EU scares Slovakia by blocking funding


Stephanie Lecocq / EPA

On February 8, the National Council (Parliament) of Slovakia approved the government’s proposed criminal law reform. The initiative of the Cabinet was supported by deputies from parties of the government coalition, which has 79 out of 150 mandates. It received the necessary majority: 78 people voted in favor. The opposition boycotted the vote.

The law, in particular, provides for limiting the protection of whistleblowers and mitigating criminal liability for certain types of economic crimes. For example, for money laundering. But its main provision is the abolition of the special prosecutor’s office. This department was in charge of investigating the most high-profile cases, a number of defendants of which were connected with big politics. It will cease to exist in March.

Recall that in the spring of 2018 Robert Fiсo, who recently took the seat of Prime Minister of Slovakia for the third time, was forced to leave this post because of allegations of corruption. He fell under the operation «Purgatory», which was just conducted by the special prosecutor’s office as part of the investigation into the crimes of the organized crime group, which, as investigators stated, launched its tentacles into the highest echelons of power. It turned out that its activities were controlled by representatives of liberal forces, who used the structure to persecute undesirable politicians. In particular, some functionaries of Fico’s party «Direction — Social Democracy» (Smer-SD) came under suspicion. The accusations against its leader were not confirmed, but the sting, as they say, remained.

Now, apparently, the time has come to settle accounts with the offenders. The government believes that the abolition of the authority is a necessity in order to «put an end to the excesses of the special prosecutor’s office and the bias against the Smer-SD party, which is now in power».

«The previous government violated the rule of law and infringed on human rights», said MP Tibor Gaspar of the Direction-Social Democracy party. Currently, this former Slovak police chief is still under investigation.

However, this is not how the leaders of the liberal parties, which lost power in the September 2023 parliamentary elections, see it. They sharply criticize the reform. At their call, anti-government rallies have been held in Slovakia since the end of last year, at which the preservation of the special prosecutor’s office in the structure of law enforcement agencies is put forward as the main demand. The opposition claims that the current authorities are destroying the rule of law.

Fico’s actions caused a great storm in the united Europe. The European Commission, whose position was supported by the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, urged the government to reconsider the decision to liquidate the office. Otherwise, it threatened to block financing for Slovakia. The European Prosecutor’s Office, headquartered in Luxembourg, called such a reform in an EU member state «a serious risk of violating the rule of law». On January 17, the European Parliament adopted a resolution condemning the initiative of the Slovak government.

President Zuzana Čaputova (of the liberal wing) called the adoption of the law «bad news for Slovakia and all its citizens». She said she would appeal to the Constitutional Court and veto the parliament’s decision. However, her veto can be overridden in the National Council by a simple majority vote.

According to the results of all these disputes and European demarches, it must be recognized that Robert Fico, who after his election was called “the second Orbán” in the Western media, has finally settled down and decided to take a serious step against the Brussels bureaucracy. And this is just the beginning. Here are a few recent examples.

Fico said that his government would prioritize compensation for the country’s refusal to accept illegal refugees if the EU adopted a migration pact.

Deputy Speaker of Parliament Luboš Blaha (Smer-SD) wrote in his Telegram channel, “We will do everything necessary to normalize relations with Russia and Belarus”. The politician, who is also an assistant to Fico, accompanied his message with a photo from a meeting with the Belarusian ambassador, which was attended by another deputy speaker Andrej Danko.

Hungarian Defense Minister Kristof Szalay-Bobrovniczky and his Slovakian counterpart Robert Kaliniak, after consultations, which took place on February 9, demanded a ceasefire in Ukraine and the start of negotiations. A peaceful solution, in their opinion, requires stopping European military supplies to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, as well as a change in Kiev’s financing structure.

And finally — the cherry on the cake. On February 9, Kosice (in eastern Slovakia) hosted the final of the Russian Word Festival for the eighteenth time (!). The competition brought together 200 Slovak children, winners of regional rounds. Schoolchildren in four age categories competed in the performance of prose, poetry and songs in Russian.

The new Slovak authorities seem to have gained strength; they are beginning to defend their national interests on the Brussels platform; they are focused on resolving the Ukrainian crisis and developing a dialog with Moscow. In this regard, I would like to recall Prime Minister Fico’s loud statement made during the election campaign: «Slovakia will not supply Ukraine with any more bullets and will veto Kiev’s accession to NATO». Will he and his government manage to maintain this attitude?