Political news roundup

February 1- Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič accepts the resignation of Defense Minister Juraj Liška and appoints a new minister to the post - Martin Fedor, who had up to then been serving as Deputy Defense Minister. Liška voluntarily stepped down after the tragic military airplane crash on January 19 that killed 42 Slovak soldiers returning home from a peacekeeping mission in Kosovo. At just 31 years old, Fedor became the youngest cabinet minister in the Slovak government.

February 2- Parliament approves a revision to the law on local taxes and fees that exempts property owned and used by public universities, as well as the Slovak Academy of Science, churches and registered regional organizations, from local taxes. The same applies to secondary schools, training centers and school facilities established by local governments and schools and school facilities established by regional school authorities.

February 4- The ruling Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH) announces it will leave the ruling coalition if the Conscientious Objection Treaty with the Vatican is not approved at the next cabinet session.

February 6- The presidium of the governing Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) party of PM Mikuláš Dzurinda rejects the draft Consciencious Objection Treaty between the Slovak Republic and the Holy See. The KDH promptly announces it is leaving the ruling coalition.

February 6- František Tondra, the chairman of the Slovak Bishops's Conference (KBS), condemns the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in various European newspapers, saying "freedom of speech is not absolute. Its name may not be invoked to assail symbols and beliefs that are held sacred by a large portion of the world's people."

February 7- President Ivan Gašparovič accepts the resignation of all three KDH cabinet ministers - Interior Minister Vladimír Palko, Education Minister Martin Fronc and Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic. Later that day, KDH chairman Pavol Hrušovský resigns from his post as Speaker of Parliament, automatically delegating his duties to Deputy Speaker of Parliament, and leader of the Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK), Béla Bugár.

February 8- Health Minister Rudolf Zajac survives a no-confidence motion initiated by the opposition after only 68 of the necessary 76 MPs support it.

February 8- The Slovak government approves a draft law that shortens the regular election term, enabling early elections to be held on June 17.

February 8- President Ivan Gašparovič appoints three new cabinet ministers to replace the departing Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH) representatives. All three new ministers are former deputy ministers at their respective ministries. The new Interior Minister is Martin Pado, the new Education Minister is László Szigeti, and the new Justice Minister is Lucia Žitňanská, who becomes the second female minister in the current right-wing government.

February 9- The Slovak parliament votes unanimously to hold early elections on June 17, three months earlier than originally planned.

February 13- Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič signs the law on early elections.

February 15- Acting Speaker of Parliament Béla Bugár officially announces that Slovakia's general elections will be held on June 17.

February 16- Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon announces all 290 Slovak poultry breeding farms are safe from the bird flu that's spreading across Europe.

February 21- László Nagy, the chairman of the Slovak parliamentary committee for human rights, voices concerns over the Iranian nuclear program and human rights violations during talks with the first secretary of the Iranian Embassy in Slovakia, Mohammad Reza Ostovari. Ostovari confirmed that, though Tehran would definitively not give up its nuclear program, it intended to respect the International Atomic Energy Agency.

February 23- Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon confirms that two birds found along the Danube River on February 20 have tested positive for the deadly H5N1 virus.

February 24- A European Union reference laboratory for bird flu in Weybridge, UK confirms the original tests results issued by the Slovak State Veterinary Institute in Zvolen, which identified the H5N1 virus in two samples of deceased wild birds. Protective measures began being taken immediately after, including the establishment of a three-kilometre protection zone around the area where the dead birds were found and a ten-kilometre observation zone in which stricter security measures apply.

February 24- Culture Minister František Tóth survives a no-confidence motion when just 59 of the required 76 MPs support the initiative by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia.

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