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COALITION AGREES ON FORMER INTERIOR MINISTER AS NEW SIS BOSS, OPPOSITION CONCERNED

Pittner to lead secret service

FORMER interior minister and current member of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) Ladislav Pittner has been appointed to head up the Slovak Information Service (SIS), filling the space left by Vladimír Mitro who resigned amid a flurry of scandals in March.
The Slovak government made the appointment on April 2, and it was quickly endorsed by President Rudolf Schuster.
"Pittner is an honest and decent person, who is very close to the service," said PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, adding that the newly selected head of the SIS had an outstanding reputation at home and abroad.


NEW spy boss Ladislav Pittner is a founding member of PM Mikuláš Dzurinda's SDKÚ party.
photo: TASR

FORMER interior minister and current member of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) Ladislav Pittner has been appointed to head up the Slovak Information Service (SIS), filling the space left by Vladimír Mitro who resigned amid a flurry of scandals in March.

The Slovak government made the appointment on April 2, and it was quickly endorsed by President Rudolf Schuster.

"Pittner is an honest and decent person, who is very close to the service," said PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, adding that the newly selected head of the SIS had an outstanding reputation at home and abroad.

The decision ends weeks of uncertainty over who would take over from Mitro, who stepped down on March 11 and was released from service on March 31.

PM Mikuláš Dzurinda announced his nomination to coalition partners on March 25, and his proposal was immediately welcomed by both Christian Democrats (KDH) and the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), who said they would support Pittner on condition that former journalist Peter Tóth was replaced as head of counterintelligence at the SIS.

The parties' objections to Tóth stem from an accusation submitted to police that interior minister and KDH vice chairman Vladimír Palko manipulated the database of tapped phone calls at the Interior Ministry. Tóth was accused of filing that accusation, which led Palko to launch a complaint for libel and defamation.

Dzurinda said that it is up to Pittner to decide on staffing issues in the service and declined to comment on the topic.

The New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) took its time to agree with Pittner's nomination, but on Monday 31 the party finally said yes.

"We thought it might be better if someone more dynamic, progressive, and less tied to a specific political party filled that position," said ANO boss Pavol Rusko, about the 68-year-old political veteran who is troubled by illness. Pittner was one of the co-founders of PM Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) in 2001.

However, ANO decided not to challenge the decision made by the other three coalition parties.

"It is a gesture of trust," Rusko said, adding that he had recently met with Pittner and they were putting old conflicts behind them. In the past, Pittner accused Rusko of having links with the Ukrainian mafia.

Opposition politicians were not as supportive.

"The questions of personal qualities, health, and disposition for this type of work were not properly considered," said Vladimír Mečiar, head of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), adding that he thought Pittner's appointment was extremely dangerous politically.

During his time as interior minister, Pittner was criticised for divulging sensitive information to the press.

The KDH chairman Pavol Hrušovský expressed his hopes that Pittner had learned his lesson and would not repeat the mistakes of the past.

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