Slovenia's National Security Council to meet over wiretapping spat with Croatia

Source: Marko Lukunic/PIXSELL

Slovenian Prime Minister, Marjan Sarec, called for an emergency session of the Slovenian National Security Council on Tuesday, after Slovenian media had reported last week that the Croatian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) had wiretapped a Slovenian judge and an agent during the border arbitration process between the two countries in 2015.

Slovenian media also reported that the representative of the Austrian media company Styria in Croatia, Ivan Tolj, later tried to stop any reports of SOA's involvement in the wiretapping scandal from being published.

Croatian Ambassador in Slovenia, Boris Grgic, was summoned to the Slovenian Foreign Ministry, while the Slovenian Ambassador to Croatia, Smiljana Knez, was called back to Ljubljana for consultations, Slovenian agency STA reported on Tuesday.

“My first comment is that our agent and the judge were not supposed to communicate at all, and that’s the reason the wiretapping affair happened in the first place. I’m pleased it was finally discovered who had wiretapped them. It’s obvious the Croatian intelligence did it, with their own agenda, since it was clear that Croatia thought the arbitration ruling would not be beneficial for them and that Slovenia would get access to open sea and more than a half of the Piran Bay. Obviously they wanted to discredit the entire process,” said the Slovenian Defence Minister, Karl Erjavec, last week.

Croatia has officially denied having anything to do with the wiretapping scandal.

Arbitration scandal

In July 2015, the Croatian Vecernji List daily published audio footage of prohibited communication between a judge in the Croatia-Slovenia border arbitration process, Jernej Sekolec, and the Slovenian agent Simona Drenik, after which Croatia left the process claiming it was “irreparably contaminated.” The proceedings went on and the ruling, which Croatia refuses to recognise to this day, was reached in 2017.

Slovenian POP TV published an audio recording on Monday, claiming it proves that Ivan Tolj, the representative of Styria in Croatia and Chairman of the Board of the Vecernji List daily and 24 sata daily, attempted to prevent them from publishing their story on the involvement of Croatian intelligence agents in the wiretapping affair.

In the recording, which POP TV claims is a conversation between Tolj and an unidentified man, Tolj says he has “an offer from the Croatian government.”

“POP TV is trying to open up an old story about our intelligence agency. I was asked to call you and help in solving this issue… the government is asking if you can stop this, it would be useful,” Tolj allegedly said.

Media pressures

Slovenian portal reported on Monday that it remains unclear how Tolj could have known that the story on SOA’s involvement in the wiretapping scandal was about to be published.

“But it shows something… Only a few people, and only two POP TV reporters knew this story was going to be published. Croatia could have known this only by tracking foreign journalists,” said.

“This was only one in a number of Croatia’s clumsy attempts to bury the story. It’s obvious Croatia… tried to do everything to keep SOA’s plot hidden from Slovenia’s and international public,” they added.

Prime Minister Sarec’s cabinet said on Tuesday that Sarec was “concerned about reports on Croatia’s attempts to influence the reporting of POP TV on SOA’s actions.”

“Such media pressures are unacceptable and completely at odds with basic democratic principles,” Sarec’s cabinet said.

The Croatian government denied on Tuesday any allegations that they attempted to influence the Slovenian media.

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