Brussels – Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has called on Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew/D66) to resign as chair of the European Parliament’s democracy monitoring group. The move comes after Friday’s incident during the group’s public debate and censorship allegations.
Janša urged in ‘t Veld to step down on Monday, accusing her of damaging the reputation and credibility of the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group irreparably.
“The Slovenian government takes freedom of speech and media freedom very seriously and therefore we do not accept censorship,” reads a letter that was sent to in ‘t Veld by Peter Šuhel, Janša’s chief of staff. Memories of times when newspaper articles had to be approved by the Communist authorities are still very vivid in Slovenia, it adds.
“Your censorship is dangerously reminiscent of that time. However, I am pleased that you did this in front of the European public.
“Since I believe that you have irreparably damaged the reputation and credibility of the Group with this action, I call on you to step down as Chair of the DRFMG, in order for it to regain the trust of the Members of the European Parliament and citizens of the EU through new leadership and through its credible work,” writes Šuhel.
The letter is addressed to in ‘t Veld, but a copy of it was also sent to Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party (EPP) in the Parliament.
The EPP, of which Janša’s Democrats (SDS) are a member, has not commented on Friday’s developments which saw Janša falling out with in ‘t Veld at the group’s public debate on the situation in Slovenia.
The prime minister had a video about attacks on media and journalists which he insisted should be screened as part of the debate before questions time, whereas in ‘t Veld refused to allow that. She did say, however, the video could be shown at the end of the debate.
Janša responded by accusing her of censorship. Over the weekend he then wrote on Twitter that Slovenia owed nothing to Brussels. Some Slovenians have been paying the price of freedom and democracy for 35 years and “overpaid bureaucrats who were born into prosperity will not preach to us about freedom and democracy”, he said.
He went on to say that Slovenians will never agree ” to be censored by self-proclaimed ombudsmen. We did not allow [Slobodan] Milosevic to do that, nor will we allow @SophieintVeld or @CiolosDacian to do so.”
MEP in ‘t Veld strongly rejected Janša’s allegations of censorship earlier today, highlighting that the group’s door was always open.
She finds it regrettable that an impression has been made that the Parliament is Slovenia’s opponent. That is very far from the truth, she said, noting that the group would do all it could to help Slovenia avert a scenario that had been seen in Hungary and Poland.