On Thursday, the six-month rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union began. The Council is the body that includes representatives of the 27 national governments of the Union, and the country over which it presides manages the agenda of meetings and thus has a certain weight in the European decision-making process.
The opening ceremony usually includes a lot of mutual praise between the European Commission and the country running the presidency, loud statements and smiling group photos. On Thursday in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, none of this happened.
On the contrary, the opening event featured many of the concerns that have been circulating in recent weeks about the presidency of Slovenia, a country led for nearly a year by the far-right, EU-skeptical prime minister, Janez Janša, and comparing it to patriotism. and international newspapers.. to Viktor Orban, the semi-authoritarian prime minister of Hungary.
Janša is a well-known figure in Slovenian politics, and was one of the heroes of the entire modern history of the country, which began in 1991 with independence from Yugoslavia. He has been the head of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) since 1993, and prior to his election as head of a coalition government in March 2020, he had already served as prime minister two more times.
In his year in office, Janša was distinguished above all by cutting off funds from the Slovenian News Agency (ST) – defined as “a a national stigma– Because of the constant attacks on the judiciary, which he accuses of being full of left-wing sympathizers, and because he shares many of Orbán’s most extreme positions. Last week, Janša was the only prime minister to defend Orbán during a European Council meeting regarding a new Hungarian law that effectively equates homosexuality with pedophilia.
– Read also: There is also fear of press freedom in Slovenia
Yesterday Janca held a press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to list the priorities of the Slovenian presidency, but the journalists present described a very cold atmosphere between the two. Politico pointed out That Von der Leyen “was silent for most of the ceremony”, and during his speech he noted that the independence of the media and judiciary “represents the essence of the European Union”.
Commission Chairwoman von der Leyen appears to be making a concerted effort not to appear happy to be standing next to Slovenian Prime Minister Janša pic.twitter.com/0mcG6KfCme
– David M. Herszenhorn July 1, 2021
There was also a small diplomatic incident during the traditional meeting between the current government and the European Commissioners: During the meeting, Janša showed a picture showing two Slovenian judges taking part in a picnic with two MEPs from the European Socialist Party. Jansha took the opportunity to complain about the excessive presence of left-wing judges, according to him, in the Slovenian judiciary.
During the upcoming press conference, Von der Leyen remember That judges are entitled to express their political views, while Vice-President of the Commission Frans Timmermans, a member of the European Socialist Party, refused to participate in the group photo with Jancha. “I was not able to share the platform with the Slovenian Prime Minister after his unacceptable attack,” he later explained in a press release.
But Gansha’s positions are not just a symbolic problem for the European Union. EuObserver he refers to Slovenia is the only country that has not yet appointed representatives to the European Prosecutor’s Office, an independent body officially created a few weeks ago to deal with fraud and corruption cases involving European funds. In fact, the Slovenian judiciary nominated its members, but this ruling was overturned by Janša. In fact, due to Yancha’s decision, the work of the European Prosecutor’s Office has not officially started. At the joint press conference, Von der Leyen encouraged Jancha to cancel the appointment of representatives to the European Prosecutor’s Office.
The only issue that von der Leyen and Jansha seemed to agree on was the need to open formal negotiations for Albania and North Macedonia’s entry into the European Union, which had been stalled for months due to opposition from some countries.
Politico He notes, however, that even in the worst case, the Slovenian presidency would not be able to do much damage, because of the period in which it fell: in the middle weeks of summer in Brussels, business slows down to almost halt. And then the whole of the European Union would be centered/paralyzed by the German elections scheduled for September, and the subsequent attempt (or attempts) to form a coalition that would take the legacy of Angela Merkel sixteen years later.
He concludes that it is up to Slovenia PoliticoThey decide how to use the limited time available effectively: whether it is to use it to continue their skeptical battles in Europe or to make other friends across Europe.