Slovenia is one of the smallest countries of the European Union, with only 2.095 million inhabitants living in about 20 kilometers square. However, it is a cosmopolitan country that has always been influenced by its neighbors, their diverse languages, and above all, by the three supranational formations that Slovenia was a part of.
Many ethnic groups that we can find today in Slovenia originate from the country’s rich history. The vast majority of Slovenia’s population is constituted by ethnic Slovenes (about 83%). Still, there are a dozen of other ethnic groups in the country, with about 12.5% of inhabitants born outside the border.
The analysis of Slovenia’s population evolution allows us to discover the country’s rich past and find out more about their current situations and the measures implemented to guarantee their protection.
Actual Composition of the Slovene Population
We saw that the Slovene population is mostly composed of Slovenes, the South Slavic ethnic group traditionally native of the country since the 6th century AD. Most of the Slovene folk live inside Slovenian borders; about 1.7 million people declared themselves ethnically Slovene.
However, there is also a significant part of non-Slovene inhabitants in Slovenia. The most numerous ones are, in the decrescent order, the following ones: Serbs, Croats, Muslims (in the ethnical term), Bosniaks, Hungarians, Albanians, Macedonians, Romani, Montenegrins, and Italians, according to the 2002 last census. There are also some traces of little numbers of Austrian, Jewish, and German ethnic groups in the country.
About 143,000 of Slovenia’s inhabitants are foreign citizens at the date of April 2019, representing about 7% of Slovenia’s population. About 100,000 of them are non-European Union citizens. Since 1995, and even more since Slovenia integrated the European Union in 2004, the country has known an important immigration raise; in 2007, it was one of the European countries with the fastest growth of the Union.
Evolution Since 1910
The intricate geographical position of the country and its eventful history explain a significant part of the actual composition of Slovenia’s population. It changed a lot throughout the times and the different Empire compositions, but let’s trace back its evolution from the last Austro-Hungarian Monarchy census to today.
If we go back to 1910, the country was composed of about the same amount of Slovenes than now, close to 82%. However, 10% of the population was German, a number that drastically and rapidly decreased. 2% were Italians, and 1.5% were Hungarians.
It was at the end of the period of the Slovene exodus, where 500,000 of Slovenians left the territory since the beginning of 1870 till the beginning of World War I. The collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire at the end of the War led to a significant change for the population in the area. Austrians and Hungarians indeed became minorities integrated into the new country of Yugoslavia.
However, it did not affect the Slovene territory for long since the Germans and the Hungarians in a less quick way started to represent smallest communities as they wished to acquire a statistical change of identity. The number of Italians in Slovenia grew but decreased during the years 1945 to 1955, at the end of World War II.
This complex history explains why Slovenia became, for a short time, a particularly homogenous country. The statistics of the year 1948 are particularly blatant: about 97% of the population was ethnically Slovene.
Nevertheless, it soon became an immigration territory with the successful modernization and industrialization of the region. In 1991, Slovenes represented 88% of Slovenia’s population, before stabilizing in 2001 to the current number of about 83%.
The Situation of Ethnic Minorities in the Country
With the disintegration of the Socialist Republic of Yugoslavia and the Declaration of the Independence of Slovenia in June 1991, the National Assembly adopted the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia.
This Constitution guarantees fundamental human rights to every Slovenian citizen, regardless of national origin, race, sex, language, and religion. It also included the article 61 that ensured global minority rights: it envelops the right of self-identification to an Ethnic Group and the right to preserve their culture and languages.
A Human Rights Ombudsman was put in place in 1993, and Slovenia set up a Council for Implementation of the Principle of Equal Treatment, an Advocate for the Principle of Equality, and an Office of Nationalities to fight against discriminations. In 2004, the Equal Opportunities Act was also implemented.
In more recent years, Slovenia adopted different measures to ensure equality between Slovenes and ethnic minorities since it is bound by European laws, as a member state. It permitted to establish protection that covers direct, hidden, and indirect discriminations such as harassment.
