EP to discuss media freedom in Slovenia next week

Flags waving in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Ljubljana – Media freedom in Slovenia will be one of the items on the European Parliament’s agenda as it meets for a plenary next week as the planned debate on government attempts to silence media in Poland and Hungary has been expanded to include Slovenia.

The expansion of the agenda was endorsed by the Conference of Presidents, which comprises the European Parliament’s president and the political group chairmen. It was proposed by the Socialists and Democrats (S&D), the second largest group in the EP, which also includes two out of Slovenia’s eight MEPs. The debate will be held on Wednesday at 3 PM.

The largest political group in the European Parliament, that of the European People’s Party (EPP), which also includes the party of the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, said it had opposed expanding the debate to Slovenia.

Before the plenary, the situation in Slovenian media landscape is scheduled to be discussed on Friday afternoon by the EP’s group for democracy, rule of law and fundamental rights.

The group, led by Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew), is expected to host an online meeting with various stakeholders.

While the final list of participants could not yet be obtained, the three-hour meeting is expected to start at 1:30pm and should be virtual and open to public.

The draft list features European Commission representatives and a number of invitees from Slovenia, including Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina, NGO association CNVOS director Goran Forbici, public broadcaster RTV Slovenija supervisory board member Borut Rončevič, DNS and ZNP journalist associations presidents Petra Lesjak Tušek and Matevž Tomšič, investigative journalist Lenart J. Kučić and Marko Milosavljević, a professor at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Studies.

The group’s chair has also invited Prime Minister Janez Janša and Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti. The pair have recently said the debate should be public and in an in-person format held in the European Parliament. There should also be enough time to comprehensively present all the discussed topics.

Janša and Simoniti also invited in ‘t Veld to join a fact-finding mission to Slovenia that Janša proposed in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last Friday.

The EPP group today officially welcomed Janša’s invitation for a fact-finding mission to Slovenia, arguing that debate on the situation in Slovenia would be suitable if such a mission showed it was justified. Concerns linked to the rule of law are not a political game played every time someone you do not like says something, the EPP group spokesperson said.

The S&D is focusing on Wednesday debate. Asked whether they were considering initiating Article 7 procedure in Slovenia’s case, the group’s leader Iratxe Garcia did not rule out the option but said the debate on Wednesday would show whether further steps were needed. She noted the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs would be responsible for such a move.