Ljubljana – Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič and European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič spoke about the importance of common European values, democracy, the rule of law and media freedom, on the occasion of Europe Day. Both also expressed hope that the issues surrounding the funding of the STA will be resolved soon.
Zorčič pointed out that the ideas that led to the unification of Europe, particularly solidarity, are still important today. “We see the European Union as an idea of peace and cooperation that we are building up for all generations”, he added.
He expressed his conviction that Slovenia is firmly committed to all the values of the EU, even after the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Slovenia is approaching the EU presidency. It is a demanding and important task. I am convinced that we can come together and do it well,” Zorčič said.
Commissioner Lenarčič stressed that being European means belonging to a community based on shared values. “I would especially like to mention democracy, human rights, the rule of law, but also solidarity”, he said, noting that these values are facing a great challenge during the pandemic.
However, Lenarčič is convinced that Slovenia will continue to uphold these values during its Council presidency. “Slovenia’s path to the core of a deepened and enlarged European Union is based on these values, as is also reflected in the foreign policy declaration adopted by the Slovenian Parliament six years ago.”
Both officials were also asked about their assessment of the respect for European values in Slovenia. They expressed particular criticism of the respect for media freedom, which has been repeatedly highlighted in Brussels as a cornerstone of democracy.
“The question is justified and so are the warnings coming from Brussels,” Zorčič stressed. Slovenia needs to “present itself as a country that respects the values of the EU, the rule of law and the freedom of the media” when it takes over the presidency, “but it has very little time to do so,” said the speaker.
“I hope that the most controversial question at the moment – the funding of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) – will be sorted out by the time we take over,” he added.
Lenarčič also expressed his hope and expectation that funding of the STA will be resolved as soon as possible. “This is also the expectation of the European Commission, which is concerned about the non-financing of the STA and also about the frequent verbal attacks on journalists,” he said.
He also pointed out that the Commission will shortly publish its regular annual rule of law report. “I think there is still time for urgent action, which could then be reflected in a more positive report,” the Commissioner said.
Zorčič and Lenarčič spoke to reporters after visiting the exhibition “Europe and Europeans 1950-2020” in the foyer of the Grand Hall of the National Assembly. The exhibition was prepared for the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Schuman Declaration, also marking Europe Day on 9 May.