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THE NATIONAL COUNCIL - INTERCONNECTING SOCIETY

The National Council represents various social interests. Different local and functional interests meet in the National Council in an institutionalised manner. Its composition aims to neutralise the influence of political parties, which especially in the National Assembly participate in the legislative process. 

Such composition of the National Council is determined by the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, as the National Council is constitutionally defined as a representative body of social, economic, professional and local interests. It is composed of 40 members who represent functional and local interests:

  • 22 representatives of local interests,
  • 4 representatives of employers,
  • 4 representatives of employees,
  • 4 representatives of farmers, crafts and trades, and independent professions,
  • 6 representatives of non-commercial fields.

Members of the National Council are elected for a five year term.

The function of a member of the National Council is honorary. This means that no member of the National Council, except the President, performs their function professionally. Instead, members of the National Council remain employed in the position they performed at the time of their election for the function of a member of the National Council. The only member of the National Council that performs their function professionally is the President of the National Council. This is because the Constitutional Court found that permanent availability of the President of the National Council must be secured in order to ensure the efficient work of the National Council. Only in this way can the National Council respond to activities of the National Assembly in a timely manner.

Members of the National Council are appropriately compensated for their work. They are paid for meeting expenses for attending sessions of the National Council and its working bodies. They are entitled to reimbursement for expenses related to the performance of their function. The President of the National Council, who performs their function professionally, is legally entitled to receive payment of the 64th pay grade, which is similar to that received by the president of the National Assembly.

 

Termination of term

Term of a member of the National Council may be terminated in the following cases:

  • loss of the right to vote,
  • becoming permanently incapable to hold the office,
  • sentencing by a final conviction to an unconditional prison sentence longer than six months,
  • assuming an office that is incompatible with the function of a member of the National Council,
  • in other legally defined cases.

Term of a member of the National Council terminates on the day when the National Council establishes that one or more of the above reasons exist.

 

Incompatibility of function

Incompatibility of function of a member of the National Council means that members of the National Council cannot simultaneously perform multiple functions, as this could lead to possible exploitation and abuse of a public function or position. Incompatibility of function is narrowly defined for members of the National Council, as they are representatives of specific interests and perform their function non-professionally. More precisely, Article 100 of the Constitution and Article 61 of the National Council Act stipulate that members of the National Council may not simultaneously serve as deputies in the National Assembly, nor can they perform other functions in state institutions. The term of a member of the National Council who begins a function that is incompatible with the function of a member of the National Council terminates with the day of beginning such a function.

Members of the National Council may be employed in state institutions only as civil servants, not as officials. They may, however, professionally perform all functions in institutions of local communities. They may also perform gainful activity for private purposes. Hence, members of the National Council may perform all functions on the local level (e.g., mayor) and may be employed in various job roles (e.g., presidents and members of executive or managing boards, teachers, doctors, professors, trade union presidents, presidents of chambers of commerce…).

 

Immunity

Immunity is an individual’s right and privilege to be exempt from the application of a certain legal regulation. It is a legal non-liability and legal protection of a person with immunity. Immunity provides the representative body with independence and allows for uninterrupted functioning.

Immunity of members of the National Council is determined in Article 100 of the Constitution, which stipulates that members of the National Council enjoy the same immunity as deputies of the National Assembly and that the jurisdiction to decide on immunity belongs to the National Council. The institute of immunity is further specified by Article 60 of the National Council Act, and actions and procedures of the National Council for granting or waiving immunity by Rules of Procedure of the National Council (Articles 85-92). A member of the National Council enjoys immunity from confirmation until the end of their term.

The National Council Act and the Constitution stipulate that the institute of immunity includes:

  • professional immunity, which means that a member of the National Council is not criminally liable for their opinion and vote cast at sessions of the National Council or its working bodies. Professional immunity of members of the National Council is absolute, as it precludes criminal liability of members of the National Council both during and after their term.
  • procedural immunity, which means that a member of the National Council may not be detained, nor may a criminal procedure be initiated against them without the permission of the National Council, except if they were caught in a criminal act for which a criminal penalty exceeding five years of prison is laid down. It must be emphasised that immunity only protects a member of the National Council from criminal proceedings, not other proceedings such as misdemeanours, disciplinary proceedings… Procedural immunity of a member of the National Council is relative, as it only protects them for the duration of their term as a member of the National Council.

