On Thursday, April 15, 2021, MEP Irena Joveva hosted a round table on the topic “Rule of Law mechanism, media and situation in Slovenia: RoLLER COASTERS INSTEAD OF ROLE MODELS”.

The discussion was divided into two parts. In the first part, the interlocutors of MEP Irena Joveva were; the Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Values and Transparency, Vera Jourova, the Slovak MEP Michal Šimečka, and the Professor of European Law, Alberto Alemanno. They discussed the broader picture of Europe, sought answers to issues concerning the rule of law mechanism, and, on this basis, discussed violating countries and the alarming situation in the media. The debaters of the second part were; the president of LMŠ (List of Marjan Šarec) and former prime minister of Slovenia Marjan Šarec, deputy director of the International Press Institute (IPI) Scott Griffen, professor of journalism and media policies Marko Milosavljević, and lawyer and media law specialist Jasna Zakonjšek. Together with Irena Joveva they searched for and replayed scenarios of possible solutions regarding the current situation in Slovenia.

European Commissioner Vera Jourova expressed concern about the decline of fundamental European values. She sees the mechanism of the rule of law as a tool that will fulfil its task. She explained that the Commission was speeding up the preparation of guidelines for the application of the discussed mechanism, as they did not want the possible initiation of the mechanism to to fail to withstand the judgement of the European Court of Justice. The concept of the state governed by the rule of law is not limited to the functioning of the jurisdiction but covers broader aspects of a democratic society, such as the fight against corruption, the protection of human rights, and the freedom and pluralism of the media. “The report on the rule of law in Slovenia covers several positive aspects, such as a good anti-corruption system. However, the Commission expressed concern about the freedom of the media, some attacks on journalists, and especially the events related to the financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA).” she summed up the situation in Slovenia, adding that they were monitoring the pressure on the media exercised by the capital, as well as by politics, and added the following: “All member states must recognize the role of the media as one of the pillars of democracy. Instead of making their work difficult, they should be provided with better working conditions.” She commented on the recent offensive tweets of the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Janša, who had labelled her as a supporter of the red star as follows: “I am always pleased to respond to an invitation to discussions where opinions meet, and where I can explain the work of the Commission. Values will not defend themselves, and it is our job to do so. I am always prepared to talk and cooperate, with all cards on the table, even when I am invited by someone else.

Among other things, MEP Irena Joveva pointed out it is important to mention that the rule of law mechanism is not intended against certain countries, but is applied to all based on objective criteria. However, it is also true that in some member states there are several breaches of the rule of law: “The question of the rule of law is neither a national policy nor an ideology.

MEP Michal Šimečka emphasized that the situation in the field was getting worse: “Those who do not want the rule of law work much faster than we who are trying to stop them with our tools. The precautionary approach is simply not appropriate. If we allow undemocratic regimes to be established in one or more member states, it will be the beginning of the end for the EU. For the EU to work, we must have the same policies and the trust in the notion that all member states are democracies.” He added that it is difficult to protect the freedom of the media if the rule of law mechanism cannot be used: “It is very important whether a national media is independent, whether the government is discriminating against minorities or not, whether it tolerates hate speech or not. We can see that in Poland and Hungary going hand in hand. The President of the European Commission said that the Commission is looking for ways to protect the media; so I am waiting for that to happen, and, finally also for financial support for independent media at all levels. The best thing we can do for journalism is to buy a good local newspaper.

Professor Alberto Alemanno was also harsh on the European Commission, saying he was overly cautious about losing the case before the European Court of Justice: “The Commission does not use all its powers to enforce the rule of law. I see the problem in the fact that the Commission does not have sufficient political support, but at the same time, it could rely on civil society and non-governmental organizations. Stakeholders in the economy, who could become much more political, could also play their part.

Rule of law is the basic postulate of the European Union, and Slovenia has never had any problems with that. Until the current government,” said the president of the LMŠ, Marjan Šarec. “I have been attacked since I joined the presidential company, and for journalists, such an attitude towards them is a shock. The purpose of this shock is to scare them away and get them to quit. Exhaustion of the Slovenian Press Agency is like the siege of a city that you exhaust and starve until it subsides. Journalists should not show fear. There is not that much extremism, but it is loud. We have to act self-protectively and get involved when there are elections.”

