THE JUDICIAL Council chair should no longer be held by the same person as the post of the Supreme Court president, Prime Minister Robert Fico said. It is however unclear if this change can be implemented before the next election of the Supreme Court president, scheduled to take place this year.

Fico announced the planned change as part of reform package he spoke about earlier this year, aimed at increasing the trust in the judiciary among citizens.

“We’ve got a big ambition in the judiciary to divide the normal, brave judges from those who do not belong there,” Fico told a press conference following his meeting with Justice Minister Tomáš Borec, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Fico alleged that there are suspicions of links between judges with business and other spheres.

“It seems that sometimes there is an above-standard link between judges and attorneys and parties of [court] proceedings,” Fico said.

One other measure the government wants to take is to introduce security clearances for judges. The National Security Authority should be able to prepare for performing the security clearances of all judges currently active in Slovakia (about 1,400) in one year’s time. The evaluation of the security clearances would then be up to the Judicial Council, rather than making the clearances compulsory as it was in the past with Special Court judges, because at that time the compulsory clearances were ruled unconstitutional, Fico said.

Borec presented other, minor changes, such as changed rules for granting the 13th and 14th month salary for judges, and abolishing the option to work from home – a model which according to Borec developed due to the bad technical conditions at some courts, SITA reported.

The minister would also like to have the judges bear responsibility for part of the damages that the state has to pay after losing cases concerning delays at the Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights.

Some of the rules Fico mentioned would require amending constitutional laws, and thus also the support of at least seven opposition MPs.

When asked why the judiciary measures are presented now, shortly before the presidential election in which Fico is running as the candidate of his Smer party, Fico said that until now the government has been busy with the consolidation of public finances. He denied the claim that the judiciary measures are part of his presidential campaign, which he says takes place only on Saturdays and Sundays, SITA reported.