26.1 Introduction

This chapter explores the general institutional framework by which Slovenian authorities interact with nationals abroad, with a focus on reviewing the type and scope of diaspora engagement policies in the area of social protection. It shows that the country’s engagement with its diaspora is mostly of political and cultural nature, which is manifested in granting extensive voting rights and adopting policies that are embracing and promoting the ethno-nationalist ideas of joint Slovenian ancestry, ethnic identity and cultural heritage. However, extending social protection to diaspora beyond the basic social security bilateral agreements has not been a specific priority. In line with this political and policy agenda, Slovenia gives preferential access to Slovenian citizenship to descendants of emigrants. It has also introduced a law that grants a variety of privileges to Slovenian emigrants and their descendants who do not possess Slovenian citizenship, such as preferential enrolment at institutions of higher education, access to national funding for scientific research and priority in employment over third country nationals. Social protection for emigrant populations, however, remains limited across the main social policy areas. This can be explained also by the structure of the Slovenian social protection system, which is based on compulsory social insurance contributions and is inextricably linked to the status of employment in the Republic of Slovenia as the main basis for benefit entitlement. The chapter first outlines the main characteristics of Slovenian diaspora, diaspora infrastructure, and key engagement policies. It then presents the main findings relating to the support of Slovenia to its non-resident nationals in the area of social protection.

26.2 Diaspora Characteristics and Home Country Engagement

26.2.1 Slovenian Diaspora and Its Relations with the Homeland

Slovenians have been emigrating from their ethnic territory in substantial numbers ever since the nineteenth century and have thus developed diasporic communities in many countries around the world (Žitnik Serafin et al. 2018). The most substantial emigration of Slovenians prior to World War I was to the United States of America (USA), when Slovenia was still part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but emigration to Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Belgium and the neighbouring ethnic territories of Austria and Croatia was notable as well. It is estimated that around 300,000 Slovenians emigrated during this period, one of the main reasons being to escape poverty and seek greater economic opportunities (Žigon 1993). This means that around 23% of Slovenians decided to leave the homeland, which is a substantial percentage that places the rate of Slovenian emigration at the time on par with the Spanish or Swedish (Massey in Lazarević 2017: 58). The rise of Italian fascism and poverty during the World Wars, when Slovenia was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, encouraged another extensive emigration of Slovenians to the then-rich and prosperous South American state of Argentina. Incidentally, Argentina was also a destination of choice for the opponents of communism and the socialist political system in Yugoslavia that came into place after the Second World War. Emigration of Slovenians from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was mainly directed towards European countries, most notably Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and France (Žigon 1993).

After Slovenia declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 and became an independent state for the first time in history, the rate of emigration decreased, but started rising again continuously ever since Slovenia joined the European Union (EU) in 2004 (Valentinčič 2017). According to the Statistical Office of the Republic of Slovenia, 9900 Slovenian citizens emigrated from Slovenia in 2017.Footnote 1 Most of them left for Austria (25%), Germany (19%), Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Negative net migration of Slovenian citizens was recorded for the eighteenth consecutive year.Footnote 2 In terms of stock, it is estimated that approximately half a million Slovenians currently reside abroad,Footnote 3 although only 160,000 are estimated to be holders of Slovenian citizenship.Footnote 4 They reside in EU countries, most notably in Germany, Austria and Croatia, but also in Canada, Argentina, Australia and United States of America. More reliable statistical data on Slovenians residing abroad is not available as the Statistical Office of Slovenia does not systematically follow the number of Slovenian citizens abroad and bases its estimations on the data derived from the Central Population Register kept by the Ministry of Interior.Footnote 5

