Slovenia is a small country in Central Europe, but contains within its borders Alpine mountains, thick forests, historic cities and a short Adriatic coastline, It initially enjoyed substantial economic and political stability after gaining independence from Yugoslavia.
Slovenia was the first former Yugoslav republic to join the European Union, in May 2004 – a few months after joining Nato.
Unlike Croatia or Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia’s independence from Yugoslavia was almost bloodless.
The move was undoubtedly aided by Western European recognition of the Slovenes’ aspirations and the low proportion of other ethnic groups in the country.
Slovenia had always been the most prosperous region of the former Yugoslavia and found the transition from a state economy to the free market easier than most.
On 1 January 2007, it became the first of the new EU member states to join the eurozone. A year later, it became the first former communist state to take on the EU presidency.
Long regarded as one of the best-performing new EU members, Slovenia was dragged into a deep recession by the European financial crisis in 2012, prompting fears that it may need an international bailout. The government announced plans for tough austerity measures, sparking mass protests.
Politically, Slovenia was the most liberal republic within Yugoslavia. Throughout the 1980s there was pressure from Slovenia for greater political freedom and pluralism in the federation.
This reputation was tarnished after independence when thousands of nationals of other former Yugoslav republics were removed from population records and lost residency rights.
Parliament later passed a bill restoring their citizenship but a referendum held shortly before EU entry in 2004 overturned it by an overwhelming margin. Human rights groups expressed dismay at the move which embarrassed the leadership as it prepared to celebrate EU membership.
Slovenia’s relations with Croatia have long been strained on account of a rumbling dispute over sea and land borders dating back to the break-up of Yugoslavia.
Slovenia dropped its opposition to Croatia’s joining Nato in March 2009, but continued to block its neighbour’s EU membership bid for a further eight months – only agreeing to lift the veto after a deal on the Piran border dispute in November 2009.