STA, 20 July - The European Commission's second Rule of Law Report, released on Tuesday, raises concerns over Slovenia's failure to appoint on time its European delegated prosecutors. The situation of media freedom and pluralism in Slovenia has been deteriorating, the report warns, highlighting threats against journalists and the STA situation.
The annual report is also critical of Slovenia for what it sees as the "unjustifiably delayed" appointments of state prosecutors.
"The Slovenian justice system has seen some positive developments, including on issues raised in the 2020 Rule of law Report," the Commission said, pointing to a Constitutional Court ruling that declared parliamentary inquiry rules unconstitutional due to a lack of safeguards against encroachment on judicial independence.
Meanwhile, "challenges in proceedings relating to economic and financial crime cases remain", says the report, noting that the pandemic had exposed the need to step up distance communication tools in judiciary.
The Commission also sees further improvements in the legal and institutional frameworks for preventing and fighting corruption and protecting whistleblowers, saying that the independence and work of the Slovenian Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) have improved.
However, the anti-graft watchdog's shortage in human resources remains as do concerns over the effective enforcement of the anti-corruption rules. The Commission is also concerned over "the low number of convictions for corruption cases, especially for high-level instances".
When it comes to the situation of Slovenian media, the report highlights some alarming trends, warning that "online harassment of and threats against journalists are a growing source of concern, and several lawsuits against journalists with intimidating effects have been reported".
It also notes that concerns have been raised by Slovenian and foreign stakeholders due to "the refusal by the authorities to finance the Slovenian Press Agency for 2021".
The Commission points out that the independence of the media regulator or the Agency for Communication Networks and Services (AKOS) is ensured by law "but challenges remain regarding resources for its broad spectrum of tasks and commitment to further strengthen its independence".
The report also notes that the Slovenian Constitutional Court has improved its efficiency compared to the situation found in the first such report, released in September 2020, and has "played an active role in reviewing Covid-19 measures".
Civil society has meanwhile had to cope with several challenges that affect the work of NGOs, says the latest report.
The annual Rule of Law reports aim to be a preventive measure acknowledging challenges and seeking solutions. They focus on four pillars - judiciary, the national anti-corruption framework, media pluralism and media freedom, and the checks and balances system, taking into account the impact of Covid-19.
The primary aim of the latest Rule of Law Report was to de-escalate tensions among EU member states and dismiss allegations of double standards in assessing the situation in individual EU countries.
The Commission mostly sums up facts and assessments, but refrains from taking a stand in the reports. Unveiling the second report, the Commission even refrained from stating whether the rule of law situation had either improved or worsened across the EU or in individual member states.
The Slovenian EU presidency will lead dialogue among member states based on the latest report in the coming months.
A general debate on the situation of the rule of law in the entire EU is scheduled for October, whereas in November, the discussion will be dedicated to the situation in five member states whose turn it is according to alphabetical order - Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania.