Slovenia: Janša’s letter to EU triggers reactions

Slovenia: Janša’s letter to EU triggers reactions

Slovenian PM Janez Janša penned a letter to EU leaders on Tuesday, in which he argued that the recent agreement-inserting rule of law provisions in the EU budget and recovery facility undermined the July EU Summit Agreement on the funding package. Media in Slovenia report that the letter triggered strong reactions internally, as well as within the main opposition and partly in the coalition.

In the letter addressed to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel, among others, Janša claimed that the rule of law should be respected across the EU, however adding that “discretionary mechanisms that are not based on independent judgement but on politically motivated criteria cannot be called ‘the rule of law’”.

Janša added in the almost-four-page-long letter that “Slovenia supports the respect of the rule of law in all cases […] unconditionally, and without double standards”.

Nonetheless, he argued that “numerous media and some political groups in the European Parliament are openly threatening to use the instrument misleadingly called ‘rule of law’ 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 vetoed the Union’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’s and Hungary’s position.

Janša also claimed that, in 2014, Slovenia “witnessed a stolen electoral process 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”.

Janša took to Facebook today to add that “my letter is an attempt at a call to reason. We share the responsibility for the future of the EU. We have an obligation to think with our own heads too”.

Citing the EU treaty, he noted that every member state can lawfully and legitimately submit a veto in any case where joint decisions are taken by consensus.

“Is it so hard to understand that in this case it means at least a delay in the post-pandemic recovery? And that on major matters you will never be able to force any sovereign EU country into doing something that goes against its interests? And, moreover, that it is in Slovenia’s interest that it should not come to a delay or something more serious even?”

According to Slovenian media, the European Commission refrained from commenting on Janša’s letter apart from von der Leyen confirming that she had received it and would respond to it. Valdis Dombrovskis, however, European Commissioner in charge of economic affairs, while not commenting on the letter, did in fact say that Slovenia was not among the countries that blocked the agreement on the recovery package on Monday, but rather supported it.

The letter has triggered strong reactions in Slovenia, with responses being recorded from President Borut Pahor, among others, who stressed the need to respect the recent agreement between the European Parliament and the EU Council that makes EU funding conditional on adherence to the rule law. As for Janša’s allegations that the 2014 elections were stolen, Pahor underlined that the elections had been lawful and legitimate.

Junior partners in the government coalition distanced themselves from the letter, with New Slovenia (NSi) president Matej Tonin saying the letter solely expressed the opinion of the prime minister, since the government “did not decide on its content”.

The four left-leaning opposition parties issued strong condemnations separately as well as together, in the context of their new Constitutional Arch Coalition, calling on Slovenian politics and the public to fully reject Janša’s policies and urging a no-confidence vote to prevent what they called a continuation of irreparable damage to Slovenia and its people. /ibna