Today, 29 May 2020, MEPs Valter Flego, Irena Joveva and Klemen Grošelj (Renew Europe) addressed a letter to President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen on opening borders after the Covid-19 pandemic. While most European countries are opening their borders in line with the Commission’s recommendations, some have chosen to bypass them.

Distinguished President von der Leyen,

Two weeks ago, the European Commission has presented to Member States a package of guidelines and recommendations to help them to gradually lift travel restrictions and allow tourism businesses to reopen while respecting necessary health precautions.

The guidelines and recommendations are not legally binding for Member States, nevertheless European foundations are based on solidarity, tolerance, inclusion, justice, and non-discrimination.

Based on these core principles, in the presented documents it is clearly stated that “the gradual removal of restrictions to free movement and lifting of internal borders, proportionality and non-discrimination between EU citizens must be ensured”.

Free movement and cross-border travels are key for the tourism sector, and hence governmental advises not to travel outside home countries for the forthcoming summer holidays can significantly disrupt the economies where tourism accounts for a significant share of GDP.

Newest EU members States, such as Croatia and Slovenia, have shown to be prepared and responsible during the COVID-19 pandemic, thus taking necessary measures to protect public health and stop the virus spread. Consequently, both in Croatia and Slovenia, epidemiological situations are among the best in Europe.

While most European countries are opening their borders in compliance with Commission’s recommendations, other have decided to go round it. The Austrian Government has stated that it will not open its borders to countries that do not yet control the coronavirus situation, adding that borders will be open to certain European countries as from mid-June. However, neither Croatia nor Slovenia are on the list.

This is not the first crisis that Europe is facing; the migrant crisis, the terrorist attacks, the great economic crisis and today COVID-19. They have all posed huge challenges for the EU testing
our unity and strength. However, no crisis so far has succeeded to undermine the stability and
security of Member States.

This is why we sincerely hope that the Commission will react to those announcements, which
are inconsistent with the European COVID-19 recovery plan and EU fundamental values.

Measures undertaken by certain European leaders undermine our solidarity, weaken citizens’
trust in EU institutions and make room to unilateral decisions to the detriment of the Union’s
stability. Alike, they foment nationalist tensions and push part of European countries into
isolation.

Therefore, once again, we call on you to preserve the solidarity the European Union is based
upon.

COVID-19 will have long-term consequences for the EU and the world, but we shall not allow
actions that can undeservedly increase negative consequences for our countries and pave the
way for violations of the European idea of solidarity and unity.

Sincerely,

Members of the European Parliament
Valter Flego
Irena Joveva
Klemen Grošelj

MEP Irena Joveva had a conversation with Macedonian TV journalist for TV24 on 6. April 2020. The central theme was the European Union’s assistance to the Western Balkan countries.

 

In the introduction, the MEP stressed she has always been critical of the Union lateness in dealing with crises, such as financial or migration. “But this crisis now is completely different. Something that no one was prepared for. So, it makes sense that every head of states first thought was the protection of their own citizens,” Joveva said. At the same time, she added that “if anyone thinks that one country alone can fight or overcome something like this, it is a pure delusion; no matter the size or – if you like – the power of the individual countries”.

 

Solidarity is crucial, which is why the Union also helps other non-member countries, including the Western Balkans. Thus, the European Commission has already announced 38 million EUR in immediate aid to the region for healthcare equipment. For the country’s economic recovery, however, it will redeploy another 374 million EUR under the Unions budget.

 

Without cooperation, at all levels, we will not be successful in this fight,” said Joveva, who also discussed the current situation and the measures taken in Slovenia. She concluded by saying that the most we can do, we can do it ourselves by following the directions of the professionals.

 

You can watch the full conversation in Macedonian in the video below:

Today, 2. April 2020, the first online interview with MEPs Irena Joveva and Franc Bogovič was held on the joint initiative of the online media Sobotainfo.com, Mariborinfo.com, Ptujinfo.com, TV Idea and the Europe Direct Pomurje Information Point. A key theme was the European Union’s response to the current events and crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In recent weeks, in society the general opinion that has developed about the lack of solidarity between the European Union Member States. We see countries facing an outbreak that knows no borders. Some citizens share the opinion that the European Union (again) did not respond quickly and effectively enough. Is that the case?

