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EDITORIAL

The baby and the bathwater

THE FICO government is attacking some of the best work done by the previous Dzurinda administration, and is rightly being resisted by the political opposition, the media, NGOs and the diplomatic community. The job of defending this work might be easier, however, if they were not marred by such obvious flaws.

THE FICO government is attacking some of the best work done by the previous Dzurinda administration, and is rightly being resisted by the political opposition, the media, NGOs and the diplomatic community. The job of defending this work might be easier, however, if it was not marred by such obvious flaws.

The best example of this dilemma is the National Memory Institute. Its mission to expose the workings of Slovakia's security forces under communism and fascism is a noble one. Pity, then, that four entire files have gone missing from the collection of the ŠtB secret service, and that the former director of the Institute, Ján Langoš, was clearly in the habit of absconding with whatever documents he felt like without letting anyone else know. The job of countering Vladimír Mečiar's argument that the Institute serves no purpose is now all the more difficult.

Or take the Special Court - another worthy institution set up to combat organized crime and thieving politicians. Pity that whoever decorated the apartments assigned to the court justices seems to have overpaid for the furniture and fittings by a gross margin. Wouldn't it be awkward if it were discovered that bureaucrats had lined their pockets even in fitting out the country's anti-corruption court? The job of resisting Justice Minister Štefan Harabin's drive to abolish the court would certainly be harder.

And now the Finance Ministry is saying NGOs shouldn't be allowed to collect the two percent of taxes assigned to them by firms because some of these finances were abused by corporations that set up their own NGOs and sponsored themselves.

We all know what's going on here - the government is using blemishes on the surface of otherwise laudable institutions to condemn the entire structure. They're trying to get the public to condone throwing out the baby because the bathwater is dirty. And unless the public knows enough about how each institution works to resist these confidence tricks, they will probably work. Before we know it we'll be back in 2002, if not an earlier stage in Slovakia's development.

There is probably a lot more to come. No administration can spend eight years in power and not leave office without trailing a few leeches. Judging from reports that the Justice Ministry is preparing criminal charges against former minister Daniel Lipšic over a poll he ordered with ministry money, we can expect to see plenty more dirty laundry gleefully hauled out of forgotten hampers in the coming months, with the aim being to discredit sensible policies and elevate populist and self-serving measures.

The Dzurinda government in the end will probably be found to have been only marginally less fond of graft than its 1994-1998 predecessor, or even than its successor. The real difference between the corruption of these administrations, however, may be that while some helped the country develop, others were indifferent to the damage they did. People who thought that Slovakia was out of the mire and heading in the right direction may feel weary at the prospect of defending all that the Fico government intends to destroy. They can at least be thankful they're not in the Sisyphean position of the Robert Remiaš murder investigators, who after a decade of police (and political) work now have to start again from scratch.


By Tom Nicholson

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