It is hard to say that Slovenia is a copy of Hungary, but we see the same ways in which it tries to discredit journalists, also by politics. They are insulted as being traitors, enemies of national values, and the big problem is that people will start looking at them as targets,” said IPI spokesperson Scott Griffen. As public institutions are closely tied to public funding, it is easier for governments to undermine them; that is why it is important to fight for the existence of independent public media and agencies. Journalists are under constant attacks from leading political positions, which is affecting their work. Therefore, an atmosphere of a coalition of democratic institutions in a democratic society needs to be established, he stated.

Lawyer Jasna Zakonjšek explained that harsh criticism was allowed regarding the journalists’ work, however, the moment criticism shifts to the private sphere, this is no longer something that journalists should suffer. The current government is far from being the only government to which journalists are in the way. Because of the nature of their work, they are a thorn in the side of each government as they also address unpleasant issues. However, due to social media and direct access to the electoral base, the intensity of the attacks has increased significantly. She emphasized that democracy does not stand and fall only on free journalism, but also on the judicial system and the trust in it. Attention must be paid to all institutions of democracy.

In the discussion, Professor Marko Milosavljević paid a lot of attention to the current prime minister’s vulgar and harmful communication to the public, which is not surprising. However, he pointed out the tendencies of media subordination: “The first step is public television and the Slovenian Press Agency, followed by agreements with private media owners – either to intimidate them, to silence them or to reduce their level of criticism.” In his words, the entire Slovenian critical and democratic public should step up consistently and show its democratic position. “We live in the EU, we live in a democracy, and the days of autocrats are over. This requires determination and the absence of fear. The success of aggressive people is threatened when we are not afraid of them.”

Today, 14 April, 2021, Irena Joveva MEP participated in a virtual conference on renewing relations and the future between Africa and Europe, organised by the Renew Europe political group. She discussed the creation of post-pandemic health synergies. The COVID-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated the need for continued and high-quality cooperation between the European Union and Africa within the health sector. The discussion focused on the ongoing management of the pandemic, lessons learned, and future cooperation between the EU and Africa.

MEP Joveva stressed the importance of vaccination, which is the only way to contain a pandemic, but unfortunately, the slow supply of vaccines is a major obstacle and Africa is in a particularly bad position. This situation is increasing inequalities between countries and economies. Africa also has problems producing its own vaccines – there are still many challenges in trying to establish a sustainable vaccine industry in Africa. “Vaccine production is complex, requires large financial investments, and a long-term vision. The focus should be on issues such as innovative financing to ensure quality. According to the World Health Organisation, hundreds of thousands of people on the African continent have died from infectious diseases such as yellow fever, Ebola, cholera, tuberculosis, and malaria. There is, therefore, a clear need to strengthen African health systems and to build national and community health systems that are accessible, sustainable, resilient, and of high quality,” she added.

She also pointed out that the European Union was one of the largest donors of the Covid-19 vaccine and that majority of the vaccines and protective equipment for Africa comes from Europe. The MEP also expressed her concern about whether the Serum Institute of India would deliver the promised doses of vaccine to Africa, as India might prioritize the use of these doses for its own population. It is ‘vaccine nationalism’ or protectionism that presents a serious threat of overcoming the crisis.

A few weeks ago, there was a lot of insinuation in the press that the European Union was also advocating such a position, which is not true. Unlike some other parts of the developed world, the EU is still one of the largest exporters of vaccines and is committed to the Covax scheme. The EU is also a strong advocate for open trade and global efforts,” said Joveva, listing some of her successful humanitarian projects. “Health is at the heart of the new EU-Africa strategy.”

She also spoke about challenges in other areas, such as combating climate change, preserving biodiversity, and the potential of green growth. Europe’s development objectives in Africa must be accompanied by engagement and dialogue, and a genuine partnership. Joveva believes that the EU could do much more in partnership with Africa. The exchange of good practices and information should be stepped up and African countries should be given the conditions to fully exploit their potential. “Not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it helps us all. We are increasingly dependent on each other, and we should tackle global problems together. Because once the health crisis is over, the more complex and longer-term crisis of global warming will have to be tackled,” she concluded.

