Slovenia, led by Viktor Orbán’s close political ally, will take over the presidency of the Council of the European Union in a couple of months. Many in the EU fear this may lead to the exclusion of several topics that are unfavorable for the Hungarian PM. Talking to Politico, Slovenia’s Foreign Minister called the Article 7 procedure initiated against Hungary and Poland a “dead end.” However, he also said that Slovenia wanted to prioritize rule of law during its presidency.
Slovenia will officially assume the six month long rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union on July 1st.
It will likely be an important time period as much of the funds of the recovery package aimed at mitigating the negative economic effects of the pandemic will be distributed among the Member States at that time. As a result, Slovenia’s government could easily play an important role in this.
But according to an article by Politico, many EU diplomats are worried about the country’s upcoming Council presidency since its Prime Minister Janez Janša is a close friend and political ally of Viktor Orbán.
Orbán ally Janša
Janez Janša and Viktor Orbán have helped each other many times throughout the years.
The 2018 election campaign of Slovenia’s PM was publicly supported by the Hungarian Prime Minister. Even the political program of Janša mimics many of Orbán’s policies – from a stricter asylum policy and stronger border security, to an “ethno-national” family policy.
On top of this, investigative journalists from Hungary and Slovenia have also revealed how some Hungarian media entrepreneurs close to Orbán were channeling millions of dollars into Slovenia to support and further build the Janša-related media.
In return, for example, the Slovenian PM defended Hungary and Poland after they vetoed the EU budget over plans to tie funding to respect for the rule of law.
Slovenia’s Foreign Minister: rule of law also priority
In reaction to concerns, Slovenia’s foreign minister, Anže Logar tried to calm nerves when talking with Politico.
Logar said that his government would remain neutral as Council president, rather than “a booster for Budapest’s agenda.”
The Foreign Minister even claimed that Slovenia wanted to prioritize rule of law during its presidency, which comes as a surprising statement, considering that Hungary, along with Poland, is still subject to the Article 7 proceedings, for alleged breaches of core EU values, in particular the rule of law.
But Logar also highlighted to Politico that he “was informed” by prior Council presidents that the Article 7 procedure “is more or less a dead-end, in a way, so one should rethink how to proceed with the issue.” He also called the procedure “unworkable.”
On the other hand, the minister praised a system set up last year under which EU member countries conduct peer reviews of others’ rule-of-law records, but he did not go into details about how exactly this could work as a substitute mechanism.
At this point, it is hard to determine how much help the Slovenian Presidency could ultimately mean to the Hungarian government, especially after Slovenia’s leftist opposition a few weeks ago submitted a no-confidence motion against the government. The vote was delayed several times due to the pandemic and right now it seems unlikely that the opposition could succeed in removing the government but things could easily change in the upcoming weeks. Should that happen, Viktor Orbán would lose a key ally.
Featured photo by Vivien Cher Benko/PM’s Press Office/MTI