THE STATE has remained naked. There are no barriers which would prevent the unhampered seizure of state property. The dramatic statement of Prime Minister Robert Fico illustrates the panic that has arisen after the Constitutional Court ruled that state property should lose its “execution immunity”, which prevented the enforcement of private claims against public institutions. The reaction was quick – the government met in a special session, approved a new, somewhat limited version of the “immunity”, which within a day passed through parliament.
The reaction reflects the same kind of mentality that could be seen in parliament’s and the government’s position papers, which they presented to the court to defend their privileges. “If the state did not use legislation to protect its property (even by means other than those used in the case of other entities), it would lose the sole instrument by which it can prevent not only the destabilisation and paralysis of state bodies, but also the liquidation of hospitals, schools, and other publicly significant institutions.” That sounds dramatic enough. But couldn’t protection be limited only to core institutions and assets? According to the parliament’s opinion, no: “The property of the state is dedicated to perform its functions. It is not quite possible to determine the priority of these functions.”
To sum it up – the state feels that it should stand above the law, that its creditors pose a threat to national security, and that everything it does is terribly important.
That doesn’t seem right for several reasons. Firstly, anyone that has come into contact with local public institutions knows that things in Slovakia don’t work thanks to the activities of the state, but in spite of them. Secondly, the neighbouring Czech Republic has no similar restrictions and it seems not to have slid into anarchy.
Most provisions guaranteeing a strong position for the state date back to socialist times. Not so in this case. The various provisions that until now shielded public property have been creeping into the legal system since 1993, when Slovakia gained independence. And even the hastily approved law has dressed the state in a thick, new armour.