Several factors make Slovenia an attractive location for foreign direct investment (FDI): modern infrastructure with access to important EU transportation corridors, a major port on the Adriatic Sea with access to the Mediterranean, a highly educated and professional workforce, proximity to Central European and Balkan markets, and membership in the Schengen Area, EU, and Eurozone. With a small domestic market of just over two million people, Slovenia’s economy is heavily dependent on foreign trade and susceptible to international price and currency fluctuations as well as economic conditions among its major trading partners.
In recent years, Slovenia’s economic growth rate has outpaced those of most other EU member states, and the country has enjoyed rising incomes, growing domestic consumption, falling unemployment, low inflation, and burgeoning consumer confidence. However, in 2020, GDP contracted by 4.2 percent to EUR 46.9 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic impacted certain industries, including retail and hospitality sectors, more severely than others. Overall, the economy faired relatively well, with a series of government COVID-19 stimulus measures – worth approximately EUR 2.5 billion (USD 2.9 billion) – mainly focused on preserving jobs. Slovenia’s economy rebounded in 2021 with GDP growth of 8.1 percent, exceeding the eurozone average. However, Slovenia is expecting more modest GDP growth in 2022 and 2023, with the Bank of Slovenia estimating growth of 4.0 percent and 3.3 percent, respectively. The central bank warned that the country was experiencing supply chain issues as well as labor shortages and expressed concern about rising inflation and energy prices. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is expected to exacerbate inflationary pressures, making a slowdown more likely.
Despite a number of privatizations in the banking sector in 2019 and 2020, approximately 25 percent of Slovenia’s economy remains state-owned or state-controlled based on consultations with economic and financial experts. While estimates of the percentage of state involvement in the economy vary, most experts agree that it is among the highest among EU member states. There is widespread skepticism in some quarters toward privatization and foreign direct investment, despite general awareness of FDI’s importance to economic growth, job creation, and developing new technologies. Potential investors in Slovenia may face significant challenges, including a lack of transparency in economic and commercial decision-making, time-consuming bureaucratic procedures, opaque public tender processes, regulatory red tape, and a heavy tax burden for high earners.
According to Bank of Slovenia figures, FDI in Slovenia totaled EUR 16.6 billion (35.3% of GDP) in 2020, a 2.4 percent increase over the previous year. The relatively modest growth in investment flows were largely attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Slovenia’s most important sources for direct foreign investment were Austria (25.6 percent), Luxembourg (13.0 percent), Switzerland (10.7percent), Germany (8 percent), and Italy (7.3 percent). However, Bank of Slovenia data indicated U.S. companies accounted for 9.4 percent of total inward foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020, EUR 66 million (USD 72.5 million) invested directly and an additional EUR 1.48 billion (USD 1.63 billion) invested indirectly through U.S. subsidiaries in other European countries. This combined investment of EUR 1.55 billion (USD 1.78 billion) placed the United States as Slovenia’s third largest source of direct and indirect foreign investment, behind Austria (EUR 2.58 billion) and Germany (EUR 2.40 billion). The most important sectors for FDI were manufacturing (33.5 percent), financial and insurance activities (22.5 percent), wholesale and retail trade and repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles (17.1 percent).
Although firms with foreign owners represented just 1.8 percent of all Slovenian firms in 2020, firms with FDI accounted for 24.2 percent of capital, 25.9 percent of assets, and 23.5 of corporate sector employees. Their capital and workforce generated EUR 29.0 billion in net sales revenue and EUR 1.1 billion in operating profit. Foreign companies accounted for 47.7 percent of corporate sector exports and 52.5 percent of corporate sector imports.
Slovenia, in line with the European Union (EU), committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. Slovenia’s long-term climate strategy, approved in July 2021, includes a provision specifying that the country will use nuclear energy in the long term, clarifying the country’s energy future and committing to produce a large percentage of its energy supply domestically. In July 2021, the EU approved Slovenia’s national recovery and resilience plan, allowing funds up to EUR 2.5 billion (EUR 1.8 billion in grants and 700 million in loans) to be drawn from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility. 42.5 percent of the funds are earmarked for green transition projects.
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
Although Slovenia has no formal business roundtable or foreign investment ombudsman, the Slovenian Public Agency for the Promotion of Entrepreneurship, Innovation, Development, Investment and Tourism (SPIRIT) promotes FDI and advocates for foreign investors in Slovenia, often in collaboration with diplomatic missions and business associations based in Slovenia. Its mission is to enhance Slovenia’s economic competitiveness through technical and financial assistance to entrepreneurs, businesses, and investors.
Foreign companies conducting business in Slovenia have the same rights, obligations, and responsibilities as domestic companies. The principles of commercial enterprise, including national treatment, apply to the operations of foreign companies as well. The Law on Commercial Companies and the Law on Foreign Transactions guarantee their basic rights.
According to SPIRIT’s annual survey on foreign investors’ perceptions of Slovenia’s business environment, investors cite the high quality of Slovenia’s labor force as the deciding factor in choosing the country as an investment destination, followed by widespread knowledge of foreign languages, employees’ technical expertise, innovation potential, and strategic geographic position offering easy access to EU and Balkan markets.
While generally welcoming greenfield investments, Slovenia presents a number of informal barriers that may prove challenging to foreign investors. According to SPIRIT’s survey, the most significant disincentives to FDI are high taxes, high labor costs, lack of payment discipline, an inefficient judicial system, difficulties in firing employees, and excessive bureaucracy. There are no formal limits on foreign investors’ ability to establish an investment or operate in the market.
Foreign companies doing business in Slovenia and the local American Chamber of Commerce have also cited additional factors that adversely affect the local investment climate, including the lack of a high-level FDI promotion strategy, a sizable judicial backlog, difficulties in obtaining building permits, labor market rigidity, and disproportionately high social contributions and personal income taxes coupled with excessive administrative tax burdens. Businesses have also reported a lack of transparency in public procurement, unnecessarily complex and time-consuming bureaucracy, frequent changes in regulation, relatively high real estate prices in some parts of the country, and confusion over lead responsibility or jurisdiction regarding foreign investment among government agencies.
The government recognizes some of these constraints and is taking steps to address them. It adopted a De-bureacratization Act in 2021 that simplified administrative procedures, improved communication with government offices, and broadened the authority for signing ministry decisions to state secretaries. The newly-established Government Office for Digital Transformation implemented several measures to advance digitalization and reduce red tape, including plans to introduce new digital services in healthcare, education, and public administration by 2023. This new office also committed to improving the business environment for technology companies, including through offering tax incentives for IT experts and opening a new government center to cater to and reduce red tape for foreigners and Slovenians returning from overseas. The government also succeeded in reducing the income tax rate in the highest tax bracket from 50 percent to 45 percent, but failed to take further action on tax policies that are an impediment to foreign investment and lead to brain drain.
Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment
Both foreign and domestic private entities have the right to establish and own business enterprises and engage in different forms of remunerative activity. Slovenia has relatively few formal limits on foreign ownership or control. In May 2020, Slovenia enacted a screening mechanism for foreign investments that will remain in force until June 2023. The investment screening mechanism was enacted as part of the COVID-19 stimulus package and will need to be made permanent before the legislation sunsets. The investment screening mechanism stipulates that foreign investments acquiring at least 10 percent of share capital or voting rights in Slovenian companies with activities involving critical infrastructure, critical technologies and dual use items, supply of critical inputs, access to sensitive information, the freedom and pluralism of the media, and certain projects and programs in the interest of the EU must seek approval from the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology. The ministry was also authorized to retroactively screen foreign direct investment transactions within the past five years. The application for such approval must be submitted to the ministry within 15 days from the date of the execution of the agreement. The Slovenian government envisages that the review process can take up to two months. Failure to comply to this new legislation may result in a fine ranging between EUR 50,000 and EUR 500,000 for companies based on their size and a fine of EUR 10,000 for individuals.
