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SLOVAKIA'S 'LEGISLATIVE CYCLONE' MAY HAVE LEAD TO LAWS LACKING OUTSIDE INPUT

Speed hurts quality in new laws

DESPITE the participation of foreign and domestic experts and institutions in crafting a wide range of legislation over the past four years, their input was limited, say analysts, reducing the overall quality of all but a few new laws.
Government representatives and analysts have said that many laws passed during Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's election term had been prepared by narrow groups of people within the state administration, who had refused the help of external experts.
"This has unfortunately happened, and laws in many cases over the last four years have been drafted or amended without the broad involvement of different experts - often just to formally fulfil what has been required from the European Union (EU), without really looking at the final quality [of legislation]," said Katarína Mathernová, advisor to Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš.


SLOVAK legislators were under heavy pressure to pass EU-related laws.
photo: TASR

DESPITE the participation of foreign and domestic experts and institutions in crafting a wide range of legislation over the past four years, their input was limited, say analysts, reducing the overall quality of all but a few new laws.

Government representatives and analysts have said that many laws passed during Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's election term had been prepared by narrow groups of people within the state administration, who had refused the help of external experts.

"This has unfortunately happened, and laws in many cases over the last four years have been drafted or amended without the broad involvement of different experts - often just to formally fulfil what has been required from the European Union (EU), without really looking at the final quality [of legislation]," said Katarína Mathernová, advisor to Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš.

However, she also added that the government strategy of launching legal reform, "has a blueprint based on experience somewhere else and is thoroughly discussed by a number of experts from different sectors."

According to Mathernová, the best examples of such cooperation are the Collateral Law and the amendment to the Commercial Code, where a number of representatives from the business sector, state sector, banks and foreign experts discussed all legal particulars to avoid problems in the laws.

For Ján Tóth, an analyst with ING bank, the best laws and measures taken were those that were externally forced, mainly by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and were aimed at decentralising the state administration.

"They were good, because there was little space for state bureaucrats to change them. The most important here was the law on bank privatisation. Generally, only a few laws, which were initiated by employees of the state administration have been of high quality," said Tóth.

"The lack of courage to cope with state bureaucracy was seen during bank privatisation [under Dzurinda's government], when the Finance Ministry established a special unit consisting of new people to avoid its own staff. It is also a kind involvement of external experts," Tóth added.

Pushed ahead by the EU, the government has been hastily approving quantities of legislation to close all 30 acquis legal chapters, required by the end of the year for Slovakia to be considered for EU membership.

While Slovakia had opened the first chapters more than a year after the Czech Republic, the country has already closed 27 chapters, two more than its northwestern neighbour.

From the autumn 1998, when the current government came to power until the end of the last year, 92 out of 378 laws were adopted in accelerated legislative proceedings.

"Over the last four years, there have been three times as many legislative changes in Slovakia than in countries not under external pressure to have something approved. This has resulted in a legislative cyclone, where difficult legislation of not such a high quality has been hastily approved," said Miroslav Beblavý of the Ineko think tank.

"However, it was necessary and it is better to spend the next two years amending the laws than not having them at all," he added.

Beblavý said that there were several cases in which limping legislation had resulted.

"Quite often parliamentary deputies wanted to insert a good idea in the law, but did not have anyone to phrase it the proper way, and finally it had a more negative than positive impact, or else there was pressure from lobby groups on deputies to insert a clause that was in their interest, like in the Law on the State Service," he said.

Several laws connected with the European Union entry were, according to Beblavý, just translated into Slovak without being adjusted the local environment.

"Bad examples of legislation include the Labour Code, where intensive participation of different sectors, mainly the private sector, was missing, as well as the Law on the Science and Technology, whose original draft defined the same terms in different ways throughout the law."

Analysts said that the general trend was to see high quality legislation mainly in the more visible areas where variety of interest groups are involved.

"When it is about money, the legislation is generally better because there is greater interest in having good laws, but softer sectors, such as education and social affairs, are usually suffering from lower quality laws," said Tóth.

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