Slovakia's dates to remember: News in 2005

January 3 - Deputy Construction Minister Ján Hurný hands in his resignation 45 days after the state-run National Memory Institute publishes records obtained from the eastern Slovak unit of the Communist Secret Service (ŠtB) suggesting that Hurný was once an active ŠtB agent.

US President George W Bush addresses Slovaks in Hviezdoslavovo square.
photo: Beata Balogová

January 3 - Deputy Construction Minister Ján Hurný hands in his resignation 45 days after the state-run National Memory Institute publishes records obtained from the eastern Slovak unit of the Communist Secret Service (ŠtB) suggesting that Hurný was once an active ŠtB agent.

January 25 - MP Viktor Béreš announces his decision to leave the ruling New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), blaming his departure on party boss Pavol Rusko's authoritative ways. The ANO retaliates by labelling Béreš as corrupt, saying it would have sacked him anyway.

January 26 - The Slovak government dismisses Deputy Education Minister Františk Tóth after a request by Tóth's party, the ANO.

February 1 - Zuzana Plháková rejoins the MP parliamentary caucus of the ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ). She left in December 2003 along with several other SDKÚ MPs in support of dismissed SDKÚ Defence Minister Ivan Šimko. The relationship between Šimko and the SDKÚ chairman, Prime Minster Mikuláš Dzurinda, deteriorated when Šimko refused to support the firing of National Security Office Chief Ján Mojžiš.

Thousands of Slovaks attend special masses to mourn the Pope.
photo: TASR

February 10 - Slovakia enjoys unprecedented media attention thanks to the upcoming Bush-Putin summit. According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry, around 500 journalists have applied for press accreditation so far, and they expect the number to grow to between 1,500 and 2,200.

February 21 - Štefan Kužma and Magda Vášáryová are appointed new deputy construction and foreign affairs ministers, respectively. Kužma replaces Ján Hurný of the SDKÚ, who stepped down after his past as a former Communist Secret Service agent came to light. Vášáryová, the former Slovak ambassador to Poland, replaces Ivan Korčok, who left to become the Slovak ambassador to Germany.

February 24- US President George W Bush and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, meet in Bratislava for a bilateral summit. The officials pledge to cooperate on several agenda items, including identifying terrorism, curtailing organized crime and strengthening the overall American-Russian relationship. The presidents describe their summit talks in Bratislava as "instructive" and "constructive".

A suicide bomb ripped through the Slovak embassy in Baghdad in February.
photo: TASR

February 24 - US President George W Bush faces an estimated 4,000 Slovaks who had come to Hviezdoslavovo Square to hear the American president speak to the nation. Prior to speaking to the people, Bush met with the top Slovak officials. During the private interviews with PM Mikuláš Dzurinda and Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič many topics were discussed, ranging from North Korea to visa policy. Bush has later thanked the Slovak people for the cordial welcome extended to him on his recent visit to Slovakia. In a letter to President Gašparovič, President Bush wrote, "My trip to Slovakia is one I will never forget".

February 28 - The new annual report on human rights released by the US Department of State criticizes Slovakia for ongoing discrimination against the Roma, a corrupt judiciary and an unhealthy connection between private television station TV Markíza and ruling coalition politician Pavol Rusko.

March 23 - The cabinet appointee for expatriate Slovaks, Claude Baláž, hands in his resignation after his name appears among those suspected of cooperating with the Communist Secret Service (ŠtB). His resignation comes on the heels of the voluntary departure of the Slovak ambassador to Kazakhstan, Dušan Podhorský, who was also accused of being a former ŠtB agent. According to a public opinion poll, 82 percent of Slovaks think that former ŠtB agents should leave public office.

Slovakia gains temporary membership in the UN Security Council.
photo: TASR

April 2 - Pope John Paul II dies at 84. During his pontificate, John Paul II visited Slovakia three times. In the predominantly Christian Slovak nation, where more than 60 percent describe themselves as Roman Catholics, thousands followed television and radio programmes dedicated to the ailing Pope's last hours. While some prayed for the Pope in local churches, others left for Rome to pay tribute to the Polish native of Wadowice in person. Special masses were held April 3 in homage to the deceased spiritual leader.

April 15- The Slovak Anti-Corruption Office concludes its investigation into the collapse of unlicensed deposit companies Horizont Slovakia and BMG Invest. Four company representatives will be prosecuted in the case, including Vladimír Fruni and Marián Šebešeák. The accused face five to 12 years in prison. Since starting business in the mid-1990s, the two companies signed more than 856,000 contracts and their deposits reached Sk62.8 billion (€1.7 billion). After the companies went bankrupt, 170,000 clients lost their money. Police calculate the damages at Sk14.5 billion (€370,000).

