Saturday

21st Jul 2018

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

  • 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.

Journalist murder shocks Slovakia

The reporter's research on alleged Italian mafia links with EU farm funds in Slovakia has been hinted at as a possible motive for his murder.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us