Professional services: There are limits on banking and investment services, private pensions, insurance services, asset management services, and settlement, clearing, custodial, and depository services provided in Slovenia by companies headquartered in non-EU countries. Companies from non-EU countries can operate freely only through an affiliate with a license granted by an appropriate Slovenian or EU institution.
Gaming: There is a 20 percent cap on private ownership of individual companies.
Air transport: Aircraft registration is only possible for aircraft owned by Slovenian or EU nationals or companies controlled by such entities. Companies controlled by Slovenian nationals or carriers complying with EU regulations on ownership and control are the only entities eligible for Air Operator’s Certificates (AOC) for performing airline services.
Maritime transport: The law forbids majority ownership by non-EU residents of a Slovenian-flagged maritime vessel unless the operator is a Slovenian or other EU national.
Individuals or businesses may adopt a variety of different legal and organizational forms to conduct economic activities. Businesses most commonly incorporate legally as limited liability companies (LLC or d.o.o.) and public limited companies (PLC or d.d.). Non-residents of the Republic of Slovenia must obtain a Slovenian tax number before beginning the process of establishing a business. Slovenia’s Companies Act, which is fully harmonized with EU legislation, regulates the establishment, management, and organization of companies.
Generally, bureaucratic procedures and practices for foreign investors wishing to start a business in Slovenia are sufficiently streamlined and transparent. Start-up costs for businesses are among the lowest in the EU. To establish a business in Slovenia, a foreign investor must produce capital of at least EUR 7,500 (USD 8,835) for a limited liability company and EUR 25,000 (USD 29,450) for a stock company. The investor must also establish a business address and file appropriate documentation with the courts. The entire process usually takes three weeks to one month, but may take longer in Ljubljana due to court backlogs.
Slovenia does not restrict domestic investors from investing abroad, nor are there any incentives for outward investments. The majority of Slovenia’s outward investments are in the Western Balkans. Croatia is the most popular destination for Slovenian outward investment, constituting 32.9 percent of Slovenia’s investments abroad, followed by Serbia (17.9 percent), Bosnia and Herzegovina (7.9 percent), Russia (6.1 percent), and North Macedonia (6 percent).
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
Slovenia does not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) with the United States. The list of Slovenia’s Bilateral Investment Treaties can be found in the Bank of Slovenia’s Direct Investment publication. In 2020, EU member states agreed to terminate Bilateral Investment Treaties with other EU members.
Slovenia has a Bilateral Taxation Treaty and Social Security Totalization Agreement with the United States. The complete list of countries with which Slovenia has signed bilateral taxation treaties is available on the Ministry of Finance website.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
Accounting, legal, and regulatory procedures in Slovenia are transparent and consistent with international norms.
Financial statements should be prepared by the Slovenian Institute of Auditors in accordance with the Slovenian Accounting Standards and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), as adopted by the EU. Annual reports of for-profit business entities are publicly available on the website of AJPES, the Slovenian Business Database.
There are three levels of regulatory authority: supra-national (Slovenia is a member of the EU), national, and sub-national (municipalities have limited regulatory power over local affairs, and regulations must comply with state regulations). Laws may be proposed by the government, member(s) of parliament, or through signatures of at least 5,000 voters.
Slovenia adopted a comprehensive regulatory policy in 2013, focusing on measures aimed at raising the quality of the regulatory environment to improve the business environment and increase competitiveness.
Slovenia’s Ministry of Public Administration is required by several legal and policy documents to solicit and include public stakeholder engagement in decision-making processes. Public authorities must solicit stakeholder engagement and inform the public about their work to the greatest extent possible.
Government entities that propose regulations must invite experts and the general public to participate by publishing a general invitation, together with a draft regulation, on their websites. The experts and general public must respond by the deadline, ranging from 30 to 60 days from the day of its publication. In addition to the relevant ministry, the proposals are also published on government websites and on the Ministry of Public Administration’s eDemocracy portal.
Through the eDemocracy web portal, citizens may actively cooperate in the decision-making process by expressing opinions and submitting proposals and comments on draft regulations. When possible, government entities take into consideration proposals and opinions on proposed regulations submitted by experts and the general public. If such opinions and proposals are not taken into consideration, those proposing the regulation must inform stakeholders in writing and explain the reasons.
The public, however, is not invited to comment on proposed regulations when the nature of the issue precludes such consideration, such as in emergency situations and in matters relating to the national budget, the annual financial statement, the rules of procedure of the government, ordinances, resolutions, development and planning documents, development policies, declarations, acts ratifying international treaties, and official decisions.
A regulatory impact assessment (RIA) is obligatory for all primary legislation; however, the quality of such assessments varies, and analyses are often only qualitative or incomplete due to the lack of an external body to conduct quality control. The quality of such assessments has improved, however, since the Ministry of Public Administration introduced its Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) test in 2012 to measure regulatory impacts on small and medium-sized businesses.
The General Secretariat of the Republic of Slovenia is responsible for administrative oversight to ensure the government follows administrative procedures. There are no informal regulatory processes managed by non-governmental organizations or private sector associations.
Slovenia’s executive branch initiates approximately 92 percent of primary laws, with regulations often developed rapidly. The government’s frequent use of urgent procedures (normally reserved for national emergencies) to pass legislation often limits the stakeholder engagement process.
After the adoption of new legislation, the text is published in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia and online at https://www.uradni-list.si/glasilo-uradni-list-rs. Slovenia lacks a systematic process to evaluate regulations after their implementation.
To measure regulatory burdens on businesses, Slovenia adopted the Standard Cost Model, which has led to a significant reduction of such burdens. The United Nations awarded its Public Service Award to Slovenia in 2009 for its system of one-stop shops (the so-called “VEM points”) to incorporate and establish businesses. The introduction of e-government processes has simplified administrative procedures. The World Bank assigned Slovenia a score of 4.75 out of 5 on its Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance measure in 2018, while the International Budget Partnership gave Slovenia 68 points out of 100 on its Open Budget Survey 2019, assessing Slovenia’s budget transparency as sufficient with substantial information available.
Slovenia meets the Department of State’s minimum requirements for fiscal transparency. In 2021, Slovenia’s budget and information on debt obligations were widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online. The budget was substantially complete and considered generally reliable. Slovenia’s supreme audit institution reviewed the government’s accounts and made its reports publicly available. The criteria and procedures by which the national government awards contracts or licenses for natural resource extraction were outlined in law and appeared to be followed in practice. Basic information on natural resource extraction awards was public.
International Regulatory Considerations
Slovenia joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, and to date there have been no cases of Slovenia violating WTO rules. The law treats domestic and foreign investors equally. The government does not impose performance requirements or any condition for establishing, maintaining, or expanding an investment. As a WTO member country, Slovenia is required by the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT Agreement) to report to the WTO all proposed technical regulations that could affect trade with other member countries. Slovenia is a signatory to the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) and has implemented all TFA requirements.
As an EU member state, Slovenia applies two principles in its regulatory system: the supremacy of EU laws and the principle of direct effect. In areas subject to EU responsibility, EU laws override any conflicting member state laws. Direct effect enables Slovenians and other EU citizens to use EU laws in national courts against the government or private parties.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Slovenia is a civil law jurisdiction with a codified system of law. It has a well-developed, independent legal system based on a five-tier (district, regional, appeals, supreme, and administrative) court system. These courts deal with a wide array of legal cases, including criminal, probate, domestic relations, land disputes, contracts, and other business-related issues. A separate social and labor court system, comprised of regional, appeals, and supreme courts, deals strictly with labor disputes, pensions, and other social welfare claims. As with most other European countries, Slovenia has a Constitutional Court which hears complaints alleging violations of human rights and personal freedoms. The Constitutional Court also issues opinions on the constitutionality of international agreements and state statutes and deals with other high-profile political issues. In 1997, Slovenia’s National Assembly established an administrative court to handle legal disputes among local authorities, between state and local authorities, and between local authorities and executors of public authority.
In 1999, the National Assembly passed legislation to streamline legal proceedings and speed up administrative judicial processes. The law established a stricter and more efficient procedure for serving court documents and providing evidence. In commercial cases, defendants are required to file their defense within 15 days of receiving a notice of a claim.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
In 2018, the National Assembly passed Slovenia’s Investment Promotion Act, defining the types of incentives, criteria, and procedures to promote long-term investment in Slovenia. The act establishes that domestic and foreign investors are equal and mandates priority treatment of strategic investments, defined as investments totaling EUR 40 million or more and creating 400 new jobs in manufacturing and services, while R&D strategic investments are defined as totaling at least EUR 200 million and creating 200 new jobs. Under the law, a working group headed by the Ministry of Economic Development and Technology will assist strategic investors in obtaining necessary permits. The Invest Slovenia website serves as a resource for investors to obtain relevant information on investment regulations and incentives.
Competition and Antitrust Laws
Slovenia’s Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act regulates restrictive practices, concentrations, unfair competition, regulatory restrictions of competition, and measures to prevent restrictive practices and concentrations that significantly impede effective competition. The law applies to corporate bodies and natural persons engaged in economic activities regardless of their legal form, organization, or ownership. The law also applies to the actions of public companies and complies with EU legislation. Slovenia’s competition and anti-trust laws prohibit restrictive agreements; direct or indirect price fixing; sharing markets or supply sources; limiting or controlling production, sales, technical progress, or investment; applying dissimilar conditions to different trading parties; or subjecting the conclusion of contracts to acceptance of supplementary obligations that, by their nature or according to commercial usage, have no connection with the subject of their contracts. Companies and entities whose domestic market share exceeds 40 percent for a single undertaking and 60 percent for two or more undertakings (joint dominance) are prohibited from abusing dominant market positions. Slovenian law defines a non-exhaustive list of dominant position abuses describing the most common practices.
The government may, however, prescribe market restrictions by means of regulatory instruments and actions in cases of natural disasters, epidemics, or states of emergency; significant market disturbances due to a shortage of goods or disturbances in other fields that represent a risk to the safety and health of the population; or when necessary to satisfy product requirements, raw materials, and semi-finished goods of special or strategic importance to the defense of the nation.
The fines for restrictive agreements and abuses of dominant positions may total as much as 10 percent of an undertaking’s annual turnover in the preceding business year. Those legally responsible for a legal entity or sole proprietorship may be subject to a fine of EUR 5,000-10,000, or EUR 15,000-30,000 for more serious violations.
Slovenia’s Competition Protection Agency (CPA) supervises the implementation of the Restriction of Competition Act. The agency monitors market conditions to ensure effective competition, conducts procedures and issues decisions, and submits opinions to the National Assembly and the government. The CPA is also responsible for the enforcement of Slovenia’s antitrust and merger control rules. An independent administrative authority, the CPA was established in 2013 through a reorganization of the former Slovenian Competition Protection Office, which was part of the Ministry of the Economy.Some private sector representatives expressed concern about the CPA’s susceptibility to outside influence and ability to reach timely decisions on complex cases, which added an element of unpredictability for some investors and their legal counsel.
Expropriation and Compensation
According to Article 69 of Slovenia’s Constitution, the government may take real property or limit rights to possess real property for public purposes in the public interest, in exchange for in-kind compensation or financial compensation under conditions determined by law. Article 7 of Slovenia’s Investment Promotion Act stipulates that, if the government deems an investment strategic, it may expropriate private property for construction in exchange for compensation, under conditions determined by law. In such cases, a special government task force monitors the investment and coordinates the acquisition of environmental and building permits.
The current government is not involved in any expropriation-related investment disputes. National law offers adequate protection to all investments. However, legal disputes continue over private property expropriated by the former Yugoslav government for state purposes. Following its secession from Yugoslavia, Slovenia’s 1991 Denationalization Act established a process to “denationalize” these properties, return them to their rightful owners or their heirs, or pay just compensation if returning the property was not feasible. In some of these cases, the rightful owners and heirs are U.S. citizens.
Since the 1993 deadline for filing claims, over 99 percent of denationalization cases have been closed, although only 88 percent of cases involving American owners and heirs have been resolved. Cases involving U.S. citizens have taken longer in part because the claimants generally do not live in Slovenia. In such cases, the Ministry of Justice must determine the nationality of the property’s former owners at the time the property was seized – a generally simple question for Slovenians who never acquired another citizenship, but more complicated in cases involving naturalized American citizens. In addition, some claims may involve property currently controlled by prominent and influential Slovenians, thereby creating additional informal obstacles to restitution.
ICSID Convention and New York Convention
Slovenia is a contracting state to the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (ICSID) and a signatory to the New York Convention on Recognition of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which requires local courts to enforce international arbitration awards that meet certain criteria.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
The government accepts binding international arbitration of disputes between foreign investors and the state. There have been no investment disputes involving a U.S. person within the past 10 years. Local courts are expected to enforce foreign arbitral awards issued against the government. To date, there has been no evidence of extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Slovenia is a signatory to the 1961 European Convention on International Commercial Arbitration. The Slovenian Arbitration Act is modeled after the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law’s model law.
Slovenia’s regional court specializing in economic issues has jurisdiction over business disputes. However, parties may agree in writing to settle disputes in another court or jurisdiction. Parties may also agree to court-annexed mediation. Local courts recognize and enforce foreign arbitral awards and foreign court judgments.
Parties may also exclude the court as the adjudicator of a dispute if they agree in writing to arbitration, whether ad hoc or institutional. In the former, applicable procedures and laws must be determined. In the case of institutional arbitration, Slovenian law requires a clear definition of the type of arbitration to be implemented.
The Slovenian Chamber of Commerce’s Ljubljana Arbitration Center is an independent institution that resolves domestic and international disputes arising out of business transactions among companies. Arbitration rulings are final, and decisions are binding.
Competition is lively in Slovenia, and bankruptcies are an established and reliable means of working out firms’ financial difficulties. By law, there are three procedural methods for dealing with bankrupt debtors. The first procedure, compulsory settlement, allows the insolvent debtor to submit a plan to the court for financial reorganization. Creditors whose claims represent more than 60 percent of the total amount owed may vote on the proposed compulsory settlement plan. If the settlement is accepted, the debtor is not obligated to pay the creditor any amount exceeding the payment agreed to in the confirmed settlement. The procedure calls for new terms, extended in accordance with the conditions of forced liquidation settlement (see below). Confirmed compulsory settlement agreements affect creditors who have voted against the compulsory settlement as well as creditors who have not reported their claims in the settlement procedure.
