STA, 11 May 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar has highlighted long procedures, failure to implement Constitutional Court rulings and biased judges in a letter supplementing an inter-ministerial report on rule of law that the government has sent to the European Commission, the daily Delo reports on Monday.
The report, requested by the new European Commission from all EU member states in keeping with its commitment to promote the rule of law, deals with the independence, quality and effectiveness of the judiciary, while it also answers questions about media pluralism, press freedom, the system of checks and balances for individual branches of power and the situation of NGOs.
Slovenia has sent a 40-page report to Brussels along with a letter addressed to Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynder in which Logar speaks of cases in Slovenia too often becoming statute barred after taking unreasonably long to be processed.
According to Delo, the foreign minister also notes Slovenia has lost a number of cases at the European Court of Human Rights.
Moreover, the prosecution of bank crime is ineffective and the appearance of impartiality is not honoured in the judiciary, Logar argues, while also speaking of some judges using totalitarian symbols but not specifying any examples, according to Delo.
In what seems to be a reference to the current prime minister, Janez Janša, Logar also says that the judiciary condemned some opposition politicians in the past to then see the procedure annulled by the Constitutional Court.
Another case highlighted by Logar is an alleged Iranian money laundering scheme at NLB bank a decade ago. He wrote that a parliamentary inquiry commission led by him had handed plenty of evidence to prosecution authorities but that nothing had come of the case so far.
The Foreign Ministry explained for the STA that the report had been compiled together with the ministries of justice and culture and some other institutions from the fields which would be dealt with by the relevant Commission's report.
This annual report will be drafted also on the basis of visits by Commission representatives to member states, and its content will be discussed by the General Affairs Council in the autumn.
The ministry added that Logar had told the Commission that "when it comes to issues related to the rule of law, Slovenia has missed a voice of the European Commission and other relevant European institutions."
The dialogue on improving the rule of law is in common interest and must be based on actual situations, which are different in individual member states, so "we expect that member states will be treated fairly and based on the same criteria."
The ministry also expects that the assessments will take into account various specific factors, "including democratic culture and heritage", and that "open and objective debate" will be held at the EU level on the issues to be covered by the report.
The opposition Left reacted to Logar's letter by announcing a request for a session of the parliamentary Foreign Policy Committee, with MP Matej T. Vatovec saying that the government had become a "branch office of the Democrats (SDS)".
He also said on Twitter that the Foreign Ministry "is silent when the 'friend' Orban provokes with territorial pretensions, while at the same time 'snitching' on its own country in the international environment."
The coalition parties have not commented on the letter, with Jožef Horvat, the head of the New Slovenia (NSi) deputy group, only saying that the party had not been acquainted with it.
Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlović told Delo that the report was mostly drawn up by the Justice Ministry, however she added that Logar had his own opinion on the judiciary situation in Slovenia and highlighted that his letter did not represent the government's standpoint.
She said that her stance on the situation was positive, adding that commenting on the report was not necessary.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, taken aback by the letter, said that it had not been made aware of it, according to the media. Upon receiving it, the court will take a stance and inform the justice commissioner about it if necessary.
Moreover, the court does not know what was the basis for the letter. Slovenia's judiciary has been improving its performance for years and enjoys greater support in the public than the other two branches of powers, it added.
The Commission told the STA today that it had received Slovenia's input for the first annual rule of law report, saying that it would "continue its dialogue with all member states in the run-up to the finalisation of the report".
It did not comment on the content of the letter, however asked about Logar's criticism targeted at the institution, the Commission responded by saying that "as is normal practice, we do not comment on exchanges between the Commission and our member states".
The Logar dispatch comes after much dust was raised in Slovenia in April by another letter, which was sent through the Foreign Ministry to the Council of Europe after the latter's warnings about PM Janša's attacks on the media.
The main premise of the letter, whose authorship has been claimed by the Government Communication Office, was that the majority of the main media in Slovenia stem from the Communist regime and remain ideologically biased.