Slovenia is a Slavic nation state, situated in South-Central Europe, at the crossroad of main European cultural and trade routes. It borders Italy to the west, Austria to the north, Croatia to the south and southeast, and Hungary to the northeast. It covers 20,273 square kilometres (7,827 sq mi) and has a population of 2.05 million.
It remains one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Manufacturing is the principal activity and manufactures include chemicals, machinery and transport equipment, metal goods and textiles. Slovenia mines some iron ore, lead, lignite and mercury; and the leading crops are maize, potatoes and wheat.
The majority of Slovenes, approximately 71 percent, identify themselves as Roman Catholic; Roman Catholicism has undoubtedly influenced Slovene culture more than any other religious belief. Protestantism gained a strong position during the Reformation in the 1500s but later saw its numbers of practitioners diminish.
More than 80% of the people are ethnic Slovenes; minority groups include Croats and Serbs. Most Slovenes are Roman Catholics. Slovene is the official language; some Hungarian and Italian are spoken in the border regions.
Slovenia may be divided into three climatic zones. Conditions in Istria indicate a transition from the Mediterranean climate of the Dalmatian coast to a moderate continental climate. In the moderate zone the highest monthly precipitation (up to 15 inches [381 mm]) occurs in spring and autumn, and the highest temperatures (often rising above 80 °F [27 °C]) occur in June and July.
Slovenia enjoys excellent relations with the United States and works with it actively on a number of fronts. Since Slovenia achieved its independence in 1991, the two countries have developed strong, cooperative relations on a broad range of issues, from promoting regional security to developing closer bilateral trade and investment ties. The United States was very supportive of Slovenia's entrance into NATO and other Euro-Atlantic agreements and institutions.
In 1996, the insurance company Zavarovaluica Triglav wrote all classes of insurance. There were at least 13 insurance companies operating in Slovenia in 1997. In 2001, there was $203 million worth of life insurance premiums written.
The Croatia-Slovenia land and maritime boundary agreement, which would have ceded most of Piran Bay and maritime access to Slovenia and several villages to Croatia, remains unratified and in dispute. Slovenia also protests Croatia's 2003 claim to an exclusive economic zone in the Adriatic.
Slovenia has a relatively well-educated populace, and the education system is undergoing reform to bring it in line with the style, quality, and content of education and training provided by the European Union member states. As of the year 2000, more than 50 percent of the population aged 15 or older in Slovenia had graduated at least from upper-secondary school programs. Of those aged 19 to 29, less than 20 percent had not completed upper-secondary education.
In 2000 the life expectancy was 75 years. As of 2002 the leading cause of death was cardiovascular disease, to which nearly half of all deaths were attributed. In 2002 Slovenia had 26 hospitals, which included nine regional facilities, three local general hospitals, and the country's main teaching hospital and tertiary care center, the Clinical Center in Ljubljana.
Slovenia was admitted to the UN in 1992. It is also a member of the Council of Europe, ECE, OSCE, IAEA, ICAO, ILO, ITU, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WHO, WIPO, and WTO. In November 2002, NATO invited Slovenia to join the organization, and in December 2002, Slovenia was invited to join the EU in 2004.
Popular recreational activities include tennis, golf, mountain climbing, canoeing and fishing. Visitors from Europe and most other countries can visit the country without visas.