Ministry of Finance, organised an event about money laundering in NGOs. During the meeting, the ministry communicated that they strongly believe Slovenia has a good legal framework, and that no new mechanisms for supervision of NGOs are needed, given that the threat of money laundering and financing of terrorism through Slovenian NGOs is low.

Expression

Media outlets in Slovenia linked to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban continue to misrepresent and stigmatise NGOs, especially those working on migration. While these news channels have a limited audience in Slovenia, their actions contribute to damage the public's perception of civil society in the country.

In one particularly worrying episode for Slovenian NGOs, in September 2018, news agency Demokracije published a call for the creation of a children’s book intended to underline an upheaval in nationalist feeling, trough the instrumentalisation of animals featuring in the book. Those behind the book's creation stated that “the story of the book should expose the dangers of multiculturalism and illegal migrations”. In the book, indigenous animals of Slovenia were meant to represent the heroes, while the villain should be represented by animals which are not native. They stated that “the end should emphasise that it is nice to live in a traditional family (father, mother, children) and surrounded by your fellow countryman/your kind." (Translated from Slovenian)

Many civil society organisations condemned the attempt to foster intolerant and hostile speech. A petition has also been signed by over 80 organisations in an attempt to prevent the publication of the book.

Association

The Constitution, in Article 42, guarantees the freedom of association, except on grounds of security, public safety and the protection against the spread of infectious diseases.

The Constitution, in Article 42, guarantees the freedom of association, except on grounds of security, public safety and the protection against the spread of infectious diseases.Registration of CSOs is reported to be simple and inexpensive, and based on clear and fair criteria. There are assessed to be 26,000 registered CSOs, one of the highest global rates per capita. The right to join trade unions and engage in trade union activity is respected, and the Association of Free Trade Unions of Slovenia has around 300,000 members. The Act on Volunteering was amended in 2015 to remove some key barriers against volunteering.

Peaceful Assembly

Article 42 of the Constitution also guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly, with limitations on the grounds of security, public safety and the protection against the spread of infectious diseases.

Article 42 of the Constitution also guarantees the freedom of peaceful assembly, with limitations on the grounds of security, public safety and the protection against the spread of infectious diseases.There was a very active protest movement in 2013 when allegations emerged of high-level political corruption involving the then-prime minister, which led to the collapse of the government. There were some reports of police violence against the protests. Protests were also seen in 2015 against the government’s decision to reinforce its borders against refugees.

Expression

The Constitution, in Article 39, upholds the freedom of expression, including the right to obtain public information.

The Constitution, in Article 39, upholds the freedom of expression, including the right to obtain public information. However, the government has stakes in a number of media concerns and there have been instances of it interfering in the state broadcaster. There are also some concerns about the concentration of private media ownership, and evidence of self-censorship out of fear of losing advertising from state-owned concerns, an issue that became more prominent during the economic downturn. There have been recent cases of journalists being pressured by the state to reveal sources, and being interrogated or put on trial for alleged uses of classified information. A 2008 change to the Penal Code that made it harder to publish information in the public interest was overturned in 2015. There are no restrictions on internet access. Defamation remains a criminal offence, with specific offences of defamation against the head of state and foreign states, although the law was amended in 2015 to mean that public officials can only bring defamation cases in their capacity as private citizens. There are reported instances of hate speech against minorities.