Parliament adopts Law on Access to Information
Parliament approved a bill on access to information at the May 17 parliamentary session. Of 86 deputies present in the 150-seat chamber, 80 voted in favour of the bill.
According to the Democratic Party's Ján Lángoš, who submitted the bill, the goal of the law is to patch a hole in the Slovak legal system which fails to secure the right of citizens to information. During the presentation of the draft, Lángoš said that "the state is here for the citizens and not vice versa." In his opinion, the new law enables citizens not only to oversee management of public affairs, but to also take an active role.
The law will secure the public's right to information on state bodies, regional governments and other public entities. Excluded from the law was the release of information which is explicitly prevented or limited by other existing laws. This information would be declared confidential, as would personal information on private citizens. The law also sets procedures for gaining access to information, and will go into effect as of January 1, 2001.
Human Rights Court recorded 240 Slovak complaints
The European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg is reviewing 240 complaints from Slovakia, announced court president Luzius Wildhaber during his May 15 meeting in Bratislava with Štefan Harabín, the Chief Justice of the Slovak Supreme Court.
Wildhaber said that most of the complaints concerned procrastination in court processes, a frequent problem in several other European countries. Restitution cases made up one third of all the complaints, he added. Most complaints reaching the Strasbourg court come from Italy and Turkey, while Poland and Russia represented the highest total from former communist countries.
Wildhaber also discussed complaints lodged by the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which has said that opposition party rights are not respected in Slovakia.
"If you have any problems in this respect, there is a functioning system of the judiciary and courts. After these legal means are exhausted, [complaints] can be turned over to the European Court for Human Rights," he said.
The court case recieving the most media exposure from Slovakia has been the long-running matter of František Gaulieder, a former HZDS deputy who was ousted from parliament in 1996 by his own party. Gaulieder had wanted to leave the HZDS and remain in parliament as an independent MP, but was kicked out after HZDS party boss Vladimír Mečiar said he had a document signed by Gaulieder which stated that if any MP quit the HZDS, he would also leave parliament (Gaulieder maintained that he never signed such an agreement).
The Slovak government recently ruled that Gaulieder would recieve one Slovak crown in non-property damages for the illegal parliamentary act which stripped him of his mandate, as well as other forms of financial reimbursement. He has since withdrawn his case from the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg.
SDĽ may support HZDS 'dual membership' bill
Parliamentary deputies for the ruling coalition Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) said on May 17 that they may decide to vote in favour of an opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) proposal which would cancel dual membership in political parties. Ladislav Orosz, the former head of the SDĽ caucus, said that the HZDS draft could go through parliament if opposition MP's ended their boycott and voted with some coalition deputies from parties such as the SDĽ and the Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH).
KDH chairman Ján Čarnogursky, a strong critic of dual membership, has hinted that some KDH members could also vote with the HZDS.
Orosz, like SDĽ chairman Jozef Migáš, said that he was aware of the fact that if dual membership were cancelled, the SDĽ would become the party in the ruling coalition with the most representatives in parliament (Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic Coalition currently holds the most seats, but if dual membership were cancelled, members of Dzurinda's new Slovak Christian and Democratic Union (SDKÚ) would have to leave the SDK).
However, Orosz said that the SDĽ would not seek a restructuring of the cabinet. "In a parliamentary democracy, it is not a rule that the political party with the strongest MP faction must shape the cabinet," he said.
Compiled by Chris Togneri
22. May 2000 at 0:00