Creditors or debtors may also initiate bankruptcy proceedings. In such instances, the court names a bankruptcy administrator who sells the debtor’s property according to a bankruptcy senate, the senate president’s instructions, and court-sponsored supervision. Generally, the debtor’s property is sold at public auction. Otherwise, the creditors’ committee may prescribe a different mode of sale such as collecting offers or placing conditions on potential buyers. The legal effect of the completed bankruptcy is the termination of the debtor’s legal status to conduct business, and distribution of funds from the sale of assets to creditors according to their share of total debt.
In accordance with the Law on Commercial Companies, the state can impose forced liquidation on a debtor subject to liquidation procedures and legal conditions for ending its existence as a business entity. This would occur, for example, in cases in which an entity’s management has ceased operations for more than 12 months, if the court finds the registration void, or by court order.
In 2013, the National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Financial Operations, Insolvency Procedures, and Compulsory Dissolution Act to simplify and speed up bankruptcy procedures and deleveraging.
Slovenia offers special tax incentives for high-tech sector investments that create jobs and are linked to research and development activities. In some economically depressed and underdeveloped regions (such as the Prekmurje region near the Hungarian border), Slovenia offers special facilities, services, and financial incentives to investors.
As defined in Slovenia’s Investment Promotion Act, the government offers the following investment incentives: subsidies, loans, guarantees, subsidized interest rates, and purchase of land owned by municipalities at below-market prices.
All companies registered in Slovenia can participate in government-financed or subsidized research and development programs, regardless of the origin of capital.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The Port of Koper is Slovenia’s only free trade zone (FTZ). Under Slovenia’s Customs Act, subjects operating in FTZs are not liable for payment of customs duties, nor are they subject to other trade policy measures until goods are released into free circulation.
Duties and rights of users include the following:
Separate books must be kept for activities undertaken in FTZs;
Users may undertake business activities in a FTZ on the basis of contracts with the founders of FTZs;
Users are free to import goods (customs goods, domestic goods for export) into FTZs;
Goods imported into FTZs may remain for an indefinite period, except agricultural produce, for which the government sets a time limit;
Entry to and exit from FTZs is to be controlled;
Founders and users must allow customs or other responsible authorities, to execute customs or other supervision; and
For the purposes of customs control, users must keep records of all goods imported into, exported from, consumed, or altered in FTZs.
The Customs Act also allows the establishment of open FTZs to allow for more flexible organization and supervision of customs authorities.
In such FTZs, users may undertake the following activities:
Production and service activities, including handicrafts, defined in the founding act or contract, and banking and other financial business transactions, property and personal insurance and reinsurance connected with the activities undertaken;
Retail sales, but only for other users of the zone or for use within the FTZ.
Slovenia has set aside land for greenfield investments. Most of the newly-developed industrial zones have direct access to well-developed infrastructure, including highways and rail service. Land prices vary greatly. For example, in the eastern Slovenia community of Lendava, one square meter of land costs roughly five euros (USD 5.48), while prices in the vicinity of Ljubljana can run up to 50 euros (USD 54.77) or more. Municipalities and the state often subsidize infrastructure and land costs as incentives to increase employment opportunities, reducing prices for fully-equipped land in industrial zones.
Potential investors may access a full range of free services and concessions provided by local development agencies for start-ups. Such assistance may also include assistance in completing all necessary paperwork, securing permits, and in some cases organizing and financing construction in line with investor requirements. Interested investors may contact the U.S. Embassy in Ljubljana for further information.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Rigid procedures necessary to acquire work permits can be an impediment for foreign investors. It may take as long as two to three months to obtain a single work and residence permit, which is required for local employment. Applicants must submit their single permit application at an administrative unit or at the diplomatic or consular office in their home country. The Ministry of Labor has established a fast-track procedure for foreigners registered as authorized persons or representatives of companies, managers of branch offices, and foreigners who are temporarily sent to work in organizational units for foreign legal persons (corporate entities) registered in Slovenia. More information on single work and residence permits and employment services is available here.
The government does not oblige foreign investors to use domestic content in goods and technology, or to use local data storage.
5. Protection of Property Rights
According to the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 index, registering property in Slovenia requires an average of seven procedures, takes 50.5 days, and costs 2.2 percent of the property’s value. Globally, the World Bank ranks Slovenia 54th out of 190 economies on the ease of registering property.
Administrative reforms implemented in 2011 and 2012 simplified property registration, while increased automation in Slovenia’s land registry reduced property registration delays by 75 percent. Slovenia has also made transferring property easier by introducing online procedures and reducing fees. Virtually all land has a clear title.
The land registry court (local court) initiates the registration process for the entry of a title in the land registry. Amendments to the Land Registry Act adopted in 2009 and implemented in 2011 require submission to the court of proposals with appendices in electronic form. Submissions are tendered via a notary public or attorneys and real estate agencies acting on the applicant’s behalf. In some cases, applicants may submit registrations directly. Other amendments to the Land Registry Act have transferred responsibility from the courts to the notary for depositing original documents (e.g. contracts) attached to submissions, whereby the notary’s confirmation of authenticity renders the evidence value of the electronic version equal to that of the original. The amendments also enable free access via a web portal to the land registry records, including pending notations and land register extracts, neither of which were free prior to the reform.
Land registry proposals are automatically assigned to the least-burdened local court. Once the proposal is filed with the land registry court, the registration process is initiated ex officio and the priority of entry is ensured with a land registry seal. The priority order takes effect the day the proposal has been filed. The buyer may theoretically dispose of the property as soon as the purchase agreement is signed and the buyer obtains (direct or indirect) possession of the property. Buyers whose title is not yet entered into the land registry but who have already taken possession of the property are recognized as proprietary possessor in good faith – the presumed owner. The presumed owner has the right to claim the return of a property in the event of its dispossession from a proprietary possessor in good faith who has the property with a weaker legal title. The buyer may claim the return of the purchase price, but has no claims under the law of property until the title is entered into the land registry. Since May 2011, the law requires submission of proposals in electronic format.
Intellectual Property Rights
Slovenia has enacted advanced and comprehensive legislation for the protection of intellectual property rights (IPR) that fully reflects various EU directives. Slovenia negotiated its commitments under the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) as a developing country and implemented the policy as of January 1996. Slovenia is a full member of the TRIPS Council and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Slovenia has ratified the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the Cyber Crime Convention.
Slovenia’s Intellectual Protection Office actively participates in the Council of Europe’s Intellectual Property Working Group, the Trademark Committee, and other EU bodies engaged in the formulation of new EU IPR legislation. The Copyright and Related Rights Act, as amended in 2015, 2016, and 2019, deals with all aspects of modern copyright and related laws, including traditional works and their authors, computer programs, audiovisual works, and rental and lending rights. The act also takes into account new technologies such as storage and electronic memory, original databases, satellite broadcasting, and cable re-transmission. Slovenia’s 2004 harmonization with EU legislation introduced a new system of collective management of IPR compliant with the latest directives.
The 1994 Law on Courts gives the District Court of Ljubljana exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over IPR disputes. The aim of the law is to ensure specialization of judges and efficiency of relevant proceedings. For enforcement of TRIPS provisions, the law provides a number of civil legal sanctions, including injunctive relief and the removal of the infringement, seizure, and destruction of illegal copies and devices, publication of the judgment in the media, compensatory and punitive damages, border and customs measures, and the securing of evidence and other provisional measures without the prior notification and hearing of the other party. These infringements also constitute a misdemeanor charge, with fines ranging from EUR 400 (USD 470) to EUR 45,000 (USD 53,000) for legal persons and from EUR 40 (USD 47) to EUR 2,000 (USD 2,400) for supervisors of individual offenders, provided that the reported offenses are not criminal in nature. In criminal cases, Slovenia’s Criminal Code applies, which may result in fines or imprisonment. While laws regarding IPR are clearly defined, foreign investors have complained that the court system is too slow.
