As Slovenia assumes the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU, an umbrella organization of NGOs in the country is accusing Janez Janša's government of restricting NGOs' access to funding, thereby putting 34 million euros of donor money at risk for Slovenian civil society.In a press release, CNVES says the government, led by the minister responsible for cohesion, adopted discriminatory conditions in the open calls for the Norway Grants/EEA Grants Norway that effectively barred critical NGOs from applying for the funds. Under an agreement with the European Union, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, which are not members of the bloc, gain access to the EU common market in exchange for large funding grants that are used to help protect fundamental European values such as democracy, tolerance and the rule of law. Many NGOs across the EU are beneficiaries of these grants.
CNVES, a national NGO umbrella network that unites over 1,400 non-profit associations, individual associations, institutes and foundations, says the Slovenian government attempted to hide the new, discriminatory criteria from the three donor countries, "inserting them in the contract without the donors' knowledge." With the three countries now aware of the situation, they may block the funding, totaling 34 million euros, to Slovenia because of breach of contract.
The timing is ironic but unsurprising. Slovenia has pledged to make protecting human rights, and in particular free speech, a priority of its EU presidency, which began on 1 July. But, as Liberties wrote earlier, there is good reason to be skeptical of Janša's commitment to EU fundamental values.
Read the full press release here.