Opposition slams Smer MPs trip on government aircraft

The weekend trip of four female Smer MPs to St Petersburg on the government airplane has drawn criticism from several opposition politicians. On September 24, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) Chairman Richard Sulík called on Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška to publish information about the weekend trip. TV Markíza broke the news about the flight to Russia, with media speculating that the trip was actually a “hen party ride”.

The weekend trip of four female Smer MPs to St Petersburg on the government airplane has drawn criticism from several opposition politicians. On September 24, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) Chairman Richard Sulík called on Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška to publish information about the weekend trip. TV Markíza broke the news about the flight to Russia, with media speculating that the trip was actually a “hen party ride”.

“I also expect the Smer party to cover the costs involved out of its own pocket,” Sulík said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. The whole incident represents a failure of Paška, according to Sulík, as it is up to Paška to sign off on the use of the plane. Sulík added that an airplane ticket to St Petersburg on a commercial flight costs some €100-500, and thus the four MPs would have paid between €1,000-2,000.

“However, being all classy, the ladies from Smer decided to go on a trip worth €44,000 on the government plane. That’s outrageous!” Sulik said, rejecting an argument of Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák that the aircraft needs to fly in order to spend a certain required amount of hours airborne.

The Sme daily wrote that Jana Laššáková, Darina Gabániová, Anna Vitteková and Ľubica Rošková took the 19-seat YAK 40 plane.

The working trip to St Petersburg over the past weekend was planned for a long time, as Slovakia is commemorating the 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic ties with Russia and the 15th anniversary of opening the general consulate in St. Petersburg, Paška’s spokesman Pavel Chovanec told TASR. “The YAK 40 jet aircraft was used, as parliamentary vice-chair Jana Laššáková had protocol-related duties involving a visit from China. As a constitutional official, she's entitled to this manner of transport.” Paška said, as quoted by Sme.

Kaliňák was also unable then to quantify costs for the flight. “Parliament has its protocol-related rules,” he said. “We (the ministry) act only as a servicing organisation. A small jet is cheap, though. I can't say what the costs were, however, that could be done by the Parliament Office.” Kaliňák added that “small YAKs don’t fly much” and need to spend more time airborne, therefore, the ministry welcomes any opportunity to use the plane and can even envisage the aircraft being offered for use by the public

Opposition politicians also complained that the visit’s schedule and agenda had yet to be made public by September 24. Chovanec told TASR that the Slovak delegation was received by interparliamentary assembly of member nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States General Secretary Alexey Sergeev to discuss potential co-operation with international institutions such as the Parliamentary Commonwealth of the Council of Europe and plans to hold specialised international conferences on gender equality and females in top political and corporate posts.

(Source: TASR, Sme)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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