The full second part of the event can be found here.

Statement by Renew Europe/LMŠ MEPs, Irena Joveva and Klemn Grošelj on the so-called non-paper on the Western Balkans.

As part of its Presidency of the EU Council, Slovenia should first and foremost advocate for the further integration of Western Balkan countries into the EU, playing the role of a sincere mediator, rather than cheering for concrete, partial solutions that are detrimental to the region and Slovenia itself. This should also be done in accordance with European values, principles, treaties and agreements, and above all, without any Euroscepticism or – even worse – any desire to change the borders between the countries in the region. But Janez Janša’s destructive policy seems to be taking us in a completely different direction in foreign relations.

Unfortunately, we do not know what the current government is advocating in diplomatic circles towards the region, but it is true that there has been talk in these circles for some time about a change in Slovenia’s policy towards the Western Balkans. In any case, it should be clear to all that changing the borders between the countries in the region, or changing the territorial arrangement in BiH, would lead only to bloodshed. In the future, we want a BiH that is not based on the ideology of ethnic divisions, but on the European values of transcending ethnic divisions and sectarianism. Yet, let us reiterate that the desire to redraw borders along ethnic lines is unjustified and contrary to European values, which advocate strengthening regional cooperation by ensuring equal rights for all citizens of the Western Balkans, regardless of where they live. Therefore, any ideas in this regard are unacceptable, unjustified, and also harmful to Slovenia and its vital interests in the region, and in Europe. Peace and stability in the Western Balkans are of strategic importance for Slovenia, both in terms of security and economic development.

On Wednesday, 7 April 2021, MEP Irena Joveva participated in the online debate “The Pandemic, Youth, and Europe: how to prevent a lost generation?” organized by the European Parliamentary Association. In their discussion, young Europeans focused on preventing long-term mass youth unemployment and filling the skills gap that will result from the disruption of the traditional learning process.

The pandemic is reducing young people’s opportunities for education and employment. Increasingly, we hear that the ‘lock down’ generation is the lost generation. MEP Joveva agreed with the young people that it is really hard to be 20 years old at this time. “It must be a challenge to be isolated with no real social contact and getting their education through distance learning.” She began by pointing out that education is a Member State competence, meaning that countries have faced the challenges of the pandemic differently. But this does not mean that nothing is being done at the European level.

At the beginning of the epidemic, in the so-called first wave, when we didn’t know much about the virus, the only right thing to do was to close educational institutions. No one knew how long it would last, for how long the distance learning would be needed, or what the effects of this kind of teaching would be. Today we witness that European education systems have many shortcomings.” Joveva agreed that the pandemic has also led to a lack of social skills development and increased psychological consequences and inequalities. “Since before the pandemic we in Parliament have been working on promoting IT skills, STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and maths), volunteering, internships, exchange programmes … Erasmus+ and the European Solidarity Corps are excellent examples of how we are trying to bridge the gap between traditional schooling by teaching international competences, encouraging practical work, and opening up new horizons.

Joveva also emphasized that digital education is crucial as it represents an investment in the future and the development of individuals and society. In October, the Commission, which has been working on education reform and Union-level guidelines since before the pandemic, presented its Digital Education Action Plan. It is in the common interest of all EU Member States to fully exploit the potential of education as a driving force for job creation, economic growth and the transition to the digital economy, and for greater social cohesion, especially in the light of the ongoing crisis we are facing momentarily.

Participants agreed that during the pandemic we all became (even more) aware of the importance of volunteering. Joveva, who was shadow rapporteur for the European Solidarity Corps, said that Parliament was working to further improve volunteering opportunities. The new European Solidarity Corps programme will be more accessible, more inclusive, and will provide more safety and security for participants, additionally, online volunteering was also highlighted.

National agencies can invoke force majeure clauses. This will allow them to assess the possibility of accepting additional costs up to the maximum grant amount. It also allows them to postpone planned activities for up to 12 months per project. The Commission has also secured €100 million for the Digital Education Call for Schools, which will support projects in school education, vocational education, and higher education. The aim of this call will be to improve online, distance, and blended learning – including support for teachers and tutors.

