By: Andrej Žitnik (Nova24TV)
The debate on media freedom, which was led in the European Parliament (EP) by the head of the Slovenian delegation of the European People’s Party in the EP, Romana Tomc, still creates agitation of the Slovenian and foreign public. While the Slovenian left-wing media conglomerate (consisting mainly of the network of Martin Odlazek, Stojan Petrič, and TV programmes Pro Plus) was firmly on the side of European Commissioner Věra Jourova, who is their unique ally on the European floor. On the other hand, it began to be whispered in the corridors of Europe that everything is not in the best order in Slovenia, and the observers of various European parliamentarians pricked up their ears the most when the European guests began to report on the covert Russophilia of the Slovenian media, as they have already watched a bit in disbelief when Slovenian socialist and liberal MPs in the EP voted in favour of Russia. The most important conclusion that we took away from the discussion is this – Věra Jourová obviously realised that she had gotten herself into trouble with her ill-advised trip to Slovenia, and now she sent her envoy to the discussion, who defended her with desperate excuses.
The Slovenian media, under the auspices of Odlazek’s octopus, saw the debate as an attack on Jourova and a “show” which is understandable, as the debaters opened up for the first time on the European stage the problem of the Slovenian media landscape, which few people on the European floor are talking about – namely, the problem of media ownership concentrations, where it is almost exclusively a problem of Odlazek’s media empire, which has been practically completely subjugated by the press, and which also has television and radio stations in its network (interweaving of different forms of media is prohibited under the Media Act).
Let us remind you that European Commissioner and at the same time Vice-President of the European Commission Věra Jourová recently travelled to Slovenia, where she met with representatives of the Slovenian government (Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko), the President of the Republic Nataša Pirc Musar, and the President of the Constitutional Court, just as it was deciding on the extremely politically charged topic of the constitutionality of the Law on RTV. We have seen in several parts of the recent debate in the EP that the decision is unwise, and that Jourova is aware that Slovenian left-wing politicians have used it for their own partial interests.
The Slovenian participants in the debate repeatedly mentioned that Jourova’s meeting with the representative of the Slovenian Constitutional Court was inappropriate, because – even if this was not the intention – the European Commissioner thereby joined the Slovenian government, media activists and radical leftists, who together put pressure on the constitutional court; especially in the light of the discussions after the meeting, when she said that “the future of RTV depends on the court’s decision”, because it is clear that these are words that the Slovenian government also uses when it puts pressure on the independent constitutional judges to make a different decision, as they wanted.
The representative of the European Commission, who came there to defend Jourova and her trip to Slovenia, pointed out that the European Commissioner visits constitutional courts as part of her regular meetings and that there was no talk of the law on broadcasting, the constitutionality of which is currently being examined by the court. The excuse is, of course, twisted, as the European Commissioner has only visited two other constitutional courts (the Romanian one and the court of her home country) during her entire mandate (4 years). She visited the Slovenian Constitutional Court twice.
The representative of the EC was also unable to explain who invited Jourova to Slovenia, and her explanation of what they discussed with the president of the Constitutional Court is also different from what was written down at the Constitutional Court. They did not even want to answer our journalist’s questions from the office of the European Commissioner about who invited them to Slovenia, saying that the state visits were planned months in advance – which is obviously not true, because four days prior of the departure for Slovenia there was no sign of the visit on the EC’s official timeline. The EC had no answer to these and similar discrepancies.
The EC also ensured that the European Commissioner never takes sides on the political spectrum in the member states and maintains a neutral stance, but at the same time they were unable to explain Jourova’s statement a few months ago when she said that the law on broadcasting – with which Golob’s government wants to subjugate the public institution – is an important step towards media freedom in Slovenia. With this, she very clearly sided with the current government.
The representative of the European Commission spoke at the debate as a kind of defence lawyer of the vice-president of the European Commission, she also came to the meeting with a folder with the word “DEFENCE” on it, and she answered exclusively to the accusations levelled at Jourova – so it seems that the European Commission is aware of the error of the visit and wants to mitigate the political damage caused by Jourova.
Pressure on constitutional judges
We learned from unofficial but reliable sources that the situation at the Constitutional Court is currently 5:3 in favour of declaring the Law on Broadcasting unconstitutional. Government representatives want to “break” at least one of the constitutional judges in every way (the weakest link is supposed to be US President Matej Accetto) in order for him to change the decision. The “visit” of Jourova, which was supposedly carefully coordinated with Golob’s government, is also an international part of these efforts. Otherwise, the result of 4:4 does not help the government representatives much, because then the Constitutional Court would not be able to decide until the end of the mandate of the current leadership and programme councillors, and after the end of their mandate, the verdict would be irrelevant. However, the pressure on the next constitutional judge, whom they consider to be the preferred one (Rajko Knez), would be even stronger.
EC understands that it was part of a political game
It seems, however, that the European Commission, after the debate led in the EP by European Member of Parliament Romana Tomc, is withdrawing from this “battle”, as they clearly saw that it was an internal political struggle and, above all, an attempt to influence the current government both on the media and to justice. The commission understood that Jourova had gone too far this time.
We once again asked the cabinet of European Commissioner Jourova who proposed the visit to Slovenia, and if it was really coordinated with the Slovenian government, as our sources say. We also want to clear up the strange excuses of the cabinet that state visits are arranged several months in advance, even though the meeting was not on the European Commission’s calendar four days before the visit.