Border dispute resolution changes social policies

In the last six months, the Sloven­ian for­eign pol­i­cy was char­ac­terised by the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment regard­ing the ongo­ing bor­der dis­pute between Croa­t­ia and Slove­nia and by the Brdo process con­cern­ing the future of the West­ern Balka­ns that start­ed in March 2010 with the Brdo Con­fer­ence. Addi­tion­al­ly, the government’s deci­sion to reform the pen­sion sys­tem, employ­ment pol­i­cy and the fam­i­ly code were among the most dis­cussed issues. All of the men­tioned are dis­cussed sep­a­rate­ly in the fol­low­ing para­graphs.

Slovenia and Croatia to move forward on the border dispute resolution

By sign­ing the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment between Croa­t­ia and Slove­nia in Stock­holm in Novem­ber 2009, the two coun­tries agreed to estab­lish a five-mem­ber arbi­tra­tion court empow­ered to resolve the near­ly 20-year bor­der dis­pute.11STA: Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia Sign Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id= 1444704&pr=1 (last access: 16 May 2010). Accord­ing to Arti­cle 3 of the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, “the Arbi­tral Tri­bunal shall deter­mine the course of the mar­itime and land bound­ary between the Repub­lic of Slove­nia and the Repub­lic of Croa­t­ia, Slovenia’s junc­tion to the High Seas and the regime for the use of the rel­e­vant mar­itime areas.”22Arbi­tra­tion agree­ment between the Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia and the Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Croa­t­ia, avail­able at: http://www.esiweb.org/enlargement/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/arbitration_agreement.pdf (last access: 21 May 2010).

After the prime min­is­ters of both coun­tries signed the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, it had to be rat­i­fied in the nation­al par­lia­ments. Before its rat­i­fi­ca­tion by the Sloven­ian par­lia­ment, the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment referred the agree­ment for review to the con­sti­tu­tion­al court, which found that the agree­ment is not incon­sis­tent with the Sloven­ian con­sti­tu­tion and the basic con­sti­tu­tion­al char­ter, as it does not, in fact, stip­u­late a bor­der between the two coun­tries but only estab­lish­es a mech­a­nism, i.e., an arbi­tra­tion court, to find a peace­ful solu­tion to the bor­der dis­pute.33The Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Arbi­tra­tion agree­ment between Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia rat­i­fied, 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/en/news/press_releases/press_release/article/5/9197/baac9bf68b/ (last access: 16 May 2010). Although the oppo­si­tion was strong­ly against it and boy­cotted the vote in par­lia­ment, the agree­ment was rat­i­fied in April 2010.44STA: DZ rat­i­fi­ci­ral spo­razum, zdaj na ref­er­en­dum (Nation­al Assem­bly rat­i­fied the agree­ment, now the ref­er­en­dum), 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/ vest.php?s=s&id=1504245 (last access: 17 May 2010).

How­ev­er, Sloven­ian vot­ers had yet to con­firm or reject the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment on a ref­er­en­dum sched­uled for 6 June 2010. The ref­er­en­dum was open to all cit­i­zens reg­is­tered to vote in the Repub­lic of Slove­nia, and the out­come of 51.5 per­cent in favour of the agree­ment is scant but final.55STA: Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia Sign Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id= 1444704&pr=1 (last access: 16 May 2010). The ref­er­en­dum cam­paign began on 7 May 2010. The offi­cial posi­tion of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia is that the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment is a his­tor­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ty for the two coun­tries to final­ly resolve the con­flict. It takes into account vital nation­al inter­ests, the ben­e­fits of future gen­er­a­tions and the sta­bil­i­ty of rela­tions between the neigh­bour­ing coun­tries, thus send­ing a pos­i­tive mes­sage to East Euro­pean coun­tries, the EU and the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty if the bor­der issue is resolved.66The Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Arbi­tražni spo­razum (Arbi­tra­tion agree­ment), avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/si/teme_in_projekti/arbitrazni_sporazum/o_sporazumu/ (last access: 18 May 2010). Accord­ing to the Sloven­ian Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, Samuel Žbog­ar, the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment is a good agree­ment for Slove­nia and there­fore its rat­i­fi­ca­tion was in Slovenia’s inter­est. Since the out­come was favourable, the arbi­tra­tion court shall deter­mine Slovenia’s junc­tion to the High Seas by apply­ing inter­na­tion­al law, equi­ty and the prin­ci­ple of good neigh­bourly rela­tions in order to achieve a fair and just result by tak­ing into account all rel­e­vant cir­cum­stances and also the vital inter­ests of Slove­nia. Slove­nia intends to demon­strate all the impor­tant doc­u­ments and de fac­to imple­men­ta­tion of pow­ers and all his­toric, eco­nom­ic and oth­er cir­cum­stances in a mem­o­ran­dum, which will be annexed to the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment.77Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Izja­va MZZ ob potrditvi Arbi­tražne­ga spo­razu­ma v Državnem zboru (The state­ment of the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs after the con­fir­ma­tion of the arbi­tra­tion agree­ment in the Nation­al Assem­bly), 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.mzz.gov.si/nc/si/splosno/cns/novica/article//26826/ (last access: 21 May 2010).

