STA, 15 September 2020 - Foreign Minister Anže Logar told the press on Tuesday that the government had unanimously and without debate endorsed a response to the EU Commission's draft opinion on the rule of law situation in Slovenia, after it came under renewed criticism in the press for its stance on the rule of law in the country.
Logar's statement comes after the newspaper Delo reported that the Commission's draft report on the rule of law in Slovenia is relatively favourable. However, the paper says the government paints the situation in a considerably more negative light in the document sent to Brussels.
The response was drawn up at the Foreign Ministry, according to unofficial information, and endorsed by the government at a correspondence session on Friday.
The government points out that Eurostat data do not back the Commission's arguments about greater efficiency of Slovenia's state attorneys, according to Delo. Moreover, the government is critical of the draft urging additional financial and human resources for the judiciary.
The government also criticises the media, in particular what it sees as "activists of the political struggle" who are not investigative journalists, and points to an above-average number of those who are employed as artists and journalists in Slovenia.
The Commission's draft report meanwhile says that there are no appropriate measures regulating a conflict of interest in media in the country, for example between political parties and media owners, which appears to be a reference to media controlled by the ruling Democrats (SDS).
Meanwhile, the government believes the Commission has overlooked the issue of ethical pluralism in post-transitional societies.
The response to the draft opinion also mentions suspected abuse of the anti-graft watchdog for political purposes, says Delo.
Violations of the rights to defence have occurred during the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) procedures, claims the government, adding that such seemingly minor shortcomings led to serious political consequences in the past, such as the toppling of a government.
The KPK responded by dismissing the allegations, highlighting that the watchdog was an independent body that was not and would not be influenced by individual political interests. It moreover said that the government had not acquainted it with the response.
Logar, speaking at a press conference after hosting his counterparts from the informal Central 5 (C5) initiative, said that there was still room for improvement in tackling corruption in Slovenia. The government will do all it can to speed up procedures against major acts of corruption, he said.
Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič said that the Commission's draft opinion was an opportunity for dialogue on the actual state of judiciary within Slovenia.
The minister said that she had endorsed the report, which she sees as a stepping stone to dialogue between Slovenia and the Commission as well as a set of guidelines for the country to improve its judicial system.
She said the government's response was produced by the Foreign Ministry in line with set methodology and agreements at the EU level.
A task force reviewing and presenting the situation in judiciary is in the works at the Justice Ministry, she said. It will feature representatives of the Supreme Court, Foreign Ministry and Justice Ministry "as well as perhaps external experts".
Kozlovič said that the contents of the report and of the government's response were not yet publicly revealed. The EU draft opinion indicated that the report would be "positive to a certain extent", but "it is not favourable at all".
In May, when Logar's comments attached to a report filed by Slovenia for the Commission's first annual rule of law report sparked strong reactions, Kozlovič said that Logar's letter was not the government's position and that her stance on the situation was positive.
In the wake of the government's latest response to the Commission's report, opposition parties said today that they had not been acquainted with the response since it was an internal document.
The Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) warned that this was not Logar's first letter to besmirch the reputation of Slovenia's judiciary abroad.
The Left expects the latest report to resemble the May letter as part of distraction tactics of the current government.
The Marjan Šarec Party (LMŠ) said that Slovenia respected the rule of law, though this did not mean the situation could not be improved.
Slovenia received the Commission's draft report on the rule of law in the country in late August. Unofficially, a report for all member states will be released on 30 September.
The EU General Affairs Council is expected to debate the situation this autumn, with the report striving to strengthen dialogue between member states and EU institutions, and shared understanding of the rule of law, including with respect to the candidates for EU membership.