Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša urged Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew/D66) to resign as chair of the European Parliament’s democracy monitoring group. His call came after Friday’s public consultation on the situation in Slovenia and the allegations that Janša’s government is censoring the media.
Janša urged in ‘t Veld to step down, accusing her of irreparably damaging the reputation and credibility of the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group.
“The Slovenian government takes freedom of speech and media freedom very seriously, and therefore we do not accept censorship,” reads a letter penned to in ‘t Veld by Peter Šuhel, Janša’s chief of staff. Memories of times when newspaper articles had to be approved by the Communist authorities are still very vivid in Slovenia, he adds.
“Your censorship is dangerously reminiscent of that time. However, I am pleased that you did this in front of the European public… Since I believe that you have irreparably damaged the reputation and credibility of the Group with this action, I call on you to step down as Chair of the DRFMG, in order for it to regain the trust of the Members of the European Parliament and of the EU citizens through a new leadership and its credible work,” writes Šuhel.
The letter is addressed to in ‘t Veld, however a copy of it was also sent to Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the Parliament.
The EPP, of which Janša’s Democrats (SDS) are a member, did not comment on Friday’s developments. During Friday’s debate, the prime minister presented a video of attacks on media and journalists which he insisted should be screened as part of the debate before questions time, however in ‘t Veld refused to allow it. Instead, she proposed that the video be shown at the end of the debate.
Janša responded by accusing her of censorship. Over the weekend, he posted on Twitter that Slovenia owes absolutely nothing to Brussels. Some Slovenians have been paying the price of freedom and democracy for 35 years and “overpaid bureaucrats who were born into prosperity will not preach to us about freedom and democracy”, he said.
MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew/D66), rejected allegations of censorship. The impression that the Parliament is an opponent of Slovenia’s is regrettable and far from the truth, she told the STA on Monday.
The MEP said the group was willing to cooperate and would do everything it could to help Slovenia avert a scenario that has been seen in Hungary and Poland.
She said the group conducted its work in a neutral, calm and professional manner. The group’s members regret that the recent developments had been made into a spectacle. “It almost seems as if the European Parliament was an opponent of Janša or Slovenia, which is very far from the truth,” in ‘t Veld told the STA over the phone.
If Janša believe a wrong impression has been made, he could always contact the group, she added. /ibna