STA funding, media freedom discussed at EU-Western Balkans summit news conference
Brdo pri Kranju/Ljubljana, 6 October - PM Janez Janša disagrees with the claim that Slovenia is setting a poor example to EU candidates by suspending the funding of the STA and not respecting media freedom. But European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was clear, as she spoke to the press after the EU-Western Balkans summit alongside Janša, that current STA funding is a must.
Answering a media question about the government having paid the STA nothing this year for the public service it provides, Janša said the government would pay the funds "the very same day the [STA] director signs the contract".
"The government cannot pay the money, which has been set aside, until the contract is signed as set down by the law," said Janša.
However, he did not mentioned the seventh coronavirus relief law and a government decree under which the STA should get the funds even in the absence of the contract.
Janša said the "situation" was a result of "political reasons". He hopes once the STA gets a new director, "the situation will be resolved in the shortest possible time".
The prime minister also said that the outgoing STA director, Bojan Veselinovič, had been "politically appointed".
Veselinovič resigned last week after the talks on the 2021 public service contract with a government office led to what he believed would be detrimental to the agency.
The agency's supervisory board decided at today's session that Veselinovič will stay on until the end of October as he has a one-month notice period.
Chief supervisor Mladen Terčelj was tasked with discussing the management situation with the Government Communication Office to obtain the government's opinion.
Since Veselinovič's term would have expired at the end of 2021, the agency published a call for a new director before his resignation, and received one job application.
The Siol news portal reported today, citing an unofficial source, that former RTV Slovenijna director general Igor Kadunc is bidding for the job.
European Commission President von der Leyen meanwhile said at the press conference the Commission "has expressed our serious concern about the non-funding of the STA several times".
She said "all this calls for EU legislation to protect media freedom and pluralism in a media freedom act which I announced in the state of the union address".
"I'm deeply convinced that protecting media freedom means protecting our democracy," she said.
Similarly, European Council President Charles Michel said media freedom was an important value for the EU and pointed to a mechanism to strengthen the rule of law which he said would soon be fully operative.
Janša meanwhile said that "all this has been launched into the Slovenian political arena as part of a political game against the government".
As for the consequences of this "story" for the integration of Western Balkan countries into the EU, he said that "when Slovenia is deciding on enlargement, it will demand that all countries entering the EU ensure strict respect for the rule of law, that opposition leaders are not imprisoned three weeks before elections, that their public TVs do not threaten with death and that judges who drastically violated human rights or passed death sentences in the former communist regime are not part of their judicial systems".