RARELY does a name become a synonym for a profession. Ernest Valko was an exception. Hardly anyone represented the legal craft more than the former chief of the Czechoslovak Constitutional Court, prominent attorney, and both legal and policy adviser to many on the political right.
Besides prominence, there is another reason why his killing caused public shock – the fear that the shooting may have had something to do with one of his cases, which often involved state institutions, politicians, and millions of euros.
Corruption has long been a part of local public life, and it is no surprise that in a story called “EU Cash Tunnel Ends in Slovakia” the New York Times this week wrote that while “money has always gone astray within the vast budget of the 27-member European Union … a succession of scandals in Slovakia is casting new doubt on how billions of euros … are spent”.
But violence? Save for a brief period in the 1990s, it has been rare. And even then it was mostly limited to mafiosi, or dubious “entrepreneurs”, many of whom got rich building early “tunnels” from state companies into private coffers. Could the latest incident signal a new era in which deals are made not through money, but force?
Slovakia is part of a wider region, where such methods are not rare – Russia, the Ukraine, Belarus, the Balkans: all these are places where violence is a part of business and politics. So the threat looks plausible. And if this is the way the country is heading, who could be next? A mayor? A member of parliament? A judge? A journalist?
Slovakia cannot be certain that the killing of prominent decision-makers will not become a routine sight. Perhaps the relative calm of the last few years was just a result of the fact that the mafia either partly ran the country, or was at least left undisturbed to do its business and siphon off state and EU funds. To do away with such fears, the police need to solve the case fast.
A week ago, the first association most people had upon hearing the name Ernest Valko was “law”. Now, the first association is “murder”. Let’s hope that it will soon be followed by “justice”.
15. Nov 2010 at 0:00 | Lukáš Fila