Ethnic Groups in Slovenia are then protected by all of the EU’s decisions, such as the Directive Establishing A General Framework for Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation and the Directive on Equal Treatment Irrespective of Racial or Ethnic Origin. The most compelling translation of act in national law is the Race Directive.
However, most of these protection mechanisms are limited, in Slovenia, to the “autochthonous ethnic groups” recognized by the Constitution, meaning only Hungarian and Italian communities. The Constitution should guarantee another special status to the Roma community, but the absence of a political will has prevented new Romanian rights to be regulated by law.
Status of Indigenous Minorities Protection: Level Of Protection
This status, concerning exclusively Hungarians and Italians, covers numerous sectors of significant importance. This protection is particularly notable considering the more worrying situation of Slovenes nationals in Italy and Hungary.
Many levels and sphered are covered. Representation is ensured thanks to measures that include guaranteed mandates and positions respectively in Parliament and municipalities and a principle of additional voting right, meaning that these two ethnic minorities have two votes in elections.
Bilingualism is also protected at an administrative level and in education, too, with bilingual elementary and secondary schools in the traditional areas of Hungarian and Italian settlements.
The State also supports Autochtonous media and culture through financings allowed to minority newspapers, TV channels, radio stations, and a special fund devoted to minority cultural organizations. Economic support is given to minority people for entrepreneurship.
This level of protection ensures particularly efficient equity for Hungarians and Italians in Slovenia, even if these populations still face numerous issues mainly due to their geographical positions in the country;
However, it seems a little odd to protect effectively these particular two communities that are not facing the most prominent and striking discriminations.
The Autochtonous Romany Community
Estimations of the Roma community numbers revolve around 3 to 10 thousand. Romanians face exclusion and discrimination in every aspect of their lives in Slovenia. The draft law that should better their living conditions in the country keeps being delayed.
The Slovenian State distinguishes the condition of autochtonous Roms (who have traditionally lived in the country) and non-autochtonous ones that arrived after the collapse of former Yugoslavia, making it challenging to offer them homogenous protection and to better their situation.
Romanians in Slovenia face underrepresentation in public affairs and politics, even if they are recognized as an ethnic group just as much as the Hungarians and Italians. This situation is particularly shocking considering that Roms have lived in the Balkans ever since the 13th century and are still seen and treated as second class citizens.
They also face many social and economic problems such as unemployment (estimated to 80%) and housing and education issues. It could be prevented thanks to the teaching of Roma language, funds for culture, and the ending of hidden discrimination.
Bosniaks and Muslims, Serbs, Croats
All of the other ethnic minority groups in Slovenia face a wide range of discrimination since they face a lot of issues concerning the exercise of their rights. It concerns diverse aspects of their lives, such as language use and participation.
All non-ethnic Slovenes from former Yugoslavia, as well as Bosniaks and Muslims, face widespread prejudice, economic and social exclusion, and are excluded from a lot of essential services such as healthcare.
The Muslim population (in an ethnic sense), estimated to be around 11,000 inhabitants all around the country, also faces other specific discrimination. They had to identify more and more as Bosniaks throughout the years, and suffer from the total absence of mosques in the country, and from the lack of adequate facilities to practice their religion.
Problems Affecting The Law’s Application
Slovenia should then find ways to diminish those general or specific problems to ensure human rights protection. There is firstly a need to improve an inefficient judiciary system that primarily affects undocumented persons and asylum seekers.
However, one of the country’s most significant issues regarding ethnic minorities remains a perpetually growing intolerance against the Roma, Serbs, Roma, Croats, Bosniaks, Muslims, Albanians, Montenegrins and Macedonians, and German speakers. Political figures and media even propagate prejudice and intolerance, and some events showed that police forces were failing to condemn ethnic treats and violence.
To conclude, Slovenia is a particularly homogenous country in terms of ethnic groups, but also has a long cosmopolitan history influenced by foreign citizens, languages, and cultures. It is then essential to make everyone cohabitate and to honor a great past of multiculturalism.