THE CURRENT government is not radical enough in eradicating the negative consequences of laws passed by the previous government, Grigorij Mesežnikov, the president of the non-governmental Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), told The Slovak Spectator in an interview. Mesežnikov said the fact that the four parties comprising the new government have not forcefully acted to overturn legislation that they vehemently criticised while in opposition is one of the most serious shortcomings of the first 100 days of Iveta Radičová’s government.
TSS: In your opinion which measures should have been swiftly overturned?
Grigorij Mesežnikov (GM): This is the case with the [past government’s] amendment to the State Language Act. I believe that amendment should have been already repealed. And if it appeared necessary to change the original State Language Act, then a new amendment could have been prepared [by the current government] – but I don’t think that would be necessary at all.
The same goes for the Patriotism Act. That [law] was completely unnecessary and on top of that both these laws were part of Smer’s 2010 election campaign. This means that the residues of Smer’s election campaign are still with us even 100 days after the new government came to power. And that is because the new government did not act forcefully to repeal these laws.
Another such problem is the law on state citizenship. I see a big problem because the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) have differing opinions about it. Hungary will start awarding state citizenship to people [living outside of Hungary] as of January 1, 2011 and it is possible that at that time the current Slovak legislation [which was the response of the Fico-led government to the Hungarian law] will still be effective. The situation is a bit different here because there was a reason for Slovakia to react at that time.
I think it’s going to be a major outrage if Slovakia continues to have the option to deprive persons who were born here of their state citizenship: even if it concerns only one person. I consider this [failure to act] as a lack of conception in the behaviour of the current government. They are accepting something that they had been very critical of.
TSS: What are the reasons? Is it only differing opinions within the parties of the ruling coalition?
GM: I can only speculate here. First, for a certain part of the ruling coalition the state of affairs now might not be as unacceptable as they previously claimed it was. Their criticism before may not have been that sincere. Nevertheless, we cannot put an equation mark between this government and its predecessor because all those restrictive, negative, inappropriate measures were initiated by the past government, not by the current coalition parties. The current governing parties either were against [the measures] or remained silent, or in some situations joined with the previous government – as KDH did on the state citizenship measure – but KDH did not initiate the measure. In the end KDH agreed, grinning and bearing it as they say, because the party believed that enacting the law was better than no reaction at all [by Slovakia]. But generally, there is insufficient strength in the ruling coalition.
And that is also connected with there being too many colours in the coalition and perhaps because some of the parties are not well-characterised yet.
Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), which describes itself as a liberal party, has a culture minister who has defended fines in the State Language Act. That has nothing to do with liberalism. And unfortunately, the law has already been used repressively by the current government during its term. Not against citizens but, for instance, against publishers. But isn’t a publisher a citizen too? Or isn’t a civic association an association of citizens? I believe the fines have been just bad from the very beginning and they should have been repealed immediately.
TSS: All the laws you mentioned more or less concern apparent nationalism on the part of the previous government. Is the current government perhaps worried about losing nationalist-inclined voters?
GM: Yes, I think there could be hidden nationalism [in the current coalition], or at least the fear that the opposition will use nationalism in their political games and the government would be accused of anti-national beliefs. But that possibility has been here since 2006. Since 2006 the previous ruling coalition had been using the Hungarian card to accuse the then-opposition of not having sufficiently-nationalist or of having anti-nationalist beliefs. But in the end I believe it did not harm the parties while they were in opposition and they were able to defend themselves. So the reasoning that they could be harmed more by the negative effect of the Hungarian card or the nationalist card when they are in power than when they were in opposition is wrong.
But certainly there are people in the ruling coalition who are nationalist-oriented, such as some individuals in KDH and in SaS. The current culture minister is now a great defender of protecting national interests through financial fines.
25. Oct 2010 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani