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PARLIAMENT IGNORES DEMANDS OF HZDS FOUNDING FATHER FOR COMPENSATION

Gaulieder: No satisfaction yet

Parliament in January is once again to take up the controversial case of former MP František Gaulieder, who as a member of the then-governing HZDS party was stripped of his parliamentary mandate in December 1996. Although the new government has proposed to annul the decision of its predecessor, Gaulieder says he is not satisfied and wants over $500,000 in financial compensation as well.
"I have committed myself in an official document to use this money to create a foundation supporting young people who cannot afford an adequate education," Gaulieder said in an interview on January 17 with The Slovak Spectator. "I am disappointed with the attitude of the current government, because this case could have been wrapped up a long time ago."


Gaulieder wants cash settlement.
photo.Spectator archives

Parliament in January is once again to take up the controversial case of former MP František Gaulieder, who as a member of the then-governing HZDS party was stripped of his parliamentary mandate in December 1996. Although the new government has proposed to annul the decision of its predecessor, Gaulieder says he is not satisfied and wants over $500,000 in financial compensation as well.

"I have committed myself in an official document to use this money to create a foundation supporting young people who cannot afford an adequate education," Gaulieder said in an interview on January 17 with The Slovak Spectator. "I am disappointed with the attitude of the current government, because this case could have been wrapped up a long time ago."

The HZDS-dominated parliament's 1996 decision became a cause célebre of the democratic opposition forces, especially after the Constitutional Court ruled in 1997 that Gaulieder's rights had been violated. The opposition said the Gaulieder case was an example of the autocratic methods of Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, a view shared by European and US diplomats who made the return of Gaulieder's mandate a condition for Slovakia's integration into western structures.

Under the Dzurinda government, parliament in December 1998 passed a resolution 'regretting' Gaulieder's fate, a move that both the plaintiff and the US Human Rights Report for 1998 said was insufficient evidence of the new government's commitment to democracy. "Although the new parliament regretted the action of its predecessor, it did not annul the former parliament's resolution, and Gaulieder chose not to withdraw his complaint, which was accepted in September [1998] by the European Court of Human Rights."

Gaulieder is one of the founding fathers of the HZDS, perenially Slovakia's most popular party. He said he didn't regret his decision to quit the HZDS in November 1996, a move which triggered the mandate-stripping response. "After such scandals as the privatisation of [gas storage firm] Nafta Gbely, or the taped phone conversation between former Interior Minister Ľudovít Hudek and intelligence chief Ivan Lexa, I told myself I wanted nothing to do with such people," Gaulieder said. "After the bomb attack on my house [December 6, 1996], which came two days after I was thrown out of parliament, I was afraid but not sorry about my decision."

Parliament has offered Gaulieder $1,000 in addition to the annulment of the 1996 parliamentary resolution, but Gaulieder says he would rather await the decision of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. His Strasbourg complaint includes a demand for 650,000 Slovak crowns ($15,500) in lost wages on top of $500,000 in personal damages.

"Now people are saying I want to suck more money of this case. Don't they see that if I had wanted money, I would never have quit the HZDS?" Gaulieder complained. "I'm demanding only 650,000 crowns which belong to me, annulment of the decision and $500,000 for the foundation. That's it."

In addition to its importance for Slovakia's perception within the EU, the case has become increasingly tangled in domestic politics. Slovakia is being represented at the European court by independent MP Róbert Fico, who created a stir at the end of last year by abruptly releasing Gaulieder's financial demands to the media. Fico recently created his own party ('Smer'), and has been heavily critical of the current government.

The government, meanwhile, says that Fico has been playing hardball with the Strasbourg case to build up his public image. Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Pál Csáky accused Fico of being "too inflexible" with Gaulieder, and called on him to abandon his post in Strasbourg.

Grigorij Mesežnikov, president of the Bratislava-based IVO think-tank said the Gaulieder case had long since lost any real significance for Slovak politics, and that it should be resolved as soon as possible. "For coalition politicians, it's important only as further evidence of the illegal activities of the HZDS," he said. "But there is no doubt that Gaulieder's constitutional rights were broken, and the government has to fix them."

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