EU presidency: which face will Janša give to Europe?

Slovenia takes over the EU Council presidency from Portugal on 1 July. The country's right-wing populist prime minister Janez Janša is currently facing accusations of undermining press freedom in his own country, and on the European stage his demonstrative closeness to Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has attracted negative attention. Commentators are sceptical that Slovenia's presidency will be a success.

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Wiener Zeitung (AT) /

The wrong man for this job

Slovenia can't achieve the goals it has set itself, writes Otmar Lahodynsky, former president of the Association of European Journalists, in Wiener Zeitung:

“The country's priorities range from strengthening the EU's strategic autonomy and climate protection to promoting the rule of law and securing stability for the Western Balkans. ... How can the Slovenian government commit to EU climate protection goals when Prime Minister Janez Janša has repeatedly questioned whether global warming is caused by humans? ... It is not only international journalist organisations that see Slovenia's government as having long since adopted the same authoritarian approach as Hungary and Poland. Therefore, Janša's promise to defend 'fundamental European values' over the next six months is unconvincing.”

Delo (SI) /

Slovenia is more than just its prime minister

Janša isn't the sole standard bearer of the EU Council presidency, Delo insists:

“Above all the Council presidency is a difficult diplomatic and bureaucratic challenge in the context of European legislative and decision-making procedures. It must act as an honest broker between the member states with their different interests. ... Here, the Slovenian presidency will have many opportunities to prove itself and boast concrete successes by the end of the year. ... Because although Prime Minister Janša has repeatedly crossed the red lines of what is decent and acceptable, the presidency is a project of the entire country.”

hvg (HU) /

Serbia joining EU not more likely now

Although Slovenia supports the idea of EU membership for Serbia, this project won't make any progress during its Council presidency, hvg predicts:

“Serbia is currently led by a politician who 20 years ago supported the expulsion of Croats and Hungarians living in Serbia and was secretary general of the chauvinist Serbian Radical Party. ... This politician, who has supposedly become a European in the meantime, also fits very well into the 'illiberal international' bloc comprising Hungary, Slovenia and Poland. So those European politicians who are fighting against Orbán and his allies will hardly support the accession of the former Yugoslav republic as long as the country is ruled by its current political clique.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Several causes of concern

Unlike in 2008, when Slovenia took over the EU presidency for the first time, people in the EU are now critical of the country, Jutarnji list observes:

“Janša is not the same man he was in 2008, and under his government Slovenia is not the same country it was either. Journalists' associations criticise the country because of the pressure it puts on the media. The Slovenian government is also under fire for not appointing a representative to the EU Public Prosecutor's Office. Janša's closeness not only to Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, but also to other radical politicians in Europe, also worries his former and current centre-right partners.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

A clear stance against anti-democrats needed

With Janez Janša, a nationalist with an authoritarian streak is taking the baton, Corriere della Sera laments:

“So as it turns out, one of the EU's representative figures will be a leader known for his complicity with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, whom Janša steadfastly defended during the last European presidency, when most EU leaders opposed the Hungarian law that violates the Union's common values. ... Nor is he a friend of the press freedom. ... For six months the member states, which often seem inclined not to look too closely, will be compelled to do just that. The EU's values are non-negotiable and the heads of state and government must find a way to stem the rising anti-democratic tide.”

Primorske novice (SI) /

Stand up for the Balkans

Despite its domestic problems Slovenia has the chance to move forward on important issues, says Primorske novice:

“We have problems with our understanding of democracy, rule of law and freedom of the media here in Slovenia, but our problems should not overshadow the formulation of a common European policy which is important for the lives of almost 500 million people. The efforts to make EU enlargement in the Balkans an important or at least visible European issue should be sustained. This enlargement is in Slovenia's vital interest, while most other EU members are unaware of how disastrous passions in the Balkans can be.”

Expresso (PT) /

Predecessor Portugal was a failure

Expresso has negative as well as positive things to say about the six months under Portugal's leadership:

“Probably the biggest failure of the Portuguese presidency was the inability to ensure uniformity regarding the criteria for the EU's Covid digital certificate. Each member state has its own criteria and requirements, and that's nonsense. This is exactly what should have been avoided at a time when European strategy was all about restoring mobility. What's worse is that Portugal was not one of the first countries to establish functioning controls on the Covid certificate at airports at a time when our dependence on tourism required it.”