Despite the complexity of the topics discussed, the young people concluded the debate with optimism, and were especially pleased to have had the opportunity to share their experiences and reflections with the two MEPs. In addition to Joveva the young MEP Alexander Bernhuber (EPP) from Austria also took part in the discussion.

The 18th meeting of the EU-North Macedonia Inter-Parliamentary Committee took place on Thursday, 25th of March, 2021, where MEPs and their colleagues from Sobranie discussed the state of play of EU-North Macedonia relations, focusing on the implementation of the acquis in the accession negotiations.

MEP Irena Joveva, who is also the first vice-chair of the committee for the European Parliament, notes that North Macedonia is in a time of emergency, both because of the pandemic and because of Bulgaria’s veto. “I will not talk much about the reforms we all know that need to be implemented – especially in relation to the rule of law and efforts to fight corruption. The reforms in North Macedonia are about improving the lives of citizens, not the European Union. It is the latter that must keep its promises. The accession process should not be misused to solve bilateral issues,” she said, adding that it is citizens who suffer the most from open bilateral problems, unfulfilled promises, and endless talks without solutions. It saddens her to see that despite years of effort and endeavour that North Macedonia has put into the process, and its visible progress, the road to the Union is still long. She concluded her speech by encouraging them to overcome this last obstacle by working together with courage.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Affairs, Nikola Dimitrov, began by welcoming the adoption of the resolution on North Macedonia in the European Parliament but expressed regret that the amendments condemning Bulgaria’s provocative actions against North Macedonia had not been adopted, a view shared by MEP Joveva. “Although some challenges have emerged, such as the pandemic and relations with Bulgaria, North Macedonia will not stop. In the coming months, it will be crucial for the country to continue with reforms, including the fight against corruption, organised crime, and ensuring freedom of speech. We will continue to engage in a constructive dialogue on bilateral issues with Bulgaria,” Dimitrov assured MEPs.

Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director in charge of the Western Balkans at the European Commission, and Marko Makovec, a representative of the European External Action Service, both also noted that the country had made progress and demonstrated a commitment to the path towards the Union. “North Macedonia went through a long process of building compromises from the official change of its name to joining NATO,” Ms. Ruiz Calavera added.

El Confidencial, a Spanish newspaper and website specializing in economic, financial, and political news, has published an interview with MEP Irena Joveva. Below you can find summary of the discussion:

Irena Joveva was a journalist for eight years, so she knows and understands very well the campaign against the freedom of the press that the Janez Janša government is waging in her country. “We cannot afford to have three illiberal countries in the European Union,” she says in an interview with El Confidencial as part of the “Decoding the European Parliament” project. In the interview, the young, Renew Europe MEP talks about the rule of law in the European Union and Slovenia, a country following the illiberal trend of Hungary and Poland. However, Joveva is confident that the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, starting on July 1st this year, will be well managed.

Slovenia has been under scrutiny in recent months due to its situation of the rule of law. How would you sum up the situation of fundamental rights and freedoms in the country?

I wouldn’t say that Slovenia is like Hungary or Poland at the moment. Not everything is as black as it seems, but it is darker than it should be. This is why it is important to talk about Slovenia. The situation of fundamental rights is deteriorating and, if we don’t stop it, Slovenia could be the next Hungary or Poland within a year. This is not purely a national policy, confronting the coalition and the opposition. The general situation in the country is horrible – since Janez Janša came to power many civil society organizations have been facing serious problems. Brussels is paying a little more attention to what is happening now, as Slovenia will take over the EU Council Presidency in July. In summary, the Slovenian government is following the example of Hungary and Poland. They are using all means at their disposal to eliminate free and critical thinking. Not just against journalists, but also against NGOs, universities, and anyone else who disagrees with them. The government insults them, discredits them and uses mechanisms such as withdrawal of funding or legislative measures against them.

You mentioned the coming Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, starting July 1st. Do you see this as an opportunity to improve the situation in the country or is this a bad moment for the EU?

I think everything will be fine in the end. But I hope that in these months leading up to the Presidency, European institutions will not be passive, saying that there is nothing they can do. This is not true. I think they have learnt from the mistakes they made in the past with Hungary and Poland. But I believe that the Presidency itself will not be badly run.

