THAT transparency is not exactly a local concept is best illustrated by the borrowed term Slovaks use to describe it – transparentnosť. But its principles are slowly creeping into Slovak public life, and the new government, in particular, is doing a lot to make transparency feel more at home, by demanding that all public contracts be published online and through its plans to put all court decisions on the web.
However, there are at least two major obstacles to solid progress.
The first is the scant enthusiasm for openness within the political class. It is fashionable to support transparency, but when it comes to actions, things get more complicated. When last week the Košice city council voted on a planned loan, it was without knowing what the interest rate would be. Mayor Richard Raši would not say. No matter, the loan passed, supported by left and right, leaving only a few independents wondering how on earth you can vote on something you have no idea about. And Raši’s lawyers are already “looking into” what parts of the final loan agreement they will publish, although the law tells them clearly to publish it all. Not to mention that the municipality does not even want to say what its total debt is. And Košice is hardly the only city where they are not crazy about frankness. The rules about how much municipalities and state institutions can get away with are being redefined now, and the coalition has to stay tough.
The other big problem is the sorry state of the judiciary. No laws in the world can guarantee transparency unless they are properly enforced. As many as 700 out of a total of 1,200 judges have filed lawsuits demanding that the state compensate them for alleged discrimination they say they suffered because they had lower wages than their colleagues at the Special Court, set up to deal with most difficult cases of organised crime and corruption. According to new data from the Justice Ministry, total claims surpass €70 million. The same judges that filed these charges have no qualms about ruling on similar complaints filed by their colleagues, seeing no conflict of interest. That something is terribly wrong with the Slovak courts is transparent enough.
17. Jan 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Spectator staff