Since the enactment of the Law on Copyright and Related Rights Act, there have been relatively few reported prosecutions regarding copyright infringements and violations. The most notable cases usually involve computer software piracy. In 2004, a long-running software piracy court case ended with a prison sentence and monetary fine. Slovenia has dedicated resources to training prosecutors and public authorities. Slovenia also continues to address the preservation of evidence in infringement procedures and border measures through amendments to existing legislation. The Ministry of Culture has established the Intellectual Property Fund, the Slovenian Copyright Agency, and the Anti-Piracy Association of Software Dealers to combat the problem of piracy in a collective manner.
Slovenia is not included in USTR’s Special 301 Report or Notorious Markets List.
The Law on Industrial Property grants and protects patents, model and design rights, trademark and service marks, and appellations of origin. The holder of a patent, model, or design right is entitled to exclusively profit from the protected invention, shape, picture, or drawing; exclusively market any products manufactured in accordance with the protected invention, shape, picture, or drawing; dispose of the patent, model, or design right; and prohibit the use of a protected invention, model, or design by any person without consent.
The holder of a trademark has the exclusive right to use the trademark to designate products or services in the course of trade. The authorized user of a protected appellation of origin has the right to use the appellation in the course of trade for labeling products to which the appellation refers.
The patent and trademark rights granted by the Law on Industrial Property take effect from the date of filing the appropriate applications. Patents are granted for 20 years from the date of filing, and model and design rights are granted for 10 years. Trademarks are granted for 10 years but may be renewed an unlimited number of times. The term of an appellation of origin is unlimited. All patents and trademarks are registered through the Intellectual Property Office, and all registers are open to the public. Patent and trademark applications filed in member countries of the International Union for the Protection of Industrial Property are afforded priority rights in Slovenia. The priority period is 12 months for patents and six months for model and design rights.
Any person who infringes upon a patent or trademark right may be held liable for damages and prohibited from carrying on the infringing acts.
The Law on Industrial Property also provides for the contractual licensing of patents, model and design rights, and marks. All license agreements must be in writing and specify the duration of the license, the scope of the license, whether the license is exclusive or non-exclusive, and the amount of remuneration for use of the patent, model and design rights, and marks.
Compulsory licenses may be granted to another person when the invention is in the public interest or the patentee misuses rights granted under the patent. A misuse of a patent occurs when the patentee does not use or insufficiently uses a patented invention and refuses to license other persons to develop or make use of the protected invention, or imposes unjustified conditions on the licensee. If a compulsory license is granted, the patentee is entitled to compensation. Slovenian industrial property legislation fully complies with EU standards.
Capital markets remain relatively underdeveloped given Slovenia’s level of prosperity. Enterprises rarely raise capital through the stock market and tend to rely on the traditional banking system and private lenders to meet their capital needs.
Established in 1990, the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (LSE) is a member of the International Association of Stock Exchanges (FIBV). In 2015, the Zagreb Stock Exchange acquired the LSE. However, the number of companies listed on the exchange is limited and trading volume is very light, with annual turnover similar to a single day’s trading on the NYSE. Low liquidity remains an issue when entering or exiting sizeable positions.
In 1995, the Central Securities Clearing Corporation (KDD) was established to provide central securities custody services, clear and settle securities transactions, and maintain the central securities registry on the LSE electronic trading system. In 2017, KDD successfully aligned its procedures to that of the uniform European securities settlement platform TARGET2-Securities (T2S). In 2019, Slovenia’s Securities Market Agency (ATVP) licensed KDD to operate under the EU’s Central Securities Depository Regulation (CSDR) and provide services as a Central Securities Depository (CSD), pursuant to Article 17 of the Regulation (EU) 909/2014 on improving securities settlement in the European Union and on central securities depositories.
Established in 1994, the ATVP has powers similar to those of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and supervises investment firms, the Ljubljana Stock Exchange (LSE), the KDD, investment funds, and management companies. It also shares responsibility with the Bank of Slovenia for supervision of banking and investment services.
Slovenia adheres to Article VIII of the International Monetary Fund’s Article of Agreement and is committed to full current account convertibility and full repatriation of dividends.
The LSE uses different dissemination systems, including real-time online trading information via Reuters and the Business Data Solutions System. The LSE also publishes information on the Internet at http://www.ljse.si/.
Foreign investors in Slovenia have the same rights as domestic investors, including the ability to obtain credit on the local market.
Money and Banking System
There is a relatively high degree of concentration in Slovenia’s banking sector, with 11 commercial banks, three savings banks, and two foreign bank branches in Slovenia serving two million people. All commercial banks are private as of January 2021, and most have foreign owners and shareholders. SID Bank (Slovenian Export and Development Bank), which supports Slovenian companies’ export activities and provides financing for economic development, remains state-owned. In 2008, the combined effects of the global financial crisis, the collapse of the construction sector, and diminished demand for exports led to significant capital shortfalls. Bank assets declined steadily after 2009 but rebounded in 2016 and have remained steady since then. Since the crisis, most banks have refocused their business activities towards SMEs and individuals/households, prompting larger companies to search for alternative financing sources. According to European Banking Federation data, Slovenia’s banking sector assets totaled EUR 44.7 billion (USD 48.9 billion) at the end of 2020, equaling approximately 96.5 percent of GDP, still EUR 8.2 billion less than the total banking assets volume at the end of 2009, when banking sector assets equaled 146 percent of GDP.
Slovenia’s banking sector was devastated by the 2009 economic crisis. Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB) and Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor (NKBM) faced successive downgrades by credit rating agencies due to the large numbers of nonperforming loans in their portfolios. In 2013, the government established a Bank Asset Management Company (BAMC) with a management board comprised of financial experts to promote stability and restore trust in the financial system. In exchange for bonds, BAMC agreed to manage the nonperforming assets of three major state banks, conducting three such operations from December 2013 through March 2014. The government also injected EUR 3.5 billion (USD 4.2 billion) into Slovenia’s three largest banks, NLB, NKBM, and Abanka. These measures helped recapitalize and revitalize the country’s largest commercial banks.
According to World Bank data, 2.8 percent of NLB’s total assets and an estimated 3.0 percent of all Slovenian banking assets were non-performing as of the end of 2020. According to the Bank of Slovenia, the Slovenian banking sector’s exposure to non-performing loans was 1.2 percent, as of January 2022.
NLB, the country’s largest bank, was privatized in 2019, although the government remains a major shareholder with a 25 percent plus one share stake. Of the remaining shares, more than fifty percent are spread among several international investors on fiduciary account at the Bank of New York, while a number of Slovenian institutional and private investors purchased the remainder. The country’s second largest bank, Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor (NKBM), was sold to an American fund (80 percent) and the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) (20 percent) in 2016. In 2020, NKBM acquired the country’s third largest state-owned bank, Abanka. As of January 2021, the banks have been fully merged. With a total asset of EUR 9.2 billion (USD 11 billion) and approximately 22 percent market share, NKBM is on par with the country’s largest commercial bank, NLB. In May 2021, Hungary’s OTP Bank signed a contract to acquire NKBM, Slovenia’s second largest bank. The deal is expected to be finalized in 2022, pending approval from regulatory authorities.
