STA, 26 February 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša has written to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen with an invitation for the Commission to appoint a fact-finding mission that would visit Slovenia to get acquainted with the state of democracy, rule of law, independence of the judiciary and media plurality.
"I do not want the saga of unsubstantiated accusations about the current Slovenian government to continue spreading across Europe - sadly with the help of the EU institutions - as it mostly serves to cover up the real problems faced by our democracy," says the letter published by the prime minister on Twitter on Friday.
The letter notes that Slovenia is taking over the six-month presidency of the EU Council on 1 July, and that "we faced a similar situation leading up to 2008, when our country chaired the Council of the EU for the first time".
Janša has proposed that Von der Leyen appoint as soon as possible a fact-finding mission that would visit Slovenia. He has assured the European Commission president that the government would enable the mission to get all required information.
"If you consider it appropriate, this group may also include representatives of the European Council and the European Parliament," adds the letter that has also been sent to all members of the European Council.
Janša noted that European Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova had recently repeated accusations related to freedom of the press in Slovenia, which followed similar statements by the Commission's spokespersons.
"They, on various occasions, without any evidence, based only on individual media reporting, questioned the freedom of the press, the rule of law, judicial independence and the state of democracy in Slovenia in general."
The prime minister added that the situation was similar just before 2008, when Slovenia was to assume its first EU presidency, pointing to the letter signed by 571 journalists and editors from Slovenia, which he attached to his invitation.
The first Slovenian presidency of the EU did not turn out to be a "a big threat to the Union", as the journalist said at the time, and instead, "our dedicated work for the common benefit of all EU Member States was key to its success," he said.
"The second presidency of Slovenia is preceded by similar attempts organised by the same protagonists from the list of 571 journalists as in 2007; we regret to note that, this time, with the participation of some officials of the EU institutions."
Janša stressed that, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, Slovenia was responsibly preparing to take over the presidency of the EU Council.
"Thus, we do not wish for our work be overshadowed by absurd charges that can be dismissed by anyone who, accompanied by a capable translator, would spend a day or two following Slovenian media and political dynamics", he added.
The prime minister noted that Slovenia had a problem with the state of democracy in general. "However, I must point out that the roots and causes of this problem are much deeper and older - linked to Slovenia's communist legacy."
According to Janša, a visit by the European Commission fact-finding mission would help create a more independent and comprehensive assessment of the situation and answer a series of questions about the independence of the media and judiciary.
He concluded by saying that it was important that the same standards were applied to all, both in Slovenia and in the entire EU, when the rule of law and the state of democracy was evaluated, and that the rule of law is promoted instead of the rule with the (abuse of) law.
Responding, the Commission confirmed for the STA today that it had received Janša's letter on Thursday.
It said that the annual report on the rule of law is the proper framework to assess the situation of the freedom of the media, which is "a pillar of our democracies".
Exchanges with member states are part of that process, and work on the next annual report on the rule of law has already started, the Commission explained in a release.
Opposition critical of Janša's fact-finding letter to EU
STA, 26 February 2021 - The left-leaning opposition responded with criticism to Prime Minister Janez Janša's letter to the European Commission that invites a fact-finding mission to Slovenia. The responses range from assessments that he is diverting attention and calls that the situation should be calmed down, to such that he is not fit for the post.
Janša said in the letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that a fact-finding mission should be sent to get acquainted with the state of democracy, rule of law, independence of the judiciary and media plurality in Slovenia.
He said he did not want the "saga of unsubstantiated accusations about the current Slovenian government to continue spreading across Europe ... as it mostly serves to cover up the real problems faced by our democracy".
Social Democrats (SD) leader and MEP Tanja Fajon said she was concerned about these types of letters, and wondered whose position Janša was advocating. She called on him to calm things down for the sake of Slovenia's international reputation.
Fajon urged Janša to focus his energy on managing the Covid-19 epidemic and seek consensus in order to normalise society, instead of writing letters that made Brussels "watch us with a great deal of concern, as the entire European public is dealing with Slovenia".
Jerca Korče, an MP of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), said that the letter was intended more for the "internal public, so that Janša shows once again all the frustrations and traumas that he is expressing on the daily basis everywhere he can".
Korče said that the attention was being diverted from the government not being able to govern the country, adding that the EU had mechanisms of its own to assess when the respect of EU principles needed to be examined and protected.
As for the content of the letter, she said that Janša talked about attacks within the media landscape while blocking the financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and about the judiciary while blocking the appointment of prosecutors.
Left leader Luka Mesec said that "all parties in Slovenia that consider themselves democratic should condemn the letter and distance themselves from it" and take the position that Janša is not fit to chair the EU Council.
Mesec said that Janša had clearly shown once again that he would like to be the editor of all media outlets in Slovenia and to "determine what is a lie and what is truth", labelling him an "authoritarian who is trying to seize power in the country".
As Janša was recently urged by coalition New Slovenia (NSi) leader and Defence Minister Matej Tonin to invite an EU fact-finding mission, Mesec said that they had done this together and that it had turned out once again that the NSi "is not an autonomous party, but only a tag to the SDS".
The opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) assessed that Janša is "apparently not fit to be prime minister, as he is not able to solve problems at home and even creates new ones".
Like in 2013, when he did not know how to save the country from going bankrupt and called the 'troika' for help, he is now calling the European Commission to fix freedom of the press and democracy, the party said on Twitter.