Wednesday

26th Apr 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.

French campaign ends in uncertainty and fear

Several presidential candidates cancelled their last meetings after a policeman was killed in an attack on Paris’s Champs Elysees. Pollsters say the race will be very tight on Sunday.

Tusk dragged into 'political' spy probe

EU Council chief appeared as witness in a Russian spy probe in Warsaw amid increasingly toxic political climate in one of the Union's largest states.

News in Brief

  1. Hungary's Orban will participate in EU parliament debate
  2. Malta floats cash-for-refugees plan
  3. Ivanka Trump to meet Merkel at Berlin women's conference
  4. Arctic Ocean could be ice-free in 20 years
  5. Nord Stream 2 to get €4.8bn from European energy firms
  6. Defeated Fillon retires from French politics
  7. Hollande: Vote Macron to avoid 'risk' for France
  8. Italy misses deadline on air quality warning

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  3. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  4. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  5. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  6. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  7. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  8. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region and the US: A Time of Warlike Rhetoric and Militarisation?
  10. European Free AllianceEFA MEPs Vote in Favor of European Parliament's Brexit Mandate
  11. Mission of China to the EUXinhua Insight: China to Open up Like Never Before
  12. World VisionViolence Becomes New Normal for Syrian Children

Latest News

  1. Russische schwarze Kassen bedrohen EU Demokratie
  2. Libya commanders in Brussels for migration talks
  3. Mixed review for EU asylum spots in Greece and Italy
  4. France still anxious over possibility of Le Pen win
  5. Free wifi plan backed by MEP committee
  6. Report: Germany blocks post-Dieselgate reform
  7. Russia suspected of Macron hack
  8. EU to exclude financial services from post-Brexit deal