Stephan Baier Writes About Slovenia – OpEd
By Peter Tase
In early August 2021, Stephan Baier a Senior Correspondent of Die Tagespost weekly newspaper, published a note about Slovenian politics and leftist journalism undertaking a slander campaign against the current government of Prime Minister Janez Janša.
The following is an excerpt of concepts tackled in Mr. Baier’s analysis.
- Criticism of Slovenia is not justified
Highly critical news reporting on Slovenia, a nation that is currently holding the presidency of the EU Council, is unjustified. Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša is far from having the same power as Viktor Orbán.
- Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša
More and more foreign media channels are warning against the “orbanisation of Slovenia”. But if you ask in Slovenia, you will create a completely different picture. During the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, the small Slovenia was the target of international criticism. Even the presentation of the program of the Slovenian presidency by the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in the beginning of July was overshadowed by the accusations. Janša should “live the values of the rule of law at home”, said the sharp Dutch liberal Malik Azmani at the time.
“Unfortunately, they want to belong to this strange club that does not respect free media, does not tolerate the independence of the judiciary and does not respect LGBTQ rights. Corruption, nepotism and fraud are not so foreign to this club, which they would like to belong to.” Janša should stop putting pressure on journalists and judges. Ska Keller, an MEP, also accused Janša of being on the path to “illiberal democracy”.
- Environment in Slovenia
Slovenian society seems to be divided and strongly polarized. There was no real revolution at the break-up of Yugoslavia 30 years ago, as the old communist cadres remained in power, educated priests explain in an interview with Die Tagespost. The old elites would still like to control the justice system, most of the media and the administration. “They are afraid of Janša because he is the only one who can be dangerous to them,” says one of the priests. “Namely, he knows the system.”
- Communist Party of Slovenia
The Communist Party of Slovenia then “tactically withdrew from power” and so in the end “all their structures and their influence remained intact”, confirms publicist Tomaž Zalaznik, director of the Nova Revija Institute and co-founder of the Ljubljana Humanities Forum. “In public administration, the judiciary, academia, financial institutions, insurance and the economy, all their representatives have remained in office.” The former communists now act as liberals or social democrats. Milan Kučan, the leader of the Slovene Communists until 1990, was the president of independent Slovenia between 1991 and 2002. Many Slovenes believe that even today he pulls the strings and coordinates the state left and manages many media channels.
- Janša stands for anti-communist Slovenia
The second, anti-communist Slovenia is gathered under Janez Janša, who was Prime Minister between 2004 and 2008 and again briefly in 2012 and 2013. Each of his terms was accompanied by accusations, demonstrations and protests. The left strives to “keep the monopolies that remain in their domain and represent two thirds of the state budget,” says Tomaž Zalaznik. “A special chapter is the judiciary with its oligarchy, which protects these systems from any changes.”
Like many, Mr. Zalaznik sees the source of all evil in the fact that in 1991, when Slovenia gained independence from communist Yugoslavia, there was no lustration, so there was no radical change of leadership and elites, and defenders of the old regime were not banned from politics. The majority of the time was not invested in real democracy, so in the 30 years of independence there were only six years of conservative politics. Then there is the financial privilege of the left: “In 1992, the denationalization of socially-owned property, the sale of state-owned companies and the return of once nationalized property began.” Zalaznik is cautious: “There are allegations that the privatisation of former state property in the economy was also carried out with the funds that the Communist Party transferred abroad before the declaration of independence.”
The oligarchy based on these financial resources is expected to remain at the head of many structures for the third generation. “By controlling the political space in the National Assembly and the government, they adjusted the new legislation to their own oligarchic interests. In the case of court proceedings, they would be protected from the judiciary, which also did not receive any noteworthy reform,” explained Zalaznik. Oligarchies are interconnected and protect each other. They are also the only ones with enough resources to be able to influence the big media.
About 90 percent of the media in the country are left wing, confirmed in an interview with the newspaper Die Tagespost the former Speaker of the Slovenian National Assembly, doctor and theologian France Cukjati. Slovenia accuses Public Radio and Television of spreading propaganda against Janša’s government. Cukjati and his many friends have donated thousands of euros to set up an alternative television station, believing that creating true media pluralism is one of the most important tasks in the country.
- What role do oligarchies play?
Cukjati disputes the opinion that Janša is trying to subjugate the STA news agency, as there is a state co-financing agreement with which the previous government promised the agency that it would “support” it financially “if necessary”, but there are allegations that some in the STA have illegally appropriated large sums of money. That needs to be clarified.
Cukjati believes that a kind of “deep state” is at work in Slovenia, whose invisible structures date back to the communist era of the former Yugoslavia. Before 1991, the then leaders transferred around 70 billion euros abroad. To this day, these funds are intended to support the political and economic oligarchy in the country. They are supposed to financially support careers in public administration, the judiciary, the media and politics. “It is about influence, the left ideology is at most a tool,” Cukjati believes. Former President Milan Kučan is a “symbolic figure” of the old structures, who is supposed to be in charge of maintaining the system.
- To jail for false accusations
Today, it is too late for a real lustration we missed in 1991: “In 1991, no judge lost his/her position, quite the opposite: judges who were previously communist-oriented and now against the Janša government occupy the highest positions.” Patience and Janša’s second term are now needed. The latter was not allowed to a three-time Prime Minister in 2008 or 2013. “At that time, they were waging a war against Janša,” Cukjati explained to the newspaper Die Tagespost. In light of the purchase of Finnish Patria Armor, he was accused of corruption. The accusations were dropped long ago, but because of that Janša had to go to prison at that time.
The left is hardly attractive in Slovenia and has no popular personalities. “The programme of the left parties is only to be against Janša and for the ideology of LGBTIQ.” Cukjati is convinced that Janša would receive more than 25 percent of the vote in the elections, but he believes that he will remain in power until the next regular elections next spring. “The left has no capable people.” Janša is a “wise and pleasant man” who is systematically demonized. “When I was president of the National Assembly, the media wrote impossible things about me. That is when I experienced what it means if 90 percent of the media is against one person,” Cukjati looked back.
He also refuted the thesis about the “orbanisation of Slovenia”. “Janša has many good friends – not only in Hungary, but also in Poland, Croatia, Slovakia or Italy. For the first time, the Croatian and Slovenian Prime Ministers are true friends!” In Slovenia, the increasingly frequent incitement of many EU institutions against Hungary is certainly being watched with concern. The slaps that the Orbán government supposedly received from the European Commission due to the legislation on child protection have “also worsened public opinion about the Brussels bureaucracy in Slovenia”.
- Uncertain perspective
“Janša is trying to destroy established systems,” says Tomaž Zalaznik. He predominates in the non-left space, but will find it difficult to gain a majority. 25 percent of voters are loyal to Janša. “Achieving the 50% threshold requires a broader framework to inspire people and take the necessary steps for the future.” Although new parties can be expected until the spring 2022 elections, the outlook remains uncertain. Meanwhile, young people are looking for their future abroad, “especially educated young people,” says Zalaznik. “The middle generation, families are struggling to survive. That is why they are avoiding politics that can take revenge on anyone who encroaches on its domains.”