Constitutional Democracy in Slovenia: Between Ideals and Post-Socialist Mentality

Slovenia celebrates today on 23 December 2021 the 30th anniversary of its constitution. It the past months it has been for a second time presiding the Council of the European Union. Slovenia has been in comparative literature lauded as a case textbook example of successful transition from a totalitarian system to a democracy. However, as Matej Avbelj, Gorazd Justinek and myself have argued in our recent book that the influence of European institutions on the democracy and rule of law in Slovenia has been in the last three decades at best partial and piecemeal (Hart Publishing, 2020). Our examination of the state of affairs in the past three decades illustrates that there is a stark contrast between the idealistic normative standards of the rule of law and constitutional democracy and systematic and general failures to implement them in the daily lives of the state institutions and public administration. This post briefly analyses the current state-of-the-art of the Slovenian constitutional democracy. It argues that it is an example of the discrepancies between the high-flying ideals of liberal democracy and post-socialist daily reality.

The rule of law challenges have not been novel in the Slovenian constitutional democracy. They have been omnipresent in the Slovenian environment since the fall of the Communist regime and subsequent creation of the Slovenian state. All three branches of the Slovenian government have in the past three decades struggled to apply the rule of law standards in practice. Such challenges have not been surprising as the Slovenian institutions were versed in the past to work on the basis of the rule by law whereby legal principles and rules have only been used to justify arbitrary decisions of totalitarian regime. As a result, State institutions have been in all three branches in the past decades traditionally weak and subject to both internal and external pressures.

As a rule, the trust of the general public in the functioning of all three branches has been traditionally low. For instance, the Slovenian judiciary often ranks among the EU Member States with the lowest percentage of trust of the general public in the independence in the functioning of courts (EU Justice Scoreboard 2020, p. 41, Fig. 44). The Slovenian judiciary has in the three decades encountered several challenges of how to ensure the effective and equal exercise of the right to fair trial. It has been characterised by the remnants of post-socialist authoritarian mentality, formalisms and conflicts of interests. It has still not opened fully to the public in order to achieve greater legitimacy and credibility of its judicial decision-making. On the contrary, the majority of judgements of ordinary courts (particularly of 1st and 2nd instances) are still not published. Its highest self-governance body, the Judicial Council, still holds sessions behind closed doors. The Slovenian judiciary since its creation in the early 1990 faced systematic challenges concerning ensuring its external and internal independence. Whistle-blowers among judges have not been effectively protected. However, the judicial governance has not only turned a blind eye to their concerns, but also engineered disciplinary proceedings against whistle-blowers. Moreover, in several high-profile cases the judiciary lent support to strong political and economic interest groups, eroding the general trust in Slovenian courts even further.

On the other hand, the legislative and executive branches have in the past shown patterns of the authoritarian legacy. The system of check and balances among different branches has been hardly operational. Out of almost 30 years of formally democratic governance in Slovenia, the post-transitional left has governed the state institution and public administration for two third of time. The position of legislative branch has been particularly weak given the legal nature of the Slovenian parliamentary electoral system that centres on political parties, not on individual candidates. As a result, such an electoral system has diminished almost any accountability link between the voters and political parties. It is a usual practice that new political parties in Slovenia establish two or three month before election, which thereafter end up winning or coming second. In most cases, they disappear after one or at best two mandates of existence in the National Assembly. The democratic legitimacy of the elections to the National Assembly was particularly affected in 2014, when the Slovenian judiciary in the Patria case sentenced the then opposition politician (and the current prime minister) to prison sentence only few weeks before the election date (the Constitutional Court later quashed the judgment and found violation of the right to impartial tribunal).

The European Institutions such as the Council of Europe and the European Union have in the first decades positively contributed to the normative reform of the rule of law and constitutions. Nonetheless, the European institutions have quickly reached the limits of their impact. They have not been able nor willing to propel the reform of legal culture, mentality and business-as-usual in the institutions of the Slovenian state. Their functioning has been characterised in the past by the presence of the post-socialist mentality, the actual and perceived conflicts of interests, nepotism, clientelism and the rise of “nouveau riche” elites and tycoons praying off the Slovenian economy. Most of Slovenian economy, as Gorazd Justinek analyses in our book, has been negatively affected due to the policies of gradualism, national interest and the triumph of the state-owned corporations. Supervisory institutions such the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption and the Court of Auditors have been in the past decades weak and have often struggled themselves with their own challenges on how to ensure prohibition of the actual or perceived conflict of interests in their own institutions. As a rule, they have not been able to provide effective supervision of the rule of law in the main three branches.

The Slovenian media landscape has been a textbook example of the post-Socialist media landscape in Central and Eastern Europe. For instance, several tycoons (that are primarily active in other industry sectors) have in the past decades entered in the ownership structures of the mainstream Slovenian media in order to advance their private vested interests and to influence public opinion. The National Public Broadcaster has been since the 1990s battleground of the different ideological and political forces as its Members of the Programme and Supervisory Boards are directly elected in the National Assembly or nominated by the respective governments. Several civil society groups and commentators have described its news programme as creating parallel realty and often succumbing to partisan interests. In the last decade, several business owners, interests’ groups and political parties have aimed to establish their own online portals mostly to advance their own particular partisan and vested interests. All in all, free and professional media standards have in the past thirty years often succumbed to partisan, ideological and ownership’ interests.

