STA, 5 July 2021 - Prime Minister Janez Janša will present Slovenia's EU presidency priorities to the European Parliament at a plenary session on Tuesday in a very different atmosphere than in 2008. Socialists, liberals, the greens, and the left have all announced they will be critical. Janša's political family is reserved.
The presentation of priorities of the country starting the six-month stint at the helm of the Council of the EU in Parliament is customary and is followed by a debate with MEPs.
Janša will address MEPs for the second time as prime minister of a presiding county. In 2008, when he presented Slovenia's first presidency priorities, MEPs were mostly interested in Kosovo, which was about to declare independence.
This year, the situation is much different. The first two days of Slovenia's presidency were marked by two incidents. Frans Timmermans, the European Commission vice-president from the ranks of the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), eschewed a traditional photo-op at the takeover of the presidency due to Janša's comments about links between Slovenian judges and the Social Democrats (SD).
This was followed by a statement by Interior Minister Aleš Hojs at Friday's briefing for Brussels correspondents dedicated to the start of the Slovenian presidency being interpreted as taking aim at Timmermans with a pearls-swine metaphor. Hojs has denied the accusation.
This, along with the failure to appoint European delegated prosecutors and Janša's attitude to media and his support to Hungary in a debate on a controversial law that according to the European Commission discriminates people based on their sexual orientation, will set the mood for Tuesday's debate.
The biggest political group, the right-of-centre European People's Party (EPP), is reserved. Janša will take part in a meeting of the group on Tuesday evening, where he can expect questions about his support for Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the debate on the rights of the LGBTIQ community, as the EPP finds the controversial Hungarian law unacceptable.
Orban's Fidesz left the group and the EPP party a few months ago.
The EPP warns that politicising such issues in Hungary, Slovenia and Poland feeds populism in these countries. Unofficially, the group is concerned about the divide between the eastern and western EU countries, which the debate on the rights of the LGBTIQ community laid bare again.
The second and third biggest parliamentary groups, the S&D and the liberal Renew, announced they would be critical, especially due to Slovenia's failure to appoint delegated prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), and Janša's attitude to media.
The Slovenian prime minister can also expect criticism from the European Greens, the fifth largest group, who announced protests in Strasbourg for Tuesday morning together with the organisers of Friday's anti-government protests in Slovenia, as well as from the Left (GUE/NGL), the smallest political group.
The Eurosceptic European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) said the Slovenian prime minister must be given a chance.
The far-right Identity and Democracy Group (ID) did not take part in Friday's briefing where groups presented their views ahead of Tuesday's debate.
The agenda of the plenary will include the rights of LGBTIQ persons in Hungary, the Article 7 procedure of the Treaty on the European Union against Poland and Hungary, and rule of law conditionality.
The plenary will also be attended by Slovenian Foreign Minister Anže Logar, who will represent the Council of the EU in relations with the Parliament. He will take part in the debates on the rule of law and the fundamental rights in Hungary and Poland, the rights of the LGBTIQ community in Hungary, global EU sanctions related to human rights violations, the situation in Ethiopia, Antarctica and the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions.