August 4, 2021

EU Council Presidency: “Shame” instead of anticipation in Slovenia

Status: 07/01/2021 4:40 a.m.

Slovenia takes over the EU Council Presidency today. In Ljubljana, people think little of Prime Minister Janša and his mob populism – but expectations of Brussels are also low.

By Stephan Oszváth,
ARD studio Vienna

An accordionist on the central Preseren Square in Ljubljana earns a few coins for a new can of beer with folk music. Tourists are coming again – after the Corona break. In the “Celica” hostel on the site of a former barracks, a maximum of 20 percent of the rooms are occupied. Otherwise the hostel in the autonomous cultural district of Metelkova is always fully booked, says manager Majda Mali. It shows the rooms designed by local artists: lots of wood, a gallery, regular concerts create a cozy atmosphere in the former military prison. The most prominent prisoner in the late 1980s was Janez Janša, now Prime Minister of Slovenia.

“He and some others were trapped here for a few months because they had betrayed military secrets to the media during communist times,” says Mali. Slovenia was the first country to secede from Yugoslavia in 1991 – the armed conflict with the Yugoslav army lasted only a few days; Janša was then Commander-in-Chief. Slovenia was spared the fate of Bosnia or Croatia, who paid a heavy toll in blood for their independence.

Good friends with Viktor Orban

Gregor Tomc wrote the punk song “Ljubljana annoys”. The sociology professor was a member of the city council; he used to play football with Janša. “We weren’t exactly friends, he was more of the quiet type,” says Tomc. “My friends were more in the music scene, his more in politics, socialist youth organization. We knew each other, I read his texts. And I have to say … I couldn’t understand how one could waste one’s youth in socialist youth . That’s probably the boring thing you can do at 20. ”

Janša became the central political figure in Slovenia for the next thirty years. He was accused of corruption but kept coming back to power. According to Tomc, he has his following both in the cities and in the countryside: “People from the lower classes who were forgotten after the fall of the Wall: poorly educated, with bad jobs or unemployed. So workers and farmers. On the other hand, there are relatives the middle class and high earners who believe they were victims of the old regime and never found recognition. ”

Janša’s party SDS was the strongest force in the 2018 parliamentary election. However, he did not succeed in forming a government until 2020.

Image: dpa

Janša, who wrote for the communist youth newspaper “Mladina” before Slovenia’s independence, now attracts attention with rude attacks against journalists. He mentions left-wing networks everywhere, doubts climate change, believes Donald Trump to be the real US election winner. Investors close to his friend Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian Prime Minister, bought into the Slovenian media, which are now Janša’s loud mouthpieces.

During the Slovenian EU Council Presidency, Janša wants to advocate the rule of law, he said: “We have to ensure that all member states are treated equally.” The rule of law in Poland and Hungary is in danger – that’s how you see it in Brussels. The two Visegrad countries should find supporters with their course in Slovenia. Janša blocked the appointment of two Slovenian prosecutors to the European public prosecutor’s office.

Residents of Ljubljanas grumble at Janša

The rude tone of the tweeting head of government towards journalists and anyone else who criticizes him repels many residents of the capital Ljubljana. They do not expect much from the Slovenian EU Council Presidency. “Janša’s government is bad,” says Natascha, who walks her dog on the Ljubljanica. “He’s misbehaving.” There will always be banquets, says an old man who is resting on a bench in the shade on the banks of the Ljubljanica, but nothing else: Politics will be the same as always. He doesn’t like Janša. A man who introduces himself as a dinosaur is even tougher in his judgment: “What should you expect from a criminal?” He asks. “You can’t cure psychopaths.”

“A thief – then as now,” reads this protest poster.


On many zebra crossings in Ljubljana, sprayers have sprayed a message: “The king is naked” – and by that they mean Janša. Every Friday they demonstrate against the prime minister. Also the poet Boris Novak, whose poem “Freedom is a Verb” is read out at the end of every demonstration. He had to pay a fine. “I’m afraid that Slovenia will become a kind of loudspeaker for countries like Poland or Hungary,” he fears. “The concentration of power would become normal. It is clear what they want: They want to block European institutions, dismantle the rule of law and European values.”

The sociologist Sandra Basic-Hrvatin also had to pay a fine for reading the constitution at a demonstration – the official reason: violation of corona requirements. “Our constitution is threatened,” she says. “It was a kind of civil disobedience to show that this document, which regulates the relationship between citizens and the state, urgently needs to be protected.”

Slovenia has so far had 4,000 corona deaths. The government of the two million country had adopted strict pandemic measures. Only ten people were allowed to assemble in public – but 100 in the church. The sociologist sees this as an attack on freedom of assembly: “If I demonstrate peacefully because I don’t like political decisions, I shouldn’t be punished for it.”

Young people dressed in black symbolically carry democracy to their grave at a demonstration in Ljubljana (photo from June 25, 2021).

Image: dpa

“The EU is also responsible for this”

Basic-Hrvatin does not like the fact that Europe is expanding into a fortress – and Slovenia is participating with a restrictive alien law. The issues of asylum and migration are to be a focus of the Slovenian Council Presidency. “There won’t be a big bang or a completely different situation. That has been building up over the years. And the EU is also responsible for that,” accuses the sociologist. “She watched in all these countries how democracy was dismantled, even though people took to the streets. But I don’t want to be a second-class European,” she says, adding: “It’s an important time: we have to fight for democracy.” . She wears her comment on her arm cast: “Sramota” – shame – is sprayed on there.

Basic-Hrvatin’s colleague Boris Novak has an even more radical contribution: Europe should simply cancel the Slovenian Council Presidency, he says: “This government is a shame. For Slovenia, for Europe. It would be better if the EU institutions improvised for six months. Better than when these crazy people have something to say. ”