On the oth­er hand, all the oppo­si­tion par­ties, some experts (Marko Pavli­ha), some vet­er­an thinkers (France Bučar, Tine Hrib­ar and Boris Pahor) and some civ­il soci­ety groups (Civ­il Ini­tia­tive for the Bor­der in Istria) believe the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment is harm­ful for Slove­nia, due to the fact that it does not ensure ter­ri­to­r­i­al access to the High Seas and that it con­se­quent­ly means the loss of the Sloven­ian sta­tus as a mar­itime coun­try and an injury to its eco­nom­ic inter­ests.88STA: Oppo­si­tion and Coali­tion Agree to Dis­agree on Bor­der Agree­ment, 5 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1508796&q=ARBITR+AGREEMENT (last access: 17 May 2010). Pub­lic opin­ion reflect­ed these sub­stan­tial dis­agree­ments expressed by politi­cians and experts regard­ing the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment. One of the lat­est sur­veys99STA: Sur­vey Gives Slight Major­i­ty to Bor­der Treaty Sup­port­ers, 13 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/ vest.php?s=a&id=1512040&q=ARBITR+AGREEMENT (last access: 16 May 2010). had found that there were still more of those who would sup­port the ref­er­en­dum on the Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, but that the share of oppo­nents had risen up to April 2010. The Sloven­ian-Croa­t­ian Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment was backed by 37.6 per­cent of those ques­tioned, while 32.9 per­cent said they would vote against it and 29.5 per­cent were unde­cid­ed.

The Brdo process launched in Slovenia

A high-lev­el con­fer­ence on the West­ern Balka­ns, enti­tled “Togeth­er for the Euro­pean Union: Con­tri­bu­tion of the West­ern Balka­ns to the Euro­pean Future”, which aimed to present a com­mon posi­tion in the region’s path towards EU inte­gra­tion, was organ­ised in Brdo, Slove­nia on 20 March 2010. Accord­ing to the media, it was over­shad­owed by the boy­cott by the Ser­bian pres­i­dent Boris Tadic, trig­ger­ing the absence of oth­er major Euro­pean politi­cians such as the Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean Coun­cil Van Rompuy and the Span­ish Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs Miguel Angel Morati­nos, who was the chair­man of the Coun­cil of the Euro­pean Union at that time. Despite diplo­mat­ic efforts by the Sloven­ian Prime Min­is­ter and the Min­is­ter of For­eign Affairs, the Ser­bian Pres­i­dent refused to par­tic­i­pate in the con­fer­ence while the rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Kosovo’s insti­tu­tions were present.1010Dnevnik: Srečan­je na Brdu: Kon­fer­en­ca uspeš­na, a z grenkim prioku­som (The Brdo meet­ing: Con­fer­ence suc­cess­ful with a bit­ter after taste), 22 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.si/novice/ svet/1042346690 (last access: 18 May 2010). The lead­ers present adopt­ed a joint dec­la­ra­tion express­ing a firm deter­mi­na­tion for fur­ther region­al coop­er­a­tion. The Sloven­ian Prime Min­is­ter Borut Pahor not­ed that the con­fer­ence was a suc­cess as it fea­tured lead­ers of coun­tries that do not recog­nise each oth­er, and added that the key issue in the region was that “every­body has to recog­nise every­body.”1111STA: W Balka­ns Sum­mit Hailed as Suc­cess Despite Serbia’s Absence, 20 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1493536&q=BRDO+CONFER (last access: 18 May 2010). Com­mu­ni­ca­tion with all West­ern Balkan lead­ers was excel­lent and all sides were in favour of con­tin­u­ing such efforts: “We have decid­ed to insti­tu­tion­alise the Brdo Process.”1212STA: Stein­berg and Pahor Dis­cuss W Balka­ns, Hail Brdo Process, 6 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1499344 (last access: 21 May 2010).