 

According to Joveva, the answer is undoubtedly multifaceted: “The fact is it was unexpected, and no one was prepared for our world to be turned upside down so quickly. On the one hand, the first response had to come from individual countries. At that point, they were each looking after themselves, their ability to stop the spread of coronavirus, ensuring themselves sufficient amounts of protective means; which is quite understandable. In the first phase, the selfishness outweighed solidarity as a result of fear and insecurity. That doesn’t mean I support it, but I can understand it.” However, the MEP added “that it is still necessary to begin to realise that this virus knows no borders, origins, nationalities, race or any other beliefs. Meaning that it would not or will not help if one country is looking narrowly and egoistically.

 

After the initial shock, humanity came through. Unlike in the past, the actions of facing this challenge at the EU level came sooner than usual; late, but not too late. However, bear in mind that, that genuine solidarity will only emerge in the coming months when facing economic and social challenges. The Member States will have to help one another and rely on each other in this European community more than they do at the moment.

 

At the extraordinary session of the European Parliament held in March, the MEPs adopted three urgent legislative proposals from the European Commission as part of the EU’s joint response to the COVID-19 crisis, by a vast majority. Notably, in the light of available resources, Member States will use EU funds to tackle the crisis in the healthcare system, the labour market and other vulnerable parts of the economy. Joveva emphasised that these measures will not be enough and that they will be followed by other, more demanding and financially more extensive ones.

 

Unfortunately, the crisis is highlighting certain shortcomings in the much-desired unity of the European Union. According to Joveva, those are mainly manifested in fake news and misinformation propaganda as a particular the irresponsibility of individual leaders of the Member States; while some are blocking the adoption of necessary measures at Council level, others are taking advantage of the situation to unduly extend their powers.

 

We must use the crisis as an opportunity to change our perspective – to be able to look beyond the national level and see the wider community. While doing so, we must also emphasise solidarity as a core value of the Union. The self-sufficiency perspective, whether it be food, energy or production materials, will undoubtedly change, the EU’s multiannual financial framework will need to be adjusted. We need to transfer our attention to digitisation, and hopefully start to appreciate more the pure and certain mundane things that we used to take for granted.

 

We must be aware that after health, not only the economic but also the social crisis is threatening us. In times of emergency and crisis, the subject of democratic principles, human rights and freedoms must not be forgotten, Joveva said: “Of course, specific measures, such as restriction of movement, had to be taken, but in no sense, no state or their leaders should use this power to instil particular views or beliefs.

 

You can watch the full conversation in Slovenian language here.

Today, 30 March 2020, an article on the deepening health crisis was published in The Parliament Magazine. MEPs Irena Joveva and her Slovakian colleague Martin Hojsik, both members of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, have drawn up an article pointing to the rise in antimicrobial resistance. In their view, the coronavirus pandemic should also alert all lawmakers to the growing threat to health from antimicrobial resistance. 

 

Despite the severity of the current COVID-19 outbreak, the other, potentially more dangerous health panel, receives much less attention: Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). Three years ago, the European Parliament stated at the AMR Danger Conference that now is the time to act. At the same time, a special annexe to The Parliament Magazine, Time to act, highlighted the continued rise in the number of deaths caused by antimicrobial resistance. For years, the European Commission has used outdated data with a mortality rate of 27,000 people per year. Although the figure was updated, with 33,000 casualties a year, it does not account for all infections. Hospitals are an essential source of AMR data. However, reporting of the rate of resistant infections via the European Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Network (EARS-Net) is still not legally binding on the Member States. Sales of antibiotics remain high, and the European Court of Auditors had little evidence in November 2019 to conclude that the Commission’s activities are expected to reduce the health burden caused by antimicrobial resistance.

 

Antimicrobial resistance is the ability of microbes (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi) to develop resistance to effective antimicrobials, such as antibiotics. Even with the proper use of antibiotics, microbes can enhance their resilience; and when you then add the unnecessary abuse and overuse of antimicrobials in humans and animals, along with antimicrobial pollution, it is quickly accelerating.

