On 17 November, the results of a monitoring mission on the rule of law carried out in Slovenia in October by some members of the European Parliament were presented
In July 2020, the partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium expressed grave concern over a package of amendments to some media laws presented that same month by the Slovenian government of Prime Minister Janez Janša. On that occasion, MFRR stressed the "risk of financially weakening the national public broadcaster and allowing greater government control over public service media" in the country. The International Media Watchdog also intervened, denouncing the loss of 13 million Euros in public funding for the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and the dismissal of the director of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) Igor Kadunc.
Since Janez Jansa of the Slovenian Democratic Party came to power in March 2020, it has become the norm to foment hatred against journalists and editors of the public media. For example, using social media, especially Twitter , Jansa called the STA a "national disgrace" and the RTV "an irresponsible virus spreader", accusing it of "lies" and deceiving the public.
To assess the latest developments in the rule of law, media freedom, and anti-corruption in the country, from 13 to 15 October 2021 LIBE's DRFMG – one of the committees of the European Parliament – visited the country. The mission of eight MEPs was led by Sophie In 't Veld, Dutch MEP from the Renew Europe group. Among the participants in the monitoring was Mikulas Peksa from the Budget Commission to clarify the Slovenian government's delay in appointing two delegated prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO).
The climate in which the mission carried out its monitoring was not among the best. Suffice it to report that during the visit Prime Minister Janez Jansa tweeted a photo showing some European politicians, with a red arrow pointing to Sophie In 't Veld, with the phrase: "13 of the 226 known Soros puppets in the EU parliament".
The mission report was made public on 17 November. "We observed that public institutions as a whole function well", was highlighted during the presentation to the LIBE of the European Parliament. Nevertheless, the EP delegation said it was concerned about the "climate of hostility, mistrust, and profound polarisation" that Slovenia presents.
Examples of government pressure on public institutions and the media were also reported. According to some of the interlocutors interviewed, the Slovenian institutions in recent years have promoted defamatory campaigns, slander, criminal investigations, and strategic legal actions against public participation (SLAPP ).
The European Parliament delegation also expressed its concern about the government's delay in funding the STA and urged the Slovenian administration to implement a ruling by the Supreme Court of Slovenia in which the latter states that "the state must provide funding to the STA for 2021 in line with the agency's business plan". In September 2021, Vera Jourova, Vice President of the European Commission, also intervened by writing to Vasko Simoniti, Slovenian Minister of Culture, to grant the funding due to the STA. "Member states must refrain from any attempt to put direct or indirect pressure on the media, including by withholding the necessary funding", Jourova said on that occasion.
In November, the STA then signed an agreement with the Slovenian government which ensures access to state funding. “The new contract will guarantee normal financing and therefore also the activities of the STA this year, while we will have something left for next year", declared on that occasion the director of the STA Igor Kadunc. Although the staff of the STA welcomed the agreement, in a press release they also warned against initiatives that could in any case indirectly affect editorial independence. It was also noted that after months without state funding, part of the staff of the STA has already left the agency and that the agony that lasted several months has compromised the quality of its services.
During the monitoring visit to Slovenia, Mikulas Peksa, from the Budget Control Commission, inquired about the delay in the appointment of two delegated prosecutors at the European Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) as well as the delays in the appointment of several local prosecutors. In this context, Peksa pointed out a worsening situation in which, also due to the size of the country, the lack of competition is apparent. "A single company can win most of the construction contracts because it is very close to the establishment", Peksa said.
On 24 November , the EPPO finally announced the appointment of two European prosecutors from Slovenia for the next five years. A decision welcomed with relief in Brussels after several months of stalemate caused by the Jansa government.
In a statement last May , Laura Kovesi, European Chief Prosecutor, was particularly tough on the issue. "The EPPO can start operations without Slovenian European Delegated Prosecutors. However, this means that the level of protection of the EU's financial interests will decrease in Slovenia (...) The manifest lack of sincere cooperation of the Slovenian authorities with the EPPO seriously undermines confidence in the effective functioning of the management and control systems of EU funds in Slovenia", she said.
In June 2018, in the aftermath of the murders of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Slovakian journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée, the European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) decided to create the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group (DRFMG). This rule of law working group focused on threats to democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights and the fight against corruption within the EU in all member states. Its function is for monitoring only.
The EPPO is an independent and decentralised prosecutor of the European Union, with the competence to investigate and prosecute crimes against the EU budget, such as fraud, corruption, or serious cross-border VAT fraud. It started its operational activities on 1 June 2021.
The action is co-financed by the European Union in the frame of the European Parliament (EP)'s grant programme in the field of communication. The EP is, in no case, responsible for or bound by the information or opinions expressed in the context of this action. The contents are the sole responsibility of OBC Transeuropa and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union. Go to the project’s page: “The Parliament of rights 3”.
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