On January the 15th of 2013, the Slovenian daily newspaper Delo announced to the world that the nation’s government had become clinically dead, following up with the rhetorical question of whether or not it is possible to resuscitate it and get the small European out of its economic humdrums. The paper openly questioned whether or not Prime Minister Janez Jansa will have the gumption to stay on despite a sinking ship. He had been expected by some to have stepped down within days of the publication, while other pundits and voters believed he would stay as long as he could bear it. Slovenian political pundit Tomaz Saunik suggested that no matter what path he chose, Jansa would fall, and that the Slovenian economy would come tumbling down after him.
Slovenia has weathered many of the economic slow-downs that have kept the Eurozone stagnant for nearly half a decade, since the small nation enjoys both a favorable export market with partners like neighboring Austria and Italy as well as a strong tourism market that provides a major percent of the nation’s fifty-billion Euro gross domestic product. While Slovenia has done better for itself than some other central European states, the outlook for the nation’s economy (and its political puppetmasters) appears much more grim than previously thought. On January 11th, thousands of protestors flocked into the downtown area of capital city Ljubljana to protest against government corruption as well as the poor job market for students and youth. While Slovenia has a higher employment rate than the overall Eurozone at 88 percent, the employment rate amongst citizens thirty and younger is the lower than the EU average.
Unlike Eurozone nations like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Ireland, which all have taken austerity to new heights, the problem in Slovenia is not an abundance of borrowing but a paucity of wealth. The nation’s GDP fell by two and a half percent during 2012 (a figure on par with the rest of the EU) and is pegged to drop up to another two percent this year. There is still plenty of wealth in the country, but more and more of it is held by a smaller and smaller group of elite oligarchs. Bostjan Videmsek, editor of the Delo, claims that Slovenia has become a country like a small Russia, only without the natural resources.
What will happen to Slovenia is up in the air. The bailouts proposed for some members of the EU may leave Slovenia looking to Germany or France in search of their own handout. After all, Slovenia has a better track record for spending and would make a better posterchild for recovery. At the same time, neighboring Croatia will join the EU in July, but only after it negotiates a controversy with the Slovenian national bank. If the government, lead by PM Jansa, can agree to a negotiation, it will put plenty of Euros back in Slovenia’s coffers. If not, Slovenia can attempt to block Croatia’s entrance, which would cause serious economic havoc in central Europe.