The modernisation of the existing pension system in Slovenia

Giv­en the demo­graph­ic indi­ca­tors, which sug­gest that Slove­nia, like the major­i­ty of devel­oped coun­tries, will expe­ri­ence longer life expectan­cy cou­pled with a low birth rate caus­ing the age­ing of the pop­u­la­tion, a reform of the pen­sion sys­tem has for some time been a sub­ject of debate. The most recent eco­nom­ic and finan­cial cri­sis has addi­tion­al­ly inten­si­fied this debate. Accord­ing to the Min­istry of Labour, Fam­i­ly and Social Affairs, the key objec­tive of such com­pre­hen­sive reform of the pen­sion sys­tem is the long-term finan­cial via­bil­i­ty of the sys­tem and the appro­pri­ate­ness of pen­sions.1313Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Struc­tur­al changes: social secu­ri­ty for all ages, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/en/projects/crisis_exit/structural_changes/ (last access: 16 May 2010). Trade unions oppose the Pen­sion and Inva­lid­i­ty Insur­ance Act, espe­cial­ly due to the increased retire­ment age, which will go up to 63 years for women and 65 years for men; in the case of ear­ly retire­ment, pro­por­tion­al deduc­tion of the pen­sion rent will apply. Cur­rent­ly, the gov­ern­ment and trade unions are in the process of nego­ti­a­tions, where the lat­ter insist on 40 years of work as the sole retire­ment cri­te­ri­on. The lat­est pub­lic opin­ion sur­vey showed that 82.3 per­cent of those ques­tioned believe that changes of the cur­rent pen­sion sys­tem are indis­pens­able, but only 6.2 per­cent com­plete­ly sup­port the pro­posed pro­vi­sions.1414STA: Govt Mod­i­fies Pen­sion Reform; Unions Unmoved, 5 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.phps=a&id=1508760&q=PENSION+REFORM (last access: 17 May 2010).

Active employment policy measures

Accord­ing to the Sloven­ian gov­ern­ment,1515Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Exit strat­e­gy, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/si/teme_in_projekti/izhod_iz_krize/ukrepi_ekonomske_politike/krepitev_elementov_varne_proznosti/ (last access: 16 May 2010). greater social cohe­sion should be achieved through greater effi­cien­cy in the sys­tem of social secu­ri­ty and rights relat­ing to pub­lic funds. In order to achieve the con­cept of secure flex­i­bil­i­ty, changes have been drawn up in the reg­u­la­tion of what is called casu­al work and employ­ment, with the aim of afford­ing employ­ers more flex­i­ble employ­ment while employ­ees main­tain their social secu­ri­ty. One of the mea­sures that Slove­nia is to intro­duce are mini jobs for stu­dents, pen­sion­ers and the unem­ployed in line with a new bill pro­pos­al that aims to curb the exist­ing ram­pant abuse of stu­dent work, to reduce ille­gal employ­ment, and to gen­er­ate new rev­enues for the pen­sion and health purse. While the Min­is­ter of Labour, Fam­i­ly and Social Affairs, Ivan Svet­lik, is con­vinced that each of these groups will reap its ben­e­fits, the Sloven­ian Stu­dent Organ­i­sa­tion met the new pro­pos­al reg­u­lat­ing stu­dent work with loud protests and claims that it would hurt stu­dents who have to rely on stu­dent work in order to be able to study.1616STA: Bill Intro­duces Mini Jobs for Stu­dents, Pen­sion­ers, 12 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1490676&q=MINI+JOB (last access: 18 May 2010). The protests went even so far that a group of around 30 peo­ple attacked the nation­al assem­bly build­ing.

