On Friday, 11 September 2020, an online debate entitled “Green Deal after the pandemic” took place where MEP Irena Joveva (RE) together with MEP Ljudmila Novak (EPP), State Secretary at the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning dr. Metko Gorišek, Taj Zavodnik from the Society for Sustainable Development Focus, and dr. Luka Omladič, a philosopher and environmental analyst at the Faculty of Arts at the University of Ljubljana, tried to find answers questions on what the agreement on the future of European finances and recovery from the pandemic reached in the July summit of EU member states brings from an environmental point of view.

 

Among other things, Members of the European Parliament point out the agreement does not make it possible to pursue the objectives of the European Green Deal. In recent months, the covid-19 pandemic and declining of economic activity and traffic developed a different apprehension of how to live differently, travel less and reduce consumption, all of which could make a vital contribution to achieving the goal of climate neutrality.

 

The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) today supported a proposal for a European Climate Act which proposes a 60% reduction in emissions by 2030 (compared to the base year 1990) and the achievement of carbon neutrality for all Member States until 2050. MEP Irena Joveva emphasised that time is ahead of us and not the other way around. “As a co-decision-maker, the European Parliament must set goals more ambitiously as each Member State often looks only at national interests and not at common / European interests and solidarity.” In her view, only the multiannual financial budget and the Just Transition Fund will not be sufficient to achieve the goal of climate neutrality; therefore, she emphasised the need for the so-called Union’s own resources. “A plastic tax has been agreed in the Council. I hope they at least extend the ETS mechanism, trade with emission coupons, at the same time, including the maritime and aviation industries, set a higher price for these coupons and then run the highest possible amount collected in the EU. Additionally, there is also a carbon import tax,” which she tries to pursue as a substitute member of the ENVI Committee.

 

In the end, it is up to the Member States to draw up national strategies and concrete steps to achieve the environmental objectives. The MEP Joveva expressed her concern regarding the usage of the European funds; she emphasised that, based on what she has heard so far, she is concerned that in Slovenia we will only use funds from the project to project, for short-term goals. “It is true; we will have to close TEŠ6, the construction of NEK 2 was mentioned, while we don’t talk enough about raising the share of renewable sources. Compared to other countries, the Slovenian percentage is growing too slow“ said Joveva. “The key projects will be the energy renovation of buildings, industry, renovation of the railway infrastructure, the transition to green transport, subsidies for electric vehicles, circular economy, personnel (re)training… Slovenia’s goals will have to be broader, long-term and much more imaginative to alleviate people’s social hardship, increase funding for health care, long-term care, while not reducing environmental ambitions. The price of inaction or insufficient goals in this area will be high, but not in terms of money.” These are vital things that all national decision-makers should keep in mind when formulating strategies, explained Joveva. She also pointed out that there are plenty of ideas or good practices that other countries are already implementing, from building wind power plants to a larger share of solar panels. France and Germany, for instance, have announced joint investments in the construction of batteries as well as investments in the production of hydrogen as an alternative energy source. It is necessary to set goals in the long-term strategy and pursue them if we genuinely want to live in a carbon-free environment by 2050.

 

Finally, she mentioned that the EU is undoubtedly a leading force in tackling climate challenges but that it is a global problem. “This ‘fight’ will depend on the result of upcoming elections in the United States, the results of which China is also waiting for.”

MEP Irena Joveva was a guest on an online discussion organized by the Office of the European Parliament in Slovenia, titled “Misinformation during a pandemic in the digital era”. Discussions focused on the misinformation sources, the damage misinformation caused to society, the reach of traditional and modern media, the role of social networks in spreading misinformation, and the legislative framework and options of the EU to regulate the spread of misinformation. Participants of the discussion were MEP Tanja Fajon, prof. Mojca Matičič from the Clinic for Infectious Diseases and Febrile Conditions at the University Medical Center Ljubljana and Janja Božič Marolt, founder and director of the Mediana International Institute for Market and Media Research.

Mojca Matičič pointed out the call centre as an example of good practice for sharing information, which was organized by students of medicine during the first wave of the epidemic: “Access to credible information and empathetic and understandable dialogue with callers was a key factor of the project’s success.” Božič Marolt confirmed that people want credible information. Mediana’s research has shown that the highest level of trust between the Slovenian public has the public RTV broadcasting service. Contrary to the prevailing impression, the vast majority of Slovenes follow health and government recommendations and measures, protecting themselves and wearing masks. Fajon highlighted the importance of media education and media literacy with the emphasis that these two alone are not enough: “People summarize information with emotions and once false information is anchored in our brains, it is impossible to erase it. Not even with denials and lawsuits, the damage is done.