 

AMR can reduce our capacity to fight such infections as life-saving antibiotics are becoming less effective. If nothing is done, the European Union and the world could face a dreadful antibiotic-free period, where surgery and even the smallest infections would be fatal.

 

You can read the article here.

MEPs from Slovenia supported the first three legislative measures in the fight against the new coronavirus, which were discussed and voted on today at an extraordinary plenary session of European Parliament. Due to exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, this was the first remote vote in the history of Parliament.

 

MEPs have called on the Member States to cooperate and maintain open internal borders to ensure the smooth delivery of medical equipment, essential goods and services. Respecting strict hygiene and health safety measures, MEPs currently residing in Brussels gathered for this extraordinary session in the European Parliament, while the rest followed the debate from home. One of the remote MEPs was also Irena Joveva, who, among other things, stressed out the importance of the cooperation of the Member States and the responsible behaviour of EU citizens are crucial for the effective resolution of the situation. “Follow the directions of the experts for yourself, your family, your friends, and all people. The virus knows no borders. Without cooperated actions, resolving the situation alone will not be effective enough,” she added. 

 

Hello. For the first time in history, we have a remotely held extraordinary session of the Parliament, with the focus on the COVID-19 crisis. Our work continues to go on, but it is mostly done from the comfort of our homes. We have virtually gathered to adopt some preventive measures, which are the step in the right direction, but those alone, are not enough. Others will follow, hopefully as soon as possible. At this given moment, today’s vote is crucial. The Union’s main task is to care of citizens. Not solely by providing measures to prevent the spread of the virus but also by providing the means for appropriate equipment, medical equipment, for the development of a customary vaccine, for protecting jobs, businesses, the economy by expanding the scope of the Union’s Solidarity Fund, totalling over 37 billion EUR.

Furthermore, the key to success is the involvement of the Member States and the responsible behaviour of citizens by following the measures instructed by the professionals. The virus knows no borders. Without cooperated actions, resolving the situation alone will not be effective enough. Stay healthy!

Foto: Pexels

👋! I haven’t spoken to you in a while, I know. But that doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. At most, the opposite. Let me explain …

I’ve been thinking for days about what to write, how to write. Should I, as another one in the series, explain to you in a broad way what we should or should not do in the current situation? I will not. To those who have not yet realised the seriousness of the situation, one way or another, one such record would not change their minds.

Video meetings and video conferences did nothing to ease our work, on the contrary, they only complicate things …  The introvert in me actually has no major problems with the fact that we should be at home. Even less problems has the “PJ and the tracksuit” version in me. 🤭 But these are so much worse for the altruist in me.

I believe that anyone who can help should help. Contribute one piece even the smallest to the mosaic. Everyone is equally honourable. Unfortunately, I also believe that those who can help do not help. That is their decision. But … Not every human is a Human. Furthermore, exploiting the situation – for own profit, for five minutes of glory, for power, for oneself – is anything but human.

I will not explicitly criticise anyone. I will not explicitly praise anyone. What is need should be done. If anyone thinks that the European Union is doing nothing, is in the wrong. We have an extraordinary plenary tomorrow where we will be able – for the first time ever – to vote remotely. We will adopt the necessary legislation to mitigate the effects of the crisis. In a nutshell: the 37 billion cohesion funds will be made available for use by Member States under the Investment Initiative; EU will broaden the scope of the EU Solidarity Fund (to make use of public health protection funds); and last but not least, will stop ghost flights that may be triggered by the COVID-19 crisis.

In addition, committees are also working. For example, in the Committee on Culture and Education, of which I am a full member, our political group Renew Europe is making several proposals for action. Culture and education is in the crucial times now that schools are closed, cinemas, theatres, concerts, events cancelled … It is quite clear that the measures we will confirm and take tomorrow  will not be enough and that they are only the first  of many who will, I hope as soon as possible, follow. In the meantime, if I express myself beyond what I have written above, I am contributing some extra pieces to the mosaic.

Well … I was also thinking about how much to go into detail about this. On one hand, I was wondering “will they think it’s self-promotion, doing exactly those things that I condemn,  so taking advantage of the situation”? On the other hand … Who should be an example to others if not us? Are we all politicians bad? No. Should I be quiet because there are so many bad ones? No, I will not.

