Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa. Photo: EPA-EFE / JOHANNA GERON / PISCINE.
Slovenian civil society organizations accused right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa and his ministers of continuing a “crusade” against the NGO sector by introducing “discriminatory conditions” that could prevent them from receiving funding.
“Over the past year, Janez Jansa and her SDS [Slovenian Democratic Party] ministers display a very hateful attitude towards NGOs, in particular those which defend the rights of refugees and immigrants, the protection of nature and the environment, LGBTI rights, gender equality, defense of the rights of workers and NGOs in the field of culture, ”Goran Forbici of the Center for Non-Governmental Organizations of Slovenia, CNVOS, told BIRN.
Forbici said that the Slovenian government’s Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy has added new criteria for applying for grants from the European Economic Area and Norway grants program, which involves donor countries that are the Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The new criteria would exclude NGOs from applying, according to Forbici.
Based on their agreement with the European Commission, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have allocated EUR 34 million to Slovenia to mitigate and adapt to climate change and to boost education. Across the EU, many NGOs benefit from these grants.
The Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy is in charge of managing these funds. He responded last week to accusations by NGOs, saying “conditions for non-governmental organizations are set to ensure that only the best project proposals are selected.”
But Forbici explained that the additional eligibility criteria imposed by the government apply only to NGOs.
“There are no specific additional conditions or criteria for companies or public institutions. All they need is to be registered, while NGOs have to meet criteria regarding the number of their members, the number of employees and the level of their formal education, ”he said.
CNVOS also noted that “it is very revealing that they kept the criteria secret from donor countries”. Due to this breach, Slovenia runs the risk of seeing millions of euros blocked by donor countries, as is the case in Hungary in 2014.
CNVOS recalled that last year, the Ministry of Culture ordered dozens of NGOs to immediately leave their premises in a former public barracks on Metelkova Street in the capital, which they had been using legally since the 1990s. .
While part of the Slovenian public recognizes the importance of non-governmental organizations in promoting the public good and human rights, the political right increasingly challenges them, claiming that they consume too much public money .
Some members of the right also link them to the liberal billionaire and philanthropist of Hungarian origin George Soros, whose foundation is a figure of hatred for the right in Eastern Europe.
During the last electoral campaign, in February 2018, Jansa declared that NGOs financed by the public budget, European funds and the Soros Foundation “attack and deliberately attempt to destroy the nation, the family, private property and private education”.
Slovenia took over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Thursday amid allegations that the Jansa-led government is undermining democracy and the rule of law.