Interview by: Lionel Baland, breizh-info.com
Janez Janša has been Prime Minister of Slovenia on several occasions. He was also President of the European Union, during the second half of 2021.
He was a dissident at the end of the communist era, and he suffered persecution. He became, after the first free elections in 1990, Minister of Defence and, as such, was commander of the Slovenian army during the 1991 war of independence. He leads the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, in March 2022, Janez Janša, then Prime Minister, together with his Czech counterpart, Robert Fiala, and Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki – and also with Polish Deputy Prime Minister and President of the Law and Justice (PiS) political party Jarosław Kaczyński – visited Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine, to express his support for the country. Lionel Baland interviewed Janez Janša at the Karpacz Economic Forum in Poland for Breizh-info.
Breizh-info: In the general elections of 24th April 2022 in Slovenia, your political party, the SDS, held its own by obtaining a little less than a quarter of the votes, but you are no longer Prime Minister. What is the reason for this?
Janez Janša: My political party, the Slovenian Democratic Party, managed to win votes and seats in Parliament, but one of our partners in the government coalition failed and this led to the loss of our majority.
Breizh-info: Since the advent of the government of the ecologist-liberal Prime Minister Robert Golob, at the head of a center-left coalition, what are the changes and what are the problems created by the latter?
Janez Janša: We must wait and see what happens because the main party, which won the relative majority, of this coalition that won the elections was formed three months before the election. We know that old left-wing parties are integrated into it and that these people are taking part in the political game under a new name. But this prime minister comes from the state-owned energy company GEN-I after he was involved in politics in a left-wing government 20 years ago, but not as a minister – in fact, as secretary of state –.
The main question now is “Who is now running the country?” and this new party is not able, given the responsibilities granted by the Constitution, to do so and some lobbying groups are very influential in this government.
Breizh-info: From the beginning of the war in Ukraine, you decided to defend this country. Why didn’t you choose neutrality?
Janez Janša: I think in this tragedy it is clear that Russia is the aggressor, and that Ukraine has been attacked. Slovenia was in the same situation, 30 years earlier, in June 1991 as Ukraine was in February 2022. For us, this is not a dilemma but a matter of course. One country is brutally invaded, threatened by force: Slovenia once by the Yugoslav army and Ukraine today by the Russian army. The strategy used, in both cases, comes from the same textbooks within the military academies. So, we are really on the Ukrainian side.
Breizh-info: In Slovenia, the former communists are still present in the state apparatus?
Janez Janša: To understand the situation you are describing; you should know that the first multi-party elections in Slovenia were not completely free because the Communists reserved a third of the Parliament for them. In the three chambers of Parliament at the time, we had a narrow majority together and we were not able to change the Constitution. As a result, the transition in Slovenia was a kind of compromise and some reforms could not be introduced and were never carried out. The same people who sent us to prison 35 years ago are still in place within the Slovenian judicial system and are now protected by the European Union.
Breizh-info: Hungary and Poland are in trouble with the European Union, for example with the French-speaking Belgian liberal European Commissioner Didier Reynders. Did you encounter the same problems when you were in power in Slovenia?
Janez Janša: We have not had such problems because we have never been able to introduce reforms like those put in place by the Hungarian and Polish governments. We were stopped before we even tried, and we were accused of doing what we were not doing before we had the opportunity. This clearly shows a use of double standards because the European Union is the union of twenty-seven countries. Between European legislation and the twenty-seven constitutions of the national states, legislative conflicts are constantly emerging. When a dispute arises, for example between Germany and the European Commission, the European Union claims that it is not an ideological dispute, but a problem of legality. On the other hand, with the new Members, it always becomes political and ideological problems, with resolutions of the European Parliament that are a battle of ideas. This is a disgrace and destroys the European Union. The use of double standards is what is most dangerous for the future of the European Union.
Breizh-info: Are you friends of the Polish and Hungarian governments?
Janez Janša: When we are in power, we maintain good relations with all our neighbors, both with those in Central Europe and with others. Thus, we can say that we are friends with everyone. But it is true that, at European level, I have always been against the use of double standards, not only because it is right but also because I am convinced that it strongly destroys the foundations of solidarity within the European Union, especially at this time of the war in Ukraine. Russia is the aggressor and we had seen the warning signs of this attack, but if you look at the European agenda of the last ten years, you will find more resolutions, adopted in the European Parliament with a majority, taken directly against Poland or Hungary, than against Russia or, for example, Iran. This situation is ridiculous. In this Middle Eastern country, they kill LGBT people every day and brutally torture political dissidents and opponents, etc. Okay, resolutions are emerging against this, but the main fight is against our brothers, against the Member States. We are people who have other opinions, but within the European Union. We are not against the European Union, but in favour of sovereign Member States. We have decided to coordinate certain decisions and to transfer part of our sovereignty to common European institutions. This leads to conflicts with our legislation and legal battles arise. It happens all the time. The conflicts before the European legal institutions concerning disagreements between the European Union and France are more numerous than those with Poland. But the former receives less attention than the latter because the latter are part of an ideological battle.
