AFTER several days and nights of talks between the four centre-right parties that will make up the next Slovak government, the new coalition presented its programme statement to the public on June 23. Although some of its points will perhaps disappoint some of those who voted for the parties, observers praised it as one of the best programmes that a future government has ever come up with.
The programme statement is divided into 14 parts, one covering general political topics and the rest addressing department-specific topics. The future ruling parties – the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Most-Híd – stressed their resolution to fight corruption by starting the programme statement with a list of general anti-corruption and pro-transparency measures.
The statement makes it clear that the Environment Ministry, which the previous government had intended to cancel as of July 1, will be reprieved.
“The main priority now will be to tell citizens what state the country is in and why they have defined these particular points,” political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator. He said that the issues the government should start with and treat as priorities are the consolidation of public finances, the fight against corruption, the situation in the judiciary, and also the aftermath of the floods which hit large parts of the country just before the elections.
“The floods are an urgent issue, but if the government acts fast it has a fair chance of winning [the hearts of] the public,” Mesežnikov said.
The future government promises in its programme statement for the Environment Ministry to present a strategy of anti-flood measures for the country. These include building flood protection systems, which should be paid for mainly from EU Structural Funds. The reprieved ministry is also bound by the programme statement to stop construction of a proposed oil pipeline through Žitný Ostrov, site of the biggest natural underground reservoir of drinking water in central Europe.
According to the programme statement, the government is ready to support the EU accession processes of Croatia and Serbia, to cancel obligatory payments for public-service radio and television and to pass a new law that would comprehensively deal with ‘socially dependent communities’, the term used mainly to refer to problematic Roma communities.
The future government also stated it would finance the inflow of top foreign researchers and teachers to Slovak universities, and said it wants to organise a competition for universities to win funds to help them rank among the world’s top 500 universities.
According to Mesežnikov, the new government should also take some symbolic steps at the beginning of its term to straighten “deformations that were caused in the past by the government’s inactivity or by some mean intention”.
He said that such a step could, for instance, be taken as a gesture towards Hedviga Malinová, the young Hungarian-Slovak woman whose account of an assault she suffered, apparently on ethnic grounds, led to her vilification by governing politicians during the previous parliament.
Addressing problems in the judicial system is also likely to be among the new government’s first measures, both practically and symbolically.
“The symbolic importance of such legislation would be that it would make clear what was going on here, when [Supreme Court President] Štefan Harabin concentrated power around himself, with support from Fico,” Mesežnikov said.
Measures in the judicial area set out by the programme statement include personnel changes in the judiciary, dealing with the conflict of interest of judges so that it will not be possible to switch between judicial and executive posts without some restriction, reconstruction of the Judicial Council and its separation from the Supreme Court, and cancellation of the Judicial Council’s power to initiate disciplinary proceedings against judges.
“We gave preference to the common interest over some priorities that some parties had in their election programmes,” prime minister-designate Iveta Radičová said about the document, as quoted by the Sme daily.
Some topics that were subject to passionate discussion before the elections and were attractive to some voters were left out of the programme statement after the four parties were not able to reach consensus on them: the Vatican Treaty pushed forward by KDH, the recognition of same-sex partnerships and the decriminalisation of marijuana proposed by SaS, and a minority law proposed by Most-Híd.
These issues will not be a part of the government’s programme statement, but the parties have already suggested they might return to them later.
Mesežnikov believes that there is little possibility that parties will come into conflict over these issues.
“It’s likely to be a problem for a segment of their voters, but again, in my view, these are not key issues, although they had symbolic importance for the parties,” he said.
28. Jun 2010 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani