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EPPO: Slovenian PM blockage of European Public Prosecutor must end

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Today (24 June) on the initiative of the Greens/EFA Group, MEPs will debate the nominations for the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) in Slovenia. The debate follows attempts by Prime Minister Janša to block the Slovenian candidates for Deputy Prosecutor to the EPPO's office from moving forward. The EPPO formally started operating on 1 June this year. Slovenia will take up the Council Presidency as of 1 July.

Saskia Bricmont MEP, Greens/EFA shadow rapporteur for the EPPO in the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs said: "The irregularities and partisan intervention of the Slovenian government led by the ultraconservative Janez Janša in the appointment procedure of the Deputy Prosecutor in Slovenia shows that the government is clearly exceeding its powers. The European Public Prosecutor's Office and its essential role against fraud and corruption is being called into question. With the post-Covid recovery plan it will be more necessary than ever to be vigilant against the risk of fraud.

"After Hungary and Poland, we are now witnessing an extremely worrying shift in Slovenia: Systematic attacks against the judiciary, the press, the opposition and civil society and the Slovenian media being bought up by allies of Viktor Orbán. This dangerous shift, just as Slovenia is preparing to take over the rotating presidency of the European Union in a week's time, calls for a reminder of the importance of enhanced cooperation and that we want everyone on board. The European Commission and all the political forces in this Parliament must deliver the same message before it is too late. Respect for the rule of law is not negotiable."

Daniel Freund MEP, Greens/EFA Member of the Budgetary Control Committee who was in Slovenia last week, said: "Prime Minister Janša is abusing his power to prevent the European Prosecutor from working in Slovenia, out of a personal vendetta. He has no right to intervene in this process. Prime Minister Janša is following in the footsteps of Viktor Orbán and attacking the independence of the judiciary and only days before taking the presidency of the Council.

"Slovenia will receive €1.8 billion of EU recovery money, which is why we need the European Public Prosecutor operational in Slovenia as soon as possible. The European Commission urgently needs to act. The Commission's refusal to use the rule of law mechanism in the most outrageous cases, is inspiring Mr Janša. He is clearly not fearing any consequences. So long as the Commission refuses to fully protect EU taxpayers' money, you will inspire others to follow Orbán on his path to corruption and illiberalism."

The debate on the EPPO will start at around 12:40 and can be followed live here.

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Croatia

Commission welcomes next step on the approval of the recovery and resilience plans of Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia

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The European Commission has welcomed the positive exchange of views on the Council implementing decisions on the approval of national recovery and resilience plans for Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania and Slovenia held on 26 July, at the informal videoconference of EU Economy and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN). These plans set out the measures that will be supported by the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU, which will provide €800 billion (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across the EU. The Council implementing decisions will be formally adopted by written procedure shortly.

This formal adoption will pave the way for the payment of up to 13% of the total allocated amount for each of these member states in pre-financing. The Commission aims to disburse the first pre-financing as quickly as possible, following the signing of the bilateral financing agreements and, where relevant, loan agreements. The Commission will then authorise further disbursements based on the satisfactory fulfilment of the milestones and targets outlined in each of the Council Implementing Decisions, reflecting progress on the implementation of the investments and reforms covered in the plans.

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Iran

Raisi versus Jansa - obscenity versus courage

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On 10 July, the Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (pictured) broke with a precedent that was regarded as a taboo by “professional diplomats”. Addressing an online event of the Iranian opposition, he said: “The Iranian people deserve democracy, freedom, and human rights and should be firmly supported by the international community.” Referring to Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi’s role in executing 30,000 political prisoners during the 1988 massacre, the Prime Minister said: “I therefore once again clearly and loudly support the call of the UN investigator on human rights in Iran who has called for an independent inquiry into allegations of state-ordered executions of thousands of political prisoners and the role played by the President-elect as Tehran deputy prosecutor,” writes Henry St. George.

These words caused a diplomatic earthquake in Tehran, some EU capitals and were picked up as far away as Washington as well. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately called Joseph Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief, and pushed the EU to denounce these remarks or deal with the consequences. The regime’s apologists in the West, too, joined in to help with the effort.

But there has been another front that strongly welcomed Janez Jansa’s remarks. Two days after the Prime Minister spoke at the Free Iran World Summit, among others, former Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird said: “I am really pleased to be able to recognize the moral leadership and courage of the Prime Minister of Slovenia. He has called to hold Raisi to account for the 1988 massacre of 30,000 MEK prisoners, he has angered the zealots and the mullahs, and friends, he should wear that as a badge of honor. The world needs more leadership like this.”

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Giulio Terzi, former Italian Foreign Minister, wrote in an opinion piece: “As a former Foreign Minister of an EU country, I believe that the free media should applaud the Prime Minister of Slovenia for having the courage to say the impunity must end for Iran’s regime. The EU’s High Representative Josep Borrell should end ‘business as usual’ with a regime led by mass murderers. Instead, he should encourage all EU member states to join Slovenia in demanding accountability for Iran’s greatest crime against humanity.”

Audronius Ažubalis, former Lithuanian foreign minister, said: “I just want to express my sincere support to the Slovenian Prime Minister Jansa, later supported by Senator Joe Lieberman. We have to push for President Raisi to be investigated by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity, including murder, forced disappearance, and torture.”

