Ever since being elected as prime minister of Slovenia in mid-March, Janez Janša has been under more or less constant media fire for siding with the two “black sheep” of the European Union, his Polish counterpart Mateusz Morawiecki and Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
After the country’s previous prime minister, Marjan Šarec, resigned hoping for early elections, Janša was able to form a coalition with his Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and three other parties, with his government voted into power with 53 votes to 31 in the 90-strong Slovenian legislature.
Most of his third term in office so far, after he previously held the position between 2004 and 2008 as well as 2012 and 2013, has been spent on successfully fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Slovenia, with a population of just over two million, had 1,445 coronavirus cases and 98 deaths, and so far has been commended much like Hungary and Poland for successfully handling the coronavirus outbreak.
Despite this, he still came under attack by the liberal media for reinforcing the Morawiecki-Orbán duo, both considered as mavericks within the European Union. The latest such article in the Guardian writes that “he will also be able to act as an additional voice of support inside the EU for Orbán and the Polish government, who want to ensure the union does not lecture member states on democracy and rule of law.”
Part Trump, part Johnson and a ‘little bit of Orbán’
Much of the disdain directed at Janša seems to be his support for Hungary’s immigration position, which would see a Europe of strong borders, an emphasis on reversing demographic decline, and a strict immigration policy within his own country.
Politico also wrote that Janša is an “anti-immigration hardliner and ally of Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán” and referred to him as a “strongman”, a connotation mostly reserved for military dictators and not for those who were brought to power in a democracy such as Slovenia’s. The publication describes Janša as “a little bit of Trump, a little bit of Boris Johnson, a little bit of Orbán.”
Politico does offer some grudging respect to Janša and his political abilities, writing, “Lionized by the Slovenian right, despised by the left, Janša is nothing if not resilient.”
The 61-year-old Janša also has promised to boost his country’s birth rates, strengthen the country’s borders and bring back military service, all points that are sure to frustrate publications such as the Guardian, Politico and the New York Times, just to name a few that have taken aim at Slovenia’s new leader.
With another ally in Slovenia, on top of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, it also harms liberal efforts to isolate Orbán and Morawiecki, who have pursued a conservative agenda in their countries and have sought allies elsewhere across Europe.
The Guardian is also concerned that Janša could help shield Hungary from rule of law and democracy campaigns being conducted by the EU, especially with Slovenia assuming the rotating EU presidency in 2021.
Like many liberal members of the press and his enemies in the EU, Orbán’s two-thirds majority in the Hungarian parliament and high approval ratings has always been “undemocratic”. The rule of law hearings directed at Hungary and Poland by pro-migration politicians in the EU, many who are aligned with George Soros, have been soundly rejected as politically motivated by those in the Hungarian and Polish governments.
With Janša at the helm in Slovenia, it could complicate these EU campaigns directed at Hungary and Poland.
‘Good luck, my friend!’
Janša alliance with Orbán is due to their overlapping in interests in a strong Europe that rejects pro-migration orthodoxy and extremist liberal sentiment. In fact, Janša won his last term of prime minister due to his opposition to migrant quotas in 2018.
Upon his recent election this year, Orbán was among the first to congratulate Janša with the words “Congratulations to Janez Janša! Good luck, my friend!” in a Facebook message. Soon afterwards, Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said that with the new leadership in Slovenia it was time to open a “new chapter” in the two countries’ relationship.
But besides being of the same patriotic conviction as his two colleagues, Janša’s outspoken nature has landed him much of the same situation as Orbán, who was unjustly attacked by Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European People’s Party for Orbán declaring a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus crisis.
Despite Orbán’s Fidesz party belonging to the EPP political group, Tusk said prominent Nazi legal scholar Carl Schmitt would be proud of Orbán, a claim that shocked Hungary and led to strong protests from the Hungarian government. Since then, the EU has also determined that the state of emergency does not violate and European guidelines.
Janša also jumped to Orbán’s defense regarding Tusk’s comments. In a Twitter exchange on April 1, Janša addressed Tusk with the words “Dear @donaldtuskEPP, please send us and countries south of us some personal protective equipment. Ventilators are also very needed and welcome. Thank you.”, to which Tusk replied: “Making use of the pandemic to build a ‘state of a permanent state of emergency’ is politically dangerous, and morally unacceptable.”
Title image: Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa. (source: MTI)