Following sanctions imposed as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the European Central Bank (ECB) assessed in February 2022 that Sberbank Europe and its two subsidiaries in Croatia and Slovenia were failing or likely to fail due to a deterioration in their liquidity situation. In March 2022, the Bank of Slovenia announced that the country’s largest bank, NLB, acquired Sberbank Slovenia, including its assets, liabilities, and clients. The Bank of Slovenia noted that the swift sale of Sberbank Slovenia helped preserve the banking sector stability in the country.
Banking legislation authorizes commercial banks, savings banks, and stock brokerage firms to purchase securities abroad. Investment funds may also purchase securities abroad, provided they meet specified diversification requirements. The Slovenian government adopted in March 2021 a draft banking legislation, which transposed provisions of an EU directive on exempted entities, financial holding companies, mixed financial holding companies, remuneration, supervisory measures and powers, and capital conservation measures. The new legislation also addresses the 2019 Constitutional Court decision that invalidated a provision that exempted banks from worker representation requirements in corporate governance. Under the proposed legislation, workers will be entitled to at least one seat of a bank’s supervisory board, but these workers’ representatives must meet professional qualifications of the supervisory board. The banking legislation was passed by the National Assembly in June 2021.
In February 2022, Slovenia’s National Assembly passed a bill that retroactively forced Slovenian banks to share the burden of exchange rate fluctuations beyond 10 percent on Swiss Franc loans issued between June 28, 2004, and December 31, 2010, imposing an estimated cost of more than EUR 300 million on banks. The bill also required banks to amend loan contracts within 60 days to include this foreign exchange rate cap or face penalties, including up to revocation of banking licenses. Banks and business associations broadly opposed the bill, expressing concern about the bill’s inconsistencies with existing EU and Slovenian laws and regulations, disproportionately high penalties for incompliance, and the retroactively nature of the bill that calls into question the sanctity of legal contracts in Slovenia. These groups worried that this precedent created unpredictability in the economy and negatively impacted the business climate in Slovenia. Soon after the bill was passed, nine banks with operations in Slovenia requested a constitutionality review. In March 2022, the Constitutional Court stayed the enactment of the bill and will ultimately decide on its legality.
Despite Slovenia’s vibrant blockchain technology ecosystem and several global blockchain companies headquartered in the country, Slovenian banks have been slow to adopt blockchain technologies to process banking transactions.
The Bank of Slovenia, established on June 25, 1991, is Slovenia’s central bank. The Bank of Slovenia has been a member of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) since Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004. The Bank of Slovenia gave up responsibility for monetary policy to the Eurosystem when Slovenia adopted the euro as its currency in 2007. As a member of the Eurosystem, the Bank of Slovenia coordinates with other EU central banks to implement the common monetary policy, manage foreign exchange reserves, ensure the smooth functioning of payment systems, and issue euro banknotes.
Slovenian law allows non-residents to open bank accounts in Slovenia on presentation of a passport, a Slovenian tax number, and a foreign tax number. Company owners must be present to open a business bank account.
Slovenia’s takeover legislation is fully harmonized with EU regulations. In 2006, Slovenia implemented EU Directive 2004/25/ES by adopting a new takeover law. The law was amended in 2008 to reflect Slovenia’s adoption of the euro as its currency. The law defines a takeover as a party’s acquisition of 25 percent of a company’s voting rights and requires the public announcement of a potential takeover offer for all current shareholders. The acquiring party must publicly issue a takeover offer for each additional acquisition of 10 percent of voting rights until it has acquired 75 percent of voting rights. The law also stipulates that the acquiring party must inform the share issuer whenever its stake in the target company reaches, surpasses, or drops below five, 10, 20, 25, 33, 50, or 75 percent. The law applies to all potential takeovers.
It is common for acquisitions to be blocked or delayed, and drawn out negotiations and stalled takeovers have hurt Slovenia’s reputation in global financial markets. In 2015, the privatization of Slovenia’s state-owned telecommunications company, Telekom Slovenije, failed in large part due to political attempts to discourage the sale of a state-owned company. Slovenia’s biggest retailer, Mercator, faced similar challenges in 2014 when a lengthy and arduous process and strong domestic opposition preceded its eventual sale to a Croatian buyer. The U.S.-owned Central European Media Enterprises dropped its politically controversial sale of Slovenian media house Pro Plus to then-U.S. owned United Group in January 2019 after the Competition Protection Agency failed to issue a ruling on the proposed acquisition despite reviewing the case for more than 18 months. The government has also struggled to meet its commitment to open Slovenia’s economy to international capital markets.
Thirteen insurance companies, two re-insurance companies, three retirement companies, and five branches of foreign firms operate in Slovenia. The three largest insurance companies in Slovenia account for over 60 percent of the market, with the largest, state-owned Triglav d.d., controlling 37 percent, while foreign insurance companies constitute less than 10 percent. In 2016, two Slovenian and two Croatian insurance companies merged into a new company, SAVA. Insurance companies primarily invest their assets in non-financial companies, state bonds, and bank-issued bonds.
Since 2000, there have been significant changes in legislation regulating the insurance sector. The Ownership Transformation of Insurance Companies Act, which seeks to privatize insurance companies, has stalled on several occasions due to ambiguity over the estimated share of state-controlled capital. Although plans for insurance sector privatization have been under discussion since 2005, there has been no implementation.
Slovenia currently has three registered health insurance companies and a variety of companies offering other kinds of insurance. Under EU regulations, any insurance company registered in the EU can market its services in Slovenia, provided the insurance supervision agency of the country where the company is headquartered has notified the Slovenian Supervision Agency of the company’s intentions.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
Slovenia adheres to Article VIII of the IMF Article of Agreement and is committed to full current account convertibility and full repatriation of dividends. To repatriate profits, joint stock companies must provide evidence of the settlement of tax liabilities, notarized evidence of distribution of profits to shareholders, and proof of joint stock company membership (Article of Association). All other companies must provide evidence of the settlement of tax liabilities and the company’s act of establishment.
For the repatriation of shares in a domestic company, the party must submit its act of establishment, a contract on share withdrawal, and evidence of the settlement of tax liabilities to the authorized bank.
Slovenia replaced its previous currency, the Slovenian tolar, with the euro in January 2007. The Eurozone has a freely floating exchange rate.
Not applicable/information not available.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
Slovenia does not have a sovereign wealth fund.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
Private enterprises compete on the same terms and conditions as public enterprises with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.
State-owned and partially state-owned enterprises (SOE) are present across most industries in Slovenia. The state has never undergone a wholesale privatization program and has retained significant ownership shares in many large companies since independence. According to a 2017 OECD report on SOEs, 37 companies with a total value of USD 12.5 billion and employing 47,000 people were majority state owned. In 2020, an OECD report assessed that privatization has progressed slowly, with the Slovenian Sovereign Holdings (SSH) maintaining controlling shares in most SOEs. Most state-owned companies are in the energy, transportation, public utilities, telecommunications, insurance, and financial sectors, although the government successfully completed the privatization of the three largest state-owned banks by 2020. Other economic sectors, including retail, entertainment, construction, tourism, and manufacturing, include important firms that are either wholly state-owned or in which the state maintains a controlling interest by virtue of holding the largest single block of shares.
In general, SOEs do not receive a greater share of contracts or business than private sector competitors in sectors that are open to private and foreign competition. SOEs acquire goods and services from private and foreign firms. SOEs must follow strict government procurement agreements which require transparent procedures available to all firms. Private firms compete under the same terms and conditions with respect to market share, products, and incentives. All firms have the same access to financing.
SOEs are subject to the same laws as private companies and must fully comply with all legal obligations. They must submit to independent audits and publish annual reports if required (for example, if the SOE is listed on the stock exchange or the size of the company meets a certain threshold). Reporting standards are comparable to international financial reporting standards.
