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NBÚ chief leaves under a cloud

A NOMINEE of Vladimír Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), who according to documents found in communist-era Czechoslovak security archives in Prague, served as an informer for communist-era military intelligence, has left his job as head of Slovakia’s National Security Office (NBÚ), the state agency which performs security vetting of personnel appointed to sensitive positions.

A NOMINEE of Vladimír Mečiar’s Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), who according to documents found in communist-era Czechoslovak security archives in Prague, served as an informer for communist-era military intelligence, has left his job as head of Slovakia’s National Security Office (NBÚ), the state agency which performs security vetting of personnel appointed to sensitive positions.

František Blanárik resigned from his post on March 7 after a series of articles published by the Sme daily highlighted the fact that the ruling centre-right parties, while in opposition during the previous government, had been highly critical of Blanárik’s continued presence at the NBÚ following the original revelations about his past in late 2008.

The right to nominate someone to the NBÚ post lies with the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, which during its 2010 parliamentary election campaign presented itself as having zero tolerance towards former communist agents.

“Considering the fact that I refuse to become a tool of intelligence games, which are aimed at scandalising some people, including my person, instead of evaluating the achieved level of NBÚ activities and its position in international structures, I have decided to step down as director of the NBÚ,” Blanárik said in an official statement.

Blanárik was given a full security check by the NBÚ in 2006 and he was cleared to access the highest-level information, labelled top secret.

According to communist-era documents disclosed in 2008, Blanárik worked as an informer for the VKR, the communist predecessor to today’s Military Defence Intelligence (VOS) or Military Security Agency, between 1981 and 1989 and reported on at least 10 people, Sme reported.

Based on legislation currently in force, his activities during communism would have disqualified Blanárik from being installed in such a sensitive position had the information been discovered prior to his appointment .

When the revelations about his past first came to light the government of Robert Fico, which was in power from 2006 to 2010 and included the HZDS, refused to dismiss Blanárik. Fico said at the time that he did not trust the records.

In 2009, the parliamentary committee for oversight of the NBÚ, on which government MPs had a majority, refused to request documentation on Blanárik from the Prague archives, and issued a statement on March 11, 2009, saying that it was impossible to confirm or reject the charges.

Blanárik has insisted that the information, which comes from a file kept by the military counterintelligence service in the 1970s, is untrustworthy. However, Blanárik admitted that as a professional soldier under the communist regime he worked briefly at the intelligence unit of the general staff in 1980, the SITA newswire reported in 2008. He said he worked there for only a few weeks, as a janitor, after having applied to be moved to another position. He said he did not acquire any knowledge about the work of the intelligence or counterintelligence services.

SaS’s immediate response to the media reminder of Blanárik’s past was that although the party has strict conditions for its own members, specifically prohibiting anyone with a communist past, this does not mean that SaS will now engage in any wide-ranging clean-out.

“If specific people are professionals and do their job accordingly, we do not see any reason to press for their dismissal,” said Tatiana Tóthová, spokeswoman for party leader Richard Sulík, as quoted by Sme.

Following Blanárik’s resignation Sulík said on March 8 that he appreciated his decision to step down and thus “this case will not damage the reputation of SaS”.

Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) deputy Tatiana Rosová, who under the previous government signed a call for former prime minister Robert Fico to dismiss Blanárik, welcomed the resignation, though she added that it had come rather late.

“In such a position any suspicion of active cooperation with the ŠtB [the communist-era secret police] is unacceptable and I believe that Mr Blanárik’s successor will meet all the legal and moral conditions for serving in the position,” Rosová said, as quoted by SITA.



Security clearances questioned



According to Sme, while in office Blanárik also approved several security clearances for former ŠtB agents, including Svatopluk Ratuský, who served as secretary of the National Security Council under the Fico government. During the communist regime Ratuský served as a military border guide whose job it was to stop people trying to escape to Western countries. Under the government of Vladimír Mečiar, Ratuský allegedly participated in the 1995 abduction of the son of then-president Michal Kováč.

Blanárik also speedily confirmed the security clearance of Karol Mitrík, the current boss of the Slovak Information Service (SIS), Slovakia’s main intelligence agency. Mitrík was nominated by the SDKÚ, the party of Prime Minister Iveta Radičová and one of SaS’s coalition partners.

Mitrík had previously testified on behalf of Eugen Čuňo, a former mayor accused of corruption, but his testimony was declared untrustworthy by the court, which then launched an inquiry to check whether Mitrík had lied, Sme reported.

The NBÚ under the leadership of Blanárik also gave security clearance to the former director of the Prison Guards Corps, Mária Kreslová, who had been appointed to her post by former justice minister (and HZDS nominee) Štefan Harabin. According to archive documents, Kreslová, like Blanárik, had met members of military counter-intelligence under communism, Sme wrote.

Blanárik became the head of the NBÚ in September 2006 after serving as military attaché to Slovakia’s embassy in Ukraine from 2005. According to the online trade register, for one year, from 2001 to 2002, he served on the supervisory board of an arms-trading company, Petina International. He also operated as marketing director for a private company.

Between 1995 and 1999 he served as secretary of the National Security Council and held the post of central secretary of Mečiar’s HZDS.


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