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Historically part of the former Federation of Yugoslavia, the Republic of Slovenia won its independence in 1991 with a 10-day war. Political and economic ties to the West have been strengthened since that time through membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Union (EU). Bordering on the Adriatic Sea, Slovenia has a coastline of 28.9 miles (46.6 kilometers). The climate is Mediterranean along the coast. Elsewhere, the continental climate produces mild to hot summers and cold winters in the plateaus and the valleys of the Alps. Slovenia is vulnerable to both flooding and earthquakes. Natural resources include lignite, coal, lead, zinc, mercury, uranium, silver, hydropower, and forests.
With a per capita income of $20,900, Slovenia’s economic status is more in line with Western Europe than with other former communist countries. In March 2004, Slovenia made history by becoming the first transitional country to move from borrower status to donor partner in the World Bank. Despite an unemployment rate of around 10 percent, the Slovenian economy continues to grow as privatization efforts move forward. However, government corruption and unusually close ties between government and the business and banking sectors affect Slovenia’s status in the EU. The United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports rank Slovenia 26th in overall quality-of-life issues, the highest ranking for any transitional country.
Environmentally, Slovenia’s most serious problems concern domestic and industrial waste in the Sava River and heavy metals and toxic chemicals in coastal waters. Because metallurgical and chemical plants have produced acid rain, there is also considerable damage to forests near Koper. Some 51 percent of Slovenia’s 2,011,070 people reside in urban areas. With 438 cars per 1,000 people, Slovenia produces 0.1 percent of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxides. In 2006 a study conducted at Yale University ranked Slovenia 31st of 132 countries on environmental performance, below both the relevant income and geographic group averages. The lowest score was in the area of biodiversity and habitat. The Slovenian government has protected 6 percent of the land. Of 201 bird species endemic to Slovenia, only one species is in danger of extinction. On the other hand, nine of 75 endemic mammal species are endangered.
Environment Indicator Net has ranked Slovenia on a number of environmental issues, determining that the country has made the most progress in controlling air pollution caused by nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. Slovenia has not been so successful in controlling ozone depletion and pollution from particulate matter. More progress has been made in emissions control. Slovenia has cut down on emissions of nitrogen oxide, sulfur oxide, and ammonia but has failed to cut emissions of nonmethane volatile organic compounds significantly.
In the area of water pollution, Slovenia has reduced phosphates in lakes but still has work to do on improving the quality of drinking water and maintaining the proper ecological balance of rivers. Accidental oil spills continue to cause major ecological problems. Slovenia has not been successful at controlling the use of mineral fertilizers or in promoting the use of plant protection products. While Slovenia is still generating unacceptable amounts of hazardous waste, improvements have been made in disposal and trans-boundary transporting of such wastes.
The Slovenian National Assembly has passed a number of significant environment laws, including the Environment Protection Act, the Waters Act, the Nature Conservation Act, the Management of Genetically Modified Organisms Act, and the Act on Protection against Ionizing Radiation and Nuclear Safety. The Ministry of Environment is responsible for implementing all environmental laws and regulations in Slovenia.
Slovenia’s commitment to the global environment is demonstrated through its participation in the following agreements: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, and Wetlands. The government has signed but not ratified the agreement on Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants.
- Central Intelligence Agency, “Slovenia,” The World Factbook, www.cia.gov;
- Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Europe: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003);
- United Nations Development Programme, “Human Development Reports: Slovenia,” hdr.undp.org;
- United Nations Environment Programme, Europe Regional Report: Chemicals (Global Environment Facility, 2002);