Slovenia lies in Central-Southern Europe and has 1,086 km of land borders with Hungary to the north, Croatia to the east and Italy and Austria to the west, as well as 47 km of coastline. This small but topographically diverse country is made up of parts of four major European geographic landscapes, namely the European Alps, the karstic Dinaric Alps, the Pannonian and Danubian lowlands and hills, and the Mediterranean coast. Slovenia is among the three most forested countries of Europe, with more than half the country covered in forests.
Slovenia is home to approximately 2.1 million and was part of Yugoslavia for most of the 20th century where it fell under communist rule for most of the post-World War II period. About nine-tenths of Slovenia’s people are ethnically Slovene, descendants of settlers from the 6th century AD. Italians and Hungarians form the main ethnic minority groups and, although less common, communities of Roma or gypsies remain resident throughout the country. During the period around World War I, a third of the population emigrated overseas.
The country saw Italian occupation after World War I, which saw more Slovenians leave under the threat of fascism. Economic growth followed, and this staunched emigration. World War II, however, saw a depressed economy and communist regime resulting in yet another mass migration. Approximately 100,000 Slovenes left for Australia, Canada, Argentine and the United States between 1945 and 1970. After the Yugoslav federation dissolved in 1991, Slovenia’s economic prosperity attracted migrants from the Balkans. The early 21st century saw Slovenia integrated with western Europe both economically and politically.
Education in Slovenia is almost fully financed from the state budget although local authorities do finance a small share. Schooling is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 15. Almost every Slovenian is insured under the state’s system of health insurance, which is divided into compulsory health insurance, voluntary health insurance for additional coverage, and insurance for those services not covered by compulsory insurance. Social security influences the social position of Slovenians in the areas of taxation, employment and work, and through grants, housing policy, family policy, health care and education.
Social security is based on contributions by all employed and self-employed persons. Social services cover parental allowance, partial payment for loss of earnings, assistance for the birth of a child, child benefit, large family allowance, and childcare allowance.
Slovenia offers the mountains, Alps, the beach, culture and history. It also boasts four UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Heritage of Mercury. Almadén and Idrija; Prehistoric Pile Dwellings around the Alps; Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe and the Škocjan Caves.
Mercury was mined until recently from the mining sites of Almadén in Spain and Idrija in Slovenia, which remain the two largest mercury mines in the world. Mercury was first found in Idrija in 1490.
Slovenia is both a Schengen country and a member of the European Union. As such, nationals of non-EU countries outside the Schengen zone currently benefiting from the visa liberation policy will have to apply for ETIAS pre-authorisation before travelling to Slovenia after 2021. The European Commission proposed implementing the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) as a visa-waiver option.
Australians will be required to apply for ETIAS to travel, at a nominal fee, through an online process which takes a few minutes to complete. Authorisation is received electronically within minutes and is held in the passport. This authorisation to enter the European borders is valid for three years or until the holding passport expires, whichever is first.
This implementation of ETIAS as a VISA waiver was prompted by terrorism and uncontrolled immigrant issues recently experienced in Europe. This pre-authorisation system will identify risks to European safety and security during the online application process before they even reach the borders. Although current Schengen restrictions will still apply, security across Europe is expected to be improved by its implementation in 2021.
Slovenian settlers arrived in Australia as far back as the mid-nineteenth century, when it was part of the Hapsburg Empire. Many Slovenians escaped the then Yugoslavia after World War II, to refugee camps in Italy and Austria, from where most migrated to countries such as Australia that were welcoming immigrants. Many Slovenian men worked these early years on the Snowy Mountains Scheme, the Queensland sugar cane fields or on railway projects in remote areas. Slovenian women usually took up domestic work.
Bilateral agreements between Australia and Slovenia include the Working and Holiday Visa Arrangement, a Reciprocal Health Care Agreement and the Agreement on Social Security.
Australia’s Slovenian migrant community is small but active. Approximately 6,099 Slovenian-born residents live in Australia, with 17,153 claiming Slovenian ancestry.
Australia has long had their own visa-waiver system, known as Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA). Slovenians must apply for this before travelling to Australia. Australians can presently travel to Slovenia with only a valid passport. When ETIAS is rolled out in 2021, Australians will have to complete the online ETIAS application before embarking on travel to Slovenia, whether by land, air or sea.