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Slovenia vows to be honest EU broker on rule of law row

July 1, 2021

The Slovenian government takes over the six-month EU presidency from Portugal. Its critics say that it is trying to stifle media freedom at home.

Slovenian PM Janez Jansa
Prime Minister Jansa is a prolific Twitter user and a fan of Donald Trump, the former US presidentImage: Francisco Seco/AP Photo/picture alliance

Slovenia will act as an honest broker in a dispute between European Union countries over the rule of law and human rights, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said on Thursday as the Alpine nation assumed the rotating EU presidency from Portugal.

Jansa, a conservative, told reporters in Brdo that there were no major differences between EU countries over these issues at last week's summit.

He added that the EU would not become a "melting pot" in which everybody thought alike over the next decades.

"We have to strengthen the EU, within which our values and national identities are protected and can continue to thrive," Jansa later wrote on the presidency website.

The Slovenian government said it will focus on enlargement issues and the post-COVID economic recovery.

It is the second time that Slovenia will have held the six-month rotating position since joining the European Union in 2004; the last occasion was in 2008.

Many of the powers have been transferred to the permanent role of European Council president, a job currently held by Belgian former Premier Charles Michel.

Jansa faces criticism on media freedom

Jansa has been accused by his opponents of trying to stifle the media; he has cut funding for the country's national news agency STA.

He has also come under fire for his management of the coronavirus pandemic and survived an impeachment vote in May for failing to secure enough vaccines.

People on the street in Slovenia during a protest in May
Protesters took the streets in May to demand Jansa's resignationImage: Luka Dakskobler/Sopa/Zuma/picture alliance

In Slovenia, Jansa is nicknamed “Marshal Twito” — a pun playing on the name of the former Yugoslav dictator Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

He earned the moniker because of his frequent use of Twitter to lash out at political opponents.

In Slovenia, press freedom under threat

"We owe the EU nothing. We fought for our freedom and democracy 30 years ago," Jansa tweeted in May after criticism from some EU officials about his track record.

Slovenian president dismisses concerns

The country's president used an interview with the Associated Press on Wednesday to calm fears in Brussels that the Slovenian government would look to ape the policies of Hungary's Viktor Orban.

"Slovenia will remain a liberal state and I wish that the image of a liberal state would be solidified during the presidency," said President Borut Paho. "If the European idea was the first cornerstone of our statehood, democracy is the second one."

Slovenia split from Yugoslavia in 1991 after a brief clash with the Serb-led Yugoslav army. In 2004, it became one of the first formerly communist states to join the EU.

jf/sms (AP, AFP, Reuters)