The European Parliament held a debate on the attempts by the governments of Poland, Hungary and Slovenia to silence free media. Do you think that the freedom of the press is at risk in these countries?

Yes. Slovenia is not yet Hungary or Poland, but if we do nothing, it will head that way. Before entering politics, I was a journalist for eight years. So, I know how things work on the other side. There is no doubt that the situation is worsening. While I cannot claim that pressures or attacks have never happened in the past, the fact is that with the new government, the situation is gradually deteriorating. Janša tried to suspend the Slovenian Press Agency and national public television RTV SLO because he had built his own media system. He also has issues with the culture because they are trying to create a kind of parallel social trend. He manipulates people through historical traumas and the current pandemic. The goal is obvious: they want to subjugate the whole of society, and they want to have power eternally. Janez Janša wants to be eternally in power, that’s the whole issue here. He deliberately tried to divide and polarize society to achieve his political goals. And his political goal is autocracy.

In fact, in the last few weeks, we have seen the Prime Minister directly attack journalists here in Brussels, where he is known as the “Trump of Europe”. Do you think this label is fair?

I am not in a position to judge whether that is fair or not. But the reality is  Janša idealizes Trump and Orban. He uses social networks a lot, he attacks everyone on Twitter, so he uses the same methods as Trump. Things are going to extremes because we are no longer just talking about rhetoric.

You personally have been the target of attacks due to your Macedonian origin. What was happening?

This is normal for Janez Janša, his voters, and his supporters. Unfortunately, I am not the only one and, of course, I will not be the last to be the target of such attacks. It’s sad because none of them have told me exactly what I did wrong or what they think I should have done better. They are only talking about where my parents are from, even though I was born in Slovenia, by the way. They don’t even care what I say, and that is what saddens me the most. Politics has led to a very offensive trend. Hate speech in particular is becoming normal, most notably on Twitter.

Do you think the European Commission is doing enough to curb these trends and defend the rule of law?

I think the Commission should do more because it has enough tools at its disposal to do so. I hope they will take steps in the right direction because we cannot afford to have three illiberal countries in the EU that do not believe in freedom of the press. Furthermore, I hope and trust the European Commission to do more.

What measures or tools do you think Brussels could use?

First, we need to stop talking about how bad we are all the time and take action. The Commission has annual country reports on the rule of law, as well as a mechanism to condition European funding on respect for these fundamental values. It is a crucial instrument, and we must start using it to punish those who undermine our values.

Do you have confidence in the rule of law? We have already seen that some, such as Article 7, have proved ineffective …

You never know, but I remain optimistic because the rule of law mechanism is necessary precisely because of the apparent ineffectiveness of other mechanisms. The European Union was founded based on fundamental values, and this is clearly reflected in the Treaties. This is not about ideologies, but about non-negotiable values. The governments of Poland and Hungary are constantly losing court battles before the EU Court of Justice. I believe that we can use these tools to ensure that European taxpayers’ money does not go to waste.

You mentioned Janša’s admiration for Viktor Orbán. Do you think he will follow in Orban’s footsteps and his party, SDS, will end up leaving the European People’s Party?

I don’t think he will dare to do that because then his party would have less power than it has now as a member of the EPP. My colleague from Janša’s party has already said on camera that she will continue to work with Fidesz, regardless of which political group she belongs to. Orban and Janša no longer have so much political power, not in Parliament, or more importantly in the Council. They will not be part of “mainstream” politics. Janša’s party is simply too small (at the European level) to do anything, especially now that Fidesz is no longer in the EPP. So, I don’t think they will leave the group, but they will continue to work with Orban’s party.

And one last question. Are these illiberal democracies a threat to the future of the EU?

Yes. We do not need three illiberal democracies, even if they are still a minority. What is most important now is to stop the spread of such democracies.

 

Journalist: Maria Zornoza

Published: El Confidencial, 23rd March 2021

Full article accessible here.

In the spirit of the conference on the future of Europe, the Europe Direct Koroška Information Centre organized a literary-political discussion on the current perception of the socio-political situation in Europe among the inhabitants of the Koroška region. The discussion was organized based on a literary competition held from February to September 2020. The virtual event was attended by MEPs, including MEP Irena Joveva, the European Commission Representation in Slovenia, and members of the literary competition committee.

