Yesterday, Prime Minister Janez Janša attended a discussion at the presentation of the publication Z lepilom na podplatih: Trideset let slovenske države. (With Glue on the Soles: Thirty Years of the Slovenian State.), on the Nova24TV channel.
The discussion was led by the editor of the publication, Dr. Ivan Janez Štuhec. In addition to the Prime Minister, academic Dr. Janko Kos, constitutional judge Dr. Klemen Jaklič and Dr. Helena Jaklitsch, the Minister for Slovenians Abroad, also attended the debate. The discussion at the presentation of the publication, in which numerous esteemed authors from various fields not only pointed out the problems, but also offered solutions, was organised by the Assembly for the Republic and the Celjska Mohorjeva družba publishing house, which published the publication.
Prime Minister Janša, who wrote its editorial, initially spoke about the double standards we are witnessing today in the European Union, where it seems that an interesting cultural polarisation between the old and new member states has occurred. He conveyed that the European Union is not one entity with one opinion and one belief, but a convoy of ships which for now sail more or less in the same direction. They are not of the same size and do not have the same engines or steering systems. “Member states within the European Union are composed plurally, governments are different, views differ, and a fundamental dividing line is showing between the old and new Europe.”
He further pointed out that older people who have spent a period of their lives in a one-party system know what it means if there is no truth or if there are several truths, or if there are no facts, but only interpretations. “We older people know what it means for a country to be presented in a completely opposite way to how it really is. To say that a country is a people’s republic, but the people have no say in how it is governed because it is ruled by a communist regime. We belong to a world that has experienced the totalitarian system. In some places, interpretation has won and not facts.” The Prime Minister believes that it is significantly easier to manipulate by distorting terms, especially because in certain countries no one has the relevant personal experience based on which they can actually evaluate and keep in mind certain safeguards.
To the question of whether member states are aware of certain crucial problems of the European Union, the Prime Minister responded that those living in prosperity where formal democracy has been present for decades or perhaps centuries find it difficult to understand the violation of human rights. Those living in prosperity cannot imagine that black can be called white and vice versa and cannot put themselves in this situation.
Relating to the hijacking of the Belarus plane and the kidnapping of the journalist Roman Protasevich, he emphasised that Europe wanted to strongly condemn those actions in accordance with its old tradition. In the end, a text was drawn up that used many strong words but had little effect. “In the joint EU response, I proposed that we focus on the person and highlight in the text the name of the journalist who was kidnapped and in danger.” When this debate started, it was revealed that 400 political dissidents were imprisoned in Belarus. Once the relevant facts were exposed, only then did a discourse commence which referred to the specific person.
As the debate concerning the presentation of the publication continued, the Prime Minister said that discussion within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe was greatly needed. “Since the discussion coincided with the epidemic, it will involve the fundamental questions that started to emerge 15 years ago with the draft of the new European Constitutional Treaty and continued with the debate on the Treaty of Lisbon. Certain key issues remained unaddressed and that was revealed to be a mistake. And now we feel the consequences.” The Prime Minister believes that the discussion will develop in the direction of key issues regarding the existence of the European Union. There will certainly be no dramatic conclusions, but many things will become clearer, and it will be harder to insist that facts are not mere interpretations.
The modern life of today is, according to the Prime Minister, built on the digital, which has its strengths and weaknesses. “The fight for freedom of expression is underway today, or the fight for Internet neutrality to the greatest extent possible.” The Internet enables people to access knowledge and significantly equalises the starting points in life. On the other hand, it also enables great manipulation. Since the establishment of the Spletno Oko portal, more hate speech has been present in Slovenia. For the most part, defence against it is being suppressed. “A group at the Faculty of Social Sciences decides which content is suitable and which is not. This was called censorship in another regime, but now it is called fight against hate speech.”
Relating to the question about what the term cyber war actually means, the Prime Minister stressed that, in addition to a nuclear threat, a large-scale cyber attack poses the greatest danger, an issue of which 95 per cent of people are unaware. “A severe cyber attack may destroy an electrical network. Imagine a life without electricity at the time of the epidemic, hospitals with no power. No one in Europe is prepared for this.” He added that no country in Europe is strong enough to set up a firewall on its own. Only Europe as a whole is likely capable of this if it joins forces. When drafting the priorities of the Trio Presidency together with Germany and Portugal, Slovenia included defence against cyber attacks. The European Commission has already prepared certain acts to commence building the capacity necessary for defence against a severe cyber attack.
At the end of the debate, the Prime Minister said that artificial intelligence makes it possible to actually impact people’s behaviour, primarily for commercial purposes, but also electoral preferences. “Years ago, Facebook was already selling metadata on the basis of which it was possible to accurately identify people’s interests. Data control is in the hands of corporations which have long known that it would play a key role in the future.”