The National Council may award immunity also to a member of the National Council who did not claim immunity or was caught in the described criminal act. If this is necessary for the performance of functions of the National Council, the National Council may also award immunity to a member of the National Council that did not claim it.

According to the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, the National Council may:

  • propose to the National Assembly the passing of laws,
  • convey to the National Assembly its opinion on all matters within the competence of the National Assembly;
  • require the National Assembly to decide again on a given law prior to its promulgation;
  • require inquiries on matters of public importance as provided by Article 93.

Where required by the National Assembly, the National Council must express its opinion on an individual matter.

 

Legislative initiative

The National Council may propose to the National Assembly the adoption of certain laws or amendment of certain legal provisions (first indent, Article 97 of the Constitution). The National Council's role as proposer of initiatives is an important one within the legislative process. These proposals comprise of initiatives and requests made by members (Article 58 of the Act on the National Council) and proposals made by the National Council's commissions and interest groups.

 

Opinions

The National Council adopts and conveys to the National Assembly opinions regarding all matters within its sphere of competence (second indent, Article 97 of the Constitution). This means that interests of interest groups represented in the National Council are promoted in the National Assembly as well. Furthermore, the National Council’s commissions also formulate opinions, positions, and proposals whilst laws and other acts from their area of work are discussed. The constitutional provision empowering such work of the National Council means that the National Council can give opinions not only on laws, but also on revisions of the Constitution, the state budget, declarations, EU affairs, appointments etc.

The President of the National Assembly informs the President of the National Council of sessions of the National Assembly and provides the President of the National Council with all materials concerning matters on the agenda of the National Assembly’s session (first indent, Article 215 of Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly). Moreover, the President of the National Assembly informs the President of the National Council of all decisions reached by the National Assembly regarding the National Council's proposals, opinions, and requests.

Act on the National Council (second paragraph, Article 56) provides that the National Council and its working bodies cooperate with working bodies of the National Assembly and forward their opinions to the National Assembly concerning matters within their sphere of competence. Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly further unbundle this provision and stipulate that working bodies of the National Assembly cooperate with the National Council and its working bodies on their own initiative or on the initiative of the National Council or its working bodies. Working bodies of the National Assembly discuss opinions conveyed to them by the National Council or its working bodies. A representative of the National Council or one of its working bodies may take part in such discussion of opinions at sessions of working bodies of the National Assembly (Article 219 of Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly). The chairman of the National Assembly’s working body notifies the President of the National Council or the chairman of the National Council’s working body of the position adopted by the National Assembly.

When the President of the National Assembly receives from the President of the National Council proposals, opinions, or requests of the National Council he immediately forwards them to all deputies and to the Government, and demands from the competent working body and from the Government that they submit their opinion to the National Assembly. When discussing proposals, opinions, or requests of the National Council, a working body takes a position and reports on it to the National Assembly. The President of the National Assembly then notifies the President of National Council of any decisions taken by the National Assembly concerning proposals, opinions, and requests of the National Council (Article 217 of Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly).

 

Suspensive veto

On the basis of this competence (third indent, first paragraph, Article 97 of the Constitution), the National Council may exercise a suspensive veto which means that it may require the National Assembly to decide again on a law prior to its promulgation, this time with a more demanding majority. The National Council may exercise its right of a suspensive veto within seven days since the adoption of the law in question (Article 91 of the Constitution).

Before the President of the Republic of Slovenia promulgates a law, the President of the National Assembly submits the text of the adopted law to the President of the National Council (second paragraph, Article 54 of the Act on the National Council). Within seven days of the adoption of the law, the President of the National Council may send to the President of the National Assembly the demand that the National Assembly decides on the law again prior to the law’s promulgation (second paragraph, Article 55 of the Act on the National Council).

To pass the law the second time, an absolute majority of votes in the National Assembly is required, unless a higher number of votes is required for the adoption of the law in question by the Constitution (second paragraph, Article 91 of the Constitution). The second decision of the National Assembly is final and may not be changed.

