Wednesday

1st Mar 2017

Why Slovak PM called journalists 'dirty prostitutes'

  • Fico at the opening concert of the Slovak EU presidency. Coverage of fraud allegations over the event are "a targeted attack against our successful presidency," he said. (Photo: eu2016sk/Flickr)

Slovak prime minister Robert Fico's comment to journalists that “some of you are dirty anti-Slovak prostitutes” understandably caused consternation in the international media, but local reporters were less shocked.

He first called journalists prostitutes in public in 2008, and is often insulting towards them.

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Fico has been under pressure for months from the media and opposition parties over corruption allegations linking his interior minister to a prominent businessman.

But the immediate cause of his latest outburst were questions during a press conference on Wednesday (23 November) over alleged corruption related to Slovakia's six-month term holding the presidency of the EU Council.

Transparency International Slovakia (TIS) claimed earlier this week that the presentation of the EU presidency logo, and the opening concert in the Bratislava capital, were tainted by fraud.

An ex-employee of the Slovak Foreign Ministry, Zuzana Hlavkova, told the pressure group that both events were several times more expensive than originally planned, and organised by agencies close to Fico's ruling Social-Democratic party Smer-SD.

She said Fico had sent an external media specialist to the foreign ministry, which had boosted the costs.

TIS officially requested all the relevant information on the case and maintained on Wednesday that it had still not received full evidence on the real cost of the events and their procurement procedure.

But the foreign ministry claimed that no law had been broken and that all the legally binding documents had been published. It said that it was not in the competence of the young employee to see into all the financial operations.

System of cartels

Hlavkova told the media she had met foreign minister Miroslav Lajcak in March, two weeks after she resigned.

“He said he understood my ideals but that our hearts must go in hand with our reason,” she said.

She said the minister told her that “unfortunately, in Slovakia we are living in the system of various cartels in the IT sector and other arrangements that the state can do nothing about but adapt to”.

On Wednesday, Lajcak denied putting any political pressure on his employees. He said the final bill for the Slovak EU presidency would be well below the approved budget of €70 million and suggested he would quit if any wrongdoing is uncovered.

Lajcak argued however that it was up to official state control authorities to give their judgement, not media or social networks. He added that the coverage of the case this week was “absurd”.

Hlavkova's claims were supported by another foreign ministry employee, who also resigned due to alleged malpractices, and she was backed by several NGOs and a petition of Slovaks currently studying abroad.

Lajcak, a candidate for UN secretary-general this year, is one of the heavyweights in Fico's cabinet.

“I would wish other countries to have diplomats of his rank,” Fico said on Wednesday, adding that the recent media coverage was “a targeted attack against our successful [EU] presidency.”

The allegations over the EU presidency come as the media and opposition are demanding action over interior minister Robert Kalinak's alleged dealings with Ladislav Basternak, a businessman facing charges of tax fraud.

Opposition parties have organised several confidence votes to dismiss Kalinak, and have launched protests in the residential area where Fico rents a luxury apartment from Basternak.

Fico recently announced that he would move to a new house, and local commentators are speculating that Kalinak may quit after the end of Slovak EU presidency.

Focus

EU presidency strengthened Slovakia's government

Prime minister Robert Fico gained EU and domestic praise for his six month at EU helm, but the far right is still on the rise in a country where Europe is still not a top issue.

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The question of whether to hold a post-Brexit referendum on a united Ireland is dominating Thursday's elections in the North.

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The centrist presidential candidate tells talented Britons to come to France and warns against giving the UK "undue advantages" after Brexit, in a speech in London.

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