Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, a rare EU ally of Hungary’s right to ban the promotion or representation of homosexuality among children, has claimed that imposing “imaginary European values” on central Europe could lead to the collapse of the Union.
Janša, who publicly endorsed Donald Trump in his bid to overthrow the outcome of the US presidential election, leads Slovenia as he takes on the rotating EU presidency, directing the bloc’s agenda for the next six months. He is a deeply controversial figure, whose political career includes being imprisoned while fighting for Slovenian independence from Yugoslavia and a reversed conviction for corruption.
The EU faces daunting challenges as it seeks to recover from a pandemic that severely damaged trust in its institutions, recalibrate its relationship with the US, prepare for the economic and political challenge posed by China, and adjust to an entirely different relationship with China. his country. former member state, the United Kingdom. But speaking to a group of reporters from European newspapers, including the ObserverWhen Slovenia took over the presidency of the council through which member states help prioritize and shape legislation, Janša drew on his experience from the Yugoslav federation when asked about the biggest risk to the EU.
A fortnight ago, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had spearheaded the indictment against Hungary’s populist Prime Minister Viktor Orbán over a bill that would ban homosexuals from appearing in educational materials, on primetime television or in movies and productions aimed at children. Rutte, who framed the standoff as one of his core values, challenged Hungary’s leader to leave the law or remove the country from the EU.
But Janša said that the imposition of an alien perspective by western member states was the “quickest path to collapse” of the bloc.
“There are differences that must be taken into account and respected and I think there is a clear division between national and European competences.
“A person is not judged based on imaginary European values and dual standards are used, so I think this is the fastest way to collapse. Until 30 years ago, Slovenia lived in the former Yugoslavia and was supposedly federal. There were five or six nations, three religions, six republics, two autonomous provinces and the country fell apart for different reasons but the last nail in the coffin was when some people began to use special criteria for themselves, applying double standards.
“The EU without central Europe is not a European union, it will be just a shell and we should all be aware of this,” he said.
There is growing concern in Brussels about the undermining of democratic norms in Slovenia. Janša has been accused of creating a climate of fear among journalists in his country, in part through his personal attacks on people via Twitter, which earned him the nickname Marshal Tweeto, in reference to the former president of Yugoslavia, Josep Titus. The European Commission has also asked the prime minister to stop withholding funds from the Slovenian press agency, a public service media outlet that it has accused of “spreading lies.”
In a shaky launch of the presidency on Thursday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had invited Janša to brief reporters gathered for a press conference when her government would appoint two officials to control the spending of thousands. of millions of EU recovery funds.
Slovenia has not appointed prosecutors for the European prosecutor’s office, which is tasked with challenging the abuse of EU cash. Slovenia was confirmed last week to receive 2.5 billion euros (2.15 billion pounds) from an EU recovery and resilience fund of 800 billion euros. As a result, the European chief prosecutor, Laura Codruța Kövesi, has described Slovenia as a “great risk”.
To further aggravate the mood for the day, the commission’s vice chairman Frans Timmermans declined to join in the traditional group photography after Janša brandished a photograph of two Slovenian judges photographed with center-left politicians to illustrate the bias. of the judicial power of the country. in a meeting with the 27 EU commissioners.
Janša played down the incident. “We were not the ones who started the conversation and if you do not like the truth, it is your problem, it is not a problem with the truth,” he said.
Instead, the 62-year-old argued that the newest members of the EU (Slovenia joined in 2004) were being treated roughly by the commission: “We are not a colony, we are not second-class members of the EU.” , He said. . “We insist that we need the same treatment… Yes, there are attempts that at least the smallest countries of the EU are treated as second class. We left the old country that we are a part of because we were treated like second class. “
While the Lisbon treaty enshrines human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law as fundamental rights, Janša claimed that those who criticized his own policies, as well as those of Orbán and Poland’s right-wing prime minister , Mateusz Morawiecki, sought to impose a particular interpretation. . About a debate two weeks ago in which Rutte had made his comments, Janša said: “Nobody opposed that all people are born equal, that we have the same rights. But there are certain distinctions when it comes to adopting children, raising children. “
Three years ago, the President of France, Emmanuel Macron, had urged Europeans to defend their values by rejecting “anti-liberal democracy”, a vision of the EU that, according to Janša, did not recognize the different stages of the economic and political development of the Union.
“The fundamental difference is not between liberal and illiberal democracy,” Janša said. “The main difference is between democracy and technocracy and bureaucracy. So I think the term used, illiberal democracy, was not the correct one. “
“Because it is a division that does not exist: all the nuances of democracy, if I fight for the affection of my voters, in a free world, we are all equal.”
During his two-hour briefing with reporters, Janša insisted that he was being crazily defamed by the “mainstream media”. He noted that there were few right-wing voices in the Slovenian national media and showed a 10-minute video that he said illustrated that it was the opposition parties that were guilty of undermining the independence of the media. “The fundamental charter of human rights also has freedom of expression and freedom of the media is subordinate to that,” he said.