The Slovenia Times

In 't Veld thinks Slovenia is not like Hungary yet, hopes for meeting with Janša

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Strasbourg - The situation in Slovenia is not like in Hungary yet, but there are reasons for concern, the head of the European Parliament's democracy monitoring group, Sophie in 't Veld, has told the STA in an interview. The group is to visit Slovenia in mid-October and she hopes for a meeting with Prime Minister Janez Janša.

This will be the group's first visit to Slovenia. "We are going to meet with a very wide range of actors, we hope to meet with the prime minister, other government representatives, NGOs, journalists, ombudsman, prosecutors ... to get a full and complete picture of all sides, all the details ... and hear what's really going on in Slovenia," she said.

In 't Veld is hoping for a meeting with the prime minister. "We would be very interested in meeting with him, sit down and have a in-depth talk."

She said the group was motoring the situation in Slovenia closely and was getting "information from all sides". She mentioned the situation with the Slovenian Press agency (STA), noting the group was "following that and we are concerned, so I hope to get answers to what is happening there".

"I get the feeling that although on paper it seems that the situation is resolved, in reality there still seems to be considerable degree of uncertainty, which is in itself putting pressure on the functioning and independence of the agency. We are following that very closely."

Asked whether she was concerned that Slovenia might be following the path of Hungary and Poland, which are causing concerns in connection to the rule of law, she said "Slovenia is not in the same phase as Hungary yet".

"But even if we were not concerned, the PM himself considers Mr Orban to be a big example. And I don't think that Orban and his government are an example to be followed in the EU. So yes, I find that concerning."

She added that many in the European Parliament shared that concern. "We hope that in this case (of Slovenia) we can make sure that we don't get to the same stage as Hungary is in right now, or Poland."

What the next step will be after the visit to Slovenia, In 't Veld said this would depend on the findings. "We will discuss it."

One possibility would be to draw up a resolution, another possibility is a kind of a written report back to the liberties committee, she said, adding that the group usually continued to monitor the situation. There could also be more online session, she said.

The Parliament's democracy monitoring group has so far held two debates dedicated to the situation in Slovenia. Janša was invited to the second debate but instead of delivering an opening address he wanted to play a video on the media situation in Slovenia, which 't Veld did not agree to.

She also handed him at a July plenary, at which Janša presented Slovenia's EU priorities, a list of questions on subjects ranging from media freedom to alleged pressure on prosecutors and anti-coronavirus measures, which the group had sent to the Slovenian government in March to receive no reply.

There has still been no reply, she regretted to say. "As long as the questions haven't been answered, we will be looking for answers. And the questions are still very relevant."

She said the group did not focus only on one country, pointing to Spain in relation to a justice reform, the Netherlands, where a journalist was recently killed, and Bulgaria, which the group plans to visit soon as well.

The Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group features 14 MEPs, two from each political group, but it is expected that one MEP from each group will take part in the mission. The group is part of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

"The thing is very often seen as kind of sanctions exercise, as if it's a kind of punishment, but is not at all," she stressed. The group has a very broad mandate and its purpose is really to build a "Europe where we all share the same basic values", she added.


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