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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Žalúdok

APPARENTLY, Marián Kočner has had three-quarters of his stomach (žalúdok) taken out. No wonder, given that digesting everything that the Bratislava businessman has been through is no easy task.

APPARENTLY, Marián Kočner has had three-quarters of his stomach (žalúdok) taken out. No wonder, given that digesting everything that the Bratislava businessman has been through is no easy task.

In the 1990s, Kočner and Michal Kováč Jr. were involved in the Technopol case, an alleged case of fraud in Germany, which eventually led to the abduction of the president’s son by the Slovak secret service to Austria. He ordered private security guards to take over the private TV Markíza just before the 1998 elections, in which the authoritarian Vladimír Mečiar struggled to hold on to power. He appeared in the case of the illegal waste dump in Pezinok, where his faked take-over of the company building the site helped its real owners gain time in their fight against the public and the authorities. He also appeared in the mafia files, which were leaked from the police.

Before last year’s elections, SaS boss Richard Sulík suffered a hard blow when footage from Kočner’s kitchen appeared on the internet, showing the former speaker of parliament sharing political secrets with the controversial entrepreneur. It remains unclear who installed the camera in Kočner’s air conditioning. He denies any involvement, but claims the state spy agency may have been responsible. And most recently, Kočner was a prime figure in the Glance House affair, in which former general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka helped him take control of some else’s apartment building.

All the stories illustrate two things – firstly, that the rule of law is not something Slovakia excels at. But secondly, that besides the written rules, there is a second line, one which is much more difficult to cross. The abduction of Kováč, the fight over Markíza and the waste dump in Pezinok all met with massive public resistance. Sulík is politically dead. And although Trnka has still not been charged and remains the number two man at the prosecution, which lacks a proper boss, he was not elected to the general prosecution’s council, a self-governing body. It proves that in the absence of proper legal proceedings and with prosecutors reluctant to voice any public criticism, the man has crossed an informal line and lost the support of his colleagues. In Slovakia, it’s not laws that matter. It’s whether people have the stomach for what you do.

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