EDITORIAL

Slovakia must step back from the edge of lawlessness

ON MARCH 25, former Slovak interior minister Ladislav Pittner was suggested by the ruling coalition party the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) to be head of Slovakia's secret service.
Then, during the early hours of March 28, his son, Peter Pittner, woke to find his car ablaze outside his house. Police spokesperson Marta Bujňáková said the fire was the result of a deliberate attack.
Peter Pittner himself did not believe the attack was connected to his father's nomination, instead suggesting it was probably concerned with his business activities.

ON MARCH 25, former Slovak interior minister Ladislav Pittner was suggested by the ruling coalition party the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) to be head of Slovakia's secret service.

Then, during the early hours of March 28, his son, Peter Pittner, woke to find his car ablaze outside his house. Police spokesperson Marta Bujňáková said the fire was the result of a deliberate attack.

Peter Pittner himself did not believe the attack was connected to his father's nomination, instead suggesting it was probably concerned with his business activities.

It is hard to know which is worse, unknown people attacking the family of the nominee for secret-service head, or having a secret-service head whose son has associates who consider blowing up his car a normal business transaction.

This was not even front-page news. Surely things here in Slovakia are not so bad that the incident can be accepted as normal?

On the same day, police discovered a third body they believe to be connected with the collapse of Devín Banka in 2001. And they expect to find more. At least that story made it to the front page of the national newspapers.

A week before that, the suspected boss of the Banská Bystrica underworld, Mikuláš Černák, slipped the country despite a judgement that he had been released too early from a prison sentence and must be returned to jail.

With Slovakia on the verge of joining the European Union it cannot afford to be seen as a lawless land, more part of the "Wild East" than the prosperous West. The justice system needs to be shown to be working, and the SIS needs to be shown not to be working for private interests.

The proposed shake up of the justice system closing half of the country's courts will allow the government to take a small step in the right direction. It will be able to use the reduction in the number of judges to remove those too corrupt to serve their function. It remains to be seen if there are enough honest ones left to fill the other places.

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