Záhumenský to keep job

PM and Smer party boss Robert Fico said on October 27 that he would not ask for the resignation of Deputy Agriculture Minister Marian Záhumenský, a Smer nominee.

Former Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon alleged recently that Záhumenský had initiated changes in the rules for allocating EU subsidies in order to benefit Agrocontract, a tobacco-growing company in which he owns shares and where his wife sits on the supervisory board. The company is set to receive an extra subsidy of Sk4.4 million (€120,000) due to the rule change.

Fico says that he made the decision after receiving a reply to his letter to European Commissioner for Agriculture Mariann Fischer Boel, in which he asked for her comments on this issue. Fischer Boel said in her letter that the Agriculture Ministry acted in accordance with EU rules.

"This case is closed," said Fico, who rejects claims that Záhumenský's actions were a classic case of conflict of interest. "If he was in such a conflict, I would have acted, but it's not a conflict. It's not worth jeopardising the reputation of this government for Marian Záhumenský. If I were only fairly sure that Záhumenský had done something that could damage the good name of the government, I'd get rid of him within three seconds. But I won't sacrifice capable people simply because the SMK [Hungarian Coalition Party] has come up with something," said the prime minister.

Fico also claimed that when Simon was agriculture minister he breached the rules for subsidy allocation himself. "It's highly probable that Simon abused his authority because he didn't authorise direct payments where they were supposed to be authorised," he said.

Záhumenský has initiated legal action against Simon, government spokesperson Silvia Glendová told the TASR news agency.

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