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Defence minister sacked

AFTER losing his job as defence minister over the wiretapping of journalists by his ministry's Military Defence Intelligence (VOS) unit, Ľubomír Galko will return to parliament as an MP for the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party. SaS has objected to both Galko’s dismissal and the way it was handled by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová. Galko is the first minister to leave the Radičová government, which will itself stand down after an early general election on March 10 which was brought about by SaS opposition to eurozone bailout plans. The already frosty relations between the governing parties have worsened further, but SaS is unlikely to quit the government.

AFTER losing his job as defence minister over the wiretapping of journalists by his ministry's Military Defence Intelligence (VOS) unit, Ľubomír Galko will return to parliament as an MP for the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party. SaS has objected to both Galko’s dismissal and the way it was handled by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová. Galko is the first minister to leave the Radičová government, which will itself stand down after an early general election on March 10 which was brought about by SaS opposition to eurozone bailout plans. The already frosty relations between the governing parties have worsened further, but SaS is unlikely to quit the government.

SaS was quick to announce that it would not give up the defence ministry post. Galko was asked to leave after media reported that the VOS, which is the counterintelligence arm of the Defence Ministry, had been bugging the telephones of three reporters from the Pravda daily and the head of TV news channel TA3.

“We are able to offer a candidate,” said SaS leader Richard Sulík on November 23, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

Sulík said that Radičová’s decision to sack Galko was inappropriate and described the developments as a campaign against SaS, adding that the parliamentary committee to oversee the activities of the VOS has confirmed that all the wiretaps were legal.

Sulík said that when Radičová met Galko early on November 22, she had not called on him to resign and had not informed SaS about her intention to have him sacked.

“We had been waiting with the three directors of the intelligence services for two hours for the minister to show up,” Radičová explained, as quoted by the Sme daily. “I personally phoned him but he did not take the call.”

The SaS boss stated that Galko did not show up at the meeting with Radičová because “we had an important meeting”, adding that he knows that Galko sent a short phone message to the prime minister saying that he could not meet her because he had an urgent meeting, Sme reported.

Despite insisting the ministerial job should go to an SaS nominee, Sulík also suggested that the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) leader and foreign minister, Mikuláš Dzurinda, was a possible candidate. According to Sme, other possible candidates are Interior Minister Daniel Lipšic of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and Justice Minister Lucia Žitňanská of the SDKÚ.

Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) leader Ján Figeľ welcomed the decision to sack Galko, suggesting that it seemed the only possible solution as even at parliamentary committee sessions Galko had failed to provide a legitimate explanation for the actions of the VOS.

“It is sad that Minister Galko was not able to take responsibility and resign on his own,” said Figeľ in his response on November 22.

Most-Híd spokeswoman Nora Czuczorová told The Slovak Spectator that her party wanted the case to be thoroughly investigated.

“If the minister did not know about the issue it means that he did not know what was going on in his department,” Czuczorová said. “If he knew and it can be proved that he knew, then he does not belong there.”

When Juraj Miškov, the SaS-nominated economy minister, was asked by Sme whether SaS remains part of the governing coalition he responded: “Is there a coalition?” Miškov nevertheless said that SaS would support [from within the government] everything that is in Slovakia’s interest, including the state budget and laws submitted to parliament.

Asked whether Galko’s position in the party would change after his sacking, Miškov responded that he had done some good work within the party, such as in the fight against corruption, and added that Galko would still get an electable position on the SaS candidate list, Sme reported.


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