May 1 - Deputy Transport Minister Mikuláš Kačaljak hands in his resignation to ANO party boss Pavol Rusko, who asked the deputy minister to step down after Kačaljak was linked to bad debts with social insurer Sociálna poisťovňa.

May 1 - Slovaks celebrate the first anniversary of being a part of the European Union. In the capital city, around 400 people turn up to mark the occasion.

May 11 - The Slovak parliament smoothly ratifies the European Union Constitution. It is the seventh of the 25 EU member countries to approve the document. Out of 150 MPs, 116 voted for ratification. Those against included a ruling coalition party, the Christian Democratic Movement, three independent MPs and one opposition party, the Slovak Communist Party. Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda said that the constitution was an acceptable compromise. "We have made one of the most serious decisions of our careers," Dzurinda said after the vote.

May 9 - For the first time in Slovakia's history, a member of parliament is sentenced to jail on a bribery charge. The Banská Bystrica district court found Gabriel Karlin, a member of the opposition party, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), guilty of accepting a Sk500,000 (€12,950) bribe. Karlin was sentenced to one year in prison. The MP appealed the verdict.

May 16 - Two members of the opposition party, the HZDS, join the parliamentary caucus of another opposition party, Smer. MPs Vojtech Tkáč and Dušan Jarjabek join Smer, making the strongest party caucus in the Slovak parliament with 27 members. The HZDS caucus now has 25 members.

May 20 - The Slovak parliament passes a revised Penal Code, toughening sentences for dangerous criminals and decreasing the age of criminal responsibility from 15 to 14. Out of 139 MPs present, 117 supported the bill. Four days later, by a comfortable 90-vote margin, legislators also pass a new Penal Order, which is closely tied to the Penal Code. The legislation comes after dozens of revisions to Slovakia's outdated criminal statutes dating back to 1961.

May 24 - President Ivan Gašparovič signs Culture Minister's Rudolf Chmel's letter of resignation. Gašparovič's decision to accept Chmel's resignation comes after a repeated request from Chmel on May 19. Chmel's party, the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO), nominates František Tóth as the new Culture Minister.

May 30 - The ANO's Ján Drgonec announces that he is leaving the party, becoming the fifth MP to do so during this election term. The ANO diminishes to 11 MPs.

May 30 - For the first time ever, a female judge, Daniela Švecová, is named as the deputy chairwoman of the Slovak Supreme Court. Švecová pledges to work towards improving the quality of judicial decisions and reducing the time it takes to reach verdicts.

June 4 - At its national party congress, the HZDS re-elects Vladimír Mečiar as its party chairman. Mečiar has held the opposition party's leadership position for 14 consecutive years. Analysts say the vote confirms that Mečiar "remains strong and unchallenged in the HZDS".

June 11 - The Slovak embassy in Baghdad is the target of a suicide bombing. The bomb, which left four people injured, followed a series of attacks in the Iraqi capital the same day. Officials confirm that the suicide bomber detonated an explosive in front of the embassy in southeast Baghdad. None of the embassy's employees were wounded but the blast injured four Iraqi civilians and guards.

June 13 - Two more MPs leave the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS): Eva Antošová and Miroslav Maxon. The party, led by ex-PM Vladimír Mečiar, is now down to just 23 MPs from the 36 who came to office after the national elections in 2002.

June 22 - Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič holds his first state of the nation address in parliament since he took up the post. He highlights the nation's achievements on the international scene but warns of the growing economic and social disparities within Slovakia's regions.

June 23 - The Slovak parliament approves a law that will require those suspected of obtaining property illegally to prove that they acquired their assets in line with the law. Prepared jointly by the Justice Ministry and the opposition party Smer, the law is designed to fight corruption and organized crime by transferring the burden of proof in such cases to the suspects.

July 1 - A special court dealing with the country's most serious and sophisticated criminals starts operations in a former army barracks in Pezinok, close to Bratislava. Together with the Special Attorney' Office, which is situated in the same building, the special court was established on the basis of a 2003 law to "create specialized bodies for uncovering, investigating, and prosecuting corruption, organized crime, and crimes committed by constitutional officials", stated the Justice Ministry.

July 1 - The Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) announces that Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Magda Vášáryová officially became a member at the end of April 2005. Vášáryová, who registered at SDKÚ's Bratislava Staré mesto local branch, was nominated to the ministerial position on February 2 by the SDKÚ.

July 6 - Slovak PM Mikuláš Dzurinda defends his position in an opposition initiated no-confidence vote. The motion to remove the PM was initiated by the opposition party Smer. It drew the support of only 60 of the 122 MPs present in the 150-seat legislature.

July 18 - The EU appoints Slovak diplomat Ján Kubiš as its special envoy to Central Asia after foreign affairs ministers of the 25 EU member states approved his nomination and mandate in a vote in Brussels.