And Michael Mukasey, former Attorney General of the United States, stated: “Here I join Prime Minister Jansa of Slovenia, who courageously called for Raisi to be tried and incurred the wrath and a criticism of the Iranian regime. That wrath and criticism does not stain the Prime Minister's record; he should wear it as a badge of honor. Some people suggest that we should not demand that Raisi be tried for his crimes because that will make it difficult for him to negotiate it or impossible for him to negotiate his way out of power. But Raisi has no intention of negotiating his way out of power. He takes pride in his record, and he claims that he is always, in his words, defending the people's rights, security and tranquility. In fact, the only tranquility that Raisi has ever defended is the tranquility of the graves of the 30,000 victims of his perfidy. He does not represent a regime that can change.”

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Mukasey was referring to Ebrahim Raisi’s statement in his first press conference after being declared winner in the globally disputed presidential election. When asked about his role in executing thousands of political prisoners, he proudly said that he has been a protector of human rights all his career and he should be rewarded for removing those who stood as a threat against it.

Considering the Iranian regime’s record of human rights, its behavior towards its neighbors and also contemplating the very rationale that the world is trying to reason with the regime in Vienna, it might be appropriate to digest what the Slovenian PM did.

Is it a shame for a head of a state to take a stance against another state while not a shame to install someone like Ebrahim Raisi as head of a state? Is calling for an investigation by the UN into crimes against humanity and challenging the systemic “impunity” that keeps taking its toll in Iran wrong? Is it wrong to speak at a rally where an opposition group that has shed light on Tehran’s human rights violations, its numerous proxy groups, its ballistic missile program, and its entire Quds Force hierarchy and also exposed the very nuclear program that the world struggles to defuse?

In history, very few leaders have dared to break traditions as Mr. Jansa did. As World War II began, US President, Franklin Roosevelt, rightly understood the great danger that the Axis Powers were posing against the world order. Despite all the criticism and being called a “warmonger”, he found ways to help Great Britain and the Chinese Nationalists in their struggle against the Axis. This criticism was largely silenced in the public arena after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, but still some persisted in the belief that Roosevelt knew of the attack beforehand.

Indeed, no one can expect that those who benefit the most from the status-quo put conscience before interests and take the hat off for political bravery. But perhaps, if historians would care enough to calculate the stunning number of deaths and the amount of money that could be saved by preventing a strongman to become strong, world leaders might be able to pay tribute to courage and dismiss obscenity.

Do we need a Pearl Harbor to realize the Iranian regime’s true malign intentions?

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Israel

Slovenian Prime Minister Jansa’s remarks on human rights violations in Iran draw reaction from EU’s Borrell

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Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa (pictured) has declared that ‘’the Iranian regime must be held accountable for human rights violations,” a statement that drew a reaction from EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, writes Yossi Lempkowicz.

Slovenia holds the six-month EU presidency since July 1st.

Jansa was addressing a Free Iran World Summit organized by the Iranian opposition movement, the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

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Jansa told the conference that the “Iranian people deserve democracy, freedom and human rights and should be firmly supported by the international community.”

The Slovenian Prime Minister also referred to Amnesty International’s demands to investigate the new Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi over his alleged involvement in the executions. “For nearly 33 years, the world had forgotten about the victims of the massacre. This should change,” Jansa said.

In a reaction, Borrell said that Jansa may hold the rotating EU Council presidency but he “does not represent” the EU in foreign policy. Jansa’s statements also sparked tensions with Iran.

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Borrell said that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had called him  to ask “if the declarations of the Slovenian prime minister represent the official position of the European Union, given that there had been a certain confusion related to the fact that Slovenia is currently the country holding the rotating presidency of the Council.”

The EU foreign policy representative said he told Zarif that “in our institutional setting, the position of a Prime Minister — even if he’s from the country that holds the rotating Council presidency — does not represent the position of the European Union.”

He added that only the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, could represent the EU at the level of heads of state and government.

“Foreign policy remains a competency of EU member states and each member state can have the opinion that it sees fit for each issue of international politics. … For me it’s only up to say whether Jansa’s position represents the European Union. And certainly it does not,” Borrell said.

Borrell also said that the EU had “a balanced position” on Iran “that puts political pressure when it’s considered necessary, in many areas, and at the same time looks for cooperation when it is necessary.”

The EU is currently working as coordinator to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.

A spokesperson of the Slovenian representation to the EU, quoted by Politico.eu, said that “Slovenia has no intention whatsoever of getting involved in Iran’s internal affairs.’’ He added however that Slovenia “always advocates for human rights and fundamental freedoms. This is in line with our values and legislation.”

Slovenia is considered as a pro-Israel country within the European Union. The country made a sharp U-turn in recent years as one of the one former Soviet bloc country in the EU that consistently voted against Israel in the UN. Slovenia nearly recognized a Palestinian state in 2014, but in the end the parliament opted to just call on the government to do so.

Jansa’s party, in the opposition at the time, was the only one to oppose supporting a Palestinian state.

Slovenia took two a pro-Israel actions when it changed its annual vote from abstention to opposition on a UN General Assembly resolution extending the tenure of the Division for Palestinian Rights of the Secretariat.

Contrary to the EU which has banned only the so-called ‘’military wing’’ of Hezbollah, Slovenia declared the whole Lebanese organisation a “criminal and terrorist organization that represents a threat to peace and security.”

During Israel’s recent conflict with Hamas, the Israeli flag was raised on official buildings in Slovenia in a sign of “solidarity” with the Jewish state. “In a sign of solidarity, we flew the Israeli flag on the government building,” the Slovene government said in a tweet with a photo of the standard.

“We condemn the terrorist attacks and stand with Israel,” it said.

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