Read a comprehensive interview with MEP Irena Joveva in the current issue of the Reporter magazine, in which she discusses the first half of her term, critically highlighting the challenges Europe will face, and comments on the current political and social situation in Slovenia. She also talks about the challenges of motherhood in the context of her political career, her goals for the second half of the term, and whether any journalistic questions throw her off track.
“Answers of people who think that no one can stop them and that they know everything throw me off track. Because of such people, some think that we are all the same. I always try to answer precisely what is asked, I don’t twist things and if I don’t know something, I say so. That does not mean I know nothing, it just means I won’t bluff. We don’t need more of that in our country.”
In response to a question about the media regarding the fact that “the center-right government is accused of disabling the STA (Slovenian Press Agency)”, Joveva pointed out that the current government cannot be described as center-right and that the accusations are not about disabling the STA but clear endeavours to subjugate or destroy it.
In the interview, a large part of the discussion revolves around the state of media freedom in Slovenia, from party funding of media that run propaganda aimed exclusively at discrediting political opponents, and the fact that the European Commission and the European Parliament’s working group are closely monitoring the situation.
It will visit Slovenia in a few days, which does not bode well for the country’s reputation, said Joveva: “It is also of no use for the current Prime Minister to show, in a rather bizarre speech at the hearing in the European Parliament, that he has no arguments for the controversial measures. My understanding is that the working group will interview various stakeholders and prepare a report. What comes next will be decided by the majority in Parliament.”
According to the MEP, with its moves the current government wants to completely transform Slovenia into an illiberal democracy. This is why we are losing a good part of our respect. In spite of this, it is still clear to all who is responsible for this. Meanwhile, Slovenia’s presidency of the EU Council was described as politically unsuccessful. However, it was successful where the government did not play a major role; that is at the technical level, where diplomats and experts worked within the presidency.
The biggest threat to the EU, which, according to the MEP, comes from within:
“Populists are cynically provoking fear, exploiting historical traumas, and deliberately dividing a nation without basic decency, just for their own power and authority. Despite what might appear to be exaggeration, the EU is facing a serious test because of authorities in Hungary and Poland, and somewhat less so in our country and Bulgaria. Now that the European Commission has finally responded to the persistent pressure from the European Parliament and has taken a stronger stance against breaches of the rule of law, tensions have only increased. Of course, these regimes seek to present this as a defence of Christian Europe, their own sovereignty, family values, but that is just shifting attention. It is not about conservative versus liberal values. It is simply about authoritarianism versus liberal democracy.”
The MEP also answered clearly, whether true liberals still exist “given that MEPs from liberal groups have become more intolerant towards dissidents”.
“You have probably confused the notion of intolerance by disagreeing and pointing out the infringement of fundamental rights and the violation of the rule of law. Liberal groups by nature include dissidents. Economically, many in Renew Europe are very much on the right, while others are more on the left. But we share the same views on fundamental freedoms and rights and the rule of law. It is not that we are intolerant towards conservative people, but we are speaking out against the usurpation of countries by corrupt leaders driven by hatred. /… / The biggest trick of these populist parties is that they present themselves as defenders of traditional values, when in reality, they reject them with all their cynicism.”
The MEP also discussed her activities in the first half of her term and future plans. She participated in more than a dozen reports and in a narrow focus group, where proposals for the European Parliament reforms were prepared on a proposal from President David Sassoli. He is currently focusing on the media, culture, environment, health and youth issues, focusing on meeting people’s expectations.
Within the Committee on Culture, she will strive to “participate fully in the act of media freedom, which is imperative if we want the European Commission to stop responding to situations like the STA only with eternal concerns and unheeded calls.”
Among other things, Joveva expressed satisfaction that, also through her own work, she managed to ensure that more funds will be allocated to youth programmes in the coming years. As for the Conference on the Future of Europe, she expressed hope that the project would bring about the changes desired, but that the idea of bringing the EU closer to the people seemed to have dissipated too often for her to predict anything.
“I do not understand how 75-year-olds or older can give their views about the future of our country. With all due respect, but if we are speaking about the future, it should be logical who should have the main say.”