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EDITORIAL

Migaš on government reform: All that "blah blah blah"

Parliamentary Speaker Jozef Migaš is no friend of the truth. Having sparked a coalition crisis by siding with the opposition during a non-confidence motion on the Prime Minister, he has added fuel to the fire by suggesting the country's four deputy prime minister posts be scrapped, and by supporting a proposed law to hamper the privatisation of state-owned utilities and banks. He says he's doing all this to improve the living standards of ordinary Slovaks. As he himself once said of a colleague, "that's all blah blah blah."
Migaš' behaviour has nothing to do with protecting the interests of the average voter. It's not part of a personal vendetta against Dzurinda. It's not about improving the effectiveness of government. Instead, it's about protecting the business interests of the nuclear lobby in Slovakia and Russia, and of those who profit from the settlement of Russia's old debt to Slovakia.

Parliamentary Speaker Jozef Migaš is no friend of the truth. Having sparked a coalition crisis by siding with the opposition during a non-confidence motion on the Prime Minister, he has added fuel to the fire by suggesting the country's four deputy prime minister posts be scrapped, and by supporting a proposed law to hamper the privatisation of state-owned utilities and banks. He says he's doing all this to improve the living standards of ordinary Slovaks. As he himself once said of a colleague, "that's all blah blah blah."

Migaš' behaviour has nothing to do with protecting the interests of the average voter. It's not part of a personal vendetta against Dzurinda. It's not about improving the effectiveness of government. Instead, it's about protecting the business interests of the nuclear lobby in Slovakia and Russia, and of those who profit from the settlement of Russia's old debt to Slovakia.

Consider the following facts. The Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), a crew of former communists led by Migaš and the second largest party in the ruling coalition, has been in turmoil since cabinet recalled Štefan Košovan, the SDĽ-appointed head of the country's electricity utility, Slovenské elektrárne (SE). Košovan, who was dismissed for corruption, had been in charge of importing energy-sector products in settlement of the Russian debt; a commission for this work had gone to Devín Banka, led by Ľubomír Kanis, a close friend of Migaš'. An audit at SE also found that the Apis company, which Košovan represented when he sat on the Devín Banka supervisory board, had been making money on the export of electricity. In recalling Košovan, the cabinet had threatened the economic interests of this group, and thus became the target of the SDĽ's ire.

But perhaps even more significant is what the dismissal of Košovan meant for the nuclear lobby. Košovan had vigorously backed the completion of the Mochovce nuclear facility, which the government had opposed because the expense made it an inefficient investment. Just who stood to gain from the completion of Mochovce is uncertain, but the visit of Russian Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov to Slovakia on April 10 - four days before the non-confidence vote on Dzurinda - may offer some clues.

Adamov did not meet Economy Minister Ľubomír Harach on his trip, but instead chose to visit none other than Jozef Migaš. After the meeting he told journalists he hoped that Russia could continue to be an importer of Slovakia's spent fuel rods, maybe within the settlement of the Russian debt. He would not say what he had discussed with Migaš.

Three days later, SDĽ parliamentary deputies decided that they would abstain during the non-confidence vote on Dzurinda. On the day of the vote, Migaš and four other SDĽ deputies suddenly changed their minds, and in order to conceal this from the rest of the party, Migaš voted in support of an opposition motion that the parliamentary ballot on Dzurinda be secret. The motion failed, and Migaš was forced to go through with his betrayal before the eyes of his coalition colleagues.

Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner on April 28 made veiled reference to the "misguided Russophilism" among "people in our domestic parties" who "do not necessarily benefit" from the country's westward orientation. "This can create a real mess," he said. "Pittner probably knows what he's talking about," agreed Dzurinda.

Migaš reacted as if stung, vowing to "bother him [Pittner] every single day that Migaš is accused of serving the interests of another country. Let the courts and the legal system decide."

If anyone looks guilty here, it sure isn't Interior Minister Pittner. With his party split in half, sacrificed to 'higher' interests, and the ruling coalition in crisis again, it's amazing that Migaš has the effrontery to appeal to the courts for protection. But then we always knew he had a lot of nerve.

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