Thursday

25th May 2017

Fraud allegations taint Slovak EU presidency

The Slovak government has launched its EU Council presidency against a backdrop of street protests and opposition attempts to dismiss the prime minister and interior minister over alleged links to a tax fraud scandal.

On Wednesday (6 July), as prime minister Robert Fico in Strasbourg unveiled the priorities of Slovakia's six-month term at the EU helm, the country's national parliament was preparing to debate his own dismissal over opposition claims that he covered up corruption.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • PM Fico (l) and interior minister Kalinak (c) face dismissal votes over alleged links with a businessman who is under investigation for tax fraud (Photo: Slovak PM office)

Fico has faced political and media pressure to sack the interior minister and deputy PM, Robert Kalinak, due to suspicion of financial links with Ladislav Basternak, a businessman accused of tax fraud.

Opposition deputies say Kalinak failed to properly inspect Basternak's alleged tax fraud due to their purported links.

Fico, a close ally of Kalinak, says there is no reason to remove the minister, even though two MEPs from the PM’s own Smer-SD party have also hinted that Kalinak should go.

Two of the strongest opposition parties - Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) and Ordinary People-Independent Personalities (OLaNO-NOVA) - tried to remove Kalinak in June, but the speaker of the parliament, Andrej Danko, who is the leader of the Slovak National Party (SNS) in the ruling coalition, blocked the move.

The opposition reacted by filing a motion to dismiss Fico himself.

The debate and vote was scheduled to take place on Thursday, but it was postponed shortly after parliament opened its session due to a dispute over the non-attendance of some opposition MPs.

The vote to dismiss Kalinak, who is due to chair an informal meeting of EU interior ministers on Thursday, is scheduled for September.

Luxury apartment

Meanwhile, the attacks on Fico have also targeted the apartment that he rents from Basternak, the alleged tax cheat, in the luxury Bonaparte residential complex in Bratislava.

“If it is proved that the owner of my flat is a criminal, I will leave immediately,” Fico recently said in a TV debate.

He added that he would not leave the property just because people have held protests in the street under his windows.

Fico's junior coalition partners, the SNS, Most-Hid, and Siet (the Net) parties are taking the same line.

They have called for a proper inquiry into the allegations, but refused to back Kalinak's ouster on the basis of allegations published in Slovak media.

The Slovak president, Andrej Kiska, reacted to the scandal in a speech in parliament in June. He called on politicians to act jointly to restore public trust or risk fuelling the popularity of radical movements.

He did not openly say that the interior minister, Kalinak, should step down.

But he said that “a simple polite gesture” of “political responsibility” could help to “appease the public and let the public institutions do their work”.

“Such a culture of good manners in politics works in other countries, but not in Slovakia,” he added.

Extreme right

In a poll published on Wednesday, some 49 percent of people said Kalinak should step down over the Basternak tax fraud case. But 44.5 percent said that Fico should not resign or be dismissed for the same reasons.

Some 74 percent of people also said that politicians use the Slovak police and prosecution service to serve their interests.

The suspicions over government links with oligarchs and public distaste over the opposition’s attempt to exploit the situation appear to have generated support for the extreme right Popular Party-Our Slovakia (LSNS).

In elections in March, the LSNS, led by Marian Kotleba, made a surprise entry into the Slovak parliament with 8 percent of the votes.

A survey of political views at the end of June to early July showed that that support now stands at 10.7 percent.

Fico: EU leaders need to overcome fear

Opening the Slovak presidency of the EU, prime minister Robert Fico stressed the need for the EU to reform, and urged better communication with its citizens on the EU's values and results.

Focus

Ambivalent Slovakia prepares to take EU helm

Prime minister Robert Fico, one of main critics of EU migration policies, is about to lead Slovakia into its first presidency of the EU Council. He says he wants "normal dialogue" but will "not keep silent".

Slovakia vote shocks Europe and its own society

With a weakened PM, a fragmented parliament and an extreme-right party winning seats for the first time, Slovakia is heading for uncertain times ahead of its EU presidency in July.

Slovakia's Fico goes to Russia

The Slovak prime minister, whose country currently chairs the EU council, will meet the Russian leader ahead of upcoming EU talks on Russia policy.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to speak out on US terrorism leaks
  2. Tusk calls for 'values, not just interests' after Trump meeting
  3. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  4. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  5. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  6. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  7. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  8. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. EU to Trump: Defend Western values, not your interests
  2. Nato to join Trump's anti-IS coalition
  3. Trump expected to make Nato pledge
  4. Car-sharing's promise of clean cities
  5. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  6. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  7. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  8. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not