Irena Joveva said that the European Commission is currently preparing digital services act and an action plan for democracy. They will regulate the field of hate speech, provide greater transparency of algorithms and clarity of content, primarily sponsored ones. She emphasized that we need both; self-regulation and taking the initiative and responsibility of online platforms for published content, as well as their legal regulation. There is a thin line, but we have to define the limitations. “Adoption of legislation is not the only responsibility of politics, but also how they behave and communicate. Communication in Slovenia was inappropriate; the citizens were to often confronted with conflicting information which contributed to conspiracy theories. As a result, people began to believe everyone and everything they have heard, instead of trusting the ones who provided them with credible information, “Joveva summed up.

Regarding hate speech, she pointed out the existence of different interpretations of what hate speech is: “We are arguing about this definition in the European Parliament because there are also MEPs who build their political messages on hate speech.” In the end, it will be a political agreement; however, she does not believe that the virus of infodemic can be cured, but it can be treated by combining legislative measures with the actions of the web platform operators. At the same time, a critical assessment by the people and the media will have to prevail. In this regard, Joveva points out the uncritical summarization of Twitter posts: “World leaders use it to communicate directly with citizens, without the filter of critical judegment, such as the judgement of journalists.” Božič Marolt, who believes that it is inappropriate for the public media news to open with unverified information from Twitter or to provide information from social media in the news program, also confirmed Joveva’s statement.

Mojca Matičič concluded with the similarities between the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and the COVID-19 pandemic. Matičič said: “We already knew exactly how the virus was transmitted in the early 1980s. There was no cure, no vaccine, but we knew a way to avoid infection. Unfortunately, this has not been talked about for years and years, even though millions of deaths could have been prevented. There has been a huge amount of misinformation and conspiracy theories arguing the disease does not exist. And there is still no vaccine against AIDS, but it is not problematic because we all know how to protect ourselves from getting infected. With the Covid pandemic, we have the opportunity to adapt our behaviour to protect ourselves, to be responsible, honest to ourselves and others, and to consider and spread reliable and verified information.

Irena Joveva expressed her support for the organized LGBTIQ+ movement in Slovenia and participated at the 20th Pride Parade. Organizers note that progress on LGBTIQ+ rights has stagnated in recent years, and hatred against the LGBTIQ+ community has intensified.

The demands and political messages of this year’s Ljubljana Pride Parade focused mainly on the areas of access to health services, unregulated legal areas, requirements in the field of social security, the joint struggle of various movements and conditions in the field of social inclusion of LGBTIQ+ people. The organizers are also critical of the intensification of repression against LGBTIQ+ people, which is taking place simultaneously as the attacks on the basics of democracy, such as freedom of the media, division of power, free public expression of disagreement and transparent elections. In Slovenia, they observe the sympathy of political representatives with the policy of t. i. Visegrad groups. Joveva, whose work in politics is based on overcoming a culture of hatred, attended the parade to support the LGBTIQ+ movement and raise awareness among the general population about diversity, its acceptance and destigmatization of various social groups.

MEPs Irena Joveva and dr. Klemen Grošelj addressed a letter to the Vice-President of the European Commission Vera Jourova, European Commissioner designate for Values and Transparency,  in which they drew attention to the controversial proposal of media legislation in Slovenia.

Honourable Commissioner Věra Jourová,

Recently we have been concerned about the reports on proposed changes to Slovenian media legislation. It has been hastily and secretly prepared by the closed circle of the Cabinet of Ministry of Culture, on behalf of the current Government of the Republic of Slovenia, without the participation of stakeholders and professionals. Allow us to briefly acquaint you with the critical elements of the proposed changes, which will have radical consequences for the media landscape in Slovenia, alongside a negative impact on the democratic development of our homeland.

In the proposition, the changes envisage radical interventions in the financing and functioning of the public media service, thus causing it to transform from a public service to just another one of the media outlets in the country.

RTV contribution represents the foundation of political and financial independence and thus the basis of public media status. By proposing the division of said contribution amongst other media, they are, under the false pretext of pursuing the public interest, favouring well-defined and precisely selected media, owned or directly influenced and controlled by the leading coalition party SDS. Moreover, in the proposed legislation, the intended exclusion of the institutional organisation unit “Transmitters and Communications” is related to the proposers desire of strengthening the television activity of the Nova24TV and Planet TV media; both of which are, or are passing under the auspices of Hungarian assets associated with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the Fidesz party.

RTV Slovenia is the only public, non-profit radio and television organisation in Slovenia. As a public institution of unique cultural and national importance, it performs by a law specified public service in the department of radio and television activity. Its purpose is to satisfy the democratic, social and cultural needs of Slovenian citizens, as well as members of the Slovenian national minorities and the Italian and Hungarian communities.