Slovenians have been emigrating at various historical periods for a variety of reasons. As a result, the Slovenian diaspora is widely heterogeneous in terms of gender, socioeconomic status, education, political and religious convictions and willingness to engage with the homeland. Yet, as is often the case with young and small countries that were historically part of large empires or federal states, the imagining of Slovenian diaspora has been mystified, glorified and mythologised (Josipovič 2017) and has tended to ignore this heterogeneity for the purpose of legitimising the joint nationalistic ideal of Slovenianess (Skrbiš 2003). In this respect, the nation of origin, according to Valentinčič (2014) occupies an important role in preserving the Slovenian culture in border regions, a principle which is reaffirmed in the highest legal act, the Constitution, in which Slovenia has ‘committed itself to devoting special attention to its national minorities in neighbouring countries as well as to Slovenian emigrants and workers abroad’ (ibid.: 64). In a broader perspective, such constitutional provisions could be read as a reaffirmation of the kin-state position as one of the main features of the democratic transition in Central and Eastern Europe in which post-socialist states assumed special responsibilities for the protection of their co-nationals living beyond nation-state borders (Gazsó 2017).

Following this logic, the Act Regulating Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians Abroad,Footnote 6 adopted in 2006, states that all Slovenians abroad are an equal part of the unified Slovenian nation and aims at maintaining and developing the Slovenian language and culture, preserving cultural heritage and national identity among Slovenians abroad, as well as facilitating the integration of Slovenians abroad into the social, cultural and political life of Slovenia. The Act relates to all Slovenians abroad irrespective of their formal citizenship statusFootnote 7 and, in addition, introduces a new status of “Slovenian without Slovenian citizenship”. Acquisition of this status primarily depends on descent, activity in Slovenian organisations abroad and active ties with the homeland. The status brings some benefits (preferential enrolment at higher education institutions, equal property rights, access to national funding for scientific research, priority in employment over third country nationals) and is granted by the Government’s Office for Slovenians AbroadFootnote 8 (Medved 2013: 17–18). According to the Act, all Slovenians living abroad are considered as part of the unified Slovenian nation, but special attention and corresponding support is given especially to Slovenians residing in the four neighbouring countries (Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia), which are considered as autochthonous Slovenians and have the legal status of a national minority.Footnote 9 The said support primarily relates to the maintenance of Slovenian language, culture and heritage as it is considered that the Republic of Slovenia and the neighbouring geographical territories occupied by autochthonous Slovenians constitute a joint Slovenian cultural space that should be maintained and strengthened.

26.2.2 Diaspora Infrastructure

The main institutions mandated to establish, pursue and promote cooperation between Slovenia and Slovenians abroad are the Government’s Office for Slovenians Abroad (chaired by a Minister without portfolio) and the Commission of the National Assembly for Regulating Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians abroad. The Government’s Office for Slovenians Abroad is responsible for establishing and maintaining relations between the Republic of Slovenia and the autochthonous Slovenian national minorities in the neighbouring countries, and between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians abroad. The Office encourages cultural, economic, scientific networking and provides financial support, by means of public tenders, for programmes and projects relating to the activities of the Slovenian diaspora. The yearly call for proposals is intended for two separate categories of beneficiaries: Slovenians abroad and Slovenian national minorities in the neighbouring countries. Most commonly, funding is approved for clubs, societies, associations and other organisations that carry out various activities to promote the maintenance of Slovenian culture and identity. In 2019, successful applicants in the category ‘Slovenians abroad’ received 880,000 EUR in total, while a substantially higher amount of 6,180,000 EUR was awarded to the activities of and/or for ‘Slovenian national minorities’. The Government’s Office for Slovenians Abroad recently also developed several action plans to address, for instance, the cooperation between Slovenian scientists in Slovenia and abroad, cooperation and support to young Slovenians abroad, and economic cooperation between Slovenia and Slovenian national minorities.Footnote 10 The effect of these plans is yet to be researched.

