Slovenia PM grilled by MEPs over democracy

7 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

STRASBOURG: Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa faced a barrage of criticism in the European Parliament on Tuesday, accused of flouting democratic norms even as his country takes over the EU’s rotating presidency, reports AFP.

Jansa took a grilling from MEPs meeting in the eastern French city of Strasbourg after delivering a speech that outlined his plans for the next six months steering policy for the bloc.

“I have my own beliefs, my own values, but representing the presidency of the EU, I believe that all of your points of view are legitimate,” Jansa told MEPs.

But those present largely ignored his prepared comments and took Jansa to task for his recent verbal attacks against journalists and members of his country’s judiciary, which he accuses of bias.

“Any problem related to the rule of law is not an internal affair of a member state, but a problem for all Europeans,” said German MEP Manfred Weber, the head of Jansa’s own centre-right group in EU parliament.

Others were more direct, with Dutch MEP Malik Azmani calling Jansa part “of a very sinister club” that flouts “free media, that can’t stomach the independence of judiciary, or respecting LGBTIQ rights.”

The Slovenian EU presidency got off to a rocky start when Jansa, a big fan of former US president Donald Trump, angered a top EU commissioner during a visit to mark the country’s taking over the presidential role from Portugal.

European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans stormed off ahead of a group photo of the members of the European executive with the conservative leader.

In Strasbourg, Jansa tried to downplay the tensions, but insisted that he was not throwing EU values into the dustbin.

Values such as press freedom and an independent judiciary “form the basis of our union, but we have to have a consistent relationship to these values,” Jansa told MEPs.

“At the moment, there is zero repression in Slovenia, over the media or journalists. This is just the case of transferring Slovenian issues to the European level,” he said.