STA, 23 December 2021 - The Slovenian Constitution turns thirty today. Passed as the final act of legal independence from Yugoslavia, it was a modern Constitution at the time and practitioners of constitutional law say it has stood the test of time. Nevertheless, many believe it may be time for certain changes.
The Constitution is abstract enough to make it possible for the Constitutional Court to interpret it in line with modern standards, according to judge Rajko Knez, who presided the Constitutional Court until last week. This kind of flexibility is a feature of good constitutions, he told the STA.
The court's new president, Matej Accetto, likewise thinks the Constitution has stood the test of time. "However, it has been shown time and again that the Constitution must be understood, used and nurtured," he said.
Accetto highlighted the basic tenets of the Constitution - rule of law, separation of powers and independence of the judiciary - as perhaps the document's most important features in a crisis such as the Covid pandemic.
"Many messages in the Constitution are written precisely for moments when something goes wrong or does not run completely smoothly. And in such moment one needs to be aware of them and implement them accordingly," he said.
The Constitution remained conceptually unchanged but it has been amended several times, most notably in the run-up to Slovenia's accession to the EU, and more recently, when the right to clean drinking water, sign language and the golden fiscal rule were enshrined in the Constitution.
Statements by prominent jurists indicate some changes may be needed in future, though they are reserved as to what scope such changes should have.
Peter Jambrek, the first president of the Constitutional Court and one of the main authors of the Constitution, told the STA the Constitution had turned out to be very stable and firm and did not need major changes since it is "brief and clear, does not go into particularities and concrete solutions."
He believes the only potential change should be a new electoral system "if the necessary majority emerges".
Miro Cerar, a jurist who acted as secretary to the group that drafted the Constitution, proposes more far-reaching changes. He told the STA provisions on the composition and powers of the upper chamber of parliament, the appointment of ministers, election of judges and the composition of the Judicial Council are ripe for change.
Similarly, Tone Jerovšek, a former judge and one of the authors of the Constitution, singled out the appointment of ministers, which are now named by the National Assembly at the proposal of the prime minister, an arrangement he said was unique.
It would also make sense to implement changes regarding the electoral system and the upper chamber of parliament, which Jerovšek thinks should be strengthened.
But Cerar also warned that all changes must be careful and substantiated. "It would be damaging to interfere in the very foundations of the Constitution if this was not absolutely needed."
For years the most often voiced complaint about the country's Constitutional framework, at least from the ranks of jurists, has been that it opens the door too wide to the Constitutional Court, which has resulted in a very high caseload for the judges.
According to Knez, the last change of the act governing the Constitutional Court made access to the court easier, prompting him to warn the State Attorney's Office that the time it takes to process motions was becoming a problem that could end up being adjudicated by the European Court of Human Rights.
Jerovšek agrees that access to the court is too broad, as evidenced by thousands of applications the court has had to deal with during the pandemic.
He thinks the court should accept only the most glaring cases of violations, which would reduce the caseload and allow the court to delve deeper into each individual case.
You can read the constitution here