In his speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Slovenian Janez Jansa reasserted the opinion held by a growing group of Central European governments, according to which more should be done to protect Europe’s external borders, and the EU should step up its fight against illegal migration. In his speech marking the beginning of the Council of the European Union’s six-month Slovenian presidency, Jansa stated that the redistribution of migrants among member states is only possible under a mechanism that is acceptable to all countries and should not be forced on them via a central mechanism drafted by leading powers.
Jansa also stressed the importance of strengthening co-operation with countries of the Western Balkans, because the EU is losing its influence in the region, and powers whose values and political intentions are not in line with European traditions are gaining an ever-stronger foothold there. In his view, Bulgaria, Romania, and Croatia have been on an EU membership waiting list for too long. Jansa’s views on this matter are echoed by other Central European governments such as Hungary or Poland, yet the dominant political powers in Brussels are wary of inviting governments from the Balkans, which could lead to a rise in conservative voices and votes within European institutions.
The Slovenian Prime Minister also spoke about the contentious question of the rule-of-law mechanism. It is important to maintain the principle of rule-of-law in member states, yet in this matter there should be a consensus about what constitutes this concept, as well as an atmosphere of mutual trust. In Jansa’s opinion, the question as to what constitutes the rule of law – and what are the definition of its violations – should be formulated within independent, unbiased legal frameworks. It is also important to make sure that rule-of-law proceedings do not last for too long.
Lívia Járóka of the Hungarian governing party Fidesz, the European Parliament’s only Romani MEP, reacted to Jansa’s speech by saying that it is against the principle of mutual respect and equality that there should be double standards within Europe. She asked the Slovenian presidency to focus on national and ethnic minorities and asked for a special focus on the Romani community.
Yet the Slovenian presidency has taken a rocky start, as the College of European Commissionaires, headed by Ursula von der Leyen, met with Slovenian representatives in Ljubljana last week. At the beginning of the event, Jansa presented a picture slideshow portraying Slovenian judges interacting with lawmakers from the socialist group of the European Parliament. In the Prime Minister’s view, these relationships cast doubts on the independence of these lawmakers. Yet Frans Timmermans, the EU Commission’s Vice President for the EU Green Deal, who was present during the meeting, took offense at the presentation and refused to join the group photo at the end of the gathering because, in his view, Jansa had defamed and attacked the two judges and the two S&D MEPs.
The criticism did not discourage Jansa from showing another video to gathered journalists the next day that depicted instances of bias and misbehavior by left-wing journalists. According to him, double standards in the mainstream media are evident, as conservative voices are almost completely silenced in favor of left-wing and progressive views. He has also spoken out against what he called activist journalism and pointed to instances when journalists have quit their jobs to enter party politics. Slovenian Minister of Interior Ales Hojs has also joined the controversy when he referred to one of the EU delegates as “swine”, a remark interpreted by some as referring to Vice President Frans Timmermans. Alhough Hojs had later denied that the insult was directed against Timmermans, he was nevertheless reprimanded by Slovenian President Borut Pahor, who stated that although disagreements are part of the political discourse, they “must be uttered respectfully.”
Title image: Facebook – Janez Janša