Rule of law in Slovenia: MEPs conclude their first mission to the country

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

A European Parliament delegation travelled to Slovenia, where they met with national authorities, journalists and NGOs, to assess respect of EU values and rule of law.

From Wednesday 13 October to Friday 15 October, seven MEPs from the Civil Liberties Committee and one from the Budgetary Control Committee exchanged views with Slovenian interlocutors to assess the latest developments in the area of rule of law, media freedom and the fight against corruption. Check the full programme, including details on all the interlocutors that MEPs met.

The delegation was led by Sophie IN ‘T VELD (Chair; Renew, NL) and included Romana TOMC (EPP, SI), Cyrus ENGERER (S&D, MT), Tineke STRIK (Greens, NL), Nicolaus FEST (ID, DE), Assita KANKO (ECR, BE), Konstantinos ARVANITIS (The Left, EL) and Mikuláš PEKSA (Committee on Budgetary Control; Greens, CZ).

At the end of the mission, Sophie in ‘t Veld, the Chair of the Civil Liberties Committee delegation, said:

“We observed that the public institutions overall work well. At the same time, the delegation experienced a climate of hostility, distrust and deep polarisation in the country, which erodes trust in and between various public bodies.

Many of our interlocutors expressed concerns or described pressure on public institutions and the media by the government, including through smear campaigns, slander, criminal investigations as well as strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). There is a big risk that these attempts to discredit or intimidate institutions could affect their authority. The delegation stresses that public bodies such the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption, the Court of Audit and Human Rights Ombudsman must be independent and properly financed.

With regards to the funding of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), which is now in a dire situation, the delegation calls on the government to fully implement the judgement by the Supreme Court and take steps to allow its standard operation, including the resumption of financing without further delay.

More in general, the members of the EP Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group (DRFMG) is concerned about the delays and in some cases the reluctance to comply with court rulings, and calls upon the government to ensure their swift implementation.

The urgent need for legislative reforms, proper implementation and more transparency in many areas, including the media law, the whistle-blower law, as well as the relevant provisions on media concentration became apparent. At the same time, the ongoing practice of ruling by decree raises questions, especially with regard to the necessity and proportionality of such extraordinary measures at this stage of the pandemic.

The delayed appointment of two delegated prosecutors to the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO), as well as a number of public prosecutors in Slovenia, remains a major problem that urgently needs to be addressed.

Lastly, the delegation regrets that neither the President of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia, nor any of his Ministers were available for a personal exchange of views. The DRFMG recalls that a number of written questions, which were transmitted to the Government of Slovenia in April 2021, are yet to be answered, and accepts the offer by the two state secretaries, to send further questions in writing. The delegation will also welcome additional materials that several interlocutors agreed to send, to complement its monitoring activity”.

You can re-watch the press conference by Ms in ‘t Veld at the end of the visit here.

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