THE WEBSITE of Bratislava’s city-centre Staré Mesto, or Old Town, district had probably never before experienced the traffic it received on October 6, when the public wanted to view a newly-released list of people, including politicians, artists and activists, who had been allocated city apartments since the early 1990s. The reason? As well as access to the coveted, centrally-located rented properties came the option of purchasing them at a later date for a fraction of their market value.
The list marked the beginning of the end of Ján Figeľ’s period of apartment ownership courtesy of the city. Figeľ is the leader of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), a former European Commissioner and Slovakia’s current transport minister.
Figeľ was offered a 156-square-metre apartment in the Old Town district in 2001. He rented it for two years before buying it in 2003 for just Sk54,000 (about €1,800). Its value at the time is estimated by the Sme daily to have been several hundred percent more.
Figeľ received the apartment while his KDH party colleague Andrej Ďurkovský was mayor of the Old Town. Ďurkovský is now mayor of the whole of Bratislava. Minister Figeľ has denied that he was granted the apartment because of his party ties or contacts, according to the SITA newswire.
Nevertheless, Figeľ announced on October 6 that he would donate his apartment to charity. Prime Minister Iveta Radičová said that she had expected such a decision from Figeľ.
“I want this apartment to serve charitable goals; I will not be its long-term owner,” Figeľ said, adding that he would shortly explain the details of his decision. “I carry inside me the conviction that at the end of our lives there will remain only what we have given up.”
Figeľ maintains that he originally moved into the apartment to stabilise his family situation.
According to the minister, he had waited for the apartment for four years, during which time his family – he has four children – lived at three different addresses. He said he considers the way he acquired ownership of the apartment to have been legitimate.
“I considered such a solution logical and important in terms of stabilisation of [my] family,” Figeľ said, as quoted by SITA. “At the same time, I was convinced that my response to the [present] situation was my service to the country.”
Figeľ no longer lives in the apartment, which is being used by his daughters. Instead, he owns a house in the Nové Mesto district.
However, Figeľ is not the only public figure to have benefited from the Old Town’s largesse. For example, well-known Slovak actor and humorist Milan Lasica and his wife Magda Vášáryová, who is currently running for the mayoralty of Bratislava, moved into a 135-square-metre apartment on Dostojevského in 1992 in exchange for a different apartment, a five-room state-owned apartment in Karlova Ves, Sme wrote.
Miloslava Zemková, the head of public broadcaster Slovak Radio, received a 150-square-metre apartment on Kozia in 1993 when she herself was mayor of Staré Mesto. She has said that she did not assign the apartment to herself and that it was given to her on condition that she reconstructed it, Sme reported.
Radičová said that if Figeľ had taken any different course of action it would have harmed the whole ruling coalition, since she could have not used the justification employed by her predecessor Robert Fico, who dismissed scandals connected to his coalition partners by saying that they were their own business.
“Every citizen views the government as a whole and I will not use annoying justifications,” she said, as quoted by Sme.
11. Oct 2010 at 0:00