Another important institution is the Commission at the National Assembly for Regulating Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians abroad, a working group of members of the parliament from different parties, which monitors the implementation of the policy concerning Slovenians abroad and the cooperation of religious communities, civil society organisations and other relevant entities of or with Slovenians abroad. It takes part in policymaking in matters that affect Slovenians abroad and advocates for their interests in drafting and adopting the national budgets of the Republic of Slovenia, co-formulates and proposes programmes of national interest pertaining to concern for Slovenians in neighbouring and other countries, and informs the parliament about concrete problems that Slovenians abroad are faced with – primarily those relating to maintaining Slovenian culture, language and identity.

In addition, two permanent advisory bodies of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia have been set up, both of them being concerned with the Slovenian diaspora: the Council for Slovenians Abroad and the Council for Slovenians in Neighbouring Countries. Both councils are headed by the Prime Minister, who appoints their members (representatives of state agencies, institutions, political organisations and civil society organisations from Slovenia and of Slovenians abroad), proposed to the Prime Minister by their organisations. The Council for Slovenians Abroad consists of four representatives of Slovenians living in European states (including two representatives from the former Yugoslavia); three representatives living in South America (two of them living in Argentina); three representatives of Slovenians living in North America (including two living in the USA and one living in Canada); two representatives of Slovenians living in Australia and one representative of Slovenians living in the countries of other continents. The council is normally in session once a year (Medved 2013, 2014). It has no direct role in social protection policies relating to or relevant for Slovenians abroad.

Outside the geographical territory of Slovenia, direct assistance is provided to Slovenian nationals abroad and persons of Slovenian descent at 40 Slovenian embassies and 108 consulates around the world.Footnote 11 The embassies and consulates assist in issuing identity documents (passports, personal identity cards), certificates (birth, marriage, and death), provide assistance with administrative procedures carried out in Slovenia, authenticating documents and handling inheritance-related issues. They help to establish contact with lawyers, translators, health facilities and funeral services. They also facilitate the obtainment of funds for return to Slovenia by contacting family members or friends of a person that wishes to return, but they do not provide financial assistance themselves. Only in matters of extreme urgency, when individuals have no one who could provide them with funds for fundamental necessities and return to the country of residence, they can provide them with a loan. As will be discussed in more detail in the next section, Slovenian representations abroad also assist in cases of repatriation of Slovenians in emergency situations, such political unrests or serious economic crises. The Ministry of Foreign AffairsFootnote 12 defines what the crisis situation is and can recommend to the Government of the Republic of Slovenia to back its motion for repatriation. In case the Government confirms the motion, all costs of repatriation are covered from the national budget and do not need to be reimbursed.

Finally, embassies and consulates have the obligation to notify their kin in cases of accident, hospitalisation or death, and upon request get in contact with detained or imprisoned persons. Apart from the embassies and consulates, there is a network of honorary consulates in place that mostly act in the area of culture and economy. Some honorary consuls may have a mandate to act as consular representatives with the mission to provide limited assistance to nationals abroad, but in most cases their role is limited to promotion and networking.

26.2.3 Key Engagement Policies

The needs of Slovenians abroad are addressed in the Foreign Affairs Act,Footnote 13 the Consular Protection Act,Footnote 14 the Act Regulating Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians Abroad and the Act Amending the Act Regulating Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians Abroad.Footnote 15 The first regulates the establishment and functioning of Slovenian embassies and consular services.Footnote 16 The second, replacing some of the provisions of the Foreign Affairs Act and adopted on May 2018, regulates the procedures of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and diplomatic missions abroad regarding the consular protection of citizens of Slovenia and citizens of other countries. The latter two address primarily the maintenance and development of Slovenian language and culture and the preservation of cultural heritage and national identity of Slovenians abroad. The Acts therefore promote mutual ties in the field of culture, care for the Slovenian language, education, science, sports, economy and regional cooperation (Medved 2014). The Acts also address the policy of repatriation and regulate the status of Slovenians without Slovenian citizenship. As previously explained, the acquisition of this status depends on descend, active participation in Slovenian organisations abroad and active ties with the ‘homeland’ (Ibid.).