New family code subject of fierce debate

In Decem­ber 2009, the gov­ern­ment approved the pro­pos­al for a new fam­i­ly code, which should intro­duce many nov­el­ties (in the area of arrang­ing mar­riage and rela­tion­ship between spous­es, cohab­i­ta­tion, and the rela­tion­ship between chil­dren and their par­ents or adop­tive par­ents). What caused most of the pub­lic con­tro­ver­sy is that this new fam­i­ly code would rede­fine mar­riage, intro­duce a new con­cept of fam­i­ly and allow the option of same-sex cou­ples to adopt chil­dren. The posi­tion of the gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia is that the recog­ni­tion of rights to same-sex part­ners means a shift towards a more tol­er­ant soci­ety as a whole. The new fam­i­ly code reflects a social real­i­ty where dif­fer­ent forms of fam­i­ly already exist. It com­pre­hen­sive­ly reg­u­lates the field of fam­i­ly law, enables the pro­tec­tion of the rights of all chil­dren and elim­i­nates sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion on the basis of sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion.1717STA: Min­istrst­vo za delo: družin­s­ki zakonik ohran­ja tradi­cional­no druži­no (Min­istry of Labor: Fam­i­ly code pre­serves tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly), 3 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1455701&q=DRU%C5%BDIN+ZAKONIK (last access: 17 May 2010). The oppo­si­tion polit­i­cal par­ties, the Catholic Church and some civ­il ini­tia­tives are strong­ly against the new fam­i­ly code, espe­cial­ly due to the equal­i­sa­tion of homo­sex­u­al com­mu­ni­ties with het­ero­sex­u­al com­mu­ni­ties and the alleged deval­u­a­tion of the tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly.1818STA: V koali­ci­ji družinske­mu zakoniku veči­no­ma naklon­jeni, v opozi­ci­ji pro­ti (Coali­tion most­ly sup­port the new fam­i­ly code, oppo­si­tion is against it), 17 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1460946&q=DRU%C5%BDIN+ZAKONIK (last access: 17 May 2010). The fam­i­ly code is cur­rent­ly in its sec­ond read­ing in the nation­al assem­bly.1919Delo: Družin­s­ki zakonik spet v par­la­men­tu (Fam­i­ly code again in the par­lia­ment), 4 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.delo.si/clanek/105342 (last access: 16 May 2010). The oppo­si­tion already declared that it would launch an ini­tia­tive for a ref­er­en­dum in the case of the fam­i­ly code being adopt­ed in its cur­rent form. If that hap­pens, Slove­nia is to become the first Cen­tral Euro­pean coun­try to legalise same-sex mar­riage and adop­tions. How­ev­er, accord­ing to a sur­vey made in March 2010,202024ur: Pod­pi­rate posvo­jitve s strani istospol­nih part­ner­jev, ki jih pred­vide­va nov družin­s­ki zakonik? (Do you sup­port same-sex cou­ples adop­tion as antic­i­pat­ed by the new fam­i­ly code?), 3 March 2010, avail­able at: http://24ur.com/specialno/ankete/4.html?& page=4&p _all_items=1895 (last access: 16 May 2010). only 21 per­cent of those ques­tioned sup­port the new fam­i­ly code.

