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PRESS digest: TÝŽDEŇ WEEKLY

News item: Former arms executive František Blanárik takes over the leadership of the National Security Bureau.


Mečiar conquers NBÚ
By Peter Schutz


While we are consumed by a debate over nationalism, quite different characters are being exhumed from the depths of the 1990s. The appointment of František Blanárik, the former central secretary of Vladimír Mečiar's ruling Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) to the position of chairman of the National Security Bureau is a calamity of such dimensions that it could only be equalled by the successful candidacy of an SNS nominee for the leadership of the National Memory Institute (coming in October).

The main objection to Blanárik is that, as a former arms company executive, he should not be now running an institution from which he formerly obtained security clearances himself. This is indubitably a weighty criticism, as in light of his long involvement in the arms business, it represents a classic conflict of interest.

But this problem pales in comparison with another conflict - that with plain common sense.

The new chairman of one of the most important institutions in the Slovak security apparatus is a nominee of the same Mečiar whose love for secret material he "found in the morning on his desk" led during the 1990s to massive blackmail of his political allies and foes as well as to exemplary abuses of power.

While we can't be sure that Blanárik will start faxing all security files directly to Elektra [Mečiar's home], Mečiar's obsession with secret materials and his equally infamous habit of using them in power struggles should automatically disqualify anyone he nominates to such a position. Every one of those 90 MPs who raised their hands in support of Blanárik was thus gambling with the security of this state.

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