The main domestic issue since independence has been the attempt to shift the Slovene economy to private ownership and market principles, and to bring the country's laws and regulations into line with the European Union (EU). Given the almost unanimous support for EU membership among Slovenia's political parties, and the fact that Slovenia was invited in July 1997 to begin talks on EU membership, this issue became most pressing. Slovenia was the first potential new member that met all of the Maastricht Treaty criteria. The main stumbling block, however, was the issue of foreign ownership of property, which EU rules require, but which had been forbidden under Slovene law. In 1997 this issue was finally resolved when the legislature enacted regulations to allow foreign nationals to buy land as of 2001; two years later, in 1999, regulations were enacted to allow foreign banks to open branches in Slovenia. In December 2002, Slovenia became one of 10 new countries invited to join the EU, and accession is expected for 2004.
Slovenia's economy has been quite strong since 1994, despite the loss of its major markets in the former Yugoslavia. Its per capita GDP is $18,000, higher than all other Eastern European countries. Its economy grew at an annual rate of about 4% during the late 1990s through 2002, and foreign investment in the country has been steadily increasing, especially following January 2002 policies to remove restrictions on foreign investment.