Slovenia has one Commissioner in the European Commission – namely, Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management, who was approved as a candidate by Šarec’s government. He became better known to the public when he, along with some representatives in the European Parliament, tried to block European funds for Slovenia, which he then officially denied (along with the others). Lenarčič followed similar guidelines this time as well, pointing out that the European Commission had expressed serious concerns regarding the rule of law in Slovenia. “This is about two things – it is about funding and about maintaining independence. Which, in other words, means that this financing, which the government is obliged to provide, cannot be conditioned in a way which would curtail the independence of the Slovenian Press Agency, “ Lenarčič pointed out. With this, Lenarčič once again publicly spoke out against his own country.
The European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič took on his role of Commissioner in 2019 when he was confirmed as a candidate by the government of Marjan Šarec. Since then, however, everyone seems to be surprised by how he is handling his role, including those who supported him. Many people have even forgotten about him during all this time; however, Lenarčič has been drawing more and more attention to himself lately. We expected that he would solve crises and problems in the EU in his position as Commissioner, but it seems that Lenarčič is only willing to step into the spotlight when he feels like he has to critically evaluate his own country. Due to this, many people accuse him of creating crisis situations rather than resolving them. It should be reminded that since the beginning of the pandemic, Lenarčič has not helped Slovenia with anything.
Let us also remind you of how Lenarčič gained the infamous reputation of the first Commissioner who tried to har his own homeland. Namely, he decided to join the request for conditionality of the approval of funds for the Recovery and Resilience Plan. Interestingly, he tried to block then funds and then stepped into the spotlight when reviewing the projects funded by the National Recovery and Resilience Plan at the Paediatric Clinic in Ljubljana, in the presence of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša. Understand it, if you can. In addition to Tanja Fajon, Lenarčič is also one of the few people who constantly draw attention to Slovenia’s bad reputation in the EU and practically silently supports the export of domestic political affairs to the EU. While Slovenia contributes to better results in many areas, Lenarčič, of course, made sure not to “disappoint” this time as well when the opportunity came to slander his own homeland.
On Tuesday, Lenarčič issued an exclusive statement for the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija – hereinafter referred to as the STA), in which he once again expressed serious concerns about the situation in Slovenia. “The main message to Slovenia in the second annual report on the rule of law in the EU Member States, which was presented today, is that there are serious concerns in the field of the rule of law in Slovenia, which the commission also highlighted very precisely and clearly,” Commissioner Lenarčič said in his statement for the STA. He believes that there is nothing surprising in the report; however, there are also some improvements – these are especially noticeable in the informatisation of the judiciary. On the other hand, Lenarčič emphasised that the European Commission has expressed great concern regarding the deteriorating situation in the field of media freedom and the non-appointment of state prosecutors and European delegated prosecutors.
Criticism regarding the financing of the STA, but Veselinovič refuses to sign the contract?
According to Lenarčič, the Commission states that the situation in the media is worrying, highlighting two things in particular: the continued non-payment of the STA public services, despite clear, repeated calls for funding to be provided immediately, and continued harassment of journalists, especially on social networks. Harassment of journalists was a much bigger problem in the previous decades than it is today; however, in the time of the left-wing government, nobody spoke up about it.
It is also widely known that the Government Communication Office (Urad Vlade Republike Slovenije za komuniciranje – hereinafter referred to as UKOM) has repeatedly called on the STA director Veselinovič to take care of the situation; however, this has not happened yet, as there is apparently a problem with one of the provisions in the Slovenian Press Agency Act – namely, the one that stipulates that the STA should provide its services to everyone under the same conditions. As UKOM director Uroš Urbanija pointed out recently, they already had the contract on the table, but Veselinovič did not want to sign it. “It almost seems unimaginable to me – since the contract states that the STA is entitled to a maximum of 2,028,000 euros for provision of public service in 2021, as is the law, the STA director Veselinovič opposes signing it, or rather, demands that the word “maximum” be crossed out,” Urbanija explained.
The latter also wants an explanation from Lenarčič, who also stated, among other things, that the financing of the STA, which must be provided by the government, cannot be conditioned in a way that would undermine the independence of the STA. “I hope that Commissioner Lenarčič will explain this statement – where and how the financing of the STA is supposedly being conditioned by the curtailment of its independence. The contract has been made public. Unless the Commissioner said that just to fill the time in the media,” Urbanija called on Lenarčič.
Is harming the state their true motive?
Scoring political points should not be a priority before pursuing national goals. If the scoring of political points would have calmed down a bit and we would make pursuing the goals our priority, we could have been a better country today – without harming the state. According to Prime Minister Janez Janša, in Lenarčič’s case, this is a political statement with which he joined certain individuals in the European Commission in the conditioning of the European funds for the recovery of Slovenia. “And fortunately, he remained in the minority. This is the first known case of a commissioner trying to directly harm his own country,” Janša wrote on the social network Twitter.