STA, 9 April 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec has called a session of the National Security Council for this afternoon after media reported that Croatia had tried to prevent Slovenian media from reporting on Croatia's intelligence activities in Slovenia.
Foreign Minister Miro Cerar announced that the ministry had already summoned the Croatian Ambassador to Slovenia Boris Grigić for talks, to be conducted by State Secretary Simona Leskovar this afternoon, while he would be meeting on Wednesday Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia Smiljana Knez, who has also been summoned to Ljubljana.
The prime minister is concerned by the news that Croatian officials had attempted to influence the reporting of the commercial broadcaster POP TV on the activities of the Croatian intelligence service, the office said.
These are serious accusations, which call for appropriate explanations, it added ahead of the session of the national Security Council, scheduled for 4 PM.
Exercising any kind of pressure on media outlets is inadmissible and runs contrary to the fundamental principles of democracy, the office said.
"If such pressure is even dictated by a foreign government, then this points to a big democratic deficit and a shift from fundamental European values, including the rule of law," Šarec's office stressed.
Cerar said that foreign countries' interference and pressure on the Slovenia media were unacceptable, declaring that Slovenia would be unyielding in defence of the freedom of speech.
"Slovenia has grown up respecting media freedom, the freedom of speech, and will therefore not yield in the defence of media freedom and the freedom of speech," said Cerar, adding that this was a democratic asset that must be defended not only in Slovenia but also in Europe, and promoted worldwide.
The revelations made by POP TV were not new to Cerar, who reported that there had been a series of incidents while he served as prime minister, but the prime goal at the time was for the arbitration process to get completed and for the border solution to be reached.
He said that as prime minister he had reasoned that any escalation would harm Slovenia's interests. "We were also bound by Article 10 of the Arbitration Agreement which provides that the parties shall refrain from escalation of tensions lest it should jeopardise the procedure and the goal."
Cerar said he did not know how Croatia would react to the disclosure, but he opined that the reactions this far suggest the Croatian authorities are in a tight spot. He said such conduct was not befitting Europe and that everything should be done to prevent such developments in the future.
He expects the Croatian government to take measures accordingly and that the two countries would form their relationship on different foundations, "not unfriendly, un-European foundations that are not in compliance with the rule of law".
Cerar said he was coordinating his activities with the prime minister. He will take part in the National Security Council's session, which he expects will discuss further steps.
Due to recurring incidents in the Bay of Piran and Croatia's violation of the border drawn by the arbitration tribunal, Cerar urged Šarec more than a week ago to call a political coordination meeting on the implementation of the arbitration award, which he said must be executed by both countries.
"We know the arbitration award is not ideal for either party, we know neither party is entirely pleased with it, but we committed to implement it and it must be implemented," he said, adding that EU countries were expected to respect basic values. "Respecting the rule of law and media freedom remain basic values for Slovenia that we will defend unconditionally."
POP TV reported on Monday that the Croatian government had used an intermediary to try to prevent the commercial broadcaster's news portal from revealing that the Croatian intelligence agency SOA was behind the tapping of the phone calls between Slovenia's judge and agent in the border arbitration in July 2015.
POP TV also alleged that Croatia was spying on foreign media. "The intention to run the story was known only to two POP TV journalists. Croatia could have learned about this only with special intelligence methods," said POP TV journalist Jure Tepina.
SOA today denied reporting by POP TV labelling it as "untruthful and a tendentious construct", and as a continuation of the media campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina designed to smear SOA and Croatia.
While the STA has been unable to get any official response from the Croatian government, the Croatian newspaper Jutarnji List reported today that the Croatian government denied the reports.
The coalition Social Democrats (SD) called for a session of the National Security Council in the wake of the latest revelations late last night.
The party argued that the council should meet to discuss what "peaceful and prudent steps should be taken to protect our country, people, media and democracy."
The party added that the top Slovenian politicians must decide on an appropriate way to respond to the situation and inform "our partners in the EU on Croatia's grave violation of European values and the rule of law."