During a meeting with the European Commission, the Prime Minister of Slovenia suddenly attacked the Social Democrats. Vice President Frans Timmermans refused to be photographed in the joint photo.
The Slovenian presidency of the European Union was hit by the first scandal on its first day. During the joint working meeting between the European Commission and the Slovenian government, Prime Minister Janez Janša abruptly and without warning faded into a photo showing several judges and politicians. Some of them are marked with the addition of “S&D”. This stands for “Socialists and Democrats”, the self-designation of European Social Democrats, including SPÖ, for example. Among other things, Tanja Vagon, leader of the Slovenian Social Democratic Party and a member of the European Parliament, was singled out in this way.
Jansha used this photo as an illustration of his complaint that his country’s judiciary is still infiltrated by former communist judges and is therefore not independent. It was then that Frans Timmermans, vice-chairman of the commission, broke the collar. The Dutch Social Democrat and the party’s first candidate in the 2019 European elections strongly refused to participate in the joint “family photo” taken by the Commission and the government.
Respect for all democratic parties.
Two commissioners and a senior cabinet official confirmed the incident independently to “the press.” In TV images showing members of the commission and the Slovenian government on their way to the photo after meeting at the Brdo conference venue, you can see President Ursula von der Leyen with a dark expression blocking Jansha’s attempts at small talk. Several members of the Social Democratic Committee, for example the Swedish Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson, seemed very angry. “What should he apologize for?” Timmermans’ government said when asked by the “press” whether Jancha had apologized to him, that it would make it seem as though it was an insult to be a Social Democrat.
Timmermans himself said of the scandal: “I could not be in the same picture with Prime Minister Jancha after his unacceptable attack and defamation of two judges and two MEPs from S&D. He questioned their integrity because they were in the same picture. Judicial independence and respect for the role of MEPs. The elected are the cornerstones of the rule of law without which the European Union cannot function. We must not stop calling out those who attack this by name.”
At the subsequent press conference, von der Leyen indirectly alluded to this incident. “Let me be very clear: political dialogue requires respect for all democratic political parties,” she said, adding, regarding the rule of law, that judges also “have a right to their own history.”
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