The change in government in March 2020 has triggered an energetic protests and criticism from parts of civil society and institutional elites, which has recently also attracted some international attention. Their criticism is valid particularly concerning the often questionable nature and content of tweets by the incumbent prime minister and its diplomatic relationship with Mr Orban and should be examined by the European Commission in its annual report on the rule of law. Nonetheless, no description and subsequent analysis and debates on the current state-of-the-affairs of the rule of law, constitutional democracy and media landscape in Slovenia will not be complete without diving deep in the sociology of the Slovenian institutions and public administration, universities, trade union, civil society media, etc. Moreover, a full-fledged report on the rule of law in Slovenia will have to contextually examine the ownership structures of its economy and media and will have in particularly study the impact of the institutional and informal networks of Slovenian elites on the current deplorable state of the Slovenian constitutional democracy. As Alenka Kuhelj and Bojan Bugarič submitted in their article on “A Day in the Life of Post-Communist Europe” that “the persistence of certain political practices, personalised structures, which, despite various efforts to introduce rule-bound bureaucracy and formal systems of authority, remain integral to Central and Eastern European political life” (p.184). As a result, the Slovenian constitutional democracy has been since several years located somewhere between ideals and post-socialist mentality. To be sure, Slovenia is no “poster-child” of the rule of law in Central and Eastern Europe. The reform of its constitutional democracy hinges on willingness of the Slovenian people to take ownership of liberal constitutional values and principles such as the rule of law, strong institutions, including independent and impartial judiciary and free and professional media.

Nova številka slovenske revije za človekove pravice – Dignitas, št. 87-88

Izšla je nova številka znanstvene revije Dignitas – edine slovenske revije za človekove pravice (št. 87-88)! The new issue of Dignitas – Slovenian Journal of Human Rights has been published!

New article on Judicial Ideology of the Slovenian Constitutional Court

My research article on »Authoritarian Dimension of Judicial Ideology of the Slovenian Constitutional Court« has now been published in Croatian and Comparative Public Administration, Vol. 20 No. 4 (2020), 733-760. Here is the abstract:

After the democratization and independence of Slovenia, the Constitutional Court has generated the paradigm reform in the Slovenian constitutional system by protecting individual rights against the heritage of the former system. The constitutional judges are not blank slates, but individuals embedded in their private and professional environments. In the past three decades, the Court has delivered several seminal decisions concerning the protection of the rule of law, human rights, and constitutional democracy. What motivates constitutional judges to protect individual rights in some cases and show preference for the preservation of authority and stability of the existing legal system in others? The article is based on the empirical research measuring the presence of judicial ideology at the Constitutional Court of Slovenia in three mandates (1993–1997, 2002–2006, 2011–2016). The methodological and theoretical model aims to measure economic, social, and authoritarian dimensions of judicial ideology (three-fold judicial ideology model). The research group has analysed the decisions and separate opinions of the Constitutional Court from selected periods based on hypotheses provided by the model. This article intends to present and analyse the research results concerning the authoritarian dimension of judicial ideology. More specifically, it examines the level of authoritarianism of the Slovenian Constitutional Court in its judicial decision-making during the three mentioned mandates. Through the obtained empirical results, the paper seeks to strengthen fair, impartial, and independent functioning of the Slovenian Constitutional Court and its respective judges.






Editorial Board of the Journal Dignitas – Journal for Human Rights – is inviting authors to submit papers for a special issue dedicated to the theme Epidemic. The special issue, the idea for which stems from the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, wishes to address the topic of epidemic from different aspects – human rights, law, economics, economic, public health, psychology and other topics

 All interested contributors are highly encouraged to submit their manuscripts/papers in a form of essays, discussions or scientific papers to the e-mail or

The deadline for submission of papers is 30 October 2020.

All contributions will be peer-reviewed and published in the printed magazine Dignitas in the second part of 2020. The e-version of articles will later also be available in full text (with assigned DOI® numbers).

About the Journal Dignitas

Dignitas is an interdisciplinary Slovenian journal specialized in publication of peer-viewed scientific and professional articles in the field of humanities and social sciences in Slovenian or English language. Basic editorial orientations are directed broadly to human rights law, the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, related sociological, philosophical and historical studies, legal comments, key documents, studies, opinions and conclusions of the European Commission for Democracy (Venice Commission, Council of Europe); or to other information on important events in the field of human rights protection in Slovenia and the international environment.

For submissions or inquiries for any additional information, please contact us at or






Uredništvo Dignitasa – slovenske revije za človekove pravice – vabi avtorje k oddaji prispevkov za posebno interdisciplinarno številko revije Dignitas na temo Epidemije. Posebna številka je namenjena obravnavi epidemije koronavirusa z različnih vidikov, denimo: človekovih pravic, javnega zdravja, prava, ekonomije, humanistike, psihologije in drugih vidikov.