The committee announced the three best works, and at the beginning of the conversation, the author read their winning work on the turtle named Sofija. The short story addresses environmental issues, and MEP Irena Joveva said it was a text that should be internalized by all of us.

Next, she addressed media freedom and the importance of investigative journalism and warned that freedom of media is an issue in democratic societies as well. During the pandemic, journalists face increasing difficulties in accessing official information, which is the only way to provide adequate information to the public and assure an open and plural media space. Another challenge is resources. “Good investigative journalism requires time and resources, which is becoming increasingly difficult. The corona crisis is merely accelerating this trend and investigative journalism is under increasing pressure. There is a great risk that important stories that are in the public interest remain untold.” At the same time, in many countries, including the EU region, an atmosphere of hatred towards the media and journalists is being fomented systematically:

It is a goal-driven process that has been intensifying in recent years, with the media owned by political parties leading the way. These parties are taking advantage of the void left behind by crises, economically weak media owners, changes in the habits of media content users, etc. However, if the media freedom falls, so does democracy. If democracy falls, freedom is the next in line.

On all the opportunities offered by digitalization, the MEP drew attention to the fact that some technology giants control much of our lives and directly threaten the democracy of our societies, with most subscriptions flowing into large media companies. At the same time, a lot of information is available for free on the Internet. Asked if money could mean freedom, she replied: “Certainly money does not bring a sense of freedom. Good investments are much more important than accumulating money. The best and most profitable life investment is the one in our mind and knowledge. Do not count the stars. Become a star. The star of your own mental universe.

On Thursday,  12th of November a group of MEPs, with the primary signature of  MEP Irena Joveva, addressed a letter to the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel, regarding the situation in the Slovenian film industry with the intent to warn and call for help to unblock the financing of Slovenian national film productions.

The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has severely affected the film and audio-visual sector resulting in the loss of income for this sector’s employees throughout the whole European Union. With constant reminders of the problematic situation some Member States have taken a positive step towards damage control by releasing and increasing funding for the film sector. Despite all  efforts; numerous warnings, good practice examples, appeals by various members of the Slovenian parliament to the Prime Minister, to the Minister of Culture and to the Minister of Finance, the Slovenian government continues to block the financial state budget transfers intended for the Slovenian Film Centre, which has led to the standstill of the film industry in Slovenia, including projects of international cooperation throughout Europe. Moreover, the industry employees have not yet received remunerations for their supplied services since November 2019.

The Country’s political actors are postponing the issue and constantly evading the responsibilities, and so the film industry employees are drowning in unbearably difficult personal and social circumstances. Due to the government’s ignorance, and as the film and audio-visual industry is based on creativity, cultural expression and also on promotion for European ideas and values, we have sent a formal appeal to  European Commissioner Gabriel for help in resolving this issue of blocked funds for  Slovenian national film production.

The letter: Letter on film industry in Slovenia

On Friday, 6th November, MEP Irena Joveva was a guest on the Slovenian Radio Ptuj’s show ‘Slovenia, the European Union and the World’. The conversation covered issues around the pandemic, such as the current situation, disinformation, and the negative impact of disinformation and this sphere’s regulators within the EU – where the Digital Services Act will play a key role.

This mandate is truly unique. First the exit of a member state and then the pandemic. Only for the short period of six months could we work normally. In March, everything came to a standstill, including our work and after that, everything changed,” began the MEP.

How successful was the first year of her mandate? What were her priorities and her achievements? Joveva is a member of four parliamentary committees and a shadow rapporteur responsible for numerous opinions, from the Digital Services Act and artificial intelligence to the strengthening media freedom and the European Solidarity Corps. Soon she will cooperate in her capacity as the general rapporteur on the opinion of the Committee on Culture regarding the citizens’ participation in the decision-making in the EU.

I am building credibility with my colleagues, they trust me with more important reports, they ask for my opinion and my support … But you should know that most of the results are only evident later on because the legislative process is long-running and one can hardly attribute it to only oneself,” explained the MEP, emphasizing the importance of networking to gain influence and to achieve goals.

Joveva and the journalist also discussed briefly the current situation regarding the pandemic and in the second part, the MEP spoke about fighting against disinformation, especially in current times.

