STA, 18 November 2020 - Junior partners in the government coalition have distanced themselves from a letter Prime Minister Janez Janša addressed to EU leaders concerning the rule of law debate in the bloc.
New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin, writing on Twitter, said the letter was the opinion of the prime minister since the government "did not decide on its content".
Slovenija se po julijskem dogovoru v procesu usklajevanja in potrjevanja prihodnjega evropskega finančnega okvirja ni nikoli pridružila blokadam Madžarske in Poljske, zato upravičeno trdim, da pismo predstavlja mnenje PV ne pa @vladaRS— Matej Tonin (@MatejTonin) November 18, 2020
EU se sooča z največjo zdravstveno in ekonomsko krizo po 2. sv. vojni, enotnost držav članic je bistvenega pomena. Pismo PV evropskim voditeljem zagotovo ne koristi interesom Slovenije, postavlja nas med problematične države, kamor nikoli nismo sodili. To terja resno razpravo.— Tomaž Gantar (@tomazgantar) November 18, 2020
The letter "definitely doesn't benefit Slovenia's interests, it places us among problematic countries, where we've never belonged. This demands a serious debate," Tomaž Gantar, the interim leader of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS), said on Twitter.
The Modern Centre Party (SMC) wrote on its official Twitter account that it "rejected" the content of the letter, adding that "for SMC, the rule of law is a basic tenet of the European Union and we support all efforts by EU member states and European institutions to implement this principle in all EU members states and beyond."
The party's position was also endorsed by National Assembly Speaker Igor Zorčič, an SMC member.
[ODZIV #SMC]— Stranka SMC (@StrankaSMC) November 18, 2020
(1/3) V SMC zavračamo vsebino pisma, ki ga je predsednik vlade poslal predsedniku Evropskega sveta Charlesu Michelu.
Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič, another SMC member, also distanced herself from the letter, emphasizing her ministry was not involved in the writing of the letter nor had the letter been on the government's agenda.
"There is but one rule of law and it must be complied with. I therefore support every effort and mechanism contributing to it," Kozlovič said as quoted by the Justice Ministry.
"Considering that we have been acquainted with the letter only from summaries in the media, we can only emphasize that the rule of law is not an empty word that can be understood and judged sometimes in one way and sometimes in another," she said.
She noted that the rule of law is defined in the judgements of the EU Court and the European Court of Human Rights. "It is a value- and substance-wise wholesome principle that entails clearly defined fundamental democratic principles and postulates such as the principles of legality, transparency, legal security, judiciary independence, division of power and obviously respect for fundamental human rights and freedoms," added the minister.
In a letter to EU leaders leaked on Tuesday evening, Janša wrote that "Slovenia supports respecting the rule of law in all cases [...] unconditionally, and without double standards."
Slovenija bo dosledno zagovarjala vladavino prava in enaka merila za vse in povsod, tako doma kot v EU. Spoštovanje vladavine prava v #EU pomeni, da Lizbonska pogodba in ostali pravni temelji EU veljajo tako na Poljskem kot v Belgiji, Sloveniji, Španiji, na Madžarskem etc. 1/9 pic.twitter.com/J4qRYiJaqQ— Janez Janša (@JJansaSDS) November 18, 2020
But he argued that "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 letter came ahead of a virtual meeting of EU leaders dedicated to the EU's response to the epidemic and after Poland and Hungary's blocked the bloc's multi-year budget and recovery facility over the inclusion of rule of law provisions. The letter is seen by foreign media as an endorsement of Poland and Hungary's position.
Janša also claimed 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 SMC, which won the 2014 election, dismissed the claim. "The SMC won the election fairly, based on the will of the people expressed in free and democratic elections."