Slovenes vote against restoring minority rights

Political and human rights groups in Slovenia voiced their dismay on 5 April over the results of a nationwide referendum which denied basic rights to thousands of people belonging to ethnic minorities.

In a non-binding referendum on 4 April, around 95 per cent of the voters opposed restoring rights as legal residents of Slovenia to over 18,000 people - mostly Croats, Bosnians and Serbs - who were deleted from the state records after Slovenia declared independence in 1991. Only four per cent of the voters recommended that the government restore rights to the group. Turnout was 31 per cent. The referendum was called after pressure from the far-right Slovene National Party and three other conservative parties.

According to analysts, the results of the referendum, which came ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for the autumn of 2004, indicated rising nationalist sentiment in the country. Slovenia's nationalists argue that by restoring rights to the "erased" (as the affected minority groups are referred to by the public) the country could eventually be forced to pay enormous sums in compensation claims.

Slovenia has recently become a member of NATO and is scheduled to join the EU on 1 May.


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