Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa has condemned the EU’s western countries for imposing “imaginary European values” without respecting local cultures.
Jansa supports Hungary in its fight against pro-LGBT content being taught in schools.
Sandwiched between Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia, Slovenia is a tiny country of just over two million people. However, for the next six months, it will set the agenda of the European Council.
Speaking after his country took over the council’s rotating presidency last week, Jansa made it clear that his priorities might be different to those of the bloc’s western powers.
He spoke out against the EU’s promotion of its liberal values in eastern and central Europe.
Imposing “imaginary European values”, like LGBT promotion he argued, would be the “fastest road to collapse” for the bloc.
“The European Union brings together countries with different traditions, with different cultures, and there are differences that need to be taken into account and respected,” he said.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen openly disagreed with Jansa during the press briefing, saying that “freedom of expression, diversity and equality” are fundamental “European values” that need to be upheld.
The clash between Jansa and von der Leyen is just one more battle in a growing cultural conflict between the liberal west of the EU and the more conservative centre and east.
In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has led the charge against Brussels in this conflict, angering western countries by passing a law which forbids portraying homosexuality to children.
Brussels in return has threatened legal action against Budapest.
Seventeen western European leaders signed a letter last month condemning “discrimination towards the LGBTI community” and their “fundamental rights”.
Orban has insisted that the new law does not discriminate against the LGBT community, but allows parents to decide what to teach their children about matters of gender and sexuality.
Jansa has taken a similar line. Responding to von der Leyen on Friday, he said that he and Orban defended “the right of parents to educate their children” as they see fit.
Von der Leyen responded that “the right of parents to educate their children is not at all disputed”, but “the question is whether the amendments of existing laws discriminate against minorities”.
Jansa also proclaimed that Slovenia is not “a colony” of the EU to be dictated to, much like Orban last week condemned the Dutch “colonial” mentality.
Their remarks were prompted by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte declaring that Hungary “has no business being in the European Union any more” if it doesn’t submit to the bloc’s position on LGBT rights.