Slovenian citizens abroad have extensive electoral rights. Franchise in the national elections is extended to all citizens having reached the age of 18, regardless of their current or previous residence in the country, and applies to both active and passive electoral rights. Nationals residing abroad can vote in national legislative and presidential elections, European Parliament elections, as well as the national referendum held in Slovenia. Voting can be done by post or at diplomatic and consular missions. In local elections, by contrast, candidates must be permanent residents of the municipality in which they wish to run, and the local elections also do not allow for casting votes from abroad for those citizens listed in the electoral register who are not resident in Slovenia (Accetto 2013: 3).

The Consular Protection Act defines in more detail the circumstances under which citizens of Slovenia and other countries can receive consular protection. It especially defines procedures in the cases of detention, criminal offences against citizens, serious injury or illness, death, circumstances of crisisFootnote 17 and in issuing a passport for return. The Act also defines cases in which financial means can be provided to citizens. This can happen only in cases when the applicant has exhausted all other possibilities to obtain financial means. Financial means can be obtained to cover the most essential costs that are justifiably needed for care and return to the country of residence, especially travel expenses and expenses of urgent accommodation and care. The costs have to be reimbursed in all cases.

As regards repatriation, the process is regulated in the Act Regulating Relations between the Republic of Slovenia and Slovenians Abroad, which foresees the possibility of repatriation of Slovenians who live in countries where serious economic or political crisis situations have occurred or for Slovenians who can significantly contribute to the development of Slovenia. What constitutes a crisis situation is determined by the Slovenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The eligibility of a person for repatriation is also based on the opinions and proposals of the Slovenian diplomatic and consular representations, Slovenian expatriate organizations in Slovenia and abroad and Slovenian Roman Catholic missions or missions of other religious communities. Potential repatriates must not have been sentenced to imprisonment exceeding 1 year for a criminal offence, for which the offender is prosecuted ex officio. If granted the status, repatriation costs are covered by the Republic of Slovenia. The repatriation status is granted for a maximum of 15 months and includes free of charge healthcare and language classes. Basic social support is provided, if required, and is means-tested in accordance with the established social security schemes.Footnote 18

Other policies of engagement with Slovenian nationals abroad are limited in scope and focus primarily on establishing business ties, promoting Slovenian language, culture and national heritage, promoting scientific networking and offering grants to Slovenians abroad by means of public tender. The Public Scholarship, Development, Disability and Maintenance Fund of the Republic of SloveniaFootnote 19 based on the provisions of the Scholarship ActFootnote 20 offers scholarships to Slovenians from neighbouring countries and Slovenians abroad to study in Slovenia. The call for applications is published every year during the summer months. The applicants must be Slovenians (with or without citizenship) with permanent residence outside the Republic of Slovenia. They must have been enrolled in a first or second-cycle accredited higher education programme before the age of 27. This scholarship can be awarded only once – for either first or second-cycle programme. The projects financed by the Government’s Office for Slovenians abroad do not target any specific activities in the field of social protection. Instead, they rather focus on activities such as the maintenance of national, linguistic and cultural identity of Slovenians abroad, mutual connections among the community and the strengthening of its connections to Republic of Slovenia, the maintenance of structures and activities of Slovenians abroad and establishing connections in the area of youth, economy, science and education. Lastly, it is to be noted that there are no specific policies relating to remittances or housing.

