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All smoke and daggers

THOSE expecting something of major interest in the recently published Slovak Information Service (SIS) report on its activities will be disappointed to find only the barest details of phone-tapping scandals that rocked the ruling coalition at the beginning of this year.
The report merely states that 611 phones were tapped over the period, but with no indication as to the context of this activity, or the cases it involved. Criminal? Terrorist? Or as Pavol Rusko, leader of the coalition partner the New Citizen's Alliance, the purported victim of one of the instances of phone-tapping, has suggested, political?
The report promises that the investigation into the case it still not complete. As time goes on, it seems unlikely that the public will ever get a full explanation about what happened. Instead, the case will be all but forgotten among the scandals that will break as Slovakia moves towards EU entry next year, when closer inspection will show gaping holes in official budgets and bring shady government ordering to light.

THOSE expecting something of major interest in the recently published Slovak Information Service (SIS) report on its activities will be disappointed to find only the barest details of phone-tapping scandals that rocked the ruling coalition at the beginning of this year.

The report merely states that 611 phones were tapped over the period, but with no indication as to the context of this activity, or the cases it involved. Criminal? Terrorist? Or as Pavol Rusko, leader of the coalition partner the New Citizen's Alliance, the purported victim of one of the instances of phone-tapping, has suggested, political?

The report promises that the investigation into the case it still not complete. As time goes on, it seems unlikely that the public will ever get a full explanation about what happened. Instead, the case will be all but forgotten among the scandals that will break as Slovakia moves towards EU entry next year, when closer inspection will show gaping holes in official budgets and bring shady government ordering to light.

Such holes are already appearing. A recent Supreme Audit Office (NKÚ) report has found several such irregularities - including the "huge number of shortcomings" it describes at the Slovak Paralympic Committee (SPV).

The irregularities there include half of the money raised by sponsors to aid disabled athletes being siphoned off into the funds of the SPV's marketing partner, Žilina-based Horec, as commission. Police are looking into the matter.

Expect to see many similar reports coming out of the NKÚ, and further criminal investigations, as Slovakia tries to put its house in order in advance of EU accession on May 1, 2004.

The likelihood of the phone-tapping scandal being settled, and those responsible being held to account, is much smaller.

It seems highly unlikely that SIS director Ladislav Pittner, the interior minister in Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's last government and a founder member of Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, will really come up with the results of an investigation potentially damaging to the government.

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