I believe there has been too much disinformation going around since time immemorial, even only one is overmuch and it’s getting  increasingly dangerous in these times. On the one hand, because of the digitalization of our age, and, on the other,  – which is even worse – because it is dangerous to human health and lives.

As a result, the Digital Services Act, according to Joveva, has never been more important. Although the EU and major online platforms have already taken some steps, it is still insufficient: “Twitter removes or flags certain misleading records, and Facebook removes dangerous groups, but we need clear, legal regulation. Rules for moderating online content, including disinformation, illegal content, hate speech, and the spread of conspiracy theories…”

According to the MP, it is crucial to find out, who is behind the disinformation: “I find it most problematic that politicians deliberately use these methods, fear and people’s sense of helplessness, to achieve their goals. Politicians, on the other hand, are diverting attention away from the real problems that people face, which they should address together. And that is precisely the problem that makes people feel excluded and disappointed, prompting them to seek explanations on dubious-credibility websites.

At the same time, she was particularly critical of Slovenian government’s (non)communication. “If you listen to something a politician says every day, then to something another speaker says on another day, and then again to a leader from whatever group, at some point everything starts to seem suspicious, and you ‘switch’ to deceptive information because everything appears to be much simpler at first glance,” Joveva observes.

Is there anything else we can do? The Digital Services Act by itself, as well as increased platform responsibility, will not suffice. “Manipulative policies or systems will always exist, but it will be up to us to decide whether we will – and I apologize for my choice of words – be so stupid as to believe in something that is so obviously manipulative. Education and awareness-raising are critical here, not only from educators, but also from those of us who co-decide and co-shape decisions, and we must be the first to set an example,” the MEP concluded.

The Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (CAP) is one of the most important policies, representing a partnership between agriculture and society. It aims to support farmers,  improve agricultural productivity,  ensure constant food supply,  provide farmers with adequate income,  maintain the rural  landscape in the EU, and  help cope with climate change. It was launched back in  1962 and designed as one of the first common politics of the European Union. The first draft of the new CAP reform was introduced by the European Commission on June 1st, 2018 but, due to the CAP’s direct dependence on the new multi-annual financial framework, no further negotiations were launched until July 2020 when the EU leaders at the European Council agreed on a new 2021-2027 budget.

A fact we must be aware of is  the agricultural reform is that of an extremely complex policy, consuming a large part of the EU budget, as it directly concerns a large portion of the population but also indirectly every individual EU citizen. The complexity in which the reform frames itself reflects also in the fact that we had to discuss three legislative resolutions in the European Parliament: the first  was regarding the rules on support for strategic plans prepared by state members; the second, about financing, management, and monitoring the CAP; the third, about establishing a common organization of the agricultural products markets. At the beginning of the debate, we saw numerous criticisms from NGOs and environmental activists, who  accused the commission’s proposal of obsolescence, non-compliance with the objectives of the European Green Deal (EGD), and even that adopting such a kind of reform is a ‘kiss of death’ to our common fight against climate change. It is true that the first proposal, which was presented in 2018, was not ambitious enough in terms of worrying about the environment and tackling climate change, we, the MEPs also acknowledged that. So, a massive of 1941 amendments were collectively filed with the existing resolutions. I supported a number of amendments that would make the CAP more in line with the EGD and set higher targets for reducing pesticide use and protecting biodiversity. Unfortunately, not all have been accepted, but I believe that this reform brings the greatest paradigmatic change since the introduction of the environmental dimension into the farm subsidy scheme.