Repeated decision-making on a law at a session of the National Assembly is specified by Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly (Articles 147, 148, 222). Among other things, it is provided that a representative of the National Council may explain the demand for a repeated decision-making on a law before the second vote takes place.

 

Parliamentary inquiry

Articles 93 and 97 of the Constitution provide for the right of the National Council to request the initiation of an enquiry on matters of public importance (parliamentary enquiry). Article 93 of the Constitution provides that the National Assembly may order an enquiry on matters of public importance and must do so either at the request of one third of deputies of the National Assembly or at the request of the National Council.

The National Council may request an enquiry on matters of public importance. An important characteristic of the initiation of a parliamentary enquiry is that it may lead to the enforcement of political responsibility of the President or members of the Government. According to the first paragraph of Article 68 of Rules of Procedure of the National Council, a request for the initiation of a parliamentary enquiry may be proposed by any councillor, commission, or interest group of the National Council.

The National Council reaches a decision concerning the request for an initiation of a parliamentary inquiry with a majority of votes of councillors present at the session. As the proposer, the National Council may appoint a representative to be present at the discussion of the parliamentary enquiry request at the session of the National Assembly.

 

Review of constitutionality or legality of regulations or general acts

The Act on the Constitutional Court (Article 23(a); Ur. l. RS, number 64/07, 109/12, 23/20 and 92/21) awards to the National Council the right to submit to the Constitutional Court a request for the commencement of a procedure of review of constitutionality and legality of regulations and general acts. The National Council may use this competence when it believes that a particular provision, part of an act, or an act in its entirety violates the Constitution or its particular constitutional provisions. The National Council can submit the request for the commencement of a review of constitutionality and legality of regulations and general acts after the regulation or the general act is promulgated and hence valid in the Slovene legal system.

Election method

Elections to the National Council are regulated by a law passed by a two-thirds majority of all members of the National Assembly. The term of office of members of the National Council is five years. Members are elected at indirect elections held within interest organisations or local communities by electoral bodies (electors).

Every citizen of Slovenia who has reached the age of 18 and has not been deprived of their contractual capacity by the day of the election has the right to vote and to be elected as a member of the National Council (Article 2). National Council members are not elected on the basis of general suffrage but of special suffrage, which is determined by law for each interest group and requires membership in a specific interest group or local community.

The right to vote and to be elected for a member of the National Council is held by:

  • For representatives of employers, employees, farmers, crafts and trades, independent professions and non-commercial activities (functional interests), this right is held by people who perform or are employed in a relevant activity in Slovenia. Non-nationals who perform or are employed in a relevant activity in Slovenia elect members of the National Council from these interest groups under the same conditions as Slovenian citizens. However, they do not have a right to be elected to the National Council themselves;
  • For representatives of local interests, this right is held by those with a permanent residence in the constituency. Member of the town council, who is a citizen of any other EU state has a right to vote, but cannot be elected to the National Council.

Under the principle of relative majority, the candidate with the most number of votes is elected. If two or more candidates receive the same number of votes, lots are drawn to decide who is elected.

 

Calling of elections

Elections to the National Council are called by the President of the National Assembly. General elections are called not earlier than 135 days and not later than 75 days before the end of the five-year term of office. The period between the calling of elections and election day may not exceed 90 days or be shorter than 60 days. By-elections at which only individual members of the National Council are elected whose term of office is terminated before the end of the National Council's five-year mandate are held not later than 75 days after the termination of the member's term of office.

 

Election of representatives of functional interests

The election of 18 members - representatives of functional interests is carried out by electors sitting on electoral boards. Representatives of the electorate (electors) are elected by interest organisations in accordance with their own rules of procedure.

