IF SLOVAK politics is to be free of "mysterious groups", if the judiciary is to have a better reputation with the public, and if the country's business environment is to become more transparent, one key element of public life needs to undergo a radical change: corporate ethics.
Efforts to make sense of who is who in the scandal surrounding fights between top state officials, veteran spooks, and prominent entrepreneurs have recently become a popular subject of political debates and media analysis.
Confusion and an absence of evidence characterize the discussion. But both sides of the conflict have now finally presented their opinions of what started the mess Slovak politics has found itself in.
Both sides claim corporate interests are responsible for the scandal that traumatizes society.
The recalled head of the National Security Office (NBÚ), Ján Mojžiš, says Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda was desperate to force him out of office because he refused to do what the PM's buddies from the IT industry had wished.
On the other hand, Dzurinda's newly found ally - Economy Minister and boss of the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) Pavol Rusko - speaks of Mojžiš's suspiciously close relations with people from the computer business.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to make any sense of ties between politicians and businesses, as many company heads are ready to hook up with just about anyone and use just about any means to achieve their aims.
Corruption in the judiciary is perhaps not as bad in reality as it is in public perception, but it is still extensive and it continues to flourish. And again, those feeding it are mainly enterprises, large and small.
However, Slovaks continue to see people and companies offering bribes almost as victims. Paying state officials is viewed as the inevitable evil necessary for getting what one needs.
It is the rule that only very few people report cases of being asked for cash by state officials. And yet there must be a reason for the fact that a large number of people feel that corruption is extremely widespread.
The few people that do report such cases are usually those who bribe and do not get what they paid for.
The cases in which people report being offered a bribe, however, are even more rare. Even top-level politicians fail to do so, unless it serves their political purposes.
Mojžiš says the PM tried to influence his decision-making and that he was offered Sk150 million (€3.6 million) in early 2002. He did not go public with his claims until now, a year and a half later, when in some ways he had nothing more to lose, yet few people seem to be questioning his credibility.
The same goes for former deputy speaker of parliament Rusko - he too kept quiet about his meeting with Mojžiš and an IT CEO and allegedly manipulated tenders at the NBÚ until he needed an argument for sacking Mojžiš. And again, very few questions are being asked.
Politicians can freely use such statements in their political games, because they get away with it. The public sees nothing wrong with not taking any action against those who offer bribes.
The conviction that it is wrong to take, but alright to give, is deeply rooted and for years was also reflected in the penal code, where only accepting bribes was included as a criminal offence.
Corporate representatives need to realise that the political instability and corrupt courts, for which are they are largely responsible, outweigh the short-term benefits gained through corruption and cronyism.
That will hardly happen before society as a whole learns to condemn not only those who provide unfair advantages, but also those who seek them or support them by their silence.
13. Oct 2003 at 0:00