26.3 Diaspora Policies and Social Protection in Slovenia

For Slovenians abroad, social security rights and their portability are primarily ensured within the framework of the EU’s social security coordination system. In addition, there are some bilateral agreements in place with third countries that do not fall under the scope of uniform European regulations on social security. These agreements were concluded with countries that have been linked to Slovenia in terms of significant population movements and a common historical experience. They include the former Yugoslavian republics of Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as historically attractive destination countries for Slovenians such as Argentina, Canada, Australia and United States of America. The latest bilateral social security agreement was signed with the United States of America in January 2017 and it came into force in February 2019. Similar to other agreements, this one also provides for coordination between the contracting parties to eliminate dual social security coverage and taxation and to help prevent the loss of benefit protection because of migration.Footnote 21

Beyond bilateral agreements on social security, Slovenia is not actively involved in its expatriates’ access to social protection and investment in social welfare of its diaspora remains limited in many respects. This is manifested not only in the lack of targeted programmes or schemes across the main social protection areas, including unemployment, health, pensions, family-related benefits and economic hardship, but also in the absence of a comprehensive communication strategy that would facilitate information-sharing about access to social protection in the homeland and the country of residence. Consulates may provide this information on request, but their assistance in most cases is limited to referring individuals to relevant websites and handing out material containing informative content.Footnote 22 In this section, we provide an overview of the findings regarding policies that facilitate access to social protection of Slovenian nationals abroad and argue that apart from concluding bilateral social security agreements, limited effort has been done to reduce their exposure to social risks.

26.3.1 Unemployment

Employment of Slovenian nationals abroad is an issue that has in the past years attracted quite significant attention not only of relevant public institutions, such as employment services and adult education centres, but also of private employment and language agencies that offer individuals who wish to take up a job abroad access to a variety of programmes, notably language training. These programmes target people who have not yet left the country but intend to do so. In this respect, German language courses that are to prepare individuals for working in a German-speaking country predominate. Some of these programmes also include wider information on, for example, how to prepare for the labour market, but in general, information is focused more on building professional skills (e.g. writing a CV) than on providing more extensive information about everyday life in German-speaking countries. Some of these courses are available with a cost (although often on a subsidised basis), while some, for instance at Employment Services, are available upon previous arrangement with the employment counsellors. Apart from the EURES-related activities that are well established and developed in Slovenia, other sources of information regarding employment abroad remain limited. The engagement of public institutions in this field is limited and although some activities are organised at a more local level (e.g. near the Austrian border and/or in regions where there is greater demand for such services – e.g. East Slovenia), public institutions do not have specific local practices in this regard.

Regarding access to unemployment benefits while living abroad, a national permanently residing abroad is not entitled to any unemployment benefits in Slovenia and portability of unemployment benefits for Slovenians moving within the EU is regulated like in other Member States via EU legislation relating to this matter.

No specific policies are in place for nationals found in situations of unemployment abroad and there is no specific information that consulates provide to help individuals find jobs abroad. Concerning the provision of cash benefits to individuals that have been found in situations of unemployment abroad, the Consular Protection Act does not list unemployment among the reasons for obtaining such assistance. However, it is to be noted that bilateral social security agreements with republics of the former Yugoslavia, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia do take periods of employment in both countries into account when determining eligibility and access to unemployment benefits.

26.3.2 Health Care

Regarding access to health care, Slovenians citizens residing in another EU Member State fall under the EU legislation in this matter. Overall, however, consular involvement in this area is very limited. The Consular Protection Act stipulates that in cases of serious illness or accidents, consulates inform the relevant authorities in the EU countries and in Slovenia; if needed, they communicate with the person affected and the relevant authorities, assist in arranging such communication, and provide assistance in repatriation, if asked. According to the Consular Protection Act, in cases of extreme emergency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may provide Slovenian citizens with a financial advance. Being unable to access funds for fundamental necessities and return to the country of residence is mentioned in the Act as such reasons. Such means include travel costs and costs for urgent accommodation and care. However, the financial means must be repaid to the diplomatic mission in full. The 2010 CARE report (CARE 2010) shows that in cases of serious accident or serious illness, Slovenian authorities give necessary assistance mostly through their role as a coordinator, which is reflected also in the 2018 Consular Protection Act.