Breizh-info: What is the position of your party, the SDS, on immigration? From time-to-time problems arise with illegal migrants who are in the Balkans, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and try to enter the European Union illegally.
Janez Janša: Our position is very simple. We are in favour of legal immigration, which is what we need, and strongly opposed to illegal immigration. Whoever is invited to come must respect the conditions and rules. Migrants must not cross the border fraudulently. There is no place in Europe for those who enter illegally!
Breizh-info: Are you planning a return to power in the next general elections?
Janez Janša: We are the main opposition party. In 2022 we have a presidential election on 23 October and 13 November and local elections on 20 November. Our candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Anže Logar, is good and was our Foreign Minister. He is an independent candidate and has the support of the SDS. It is very popular. He is doing everything he can to help the Slovenians.
Breizh-info: Are you writing a new book?
Janez Janša: I am always writing something. I have written many books. But to put it bluntly, during periods when you are in government, you do not really have time for that.
Breizh-info: Do you have more time now that you are in opposition?
Janez Janša: Yes, it is a better time for personal life and for writing, although at the moment the situation is difficult because we are facing fears for the coming winter in terms of energy costs, and we are trying to help the government to adopt good measures in this area. In this situation, the conditions are not normal.
Breizh-info: How can you help Ukraine? Are you in favour of sending weapons?
Janez Janša: Now, Ukraine needs money. I am, of course, in favour of supplying military equipment to Ukraine, because it is fighting for Europe, also for us. If Russia takes Ukraine, it will look for its next target.
Breizh-info: What are the relations between Slovenia and Serbia, as well as the other former entities of the former Yugoslavia?
Janez Janša: Slovenia is strongly in favour of these countries joining the European Union, but now we see that our colleagues in Western Europe are against enlargement, for sometimes understandable reasons, such as the crisis within the European Union.
The issue is not only the enlargement of the market or external borders, but also the fulfilment of the necessary preconditions for the security and prosperity of this continent. If we look back on the past decades, we see that if the European Union and NATO do not expand, others do.
If we had taken Ukraine into NATO in 2013, there would not be a war in Ukraine and an energy crisis right now. Of course, we must put in place security guarantees for Russia, as that country demands, but we must take Ukraine and Georgia into NATO if those countries so request.
Breizh-info: Problems exist now in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Kosovo.
Janez Janša: If Russia takes Ukraine, it opens the possibility of Russian intervention in the Western Balkans. However, if Russia is stopped in Ukraine, I am convinced that it will not degenerate in the Balkans, because the situation can be kept under control if a strong foreign intervention does not take place. But Russia can act and a defeat of Russia in Ukraine will put an end to such a possibility.
Breizh-info: Do you see parallels between the time of the fall of former Yugoslavia, when you took on your responsibilities at that time as a minister, and the current situation?
Janez Janša: Some parallels can be drawn, but also differences. When we were attacked by the Yugoslav communist army, the balance of power was the same as it is now in Ukraine. The attackers had many troops and many planes and tanks, but the spirit was on our side. That is why we won. The big difference is that the Yugoslav People’s Army did not have nuclear weapons unlike the Russian army today, which can thus exert strong pressure.
For the moment, the war is of the conventional type. We must expect the Ukrainian army to prevent Vladimir Putin from achieving his goals. I repeat: if Russia is defeated in Ukraine, we will be safe for the next few decades.
Breizh-info: Do you think that the motivation on your side was greater than that of the Yugoslav Federal Army? Was this the determining factor in Slovenia’s victory in the War of Independence?
Janez Janša: Various elements played a role, but the one you mention is the most important of all. We defended our soil, our homeland, our freedom, our way of life, our democracy in the face of invasion. Motivation was on our side. And now this is the case in Ukraine. On the one hand, more weapons, and on the other, more motivation. We did not underestimate the Yugoslav army, which underestimated us. She said we would collapse within two days. Vladimir Putin made the same mistake with Ukraine.