Slovenia is an active participant in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Working Party on State Ownership and Privatization Practices and adheres to the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs.
Following OECD recommendations, the government established the Capital Asset Management Agency (AUKN) in 2010 to increase transparency and promote more efficient management of SOEs. In 2013, authorities transformed the AUKN into the Slovenian Sovereign Holding (SSH), which is charged with simplifying and shortening the administrative process of privatizing state assets. SSH took over all AUKN portfolios as well as the portfolios of two other smaller state-owned funds. More than 95 percent of SSH funds are invested domestically. SSH is an independent state authority that reports to the National Assembly. It provides the National Assembly with annual reports regarding the previous year’s implementation of the Annual Plan of the Corporate Governance of Capital Investments. The government then adopts the Annual Plan of the Corporate Governance of Capital Investments based on SSH’s proposal.
Foreign investors may participate in the public-bidding processes on an equal basis. However, interested parties often describe the bidding process as opaque, with unclear or unenforced deadlines.
In 2015, the government prepared an asset management strategy that classified state-owned assets as strategic, important, or portfolio assets. In companies classified as strategic, the state will maintain or obtain at least a 50 percent plus one share. In companies classified as important, the state will maintain a controlling share (25 percent plus one share). In companies classified as portfolio, it is not mandatory for the state to maintain a controlling share. The government reclassified the list of companies in 2017.
The concept of Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) has become increasingly popular among Slovenia’s business community, but the due-diligence approach is not yet commonly recognized. However, to raise their public profiles and improve their images among the public, larger international companies have increasingly undertaken activities such as sponsoring sports teams and community events in the name of corporate social responsibility. Larger Slovenian companies have also focused on developing environmentally-friendly images by implementing green technologies and adhering to high environmental standards.
As an OECD member, Slovenia adheres to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and encourages foreign and local enterprises to follow generally accepted RBC principles, including the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Slovenia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Technology is the National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines.
Slovenia effectively and fairly enforces domestic laws pertaining to human rights, labor rights, consumer protection, environmental protections, and other laws and regulations to protect individuals from adverse business impacts. Independent NGOs, labor unions, and business associations promote and monitor RBC and are able to conduct their work freely. The government adopted a National Action Plan on Business and Human Rights in November 2018 to strengthen activities to ensure that human rights are respected in business activities throughout the value chain and encourage cooperation between government, businesses, unions, NGOs, and other stakeholders. Slovenia is not a signatory to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights, but adheres to the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Mineral Supply Chains.
Slovenia is a signatory of The Montreux Document on Private Military and Security Companies since 2012.
According to the Slovenia’s Institute for Nature Protection, 41.44 percent of Slovenian territory falls under a protected area or under Natura 2000 – a European network of core breeding and resting sites for rare and threatened species. Natura 2000 covers 37 percent of Slovenia’s territory, among the largest within the European Union (EU). In Slovenia, 71 plant species, 15 genera and one family and 389 animal species, 34 orders and 17 genera are protected. 58 percent of the country’s territory is covered by forests, one of the largest shares in Europe, behind only Sweden and Finland.
Slovenia, in line with the EU, is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) and achieving climate neutrality by 2050. In July 2021, Parliament approved Slovenia’s long-term climate strategy, which envisions cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90 percent by 2050, compared to 2005 levels, focusing on transport, energy, industry, agriculture, waste, land use, and forestry to reach targets. Slovenia’s current National Climate and Energy Plan (adopted in February 2020), which details Slovenia’s plan to reach its climate goals, focuses on reducing emissions, improving energy efficiency, reducing energy consumption, and focusing on scientific advances. Slovenia will update the National Climate and Energy Plan by 2023.
In general, climate issues garner broad support across both political and public spectrums in Slovenia. With the EU approving Slovenia’s national recovery and resilience plan in July 2021, the country began drawing EUR 2.5 billion from the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility to develop and implement green transition projects. The Slovenian government plans to begin implementation of the national plan in the second half of 2022 and must complete projects by the 2026 deadline.
Slovenia has no bribery statute comparable to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. However, Chapter 24 of the Slovenian Criminal Code (SCC) provides statutory provisions for criminal offenses in the economic sector. Corruption in the economy may take many forms, including collusion among private firms or public officials using influence to appoint patrons to the boards of SOEs.
The SCC calls for criminal sanctions against officials of private firms for forgery or destruction of business documents, unauthorized use or disclosure of business secrets, insider trading, embezzlement, acceptance of gifts under certain circumstances, money laundering, and tax evasion.
Articles 241 and 242 of the SCC make it illegal for a person performing a commercial activity to demand or accept undue rewards, gifts, or other material benefits that will ultimately result in harm or neglect to a business organization.
Under Article 261 of the SCC, public officials cannot request or accept a gift to perform or omit an official act within the scope of their official duties. The acceptance of a bribe by a public official may result in a fine or imprisonment of no less than one year, with a maximum sentence of five years. The law also stipulates the seizure of the accepted gift or bribe.
Article 262 holds the gift’s donor accountable, making it illegal for natural persons or legal entities to bribe public officials with gifts. Violation of this article carries a sentence of up to three years. In cases in which the gift giver discloses the attempted bribery before it is detected or discovered, punishment may be reduced.
The State Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for the enforcement of anti-bribery laws. The number of cases of actual bribery is small and generally limited to instances involving inspection and tax collection. The Prosecutor’s Office has reported that obtaining evidence is difficult in bribery cases, making it equally difficult to prosecute. In 2010, the government established the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (CPC), an independent state body with a broad mandate to investigate corruption, prevent breaches of ethics, and ensure the integrity of public officials. The CPC is not part of Slovenia’s law enforcement or prosecution system, and its employees do not have traditional police powers. However, the CPC has broad legal powers to access and subpoena financial and other documents, question public servants and officials, conduct administrative investigations, and direct law enforcement bodies to gather additional information and evidence within the limits of their authority. The CPC may also issue fines for violations.
In 2011, to combat Slovenia’s ongoing problems with corruption and non-transparent procedures in public procurement, authorities established a new government-wide Public Procurement Agency under the Ministry of Justice to carry out all public procurements over established EU thresholds, including goods and services above EUR 40,000 (USD 47,000) and projects above EUR 80,000 (USD 93,000). In June 2012, the Ministry of Finance took over the agency’s duties and employees. In 2016, the Directorate for Public Procurement was established under the Ministry of Public Administration to oversee public procurements. By law, the National Review Commission provides non-judicial review of all public procurements.
Corruption remains an ongoing problem, although its prevalence is relatively limited and there is no evidence that corruption has been an obstacle to FDI. However, U.S. companies continue to report challenges in some sectors, such as a strong preference for incumbent vendors and tenders written in a way to favor a predetermined winner. Such practices prevent U.S. companies from competing on a level playing field in the public procurement process. The small size of Slovenia’s political and economic elite contributes to a lack of transparency in government procurement and widespread cronyism in the business sector. Several prominent national and local political figures have been charged or tried for corruption in public procurements. Slovenia convicted its first senior public official for accepting a bribe in 2001 and its first member of parliament in 2010. In 2008, investigators accused several public officials, including the prime minister, of accepting bribes from the Finnish defense contractor Patria related to an armored personnel carrier procurement. Although three defendants, including the current prime minister, were convicted in 2013, the convictions were annulled on appeal. In February 2021, four orthopedic surgeons and a salesperson were convicted and sentenced to prison in one of the largest healthcare corruption trials in Slovenia. The court found that the doctors received a bribe in exchange for continuing to use medical supplies made by a particular producer. The court decision is currently under appeal, but the case marks one of the first convictions for corruption in the national healthcare system.
