29th Feb 2024

Slovak cabinet falls over controversial Vatican Treaty

The Slovak government is on the verge of collapse due to a dispute among ruling coalition parties over a Vatican treaty criticised also by the EU.

The treaty's main advocate, the Christian Democrat Movement (KDH), announced that it is leaving the government coalition on Monday (6 February), after Slovak prime minister Mikulas Dzurinda decided to sink the controversial document.

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The agreement deals with principle dubbed as "objection of conscience" in the treaty, favoured by the Christian democrats.

If applied, this rule could pave the way for employees to be allowed to refuse to perform a professional task if it violates their religious beliefs.

For example, a doctor could say no to a woman demanding abortion or contraception, and a bus driver could refuse to work on Sundays.

Mr Dzurinda's party originally supported the treaty - on the table since 2003 - but became more hesitant over the past weeks.

The document disadvantages non-Catholics, while the Catholic Church would gain a large area of influence and be able to interfere in civil matters, said Mr Dzurinda.

The treaty which sets the basis for Slovakia's relations with the Vatican and commits the country to respect Slovak catholics' rights was supposed to be hammered out by the cabinet on Wednesday.

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According to political analysts, the clash of the two Christian parties signals an early election battle for the top position on the centre-right political scene.

The Slovak parliamentary election is expected to be held in September 2006.

Later today, the remaining torso of the government is to decide how to go on until the elections.

Some analysts say Mr Dzurinda is likely to reach out for support to the opposition. His controversial predecessor, Mr Vladimir Meciar has already signalled he might help.

"Should we destroy everything after the Christian Democrats show dissatisfaction? Let’s say, we would not support any no-confidence motion passed against the prime minister," said Mr Meciar.

A call for early elections is also a possibility.

Possible EU criticism off the table

Outside the Slovak political arena, the country may now escape further criticism over the controversial deal with the Vatican.

Last year, a group of Socialist MEPs from the women’s committee challenged Slovakia over the draft Treaty and called on the European Commission to examine its content.

Subsequently, the Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, established by the EU's executive body, indicated the Slovak-Vatican agreement might clash with the EU's principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights.

According to the EU legal panel, "it is important that the right to exercise objection of conscience does not conflict with the rights of others, including the right of all women to receive certain medical services or counselling without any discrimination."

Since around 70 percent of Slovaks claim to be Catholics, experts argued "there is a risk that this right will make it in practice impossible or very difficult for women to receive advice or treatment in the field of reproductive healthcare, especially in the rural areas."


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