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26th May 2022

Snubbed and hated: How Slovenia's Janša treated MEPs

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MEPs have voiced serious concern on rule of law in Slovenia, amid snubs and hate-speech by its top officials.

The president of Slovenia's court of auditors, its human-rights ombudsman, its data-protection commissioner, and its anti-corruption commissioner all testified to MEPs, who visited Ljubljana last week, that their independence was under pressure from government interference, according to Dutch liberal deputy Sophie in 't Veld.

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Some public institutions "were still strong", she said.

But Slovenia has not yet appointed its delegate to the European Prosecutors Office (EPPO), the MEPs noted, which meant the EPPO cannot go after financial crimes involving EU funds in the country.

And another point of worry was the financial "squeezing" of the Slovenian Press Service (STA), which has not received funding for almost a year, despite a Slovenian Supreme Court verdict saying the government had to ensure the independence and adequate funding of the public-service provider.

"Starving the budget of the STA and not appointing EPPO-prosecutors are reasons to keep up [European Parliament] monitoring" in Slovenia, in 't Veld said on Friday (15 October), while noting that the European Commission had been "extremely weak in enforcing EU law" in rogue member states.

The Dutch MEP went to Slovenia as one of seven EU deputies from the civil-liberties committee.

Their visit came amid a broader EU dispute on rule of law, which could see funds withheld for backsliders, such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

And Slovenia's treatment of the EU Parliament delegation made it look even more like a member of the rogue club.

Slovenia's prime minister Janez Janša, its defence minister, and its justice minister all snubbed the MEPs, declining to meet them without any explanation.

And its culture ministry sabotaged a meeting by insisting it was recorded. "That's not how we do things," in 't Veld said.

Meanwhile, Janša personally attacked the MEPs with hate-speech on social media.

He tweeted a picture, at about the time they were due to meet in Ljubljana, saying in 't Veld and 12 other MEPs were "puppets" of American-Jewish philanthropist George Soros - an old antisemitic conspiracy theory.

Janša later deleted the post.

But he then started a twitter-war with Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, including jibes about a journalist who was murdered in Amsterdam, which generated more international press coverage than the substance of the MEPs' fact-finding mission.

"Antisemitism has no place in the European Union ... It presents a threat not only to Jewish communities, but to an open and diverse society," an EU Commission spokesman said on Friday on Janša's Soros tweet.

"Social media should ... not be a place for personal attacks," it added.

For in 't Veld, "members of government were engaging in a debate that is, frankly, unfitting for a civilised society". "Tone is important ... That kind of debate leads to a climate of distrust, hostility, and intimidation," she said.

She spoke the same day that a British MP was stabbed to death in the UK, in an attack which highlighted the danger of political hate-speech.

And for some, the fact Janša was the current holder of the EU presidency made matters worse.

"This despicable antisemitic dog-whistling is not suitable for the EU president ... This kind of behaviour is exactly the reason why our MEPs are there to look into the situation of the rule of law," a spokesman for the Green group in the EU Parliament said on Friday.

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The right to seek asylum is a fundamental tenet of international law, and yet Iran and Pakistan have fortified their borders, leaving Afghans no escape. The EU should put pressure on Pakistan to allow refugees into the country.

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Next week is time for EU to finally lead on rule of law

The EU Commission still has to prove they are ready to stand up for the rights of every citizen in the EU. Throwing the towel in would send a terrible signal to European leaders tempted to emulate Hungary and Poland.

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