National Council candidates are chosen by interest organisations in accordance with their own rules of procedure:

  • four members - representatives of employers are elected by chambers of commerce and industry and employers' associations organized in the territory of the state,
  • four members - representatives of employees are elected by representative trade unions organized in the territory of the state,
  • four members - representatives of farmers, crafts and trades and independent professions are elected as follows:
    • two representatives of farmers are elected by  the professional farmers' organisation organized in the territory of the state,
    • one representative of crafts and trades is elected by the professional crafts and trade organisation organized in the territory of the state,
    • one representative of independent professions is elected by the professional organisation of other independent professions organised in the territory of the state;
  • six members - representatives of non-commercial fields are elected in the following manner:
    • one representative of universities, colleges and junior colleges is elected by universities, colleges and junior colleges,
    • one representative of care and education is elected by professional organisations of the teaching staff,
    • one representative of research activities is elected by professional research organisations,
    • one representative of culture and sports is elected by professional organisations of cultural workers and workers in sports,
    • one representative of heath care is elected by professional organisations of medical professionals and medical associates,
    • one representative of social care is elected by professional organisations of professionals in social care.

 

Election of representatives of local interests

Local communities elect 22 members of the National Council to serve as representatives of local interests. No more than 22 constituency, which may cover one or more local communities, are formed for the election of representatives of local interests. Slovenia is divided into 22 constituency. These are contiguous areas in terms of territory, history and interest.

An electoral body is formed for each constituency, comprising:

  • members of the representative local community body, if the National Council members are elected in constituency covering a single local community;
  • elected representatives of local communities if the National Council members are elected in constituency covering two or more local communities; representatives of local communities are elected by their representative bodies.

Representative local community bodies (municipal councils) adopt rules of procedure applying to the election of their representatives to electoral bodies and the election of candidates to the National Council. Municipal councils elect electors and candidates for the National Council by secret ballot.

Under the National Council Act, every local community (municipality) may nominate one National Council candidate. Each municipality has one place in the electoral body regardless of number of inhabitants, plus one further place for every additional 5,000 inhabitants.

The National Council has 40 members that are organised in five Interest Groups focused on specific areas. Interest Groups may form their positions regarding specific maters on the agenda of sessions of the National Council or its Commissions, and deal with any other matters in the competence of the National Council. Each Interest Group elects its Head from its members, who leads and organises the work and chairs sessions of the Interest Group. 

The Interest Group of Employees has 4 members – representatives of employees, who are elected by an electoral body (electors). Electors are elected by representative trade unions for the territory of the Republic of Slovenia. Representative trade unions are considered as representative of workers in various work areas by the legislator on the basis of their membership. 

The Interest Group of Employers has 4 members – representatives of employers, who are elected by an electoral body (electors) which consists of elected representatives of chambers of commerce and employers’ associations, organised on the territory of the Republic of Slovenia. Each chamber of commerce and each employers’ association elects into the electoral body one representative per each 10.000 employees of their members.

The Interest Group of Farmers, Crafts and Trade and Independent Professions has 4 members; two are representatives of farmers, one is a representative of independent professions, and one is a representative of crafts and trade. They are elected by professional organisations. 

The Interest Group of Local Interests has 22 members from 22 electoral units in Slovenia who represent local communities at a local, municipal level. Representatives of local interests are elected in each electoral unit by an electoral body, which consists of members of the representative body of the local community.

The Interest Group of Non-Commercial Fields has 6 members who represent research, education, universities, higher and vocational education, social care, healthcare, and culture and sport. 

The National Council of the Republic of Slovenia has permanent and temporary working bodies, in which representatives of Interest Groups must be suitably and equally represented. The National Council establishes its Commissions with a Decision on the establishment and tasks of Commissions of the National Council, which precisely determines their constitution, competences, and number of members.

The National Council has eight Commissions which discuss legislative proposals and other acts, initiatives and questions of members of the National Council, as well as prepare legislative proposals and proposals of opinions regarding legislative and other acts that are related to matters they discuss. They additionally deal with all other matters, as authorised by the National Council. Commissions may demand clarifications and information related to matters they are discussing, cooperate with working bodies of the National Assembly, and submit to them opinions regarding matters in their competence.

The Commission for Agriculture, Forestry and Food deals with matters related to agriculture, forestry, hunting and fishing, food industry, and veterinary.

The Commission for Culture, Science, Education and Sport deals with matters related to early childhood education, primary, secondary, higher and university education, culture, the media, sport, and science and technology.

