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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Havran

GERM, Mexican Tunnel, Holy Willi, Gorilla. These are just a few examples of the names the Slovak security forces have given their operations aimed against drugs, smuggling, suspects with Christian-Democratic ties, or over-sized former special unit members. So calling this week’s nuclear alert drill Havran (Raven) seems like a rather conservative choice.

GERM, Mexican Tunnel, Holy Willi, Gorilla. These are just a few examples of the names the Slovak security forces have given their operations aimed against drugs, smuggling, suspects with Christian-Democratic ties, or over-sized former special unit members. So calling this week’s nuclear alert drill Havran (Raven) seems like a rather conservative choice.

It’s good to see the government rehearsing, but at times like these you also question whether there is enough independent oversight over the country’s nuclear power plants. And regardless of the success of the exercise, prevention is in this case much preferred to disaster-management. The local reactors are operated by two firms – the state-owned JAVYS, and Slovenské Elektrárne, a partly privatised company in which state still owns a stake. If you add the fact that all Slovak governments have been very pro-nuclear, and that without the reactors the country would face a serious energy deficit, one cannot be overly confident that the scrutiny is sufficient.

And there are other areas where you see the state in a schizophrenic role – it owns stakes in the gas supplier SPP, and regulates the prices of gas, although traditionally hostile relationships between left-wing governments and SPP’s private co-owners make this a particularly difficult marriage. Private radio stations often complain that their public competitor is favoured when it comes to the re-distribution of frequencies. Conflicts of interest are especially deep in health care, with the state owning hospitals, setting the rules, and running an insurance company. Sadly, the planned nationalisation of the other health insurers shows that the positive trend, which has in recent years freed most areas of business from direct state involvement, can be reversed.

It had seemed that some rights, such as the freedom to choose an insurance company, were here to last. But while voters nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, a tapping at their chamber door. It was Fico, he said: “Nevermore.”

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