Despite numerous complaints and lobbying pressures by some environmental activists, all three legislative resolutions were adopted by a large majority at this year’s second European Parliament plenary session, in October. The compromise texts cover a number of amendments, but I will mention just the most important ones. So-called eco-schemes will be introduced. These are mechanisms to encourage more environmentally friendly agricultural practices; as a new way of financing those farms that will focus on environmental and climate protection. Eco-schemes will receive 30% of direct funding from the first pillar of the CAP budget and will be binding on Member States, while farms will have to meet economic targets whilst increasing green spending from 30% to 35% of the rural development budget. Member States will now also have to include detailed agricultural objectives in the preparation of their national strategic plans, which will have to be in line with EU priorities. In addition, we have also agreed that the European Commission can comment and make recommendations or even introduce changes when reviewing the prepared national strategic plans, given that the prepared plans do not make sufficient efforts to harmonize the CAP with the adopted objectives of the EGD. According to the provided information the Commission is expected to continue its plans on the European Climate Law in the coming year, to which the CAP Strategic Plans will have to respond, as countries will be responsible for achieving the objectives of both important pieces of legislation and their inter-linkages. The reform also allows 15% of the funds from the first pillar to be transferred to the second pillar, as long as the funds are aimed for climate and environmental objectives. Member States will have to earmark at least 30% for rural development and a total of 40% (with all the above) to tackle climate change. The reform also includes a concern to create better conditions for young farmers and smaller farms, the aim of which is to reduce pesticide use and create better working conditions for those working in the sector.

Regarding the financing; I do regret that in the report on financing, governance, and monitoring an amendment has been adopted which introduces a hybrid model into the reform that will reduce flexibility, increase the administrative burden, will not improve supervision, and will also not penalize failure. I have advocated the adoption of a performance-based delivery model that would provide all Member States with an opportunity, within the nine key objectives, of a common set of indicators and the approval of the plans by Member States and the Commission, while ensuring the continuation of full control of all expenditure in line with the EU Financial Regulation. This would be done through performance-based reporting and monitoring to promote the actual use of ecosystems, and the achievement of the higher climate change and environmental ambitions of the Green Deal while reducing access to finance for simple land ownership.

This reform also adopts the Nutri-score system for labelling the nutritional value of products, their origin, and production method, which will now also apply to bottled wines. Whereas, the debate on the possibility of banning the use of the terminology burger, sausage, milk, yogurt, butter and cheese for plant-based products has caused quite a stir when labelling and naming food. The controversial nature of the debate stems from the view that this terminology is only intended for products of animal origin. I think it is pointless to change terms that have been used for decades. While the ban was not accepted by the majority, an amendment was adopted that will restrict the use of terms for plant-based dairy substitutes, which will have to use alternatives such as “cheese substitute” or “yogurt product”.

To achieve a level of sustainable, regenerative farming and to strive towards climate neutrality targets, the CAP reform also introduces the concept of so-called “carbon farming”, which we have already seen in the Climate Change Act. It is the use of CO2 emissions during the restoration of degraded agricultural land, the top layer of which contains around 14 billion tonnes of carbon in the EU. The use of soil carbon has a positive effect on the recovery of organic matter in arable soils by increasing the soil’s bio-fertility, which means that crops grown on such soils can act as “sinks” for CO2, removing around 51 billion tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere each year and storing it in the topsoil. If successful, it will have a significant impact on environmental protection, but many scientists still believe that reducing livestock farming, which accounts for 10% of all emissions in Europe, will be key to reducing CO2 emissions in the future.

I would have liked to see the adopted agricultural reform to be more ambitious in terms of environmental protection, and the drive to achieve the Green Deal objectives, but the reform does include targets that will help achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. It should also be considered that the adoption of legislative resolutions by Parliament does not mean that the procedure is complete or that the text is final. According to many experts’estimations we are only half way there. The legislative resolutions texts are merely the starting points of the European Parliament for trialogues – further negotiations with the representatives of the European Commission and the Council, where they will have to adopt a new, final text by consensus. Negotiations are a protracted process, and the last CAP reform involved 56 meetings over 18 months. According to senior diplomats, the first negotiations are expected to start this time as early as the end of November.

Although there is no legislative guarantee in the CAP reform to align policies with the adopted EGD objectives and the Biodiversity Strategy, they are not mutually exclusive but go hand in hand. Agricultural activity is directly dependent on environmental protection, biodiversity conservation, and access to water. The fact is, if we do not ensure quality conditions for pollinators, reduce the use of pesticides, and reduce emissions we will reach a point where farming will no longer be possible, the CAP will be irrelevant, and we will be left without vital food production. I am confident that by realizing these facts we will take a step in the right direction – not only EU policy but also all farmers, business people, and citizens, each in their capacity to reduce the negative impact on the environment because taking care of the environment means fighting for a better tomorrow.

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