The exercise of health-related rights during temporary residence abroad is regulated by the EU legislation, as well as by bilateral social security agreements that in the case of health apply to Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia. An insured individual that permanently settles abroad also has the right to health services in accordance with the EU legislation and bilateral social security agreements. While residing in the countries of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia (the bilateral social security agreement with Australia does not regulate rights during permanent residence), he/she is entitled to health services in the scope that these countries guarantee to their insurers. This right can be exercised on the basis of a certificate issued by the Health Insurance Institute of Slovenia,Footnote 23 which then sends this certificate to the competent authority in the country of permanent residence.

With regards to invalidity benefits, the Health and Invalidity Insurance ActFootnote 24 states that a person permanently residing abroad is not entitled to a care allowance, meant for the coverage of costs incurred due to permanent changes in one’s health condition, that do not enable a person to satisfy his/her basic needs and thus urgently and necessarily require the assistance of others.

26.3.3 Pensions

Consular intervention in case of pensions is limited to the provision of Life certificates. According to the Pension and Disability Insurance Act,Footnote 25 the beneficiaries of pension and disability benefits residing abroad are obliged to submit Life certificates certified by the competent state or administrative authority or a foreign pension institute once a year. The Life certificate is sent by post to beneficiaries residing abroad and for whom information cannot be obtained from the competent pension institutes by way of electronic data exchange. It should be completed by a beneficiary and certified by the competent state or administrative authority.

The information about pensions can be obtained from the official website of the Pension and Disability Insurance Institute of Slovenia (ZPIZ),Footnote 26 which is the national provider and implementer of the Slovenian pension and disability insurance. The website provides information in four languages: Slovenian, Italian, Hungarian and English. All beneficiaries, regardless of their place of residency, can obtain information via email, phone or by appointment. There is no special department or a specifically trained information officer at ZPIZ that would provide information exclusively to Slovenian nationals abroad. However, in the past 2 years, ZPIZ sent all beneficiaries residing abroad a formal letter containing information about the transfer of annual bonuses, which were to be paid out to all beneficiaries, as well as a reminder of their responsibility to continue sending Life certificates on an annual basis. In October 2018, ZPIZ transferred pensions to 80,745 beneficiaries residing abroad. Most beneficiaries resided in Croatia (26,310), Bosnia and Herzegovina (21,815), Serbia (11,833), Germany (10,255), Austria (3156), North Macedonia (1655) and Australia (1455).Footnote 27 Accumulation of pension rights between these countries and Slovenia is ensured either by the EU legislation on the coordination of social security systems or bilateral social security agreements concluded with third countries.

The bilateral agreement that was recently concluded between Slovenia and the United States of America also significantly eases portability of pension rights. According to the Government’s Office for Slovenians abroad, this agreement is especially beneficial because it ensures that pensions will no longer be paid out by the United States after 10 years of working in the country, but after only 18 months, which might in their view significantly encourage return migration. The population of particular concern in regard to this provision are young researchers and scientists who have been increasingly emigrating to the United States to acquire new knowledge and experience and would wish to return to Slovenia afterwards.

26.3.4 Family-Related Benefits

Looking at the role of consulates, according to the Law on First NameFootnote 28 and the Civil Register Act,Footnote 29 depending on whether parents are married (if this is not the case, acknowledgement of fatherhood must be arranged), and whether they have Slovenian citizenship (if both do, it can be arranged by post also), birth certificates can be obtained through the relevant diplomatic missions.

With regard to benefits, the Parental Protection and Family Benefits ActFootnote 30 stipulates that one time birth benefits can only be claimed if at least one of the parents has permanent residence in Slovenia and actually lives in Slovenia and does not mention the residence of the child. In practice, such a benefit is also accessible to split families. The benefit must be claimed up to 60 days before the expected date of birth or at least 60 days after the date of birth. No specific consular protection measures in accessing these measures were identified in this regard. The Act also stipulates that individuals who are sent to work abroad and are not insured in their new country of residence and/or individuals that work abroad but their employers remain under the jurisdiction of Slovenian legislation can exercise rights related to parental/maternity/paternity leaves. Bilateral social security agreements concluded with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia mention the portability of the right to maternity leave when beneficiaries move abroad. Parental leaves are regulated in the bilateral social security agreements with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Serbia, while paternity leaves are not regulated by bilateral social security agreements.

