Timmermans, President of Jut at the beginning of the Slovenian Presidency of the European Union

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa on Thursday received European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Slovenia will hold the interim presidency of the European Union for the next six months.AFP photo

Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa says so without any trace of irony. He never noticed that European Commissioner Frans Timmermans had refused to take a picture with him as evidence of protest. ‘I just heard that today. There are also a lot of people on stage to take a family photo.

Unmoved, Jansa used an interview with EU journalists on Friday morning to sharpen the row with the European Commission. Timmermans is accused of childish behaviour. An hour earlier, Home Secretary Alice Hughes suggested he would like to call Timmermans “the pig,” something he would come back to later. The start of the Slovenian EU presidency this week could have been more harmonious.

A fire broke out on Thursday afternoon, during a festive lunch for the plenary committee with the Slovenian government in Brdo (near Ljubljana), at the start of Slovenia’s EU presidency. During that lunch, Jansa says he doesn’t want judges with a party color that he doesn’t like. Committee Chairman von der Leyen is upset, Timmermans frankly angry. He rejects the traditional family photo with Jansa.

On Friday morning, Jansa not only said he missed Timmermann’s absence, but said the Dutch European commissioner should have acted more maturely. “If you have a problem with Slovenia, pick up the phone or send a mail.” To continue: ‘If Timmermans feels attacked, well: we didn’t start this one. If he can’t stand the truth, that’s his problem.

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The prime minister says he admires the “active debate”, but does not want his country to be lectured by Brussels as “a second-class member of the European Union, as a colony of the European Union”. He’s experienced this before: when Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia and he had nothing to say there.

Judges are out of office

According to Jansa, the committee behaves like a club of arrogant and one-sided insiders. “Here in Slovenia, the judges campaign politically on Sunday, and on Monday they pass their rulings again. The judiciary is not independent. The fact that he wants to remove the judges from their posts is a strengthening of the rule of law.

He also has frank ideas about media freedom. In response to criticism that he is putting financial pressure on the Slovenian news agency STA, he showed a 16-minute video about the Slovenian media. It is a series of “examples” of how previous “left” governments have muzzled the media. With severe attacks also on journalists who are now spokesmen or politicians of a party he does not like. Jansa dismisses the fact that he was a journalist himself: those were different times.

Jansa says the biggest danger facing the EU is the use of “double standards” for member states. His country, as well as that of his friend Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, is being held accountable for the things that allow other EU countries to free themselves. Fear of the rule of law in Hungary and Slovenia, freedom of the media, and more recently about the possibility that young people may be able to inform themselves of sexual orientations different from those of straight men and women, according to Jansa, may cost the EU a head. Jansa says EU countries differ, treating them equally and with respect. “Otherwise, the EU will choose the highway to collapse.”

After the video talking about his country’s “real media lack of freedom”, Jansa admits the photos won’t convince the body. I don’t have that illusion either. But still criticizing my country.

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