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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Priznanie

“A confession” and “a declaration of assets” are both covered by a single Slovak word – “priznanie”. But if local politicians are as cooperative when confessing their sins as they are when informing the public about their property, God must not be very pleased.

“A confession” and “a declaration of assets” are both covered by a single Slovak word – “priznanie”. But if local politicians are as cooperative when confessing their sins as they are when informing the public about their property, God must not be very pleased.

A wide array of public officials, ranging from the Prime Minister to individual MPs, is required to annually submit an overview of their income and assets. But the system has several deep flaws. First, even though officials provide detailed information to parliament about their real estate holdings, only a very general description gets published for the eyes of the public.

How general? According to the parliamentary website, the head of the HZDS party and former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar owns seven “family homes”, twelve “permanent grass lands” and fifty-eight different pieces of “arable land”. No addresses, sizes, or values are given. And it’s no better when it comes to other types of property. What good is it to know that Mečiar has several “bank savings books”, when it is in no way indicated how much those savings accounts are worth? Even MPs admit that the law gives parliament no right to require and examine more detailed data. What do they plan to do about it? They say they will discuss it in autumn.

The second big problem with the property returns is that no two politicians seem to declare their income or assets in the same way. Former Justice Minister Štefan Harabin lists his entire gross income including allowances. Prime Minister Robert Fico leaves the allowances out. President Ivan Gašparovič counts them in, but only provides the figure for his net income. And so it continues.

What is meant under the term “income from public office” is in no way indicated on the parliamentary website, where curious citizens can find just a single confusing, and almost meaningless, figure. The deeper you dig, the more curious are the facts you find – who would have thought that in 2005 Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš made zero crowns?

Luckily, there is no reason to worry about these technicalities because all such declarations of assets are meaningless anyway. Prime Minister Fico said just last week he believes that not only former Prime Minister Dzurinda and Mikloš, but also his own current coalition partner Ján Slota from the Slovak National Party has “stuffed his pockets” through politics. Did he read that in Slota’s property statements? No, nothing about that there. But since they’re such good pals, maybe Slota has made a private priznanie to Fico.

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