July 28 - The tabloid magazine Plus 7 dní publishes information alleging that Economy Minister Pavol Rusko signed IOU's worth millions of crowns after accepting political office. Rusko gives reasons for the debts but changes his explanation several times.

August 11 - Rodolphe M Vallee arrives in Bratislava to take up his post as the new US ambassador to Slovakia.

August 16 - The ruling Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) asks PM Mikuláš Dzurinda to sack Economy Minister Pavol Rusko, whose debts also indicate a conflict of interest, since Rusko owed the Sk104.5 million (€2.6 million) to Ľubomír Blaško, a businessman active in the energy sector, which Rusko administered as economy minister.

August 24 - Pavol Rusko is dismissed as economy minister. Tensions inside Rusko's ANO party grow. While Rusko ponders leaving the ruling coalition for the opposition, a group surrounding ANO's deputy chairman, Ľubomír Lintner, want to stay in the coalition.

September 1 - The ruling coalition terminates its cooperation with ANO party boss Pavol Rusko. The coalition wants to complete the election term with Rusko's opponents within the ANO.

ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko can't get his story straight for the press.
photo: SITA

September 3 -ANO Deputy Chairman Ľubomír Lintner asks ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko to leave the caucus. The Lintner group, counting eight MPs, announces that it wants to nominate Jirko Malchárek as Rusko's replacement in the Economy Ministry.

September 12 - The opposition blocks the first parliamentary session after the summer recess, demonstrating the weakness of the minority government in parliament. The ANO, led by Pavol Rusko, withdraws from the coalition on the same day.

September 15 - Slovak President Ivan Gašparovic addresses 190 world leaders at the United Nations summit in New York, noting that the organization must not remain a "discussion club" that fails in times when effective solutions are needed.

September 17 - Smer Chairman Robert Fico says that the ruling coalition is buying independent MPs to support the minority government, and that the price is Sk15 million (€390,000) and higher.

September 19 - Two opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia MPs, Karol Džupa and Eduard Kolesár, leave the HZDS caucus for the pro-coalition ANO caucus led by Ľubomír Lintner.

September 21 - Parliament opens after a week of impasse.

September 27 - Opposition parties agree that early elections should take place on April 8. The plan, however, never makes its way through parliament because the ruling KDH and the Hungarian Coalition Party eventually refuse their support.

October 4 - President Ivan Gašparovič appoints Jirko Malchárek as the new economy minister to replace Pavol Rusko, dismissed after conflicts of interest.

October 5 - Labour Minister Ľudovít Kaník, nominated by the SDKÚ, announces his resignation after suspicions arise over abuse of power in connection with a loan from a state agency.

October 10- Slovakia is elected a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council starting in 2006, along with the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Peru and Qatar.

October 17 - Sociologist Iveta Radičová is appointed the new Labour Minister.

October 24 - PM Mikuláš Dzurinda expresses confidence in Agriculture Minister Zsolt Simon, a member of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), after Simon is publicly criticized for accepting grants on behalf of his agricultural company. Deputy Agriculture Minister Marián Radošovský also received grants from the ministry through his company, Farm. While Simon sold Agrotrade in 2004, Radošovský still owns Farm. Radošovský voluntarily steps down from the ministerial post.

November 3 - The Bratislava regional branch of the ruling Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) decides to keep Pavol Bielik as a KDH candidate for the November 26 regional elections. Bielik, the mayor of Rača (a suburb of Bratislava), is being sued for accepting a Sk5 million (€131,000) bribe.

November 9- ANO's Pavol Rusko releases a secret recording to police that shows former ANO MP Iveta Henzélyová confessing that an unidentified group of people allegedly tried to offer her money in exchange for her vote in parliament.

November 9 - The Slovak cabinet appoints Timotej Miština as the new deputy agriculture minister. Miština replaces Marián Radošovský, who stepped down for receiving agricultural subsidies on behalf of his farm while serving at the ministry.

November 26 - Just 18 percent of Slovaks cast their vote in the country's second regional elections, in which 412 regional councillors were selected for eight higher territorial units (VÚCs). Slovaks also voted for chairmen of the VÚCs; however, no candidates earned the required 50 percent majority, forcing run-off elections on December 10 between the two strongest candidates. Of the parliamentary parties, the KDH performed the best, taking 87 councillor seats, followed by the opposition party Smer with 70 seats, and the ruling SDKÚ with 64 seats.

November 29 - The SDKÚ suspends the membership of Jozef Choluj, caught taking a Sk10,000 (€263) bribe. The cabinet later dismisses Choluj as a regional councillor, which he had won just three days before in a mandate.

December 10 - A mere 11 percent take part in the run-off to the regional elections in which eight heads of the higher territorial units VÚCs are elected. The candidates affiliated with the opposition Smer and HZDS take five and three of the VÚC chairmen seats, respectively.

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