Lenarčič hopes forces in favour of EU values win election

Brussels – Janez Lenarčič, Slovenia’s European commissioner, expressed the hope that forces which are sincerely in favour of fundamental EU values such as the rule of law win the Slovenian general election in April, as he warned against a return to one-party rule of the kind Slovenia had experienced in the past.

“Rule of law is the essential component of democracy. I’m old enough to remember what it was like when a single party, the League of Communists, was in power,” he said in an interview with Slovenian correspondents in Brussels on Friday.

“We bid such a system farewell almost unanimously and I don’t want it back again.”

Rule of law means an absence of government arbitrariness, it means equality before the law, division of powers, and respect of human rights and media freedom, he stressed.

According to Lenarčič, the EU is more than just a single market, it is a union of values and it is not possible for every member state to have its own view on the rule of law based on its traditional values or historical experiences.

His statement contrasts with the view of the Slovenian government, often repeated during Slovenia’s recent six-month EU presidency, that countries’ different histories needed to be accounted for in the EU.

While saying that he would not get involved in the forthcoming Slovenian election beyond making these statements, he stressed that every election is important. “I wish everyone recognised this and turned out to vote.”

The commissioner also warned that the suspension of STA public service financing and delays in the appointment of Slovenia’s delegated prosecutors had “not contributed to Slovenia’s reputation”.

Asked what the country’s reputation was now, he said the answer was very simple: before last month, the European Parliament had never adopted a resolution critical of Slovenia.

“That resolution did not make any of us who care about the reputation of the homeland happy.”

Lenarčič recalled how he had warned prior to July last year that continued suspension of STA financing and non-appointment of delegated prosecutors could cause problems for Slovenia in the drawing of EU funds.

“My warnings were carefully worded, but they were met with an inappropriate and indecent response,” he said in reference to government criticism at the time to the effect that he was harming Slovenia with his statements and was trying to make EU funding conditional on Slovenia meeting rule of law covenants.

He said nobody had ever wanted to block the Slovenian recovery plan and asserted that the minutes of a meeting which the government pointed to as evidence of his desire to block EU funds were “not a credible document”.

Commenting on yesterday’s warning by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) concerning amendments to the penal code, Lenarčič said he saw that as “a clear warning” prior to the parliamentary debate.

He would not venture to say what the Commission might do in the event that the changes are adopted – which is very unlikely given that almost all parties have disavowed the proposal – but said there were signs from Slovenia that the legislation will not be passed, which was good.