The Commission for Economy, Trade, Tourism and Finance deals with matters related to the field of the economic system and the Slovenian internal market, the position and development of specific economic areas, economic position and problems facing small businesses and tourism, development and problems facing the service industry and crafts, monitoring the development of tourism and its promotion, the area of public finance, monetary policy and taxation, and the internationalisation of the Slovenian economy.

The Commission for International Relations and European Affairs deals with matters related to the state’s foreign affairs, the position of Slovenes living abroad, EU affairs, and cooperation with foreign parliamentary institutions.

The Commission for Local Self-Government and Regional Development deals with matters related to local self-government, regional development, environmental protection, infrastructure of public utility, transport and commerce, and maritime as elements of regional development, as well as housing policy.

The Commission for Public Office and Immunity is the only commission of the National Council with prescribed membership; it consists of one representative of each Interest Group. It deals with matters determined by the National Council Act and Rules of Procedure of the National Council. These are, for instance, confirming mandates of members of the National Council, discussing proposals for appointing representatives of the National Council to organisations, institutions and working bodies, and handling immunity procedures. Additionally, the Commission for Public Office and Immunity deals with proposals for amendments of Rules of Procedure and other acts of the National Council, proposals for interpretation of stipulations of Rules of Procedure and other acts of the National Council, proposals of acts which determine work conditions of members of the National Council, and all other matters as authorised by the National Council.

The Commission for Social Care, Labour, Health and the Disabled deals with matters related to social care and insurance, healthcare and health insurance, pension and disability insurance, labour market, labour relations, social communications and collective bargaining, health and safety in the workplace, care for the disabled, and care for children and families.

The Commission for State Organization deals with matters related to internal affairs, the judicial system, public administration, and state defence. 
 

Decision-making of the National Council is constitutionally defined. The National Council may pass decisions if the majority of all members are present at a session. Decisions are adopted with a simple majority (the majority of cast votes of present members), except if the Constitution or Rules of Procedure of the National Council require a different majority.

One of the exceptions in the decision-making of the National Council is the adoption of Rules of Procedure of the National Council, which must be adopted with an absolute majority (by 21 members of the National Council).

Decision-making and voting in the National Council is public. It is, however, confidential for matters specified by Rules of Procedure of the National Council or when the majority of present members of the National Council support confidential voting. Confidential voting may be proposed by the President of the National Council, at least eight members of the National Council, or one of the Interest Groups.

The Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia situates the National Council in the second place in the system of bodies of national authority. The Constitution defines its:

  • Composition (Article 96),
  • Powers (Article 97) (or Competences),
  • Election (Article 98),
  • Decision-making (Article 99),
  • Immunity and Incompatibility of Office (Article 100),
  • Rules of Procedure of the National Council (Article 101).

The chamber of the National Council (the Small Hall of the Slovenian Parliament) was renovated in 2019. It is home to the National Council, as well as serves as a back-up hall for sessions of the National Assembly and hosts other events, especially those which integrate the civil society into the work of the Slovenian Parliament, for instance public consultations, seminars, conferences, educational courses, presentations of opinions, and other events.

 

The appearance of the renovated chamber incorporates three motifs: the ear of grain, its ripening, and the chaff riddle. As the upper chamber of the Slovene Parliament, the National Council is a corrective and can be symbolised as a “sieve and riddle”, as it itself symbolically sifts laws passed by the National Assembly.

 

 

The renovation preserved the key characteristics of the chamber: it continues to slope down towards the table of the president, it is flanked by balconies on both sides which are intended for visitors, the media, and interpreters, as well as continues to eschew sharp edges. Similarly, original elements have been preserved to a great degree. The conservation and restauration work undertaken on the chamber sought to preserve as much as possible especially its wooden elements: the ash-wood panels and doors, the cornices, and the pear-wood fluted vertical cladding next to the windows.

The chamber of the National Council is located on the ground floor of the parliamentary building on Šubičeva street. Before the renovation, the chamber had 120 seats, but only 90 remain today. The new tables are covered with oak veneer, while the seats are made from white leather. The chamber also boasts a new conference and voting system, television cameras, and displays.

The renovated chamber of the National Council will certainly ensure a great technical and habitable contribution to the work of the National Council and its other activities relating to the civil society.


 

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