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Janez Jansa, the Slovenian Prime Minister, will take over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Thursday. Little known to the general public, this admirer of Viktor Orban and Donald Trump is nicknamed “Marshal Twitto” in reference to the former Yugoslav dictator Tito and his propensity to twitter faster than his shadow.
“Marshal Twitto”, there he is. So nicknamed for his propensity to use Twitter without moderation, the Slovenian Prime Minister, Janez Jansa, takes for six months the rotating presidency of the European Union from Thursday July 1.
The controversial leader, leader of the nationalist right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), succeeds Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, the Portuguese head of state. This Slovenian presidency of the Council of the European Union is causing a cold sweat in the corridors of the very civilized European institutions, tells the newspaper Les Échos.
The panthers of discord
Janez Jansa is in fact nothing of the moderate political leader who will be able to represent the EU during the six months of his presidency without causing a scandal.
The Slovenian Prime Minister has already started to blow the winds of controversy by announcing that on his arrival at the head of the European Council, he intended to offer the other members of the institution panther cufflinks, his favorite animal. Problem: In Slovenia, the panther is often associated with ultranationalist movements.
At 62, Janez Jansa rarely misses the opportunity to arouse controversy and make sweeping statements worthy of the greatest populist tribunes. He is also readily compared to a mini-Trump and often put in the same political bag as Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, scarecrow of Brussels.
The former US president is clearly a role model for Janez Jansa, who congratulated Donald Trump on his “re-election” in November 2020, even before the end result finally gives Democrat Joe Biden the winner.
The strong man from Ljubljana has borrowed a lot of political money from the American billionaire. He thus led a victorious campaign during the general elections of 2018 on the theme of “Slovenia First” in reference to the famous “America First” of the former tenant of the White House. He also appears as a climate skeptic and openly hostile to immigration.
He also uses Twitter in an even more frantic way than his American idol. It sends an average of one hundred messages a day, measured Balkan Insight, a media specializing in the news of South-Eastern European countries. The Slovenian leader uses the platform much like Donald Trump, mainly to disparage his political enemies, post misogynistic messages or promote any of his favorite conspiracy theories.
Because Janez Jansa is as conspiratorial as Donald Trump. The Slovenian Prime Minister’s favorite thesis is called “UDBA-Mafia” in reference to the secret police of the former Yugoslavia. For proponents of this conspiracy theory, this dreaded Soviet-era dispensary would never have disappeared and still continue to pull the strings of power behind the scenes today.
Enemy of freedom of expression
The Slovenian Prime Minister has also built an alternative reality in which all the opposition media are propagators of “fake news”. His anti-media crusade is probably what who made him most infamous in Europe.
The populist leader had thus temporarily stopped, last year, to pay public subsidies to the STA, the national news agency, and does not miss an opportunity to criticize RTV, the Slovenian public radio. In July 2020, Janez Jansa even proposed to change the regulations in order to allow the State to have more “greater control of the STA and to be able to reduce the funding of public radio”, recalls the Politico.eu site, specializing in European news.
A campaign against the media that earned the strongman of Ljubljana criticism from all press freedom NGOs, starting with Reporters Without Borders. The European Commission also denounced the “continued assault on press freedom” in Slovenia.
The Slovenian Prime Minister is not content with trying to limit the influence of critical media on him. To preach his populist word, he founded his own television channel, Nova24TV. And not alone. He received the support of the other great European populist figure, his “great friend” Viktor Orban. Businessmen close to the Hungarian Prime Minister invested more than three million euros between 2016 and 2018 in this pro-Jansa channel, recalls the Foreign Policy site, who investigated the Slovenian leader’s propaganda machine.
This proximity between Janez Jansa and Viktor Orban is moreover what worries the other EU countries the most, underlines the daily Les Échos. These two leaders with assumed autocratic leanings are the main advocates of “illiberal democracy”, a form of government theorized by the Hungarian Prime Minister which “does not deny the fundamental values of (political) liberalism […] but also does not make this ideology a central element of the organization of the state “.
Very right turn late
The two also make immigrants their favorite scapegoat and love to hit the billionaire Hungarian philanthropist of Jewish faith Georges Soros, in attacks with barely disguised anti-Semitic overtones.
Like Viktor Orban, Janez Jansa was a late convert to far-right populism, starting his career on the left of the political spectrum. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Janez Jansa emerged as one of the main figures of the new Slovenian democratic political landscape.
In the 2000s, he slowly turned to the right, but at first in a very moderate way, already occupying – before his return to power in 2018 – twice the post of Prime Minister and once that of President of the European Council (2008 ). At the time, the one who was to become “Marshal Twitto” was described as “discreet” and “fine negotiator”, recall Les Échos. A man Brussels could count on to promote greater European integration, and extol the virtues of economic and political liberalism.
We were far from the vociferous populist of 2021. Its transformation, which took shape at the time of the economic crisis of 2012 in Europe and then intensified with the migratory wave of 2015, illustrates how populism has slowly but surely taken root in Europe. Central Europe. And it is this face of the EU, which Brussels would prefer to hide from the rest of the world, which will set the agenda for discussions within the Union for six months and will be responsible for arbitrating disagreements between the Member States.