The Exercise of Rights from Public Funds ActFootnote 31 defines the beneficiaries of a child benefit, which is a means-tested complementary income for a child’s subsistence, upbringing, and education. According to the Act, one of the parents or another person shall be granted the right to child benefit for a child with a registered residence in the Republic of Slovenia who actually resides in the Republic of Slovenia. The consulates therefore have no specific role in assisting to obtain this, or any other existing family allowance (i.e. childbirth allowance, large family allowance, child care allowance and partial payment for loss of earnings). No specific measures and/or benefits aimed at individuals residing abroad with regard to accessing/claiming other family benefits are in place.

The one concrete example of a specific scheme for Slovenians abroad is the scheme for Slovenians abroad and from the neighbouring countries. According to the Scholarship Act, the Public Scholarship, Development, Disability and Maintenance Fund of the Republic of Slovenia offers scholarships to Slovenians from neighbouring countries and Slovenians abroad to study in Slovenia. Since the 2014/2015 academic year, the award of scholarship has been subject to the provisions of the new Scholarship Act. The call for applications is published every year during the summer months. Candidates must have been enrolled in a first or second-cycle accredited higher education programme before the age of 27. This scholarship can be awarded only once – for either first or second-cycle programme. The eligibility criteria are determined by the Scholarship act and are listed in each public call for applications, which is published every year during the summer months. The applicants must be Slovenians (with or without citizenship, as explained above) with permanent residence outside the Republic of Slovenia, which extensively narrows the scope of eligible individuals.

26.3.5 Economic Hardship

There are no specific policies in place by which consulates would assist nationals residing abroad to access the guaranteed minimum resource schemes. Financial social assistance in Slovenia is means-tested and granted under very strict rules in the situations of economic hardship to Slovenian nationals with permanent residence in the Republic of Slovenia, or nationals of other EU Member States under specific conditions. However, as stated above, in matters of extreme urgency, when Slovenian citizens have no one who could provide them with funds for fundamental necessities and return to the country of residence, the consulates can be instructed to provide them with a loan that must be repaid in full.

26.4 Conclusions

Nation-state formation after the declaration of Slovenia’s independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1991 was marked by nationalistic efforts to substantiate ethnic identity of Slovenians in the newly established state and its diaspora. Preserving and strengthening Slovenian identity, heritage, language and culture in diasporic communities have been one of the strategic priorities of newly established governmental bodies dealing with diaspora-related issues. Special attention and corresponding political and financial support has been attributed to Slovenian national minorities residing in the neighbouring countries, which are considered to be part of the joint Slovenian cultural space.

Less so has Slovenia been active in developing policies, programmes and tools to reduce exposure to social risks of its nationals abroad. Beyond the EU rules and obligations concerning social security coordination between Member States and bilateral agreements concluded with former Yugoslavian republics and historically significant destination countries for Slovenians, little is offered to its nationals abroad. Entitlement to social security benefits is in most cases means-tested, based on residence and social security contributions, and is inextricably linked to an individual’s employment status in Slovenia. In the absence of specific policies for nationals abroad, the role of consulates is therefore in most cases limited to information-sharing about national social security systems and regulations in place. Some exceptions do exist, such as loaning financial means to Slovenian citizens in cases of extreme urgency for return to the country of residence, and repatriation schemes that may cover the costs of travel to Slovenia, healthcare and language classes for a maximum of 15 months, if the status is granted. But overall, in line with the kin-state model of the nation as a characteristic feature of the post-socialist nation-building process, diaspora engagement policies focus primarily on the maintenance of cultural, business and scientific ties with the state of Slovenia, while less attention is devoted to the development and implementation of social protection policies for its nationals residing abroad.