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Extra deputy ministers appointed

THE CABINET of Robert Fico is now ready to roll at full speed. Except for two departments – agriculture and education – all his new ministers now have appointed deputies, or state secretaries, in Slovak political parlance. Prime Minister Fico has now handed them their first tasks: to compile a list of laws that the cabinet must adopt promptly; and to review contracts that the previous government signed after it fell in October 2011.

THE CABINET of Robert Fico is now ready to roll at full speed. Except for two departments – agriculture and education – all his new ministers now have appointed deputies, or state secretaries, in Slovak political parlance. Prime Minister Fico has now handed them their first tasks: to compile a list of laws that the cabinet must adopt promptly; and to review contracts that the previous government signed after it fell in October 2011.

Education Minister Dušan Čaplovič still has no deputy minister, while one-time agriculture minister Stanislav Becík, who travelled across Slovakia in 2009 in a horse-drawn carriage in support of rural development, turned down an offer to become state secretary at the Agriculture Ministry. Agriculture Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek explained that Becík told him that he preferred to remain a farmer, the TASR newswire reported.

The second Fico government will have several more state secretaries than the administration it replaces. Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák, whose department previously had just one state secretary, will now have two: Peter Burian and Peter Javorčík.

According to Lajčák, the previous government’s “experiment” of having a single state secretary was “an unequivocal failure”.

Fico, who originally toyed with the idea of merging some ministries and trimming the state administration, also said that some ministries were simply dysfunctional under the previous government because they did not have enough state secretaries to cover all relevant areas. Fico, however, added that the merger of some ministries during this electoral term had not been ruled out.
“We are not abandoning these plans,” Fico said, as quoted by TASR, adding that a comprehensive audit would be carried out. “I cannot rule out that a completely new structure for the state administration will be established.”

The Ministries of Interior and Labour, both previously staffed by one state secretary, will get two each. Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák said he needs two state secretaries, Marián Saloň and Jaroslav Buček, because the country’s membership of the Schengen area means the European Commission will this year again check that Slovakia is meeting its obligations, according to the Sme daily.

Branislav Ondruš and Jozef Burian will assist Labour Minister Ján Richter in managing one of the key departments of the government. Peter Pellegrini and Vasil Hudák will serve as state secretaries at the Finance Ministry, while Andrej Holák and František Palko – the current head of the Economic Policy Institute (IHP) think tank, who served as deputy minister at the Finance Ministry during the first Fico government – were appointed state secretaries at the Transport Ministry led by Ján Počiatek.

Miloš Koterec is state secretary at the Defence Ministry and Viliam Čislák at the Health Ministry. Ján Ilavský will serve at the Environment Ministry and Pavol Pavlis at the Economy Ministry. Ivan Sečík will return as state secretary at the Culture Ministry, the same function he held during the first Fico government.

Monika Jankovská, a judge, has been appointed state secretary at the Justice Ministry led by Tomáš Borec. Jankovská made headlines not because of her appointment but because of her decision to drop an anti-discrimination lawsuit that she, along with other Slovak judges, had filed because her salary was lower than that of judges serving at the now-defunct Special Court, Sme reported.

Hundreds of judges have filed wage discrimination lawsuits since 2007, most of them following a Constitutional Court ruling in May 2009 which found that the Special Court, set up by a previous government to fight high-level corruption and organised crime, had not been established in accordance with the country’s constitution. Part of the ruling was based on the grounds that the position of judges in different courts was unequal, including in terms of pay. Special Court judges typically received considerably higher pay than regular judges. Borec’s predecessor Lucia Žitňanská was critical of the lawsuits.

Borec himself, shortly after his appointment, noted that from the public’s point of view the best solution would be if the judges recognised that their claims are inappropriate, TASR reported.

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