STA, 18 November 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša addressed a letter to EU leaders on Tuesday, calling for a return to the July EU summit agreement on the next financial budget, which is, he said, now undermined by a recent deal between the EU Council and Parliament tying the rule of law to the EU funds eligibility.
In the letter, addressed to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, among others, Janša writes that the rule of law should be respected across the EU, however he also says that "discretionary mechanisms that are not based on independent judgement but on politically motivated criteria cannot be called 'the rule of law'".
He also highlighted that "Slovenia supports respecting the rule of law in all cases [...] unconditionally, and without double standards".
"Today, numerous media and some political groups in the European Parliament are openly threatening to use the instrument wrongly called 'the rule of law' in order to discipline individual EU Member States through a majority vote," the prime minister writes in the letter, also addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is currently at the helm of the EU Council, and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who will take over from Merkel at the start of 2021.
He goes on to say that "those of us who spent part of our lives under a totalitarian regime know that deviation from reality begins when processes or institutions are given a name that reflects the exact opposite of their essence".
In an almost-four-page-long letter Janša argues that in 2014 Slovenia "witnessed stolen elections effected through a drastic abuse of state institutions - including part of the judiciary", adding that "none of the EU institutions reacted with a single warning at the time".
The 2014 elections were won by Miro Cerar, the then leader of what was then his eponymous party, which was later renamed the Modern Centre Party (SMC). Janša's Democrats (SDS) trailed in the second place.
Janša argues in the letter that the European Parliament refused to discuss the matter due to a lack of majority needed to put the issue on the agenda. "At the same time, there was and still is much debate on the state of democracy in Hungary and in Poland.
"Even a procedure under Article 7 of the Treaty was initiated, despite the fact that neither country had any known cases of abuse of the judiciary for political reckoning or a single political prisoner during their EU membership - let alone a case of electoral theft as was the case in Slovenia."
Janša notes that the rule of law or its violations are decided by an independent court and not by a political majority.
He also points out that the Treaty on the European Union "does not allow any discriminatory action against any Member State upon the political request of any other Member State or any EU institution".
Janša says there are many challenges ahead of the EU, warning that "following wrong course, unfortunately, a good future of Europe, whole and free, is slipping out of our hands".
"The sea is already rough enough without the problems we are causing ourselves," he says, listing the strong impact of China, divisions in the US in the wake of the elections, Russia's foreign policy and terror attacks in the EU as major challenges.
"That is why now more than ever we need unity in terms of where we are headed [...] We need EU institutions that will not be involved in Member States' internal political conflicts," he says, adding that we need to realise the foundation of the EU is not money but values, and the latter cannot be forced using money.
"The dilemma before us is very simple. Respecting the July EUCO agreement is a responsible approach for the good future of the EU. Disrespecting it is the opposite."
He thinks the following days will be critical for finalising a fair and balanced deal based on the July agreement.
"Only by swiftly concluding what we set in motion in July will we be able to meet these high expectations and pave the way towards a stronger Europe in the post-pandemic era," he says, adding that additional efforts to get everybody on board would prevent further delays in reaching a solid deal.
On his Facebook profile later, Janša said Slovenia had not submitted or announced a veto at Monday's session of Committee of Permanent Representatives. "We suggested taking extra time before a final decision should be taken in the proposed direction which would inevitably lead to a blockade of EU funds for all in order to seek out a compromise based on the July agreement."
"My letter is an attempt at a call to reason. We share the responsibility for the future of the EU. We have an obligation to think with our own heads too," Janša said.
Citing the EU treaty, he noted that every member state can lawfully and legitimately submit a veto everywhere where joint decisions are taken by consensus.
"Is it so hard to understand that in this case it means at least a delay in post-pandemic recovery? And that on major matters you will never be able to force any sovereign EU country to do something that goes against its interests? And that it is in Slovenia's interest it should not come to the delay or something more serious even?" Janša wrote in his Facebook post in Slovenian.
On Tuesday, Janša rejected in parliament reports that a blockade by Poland and Hungary had occurred in regard to the new EU budget and Covid recovery fund, adding that the situation was not what the media were portraying it to be.
The European Commission would not comment on Janša's letter beyond confirming von der Leyen had received it and would respond to it.