Erjavec Claims Intel. Commission Clears Him of Croatian Border Scandal, Calls Tonin a Liar

By , 31 May 2019, 11:49 AM Politics
Erjavec and Tonin Erjavec and Tonin DeSUS and NSi websites

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STA, 30 May 2019 - Former Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec suggested on Thursday that interviews conducted by the parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Commission had confirmed he had been in no way involved in the border arbitration incident with Croatia. He called that commission's chair Matej Tonin a "notorious liar" who is abusing his post and hurting Slovenia.

Erjavec commented after today's government session on Tonin's claim, made after Wednesday's session of the commission, that the testimonies by two former directors of Slovenian intelligence agency SOVA and that of arbitration agent Simona Drenik did not add up.

While the commission plans to continue the investigation into the phone conversations - believed to have been recorded by Croatian intelligence - between the Slovenian arbitration agent and the Slovenian member of the arbitration tribunal, Erjavec said he hopes "Tonin's lying will finally end".

Erjavec, who is now serving as defence minister while he was foreign ministry when Croatia published the phone conversations in 2015 and used them as an excuse to pull out of the arbitration process, said he had to listen to accusations he had caused the scandal for four years.

After allegations that Croatian intelligence services had something on Erjavec and were extorting him and reproaches related to his weekend house in Croatia, Tonin has recently led those peddling the allegation that the collusion between judicial agent Drenik and arbiter Jernej Sekoloec had been ordered by the minister, Erjavec said.

The minister, who heads the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), added Drenik had said on Wednesday that no pressure had been exerted on her. "However, somebody is making misleading statements all the time and creating a big show out of this," Erjavec added.

He pointed out that Sekolec, interviewed by the commission on Thursday along with Drenik and former SOVA director Andrej Rupnik, had acknowledged he had made a mistake and had expressed regret.

Erjavec expects that Tonin, who is the president of the opposition New Slovenia (NSi), will "stop abusing" his leading post on what is a very important commission.

Tonin responded to the accusations by saying that it was understandable that those involved in the arbitration fiasco would like to forget about it all as soon as possible.

However, irregularities occurred, this was also confirmed by the arbitration tribunal, and finding out the truth cannot undermine Slovenian interests while it can prevent such mistakes from repeating, Tonin wrote.

He said it was the commission's duty to find out whether SOVA had properly trained and equipped people at the Foreign Ministry and to draw up a report on how to remedy potential shortcomings.

Tonin said the commission had also received this mandate with votes from the coalition, and that everyone testifying before the commission was doing so voluntarily, which makes any accusation of abuse indecent and foul.

What is more, "Minister Karl Erjavec knows that I cannot speak publicly about the details, which is presently allowing him to attack the work of the commission and me personally". Tonin said the final report of the commission would serve as the best answer to the minister's offensive remarks.

Meanwhile, speaking to TV Slovenija in the evening, Drenik said she felt the reviving of the scandal was a political stunt.

Surprised by Tonin's claim her testimony did not match that of the former SOVA directors, Drenik repeated she had answered the question of the commission within the confines of the commission's mandate.

Drenik said she had been convinced during the conversation with Sekolec that she had been sufficiently protected, but added that she saw things differently today. "We would have acted differently today," she said.

"It is clear, and I'm convinced this is the case, that Slovenia was not the only party that was involved in such ex-parte communication, but there is no direct evidence for this," Drenik also said.

Still, Drenik is content with how things ended, as the arbitration tribunal dismissed this "procedural complication" as not grave enough to derail the procedure and Slovenia got an arbitration result it can be happy with.

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