Believe it or not,  I would be rather ‘on-the-field’ helping those that need it the most. Those who know me know this very well. Unfortunately, current circumstances do not allow me to do so and I have to stay at home, but I still help; not only financially, I make it easier for many volunteers who are in the field in many different ways. I’m not going to take this moment and explain everything, there will be moments for that, I’m sure. Be enough for now.

Stay healthy! Stay home. Stay human. ❤️

At the march plenary meeting MEPs discussed the outbreak of a new fast-spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) across Europe and the world, as well as the European Union’s response to it.

A number of MEPs during the debate on coronavirus have pointed out that solidarity and co-operation are crucial in Europe in the context of the coronavirus epidemic, which has spread to all EU Member States.  Parliament has also heard some criticism at the expense of some countries and the European Union’s actions to date.

Irena Joveva pointed out that in a serious epidemic situation we do not need to panic, we must not be indifferent and we should not trust self-proclaimed experts.

Madam President! I am not going to say purely politically what we all have to do, because at this moment it seems more important for me to say what is wrong and what is superfluous. In my opinion, these are three different groups.

First: all panics are wrong and redundant. The new coronavirus is not the end of the world unless human stupidity prevails. I emphasize: if. Second: all indifference is wrong and redundant. Wouldn’t you still be indifferent if one of your parents or grandparents became infected?. I’m young. I would probably get over the virus, but what if I passed it on to someone who wouldn’t. That’s the point. It’s about responsibility. And third: self-proclaimed professionals are most wrong and redundant. All of a sudden everyone knows everything. In my opinion, self-isolation is necessary for these people as well, but from social networks in the first place.

The situation is absolutely serious, but who am I to condemn the measures. Are they too strict, too soft, too late? I do not know, but I know that I am responsible and I trust the profession. The real one.

 

 

On Friday, 6. March 2020, MEPs met with reporters before the March plenary session of the European Parliament, which will this time be exceptionally held in Brussels. The key topics that were discussed during the briefing with reporters were the European Climate Law, the situation at the border between Greece and Turkey, the situation at the outbreak of the new coronavirus and the Hungarian media financing in Slovenia and North Macedonia.

Briefing began with the presentation of the European Climate Law, where MEP Irena Joveva pointed out that she could, on the one hand, agree with the critics about the looseness of the law. Environmentalists are pointing out that dealing with climate change is the number one priority, and as such, it must be addressed, as we are in a crucial decade that will have a decisive impact on the future of our planet.

On the other hand, I understand that these challenges cannot be solved overnight. After all, they must be tackled ambitiously, but not to the detriment of the economy, but above all, not to the detriment of the people.

Regarding migration and the situation at the Greek-Turkish border, MEP Joveva said that in her view the EU is more prepared this time. Union responded faster than during the 2015/16 migrant crisis: “I believe that many have learned from that first wave. Unfortunately, Union has not been able to use this intermediate time to devise a proper migration and asylum policy but I hope that we will develop appropriate policy as it is really high time. ” She also agreed that Turkish President Erdogan is blackmailing the EU, it was only a matter of time.

I am sorry that people are trapped in the political interests of certain leaders, in geopolitics and ‘dangerous’ populisms, who exploit fear in the circumstances on the border between Greece and Turkey to their advantage.

“Of course, you can’t just open borders and accept all people. It is quite clear that there are people who cross national borders illegally, however competent authorities have to bear in mind the human rights that are universal when dealing with migrants,” Joveva added.

On Wednesday, 11. March 2020, MEPs will certainly have a vivid debate regarding Hungarian media financing in Slovenia and Northern Macedonia. With the help of the European Liberals, it was agreed that the European Commission would make a statement on the subject in plenary.

Also, next week (Tuesday, 10. March 2020), at the initiative of internal MEPs group of Young Europeans, the narrower part of the team is also MEP Joveva, will meet with David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament. They will talk about raising the culture of debate in the European Parliament, encouraging MEPs to engage in more dynamic discussions and, consequently, greater attendance at them; among other things, it will be debated about the possibility of longer addresses and greater use of blue cards (asking questions to other MEPs).