    Footnotes

  • 1STA: Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia Sign Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id= 1444704&pr=1 (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 2Arbi­tra­tion agree­ment between the Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia and the Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Croa­t­ia, avail­able at: http://www.esiweb.org/enlargement/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/arbitration_agreement.pdf (last access: 21 May 2010).
  • 3The Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Arbi­tra­tion agree­ment between Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia rat­i­fied, 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/en/news/press_releases/press_release/article/5/9197/baac9bf68b/ (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 4STA: DZ rat­i­fi­ci­ral spo­razum, zdaj na ref­er­en­dum (Nation­al Assem­bly rat­i­fied the agree­ment, now the ref­er­en­dum), 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/ vest.php?s=s&id=1504245 (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 5STA: Slove­nia and Croa­t­ia Sign Arbi­tra­tion Agree­ment, 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id= 1444704&pr=1 (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 6The Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Arbi­tražni spo­razum (Arbi­tra­tion agree­ment), avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/si/teme_in_projekti/arbitrazni_sporazum/o_sporazumu/ (last access: 18 May 2010).
  • 7Min­istry of For­eign Affairs: Izja­va MZZ ob potrditvi Arbi­tražne­ga spo­razu­ma v Državnem zboru (The state­ment of the Min­istry of For­eign Affairs after the con­fir­ma­tion of the arbi­tra­tion agree­ment in the Nation­al Assem­bly), 19 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.mzz.gov.si/nc/si/splosno/cns/novica/article//26826/ (last access: 21 May 2010).
  • 8STA: Oppo­si­tion and Coali­tion Agree to Dis­agree on Bor­der Agree­ment, 5 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1508796&q=ARBITR+AGREEMENT (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 9STA: Sur­vey Gives Slight Major­i­ty to Bor­der Treaty Sup­port­ers, 13 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/ vest.php?s=a&id=1512040&q=ARBITR+AGREEMENT (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 10Dnevnik: Srečan­je na Brdu: Kon­fer­en­ca uspeš­na, a z grenkim prioku­som (The Brdo meet­ing: Con­fer­ence suc­cess­ful with a bit­ter after taste), 22 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.dnevnik.si/novice/ svet/1042346690 (last access: 18 May 2010).
  • 11STA: W Balka­ns Sum­mit Hailed as Suc­cess Despite Serbia’s Absence, 20 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1493536&q=BRDO+CONFER (last access: 18 May 2010).
  • 12STA: Stein­berg and Pahor Dis­cuss W Balka­ns, Hail Brdo Process, 6 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1499344 (last access: 21 May 2010).
  • 13Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Struc­tur­al changes: social secu­ri­ty for all ages, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/en/projects/crisis_exit/structural_changes/ (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 14STA: Govt Mod­i­fies Pen­sion Reform; Unions Unmoved, 5 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.phps=a&id=1508760&q=PENSION+REFORM (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 15Gov­ern­ment of the Repub­lic of Slove­nia: Exit strat­e­gy, avail­able at: http://www.vlada.si/si/teme_in_projekti/izhod_iz_krize/ukrepi_ekonomske_politike/krepitev_elementov_varne_proznosti/ (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 16STA: Bill Intro­duces Mini Jobs for Stu­dents, Pen­sion­ers, 12 March 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/en/vest.php?s=a&id=1490676&q=MINI+JOB (last access: 18 May 2010).
  • 17STA: Min­istrst­vo za delo: družin­s­ki zakonik ohran­ja tradi­cional­no druži­no (Min­istry of Labor: Fam­i­ly code pre­serves tra­di­tion­al fam­i­ly), 3 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1455701&q=DRU%C5%BDIN+ZAKONIK (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 18STA: V koali­ci­ji družinske­mu zakoniku veči­no­ma naklon­jeni, v opozi­ci­ji pro­ti (Coali­tion most­ly sup­port the new fam­i­ly code, oppo­si­tion is against it), 17 Decem­ber 2010, avail­able at: http://www.sta.si/vest.php?s=s&id=1460946&q=DRU%C5%BDIN+ZAKONIK (last access: 17 May 2010).
  • 19Delo: Družin­s­ki zakonik spet v par­la­men­tu (Fam­i­ly code again in the par­lia­ment), 4 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.delo.si/clanek/105342 (last access: 16 May 2010).
  • 2024ur: Pod­pi­rate posvo­jitve s strani istospol­nih part­ner­jev, ki jih pred­vide­va nov družin­s­ki zakonik? (Do you sup­port same-sex cou­ples adop­tion as antic­i­pat­ed by the new fam­i­ly code?), 3 March 2010, avail­able at: http://24ur.com/specialno/ankete/4.html?& page=4&p _all_items=1895 (last access: 16 May 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.