Slovenian Press Agency (STA) is currently financed directly from the Slovenian budget, where over the years, their share has been reduced continuously. According to this proposal, STA would no longer be financed directly from the budget, while their financing would only include a redirected part of the RTV contribution. Furthermore, the leverage for the appointment of the STA leadership (the government would appoint four of the five members of the supervisory board) is a big step backwards in ensuring the autonomy and independence of the agency.

Based on what has been written, we are assuming that the establishment of governmental control over the public, regional and local media, is the primary purpose of proposed changes. It would destroy stable and independent journalistic reporting, thus destroying the pillars of any democratic society.
The planned subordination of the media to Slovenia’s governmental politics, reflected in different proposed changes in media legislation and numerous public statements by the SDS party following the occurrences in other member states, is alarming for 21st century Europe.

The controversy of the proposed legislation, due to the interference in the independence of Slovenian media services, has been pointed out by many independent organisations in Slovenia. Simultaneously, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the European Union of Journalists (EFJ) and the Media Organization of Southeast Europe (SEEMO) have addressed a letter expressing great concern for the future of public media in Slovenia, to the Prime Minister Janša.

Honourable Commissioner, we urge you to safeguard media independence in the EU, to continue to draw attention to the violations of media freedom and, consequently, to open a debate on an actual case at European level as well.

Sincerely yours,
Irena Joveva
dr. Klemen Grošelj

MEP Irena Joveva and dr. Klemen Grošelj addressed a letter to the President of the European Parliament David Sassoli in which they drew attention to the tweet of Prime Minister Janša who abused and politicized historical facts of the Srebrenica genocide for purely internal ideological and party purposes. Such political statements and the way of communication should be condemned.

Dear President Sassoli,

On Saturday 11 July, we commemorated the 25th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, which symbolises the dark abyss of the Balkan wars and the darkest hour in modern European history. On this occasion, Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, a close political ally of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, published a tweet stating that the massacre “would not have occurred if Communist ideology had been eliminated from the territory of the former Yugoslavia and post-war killings in Slovenia and elsewhere condemned.”

A few hours later, he tweeted that “the Srebrenica massacre would not have occurred if the United Nations had condemned Communist genocides the same way they condemned the Holocaust. Because this did not happen, the JLA [Yugoslav People’s Army] doctrine that the opponent must be physically destroyed sprung to life again during the break-up of Yugoslavia”.

We find such statements, in complete disregard of historical facts, to be a gross misinterpretation of the tragedy that unfolded in Srebrenica and a shameful political manipulation that offends the memory of thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives in one of the most tragic events in recent European history. It is undoubtable that all similar atrocities must be condemned in the strongest possible way, wherever and whenever they take place. But resorting to the political and ideological misuse and even abuse of historical facts is deeply intolerable.

The abuse and politicisation of the Srebrenica genocide for pure internal ideological and partisan purposes by Slovenian Prime Minister Janša is only the tip of the iceberg of a broader and extremely worrying trend of historical revisionism and relativism brought about by the alarming growth of far-right and populist forces across the European Union.

Such bold and unscrupulous attempts to manipulate and re-write history, especially by the highest political state representative, are sadly becoming the norm in Slovenia and parts of the EU, quickly spreading throughout the entire continent. We firmly believe that such actions cannot and should not be ignored. We, as elected representatives of the EU, have the duty to condemn this sort of political statements and communication.

We therefore call upon you, honourable Mr President, to take the necessary political initiative and launch a serious, EU-wide political discussion on this matter. As we begin debates on the Future of Europe, acknowledging and respecting historical accuracy needs to be one of its crucial pillars.

Yours sincerely,
Klemen Grošelj
Irena Joveva

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

The European Commission invites all interested public to express their views on the European Climate Pact through public consultations.

The Green Deal is a new EU strategy to combat climate change, designed to make the European economy more sustainable, cleaner, safer and healthier. To achieve this, the European Commission has decided to involve the public as a whole in order to create a new culture of awareness and launch concrete joint actions. It therefore calls on stakeholders to express their views on the green aspects of EU legislation and policies through public consultations. The deadline for submitting your views on the European Commission’s website is 17 June 2020.

At the adoption of the European Green Deal in Parliament, Renew Europe Group MEPs have already emphasised the importance of such an agreement as a general strategy for the EU and that all measures must take into account environmental challenges aimed at limiting global warming to 1.5 ° C. We wish that EU reduces its domestic greenhouse gas emissions by 55% compared to 1990 levels at the latest by 2030. To achieve this goal, Renew Europe insists on the importance of supporting investment in clean technologies and promoting the market for sustainable products combined with the rapid abandonment of direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies. Our group also fully supports the concept of a Fair Transition, which makes climate and environmental transformation a European success story.

Especially now, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic recovery will need to be focused on green recovery and economic momentum. The transition to a modern, climate-neutral, economical, competitive and self-sufficient industrial base in the EU will be crucial for a post-pandemic Europe.

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.