Sant, Metsola, Casa abstain on Slovenia media vote opposed by EPP

European Parliament expresses concerns about pressure on media and judiciary in Slovenia

Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veldt leads a LIBE delegation on rule of law in Slovenia
Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veldt leads a LIBE delegation on rule of law in Slovenia

The European Parliament on Thursday expressed concerns about pressure on the media and judiciary in Slovenia.

With the centre-right European People’s Party voting against the resolution taking Prime Minister Janez Janša’s party to task, Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola skipped the vote, an EPP spokesperson saying she decided not to participate in votes on external matters once she was chosen as the group’s nominee for European Parliament president.

Her colleague David Casa did not vote, while Labour MEPs Alex Agius Saliba, Josianne Cutajar and Cyrus Engerer vote in favour. Labour head of delegation Alfred Sant did not vote.

In a resolution adopted with 356 votes for, 284 against, and 40 abstentions, MEPs declared they were deeply concerned about a “climate of hostility, distrust and deep polarisation”. The vote is the conclusion of a plenary debate that previously took place in November 2021.

During that plenary debate, Labour MEP Cyrus Engerer called for forward-thinking discussions on fundamental rights and the rule of law, “be it in Slovenia, Germany, Poland or in any other Member State.”

“It keeps us all on our toes striving to be better. It allows Member States like my own, Malta, to recognise where we can improve and make changes in order to reach a higher standard for all citizens. But in order to reach a higher standard, we must ensure a number of safeguards are in place to protect our democracies.”

Engerer said the European Public Prosecutor was one such safeguard. “Although it took a much longer time than expected, the nomination of Slovenia’s European Public Prosecutor is a step in the right direction, but one which could have been made much earlier.”

MEPs remain concerned about attacks, smear campaigns and SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) against journalists by prominent public figures and politicians, including members of the government. They call on the government to secure sufficient funding for public television station RTV Slovenia and cease all political interference in its editorial policy.

Media ownership transparency wa another area of concern, calling for clear rules on state and state-owned companies’ advertising expenditure, and proper access to public information.

In 2021, the Slovenian government withheld the Slovenian News Agency’s funding for its public service for 312 days. Since November, payments were made for some outstanding amounts, but at least €507,000 of claims for public service funding remain unpaid.

A majority of EPP MEPs, including group leader Manfred Weber, voted against the resolution; they were joined by the conservative centre-right ECR. Nevertheless, 33 EPP members – including group vice chairs Esther de Lange, Frances Fitzgerald and Paulo Rangel – abstained, illustrating the divides within the group.

MEPs have criticised the European Commission’s “substandard” response by Ursula von der Leyen to questions sent by MEPs on Slovenia’s state of rule of law. “Your lacklustre response shows clear signs of contempt for the work and position of the European Parliament,” Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld said in response.

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This article is part of a content series called Ewropej. This is a multi-newsroom initiative part-funded by the European Parliament to bring the work of the EP closer to the citizens of Malta and keep them informed about matters that affect their daily lives. This article reflects only the author’s view. The European Parliament is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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