Slovenian President insists his country has not abandoned liberal democracy as it takes over the rotating EU presidency

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) – The Slovenian president rejected in an interview on Wednesday that the increasingly autocratic policies of the country’s prime minister could hurt his next presidency of the European Union, saying the small Alpine state would stay the course traditional liberal.

Slovenia will assume the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU on Thursday. His right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa is the center of attention due to his feuds with Brussels, his close alliance with Hungarian populist leader Viktor Orbán and the crackdown on the media, which calls credibility into question. of the country to lead the bloc of 27 nations. .

See: EU leaders insist discrimination will not be tolerated as Hungary enacts LGBT law

“Of course, there are some government activities that I don’t agree with,” Slovenian liberal President Borut Pahor said in an interview with the Associated Press. “I hope this is a chance for the government and the Prime Minister to focus more on issues vital for Slovenia and the EU.”

Slovenia separated from Yugoslavia in 1991 after a brief clash with the Serbian-led Yugoslav army. In 2004, it became one of the first former communist states to join the EU.

“Slovenia will remain a liberal state and I want the image of a liberal state to solidify during the presidency,” Pahor said. “If the European idea was the first cornerstone of our state, democracy is the second.

Pahor said that one of Slovenia’s main tasks during the Presidency will be the faster EU accession of the Western Balkan states – Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Kosovo.

Some major EU members, such as France and Germany, have increasingly shown enlargement fatigue amid the bloc’s many internal problems and problems.
Pahor said failure to accept new members from the Balkans could only lead to growing influence from Russia and China in Europe.

“If we see the map of Europe, there is a hole in it.” Pahor said, referring to the Western Balkans. “It is a natural space for the enlargement of the EU. I hope that the Presidency of the European Council will be an opportunity to prove Slovenia’s ability to obtain a significant majority for the geopolitical need for enlargement.

“I understand that there is enlargement fatigue, that there are other problems, other priorities,” Pahor said. “But the Western Balkans is not just a political opportunity but a political necessity for the EU.”

Although the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, which Slovenia takes on from Portugal, is primarily a bureaucratic task, it comes amid the bloc’s painful recovery from COVID-19, its enlargement process to standstill and concerns that the leadership role could be used by the government to further hamper media freedom in Slovenia and elsewhere in Europe.

In May, Jansa narrowly survived an impeachment motion filed by opposition parties that accused him of cracking down on the press and mismanaging the pandemic by not providing enough vaccines to the nation of roughly 2 million people. ‘inhabitants.

The Prime Minister’s unorthodox leadership style included his unwavering support for former US President Donald Trump in the last US election: Jansa praised Trump on his “victory” long before the official results were released.

In Slovenia, Jansa is nicknamed “Marshal Twito” – a play on the name of former Yugoslav dictator Marshal Josip Broz Tito – due to his frequent use of Twitter. Jansa is known to use Twitter TWTR,
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to attack his political opponents and to make unfounded claims.

Slovenia, which also held the presidency in early 2008, is taking over as the EU prepares to start distributing its huge coronavirus recovery fund.

Protesters gathered in Ljubljana last week against the government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa.

PA

When she arrives in Slovenia later this week for a handover ceremony, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is expected to formally endorse Slovenia’s national plan for access to the fund – an event likely to ‘to be the focal point of the visit to Ljubljana of the EU executive branch.

But EU officials will closely monitor how Jansa handles the thorny issue of democratic standards. Hungary and Poland, in particular, are embroiled in technical and legal proceedings with Brussels over allegations that their nationalist governments are undermining the rule of law.

Jansa’s silence as most EU countries criticized Orbán at a summit last week over a new Hungarian law seen as thwarting LGBT rights for minors will not have gone unnoticed in Brussels.

In its official presidency program, Slovenia said it plans to “focus our efforts on strengthening the rule of law as one of the [the] common European values.

Faris Kocan, foreign policy analyst at the Center for International Relations in Ljubljana, said the Slovenian presidency is an important test for the EU due to rising anti-democratic tendencies in Slovenia, Hungary and Poland.

“If we see the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency, you can see that they are aligned with the European Union – resilience, economic recovery, digital transformation and green technologies,” he said.

“But what is this ‘European way of life’ promoted by the Slovenian Presidency? … Is it about tolerance, human rights and freedoms, or is it about values ​​of the past and undemocratic regimes? Kocan asked.

Archives (February 2019): Europe may be on the verge of a nightmare, but it’s not too late to wake up, writes George Soros

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