“You must not stop at every ‘no’.” The sentence I remembered most from last week.

To which I owe you a blog post, and before that I apologise for not doing so over the weekend.

Last week we didn’t have to go to Brussels or Strasbourg or anywhere. We were able to stay home. If by any chance anyone wonders if it was due to a virus, the answer is no. We had a week called ‘green week’. I would prefer the term ‘field week’ because that is the true meaning of it. I allow myself to be biased about green, as real Jeseničanka (citizen of capital Jesenice).

Joke aside. Already at the beginning of my term in office I decided to use the time as much as possible to be outside among people. Away from offices, halls and rooms, preferably in my home country. And this ‘green week’, which we will have every other month, is basically perfect for that.

My local assistant Jasna and I went to one social welfare institution (Dom na Krasu) and three retirement homes (in Nova Gorica, Celje (Dom ob Savinji) and Radovljica).

But, alas … Because there are not enough days in a week, because sometimes Slovenia is not so small, because I really wanted to take time for each visit and because I had meetings in between, as well as meetings with the LMŠ Initiative and Local Boards (of course, this part of the terrain visits is also important and we are very well aware of it in the party LMŠ) … No more than these few visits I was able to do. But I will absolutely continue with these terrain visits in the near future.

I did not go on field for throwing a bad light on other MEPs, but only because I respect what I have said and because I want to raise the profile of politics. At least a little. Of course, I can’t change the world (unfortunately), but I can do a lot. If I want. And I want to. First of all, at this stage of visits I went to listen to people. Executives, tenants … To show them that I’m here. That I can be – if nothing else – their link wherever it is given. Yes!

Key findings? Each home or institution is its own story. Some are more successful, others are more resourceful … But it is true that they all share a human resources and spatial distress.

I will not go into the details of each home individually or in the assessments of them. It does not seem fair until I visit one more, if not most, of them. However, I must add that the ones I visited are, in my opinion, among the better ones.

What I have learned? Sometimes very little is needed. One reversed sentence in the proposals for European funding. One “you must not stop at every no”. One “yes”. One “how are you” … one “you are not alone”.

“As you cannot throw all of us in the same bin, so you cannot these people! Come to the field. Among them. Bring it on.”

This is a (non-edited) part of one of my Facebook posts. It was October 2015. A time of severe humanitarian, refugee, migrant crisis.

In my previous life, as I usually say, field work was my love. Among many, exactly this one was most emotional, by far the most exhausting but also the most valuable. The field work taught me by far the most.

Four years and four months after my announcement, we discussed the humanitarian situation at the EU’s external borders at a plenary session in the European Parliament.

The video below is my part of the discussion where I ‘earned’ my first card. Not yellow, but blue. Intended to ask a question that you can then answer – if you do not reject the card. I accepted it. I probably don’t need to explain in particular that a Croatian colleague gave it to me. Because I have talked about how some people persistently reiterate that there is no evidence of any human rights violation on the border between Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. That those of us who are loud in this regard are not telling the truth. Obviously I will need to be back in the field again. I went as a journalist, I will go as a politician if need with greater motivation. Because, next time they tell me again that there is no evidence, I’ll just be able to show them my own.

P.S.: In response, I invited the MP who had given me a card to take a look at the pictures, recordings and reports of events on the border that already exist. We’re probably going next week.

Dear President, for years, we have witnessed reports of human rights violations of refugees and migrants at the Union’s external borders. Among other things, as we have heard, also at the Croatian border.

Representatives of the EU Council Presidency, sitting in front, are  representatives of Croatia, as well as colleagues from that country. I know what you would like to say again. That nothing is true, that there is no evidence …

A month ago, a group of NGOs released a report what happened there last year. The document shows that the Croatian authorities send these people back to Bosnia and Herzegovina with batons, with the result of air gun shots, barefoot, sometimes naked. Croatian Ombudsmen, United Nations agencies, and even some Croatian police officers in their anonymous statements, point to the occurrences.

The European Commission, in the previous composition, did what? Commission said Croatia was eligible for Schengen. So much for that. If necessary, I will personally go out into the field, but overnight and unannounced. Next time they tell me that there is no evidence, I will show you my recordings.