The CPC has instituted a new system for tracking corruption in public procurement at the municipal level and has uncovered numerous violations since implementation. The CPC also operates with a broad mandate to prevent and investigate breaches of ethics and integrity involving holders of public office. The president of Slovenia appoints the leadership of CPC, which reports to the National Assembly.
Slovenia ratified the UN Anticorruption Convention in 2008.
Slovenia is a party to the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
Resources to Report Corruption
Contact at the government agency or agencies that are responsible for combating corruption:
Samo Bardutzky, Ph.D.
Transparency International Slovenia
Vožarski pot 12, 1000 Ljubljana
Tel +386 1 3207325
Assistance for U.S. Businesses: The U.S. Department of Commerce offers several services to U.S. businesses seeking to address business-related corruption issues. For example, it may assist U.S. companies in conducting due diligence as part of the company’s overarching compliance program when choosing business partners or agents overseas. The U.S. Foreign Commercial Service may be reached through its offices in major U.S. and foreign cities, or through its website at http://www.trade.gov/cs.
The Departments of Commerce and State provide worldwide support for qualified U.S. companies bidding on foreign government contracts through the Commerce Department’s Advocacy Center and State’s Office of Commercial and Business Affairs. U.S. companies may report problems encountered in seeking such foreign business opportunities, including alleged corruption by foreign governments or competitors, to appropriate U.S. officials at the U.S. Embassy and the Department of Commerce Trade Compliance Center’s “Report a Trade Barrier” website at http://tcc.export.gov/Report_a_Barrier/index.asp.
Guidance on the U.S. FCPA: The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) FCPA Opinion Procedure enables U.S. firms and individuals to request a statement on the Justice Department’s present enforcement intentions under the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions regarding any proposed business conduct. The details of the opinion procedure are available on DOJ’s Fraud Section Website at http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa. Although the Department of Commerce has no enforcement role with respect to the FCPA, it supplies general guidance to U.S. exporters who have questions about the FCPA and international developments concerning the FCPA. For further information, see the website of the Office of the Chief Counsel for International Counsel, U.S. Department of Commerce, at https://ogc.commerce.gov/.
Exporters and investors should be aware that virtually all countries prohibit the bribery of public officials and prohibit officials from soliciting bribes under domestic laws. As party to various international conventions, most countries are required to criminalize such bribery and other acts of corruption.
10. Political and Security Environment
Except for its brief, 10-day war of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991, there have been no significant incidents of political violence in Slovenia since independence.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic upheaval, Slovenia’s unemployment rate had fallen steadily since 2014 and reached a ten-year low of 4.5 percent at the end of 2019. Although inflation prior to the crisis remained low at about two percent, private sector contacts reported increasing difficulties in finding qualified staff, which might be expected to put upward pressure on wages and salaries. The government’s COVID-19 stimulus measures focused on preserving jobs, mitigating the brunt of the impact of the pandemic on the labor market. In 2020, the unemployment rate rose slightly to 4.97 percent.
Slovenia fully harmonized its labor legislation with the EU in 2004. In line with this legislation, Slovenia maintains strict rules on issuing work permits to non-EU applicants. The 2001 Employment of Aliens Act introduced a quota system for work permits and simplified the procedure for obtaining such permits for foreigners who have worked and lived in Slovenia for an extended period.
Slovenia’s wage-setting practice follows the “social partners” model, designed to contain upward pressure by centralizing wage decisions. In practice, however, high wage expectations have pushed Slovenia’s wage levels above those of its neighbors in the Western Balkans. Despite these pressures, Slovenia’s well-educated labor force and position as a productive transition economy allows it to remain competitive in niche markets.
In 2003, Slovenia adopted an Employment Relationship Act that defines a full-time workweek as 36 to 40 hours (made up of six to eight-hour days, including a 30-minute lunch break). The act increases protections for critical working groups (including women and children) and eases the conditions under which an employer may terminate employees. Amendments to the act adopted in 2013 further eased the conditions for termination of employment. In December 2020, a provision allowing employers to unilaterally terminate workers once formal conditions for retirement were met was included in the government’s COVID-19 stimulus package and passed in the National Assembly, but is currently being reviewed by the courts. Slovenia’s labor force performs well in higher value-added activities that utilize its skilled technicians and engineers at a competitive cost. Despite the introduction of policies offering greater labor market flexibility, however, labor market rules and regulations remain quite rigid, and investors find that laying off workers is more difficult than in the United States.
Low unemployment and demands from public sector unions have placed upward pressure on wages. In November 2015, the National Assembly endorsed a motion sponsored by trade unions to exempt bonuses for night, weekend, and holiday work from the minimum wage and force employers to pay these wages separately. The National Assembly approved legislation in December 2018 to phase in a ten percent minimum wage increase over two years, from its previous after-tax level of EUR 638 per month (USD 691) to EUR 667 (USD 723) in 2019 and EUR 700 (USD 759) in 2020. In addition, the National Assembly agreed to exempt some salary bonuses from taxation. Given such rapid increases in the minimum wage, Slovenia has lost its cost competitiveness in many sectors.
In December 2018, the government initialed an agreement with public sector unions to increase salaries, pensions, and bonuses for most public employees, averting fears of public sector strikes while increasing public expenditures by EUR 308 million in 2019-20. Several public sector unions rejected the agreement as insufficient however, including those representing judicial workers, accountants, municipal traffic wardens, soldiers, and some healthcare workers. In November 2019, the National Assembly adopted changes to the retirement law to remove differential treatment for men and women and encourage older workers to remain in the job market.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
Slovenia signed a bilateral agreement with the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in 1994. Although OPIC and its successor Development Finance Corporation (DFC) continue to offer several investment finance and insurance programs in Slovenia, including loan guarantees, direct loans, and political violence and expropriation insurance, American businesses trading or investing in the country typically do not turn to these sources for political risk insurance or loans at competitive rates given that Slovenia is a politically stable EU member with a relatively high GDP.
The U.S. Export-Import Bank offers short-, medium-, and long-term public and private sector programs in Slovenia. In 1999, the Slovenian Export Corporation (SEC) and the U.S. Export-Import Bank signed a memorandum on cooperation in financing, insuring, and reinsuring exports to Southeast European countries. In 2007, the SEC restructured to become SID Bank (the Slovenian Export and Development Bank). More information is available on its website http://www.sid.si/.
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
Host Country Statistical source*
USG or international statistical source
USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
N.B.: The Bank of Slovenia (BoS), in its official data, lists U.S. FDI at approximately EUR 66 million in 2020, or 0.4 percent of total inward FDI. However, this amount does not reflect significant investments by U.S. firms not listed as U.S. in origin by the BoS, as U.S. funds are often routed through third-country subsidiaries. In 2017, the BoS began reporting FDI according to the ultimate investing country or originating country of capital. It estimated that USD 1.71 billion (EUR 1.55 billion euros) or 9.4 percent of Slovenia’s total FDI originated in the United States in 2020, putting the United States behind Austria andGermany as a source of foreign investment in Slovenia.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Comment: IMF data are consistent with Bank of Slovenia data.
Note: The Bank of Slovenia has made an additional breakdown of inward FDI according to the ultimate source of capital. It shows that Germany, the United States, Japan, the Russian Federation, and Mexico are all much more important investor countries in Slovenia than is suggested by the breakdown by the immediate partner country. The U.S. ranks third with 1.48 billion euros (USD 1.71 billion) in 2020.