Vabimo vas, da prispevke v obliki eseja, razprave ali znanstvenega članka, pošljete na e-naslov uredništva: ali naslov založbe

Rok za oddajo prispevkov je 30. oktober 2020.

Vsi prispevki bodo recenzirani in objavljeni v tiskani reviji Dignitas, izdani v decembra 2020, kasneje pa dosegljivi v polnem besedilu na spletu.

O reviji Dignitas

Dignitas je interdisciplinarna slovenska revija, ki objavlja recenzirane znanstvene in strokovne prispevke v slovenskem in angleškem jeziku s področja humanistike in družboslovja. Njene temeljne usmeritve se vežejo širše na pravo človekovih pravic, na sodbe Evropskega sodišča za človekove pravice, povezane sociološke, filozofske in zgodovinske študije, pravne komentarje, ključne dokumente, študije, mnenja in sklepe Evropske komisije za demokracijo (Beneške komisije) oz. na druge informacije o pomembnejših dogodkih s področja varovanja človekovih pravic v Sloveniji in mednarodnem okolju.

Dodatna vprašanja v zvezi z revijo ali pozivom lahko naslovite na navedena e-poštna naslova.

Nova številka slovenske revije za človekove pravice – Dignitas, št. 85-86

Izšla je nova številka znanstvene revije Dignitas – edine slovenske revije za človekove pravice (št. 85-86, april 2020)! Zahvaljujem se vsem avtorjem za odlične prispevke! / The new issue of Dignitas – Slovenian Journal of Human Rights has been published!

Matej Avbelj, Jernej Letnar Černič, The Impact of European Institutions on the Rule of Law and Democracy: Slovenia and Beyond. Oxford, Hart (Bloomsbury), 2020

Matej Avbelj, Jernej Letnar Černič, The Impact of European Institutions on the Rule of Law and Democracy: Slovenia and Beyond. Oxford, Hart (Bloomsbury), 2020.


Since 2010 the European Union has been plagued by crises of democracy and the rule of law, which have been spreading from Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), catching many by surprise. This book argues that the professed success of the 2004 big bang enlargement mirrored the Potemkin villages erected in the new Member States on their accession to Europe. Slovenia is a prime example. Since its independence and throughout the accession process, Slovenia has been portrayed as the poster child of the ‘New Europe’. This book claims that the widely shared narrative of the Slovenian EU dream is a myth. In many ways, Slovenia has fared even worse than its contemporary, constitutionally-backsliding, CEE counterparts. The book’s discussion of the depth and breadth of the democratic crises in Slovenia should contribute to a critical intellectual awakening and better comprehension of the real causes of the present crises across the other CEE Member States, which threaten the viability of the EU and Council of Europe projects. It is only on the basis of this improved understanding that the crises can be appropriately addressed at national, transnational and supranational levels.

Komentar Ustave Republike Slovenije (2019)

Založba Nove univerze je v lanskem letu pod uredništvom Mateja Avblja in s sodelovanjem številnih slovenskih pravnih strokovnjakov izdala nov komentar Ustave Republike Slovenije. Starejši komentar je dostopen na naslednji elektronski povezavi.



Nova številka slovenske revije za človekove pravice – Dignitas, št. 83-84

Izšla je nova številka znanstvene revije Dignitas – edine slovenske revije za človekove pravice (št. 83-84)! Tokratna številka je posvečena deseti obletnici uveljavitve Listine Evropske unije o temeljnih pravicah. Zahvaljujem se gostujoči urednici Katarini Vatovec za skrbno uredniško delo in vsem avtorjem za prispevke.ovitek hrbet 17 mm-page-001-4-2

Uresničevanje sodb Evropskega sodišča za človekove pravice v slovenskem pravnem redu

V tretji letošnji številki Pravosodnega biltena je izšel moj prispevek o “Uresničevanju sodb Evropskega sodišča za človekove pravice v slovenskem pravnem redu” (str. 35-50). Povzetek je na voljo spodaj. Vabljeni k branju !

Evropsko sodišče za človekove pravice (evropsko sodišče) je osrednji evropski varuh človekovih pravic in temeljnih svoboščin, kamor se lahko posamezniki obrnejo, če države in njihovi pravni redi ne morejo oziroma ne želijo učinkovito zavarovati njihovih pravic. Ko Evropsko sodišče za človekove pravice poda sodbo zoper državo pogodbenico Evropske konvencije o človekovih pravicah (evropska konvencija), jo mora ta izvršiti v domačem pravnem redu. Pričujoči prispevek v zvezi s tem obravnava uresničevanje evropske konvencije in sodb evropskega sodišča v slovenskem pravnem redu. Namen prispevka je pojasniti značilnosti sodb evropskega sodišča in jasno poudariti obveznosti vseh vej državne oblasti, da izvršujejo sodbe evropskega sodišča zoper Slovenijo in uresničujejo njegove sodbe tudi v drugih primerih. Evropska konvencija je del slovenskega pravnega reda in zato neposredno zavezujoča za slovenska sodišča.