One picture too many: Slovenia's presidency of the European Union begins with a scandal

Updated July 1, 2021 at 11:00 PM

  • Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa is one of the most controversial heads of state and government in the European Union.
  • Now his country holds the presidency of the European Union.
  • At first there was a scandal.

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At the beginning of the Slovenian presidency of the Council of the European Union, a meeting broke out between the EU Commission and Prime Minister Janez Jansa. EU Commission Deputy Frans Timmermans conspicuously boycotted the date of Thursday’s family photo shoot after the talks at the Brdo Convention Center, because the right-wing nationalist Jansa had previously complained at a working session of his country’s alleged communist judges and deputies. According to the participants, a photo was shown in which the judges criticized by Jansa were circled.

Social Democrat Timmermans The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said he simply could not stand on the same podium as Jansa after he “unacceptably attacked and slandered” two judges and two members of the Social Democratic Parliamentary Group in the EU Parliament. The independence of the judiciary and respect for the role of elected representatives are the cornerstones of the rule of law, and without it I can not work.

Von der Leyen Jansa urges to be respectful

According to the meeting participants, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen indicated to Gansa that judges are allowed to have a resume and that they should be treated with respect, even if they have a different political opinion. Initially, a spokesman for the Slovenian presidency declined to comment on the matter. He noted that the talks were confidential.

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Von der Leyen did not initially mention the incident at a joint press conference with Jansa. But she warned him not to abide by the rule of law. Trust is the EU’s most valuable asset. This also includes trust in an independent judicial system. An EU official spoke of an “unnecessary provocation” of Jansas.

Slovenia He took over the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which changes every six months, a few hours before Portugal. During its presidency, the former Yugoslav Republic wants to work, among other things, for faster progress in EU accession talks with the Balkan countries that have not yet been accepted. Because of Jansa’s controversial political track, the country must fear that other issues will overshadow the presidency.

Jansa accused of assaulting press freedom

The politician came under fire for, among other things, obstructing the work of the new European Prosecutor’s Office by preventing the dispatch of two Slovenian prosecutors. He is also accused of attacking freedom of the press and civil society, as well as supporting a controversial Hungarian law restricting information about homosexuality.

As a small country with a population of only about 2.1 million, Slovenia usually does not have a particularly large influence in European decision-making processes. However, as the EU presidency, it will now play an important mediating role for six months in the event of differences of opinion between EU countries. Slovenia has been a member of the European Union since 2004 and also of NATO.

Because of the obstruction of the European Prosecutor’s Office, European politicians demanded European Union Commission At the start of the council presidency, he called for a new EU sanctions instrument to be used to suspend payments to Slovenia from the group’s budget. Recent developments in the country have called for immediate action by the European Union, according to a letter initiated by German Green Party MPs Daniel Freund, Franziska Brantner and Sergey Lagodinsky.

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Jansa speaks in favor of EU enlargement

She drew sharp criticism from the left-wing European Parliament member Martin Sherdiwan. “The current head of government, Jansa, is terrorizing journalists in his country and cutting money from non-pro-government media companies,” he said. However, there is no content-related program for the presidency beyond “exiting safely from the pandemic.”

“Of course, it is now important to support the EU Council Presidency in Slovenia as best we can to ensure that Europe continues to stick together during the crisis,” said Achim Post, deputy chair of the SPD’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag. But that in no way means Jansa will be treated to baby gloves in the next few months.

At the press conference with von der Leyen on Thursday, Jansa rejected all allegations and asked for support for his priorities for the EU Council presidency. He said EU enlargement is a strategic response to important challenges. He warned that if the EU does not expand, it will expand too, citing the interests of countries such as China and Russia in the Balkans. (dpa/fra)

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