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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Komjatice

KOMJATICE has got to be a world leader in the number of agricultural policy experts per square foot. Before the Agriculture Ministry decided to shut down its website, journalists of the Sme daily counted as many as eight relatives and compatriots of minister Ľubomír Jahnátek in senior positions. Audits, eurofunds, communication, you name it. Komjatice and the Jahnátek family seem to have produced a suitable candidate to manage all sorts of fields.

KOMJATICE has got to be a world leader in the number of agricultural policy experts per square foot. Before the Agriculture Ministry decided to shut down its website, journalists of the Sme daily counted as many as eight relatives and compatriots of minister Ľubomír Jahnátek in senior positions. Audits, eurofunds, communication, you name it. Komjatice and the Jahnátek family seem to have produced a suitable candidate to manage all sorts of fields.

Although this example is a bit extreme, the Jahnátek case illustrates a widespread phenomenon foreigners need to be aware of if they really want to grasp the workings of Slovakia – we’re all family here. And this has several implications for how the society functions.

Firstly, social conflicts are rarely extreme. The era of Vladimír Mečiar, which ended exactly 15 years ago when he lost the parliamentary elections, was a rare exception. That was a time when people were being kidnapped, killed and expelled from parliament.

But the immediate post-Mečiar period meant a quick return to normality – no past crimes were prosecuted, and most oligarchs made a smooth transition and today stand behind the ruling Smer. And just a few years after Mečiar’s historic 1998 defeat, he was again a suitable coalition partner for major parties on the left and right. That is how things are when everyone knows everyone and everyone owes everyone.

The second impact this has is that policy issues and other abstract concepts, such as the rule of law, will always be less important than what’s good for the aunts, the cousins and the kids. Where do we send money from Brussels? Who will be appointed as a judge? Who will win this tender? All these questions are often answered based on personal rather than public interest.

Last week’s march in support of the family attracted tens of thousands of people, but it was somewhat of a waste of energy. The family is doing just fine in Slovakia.

Just go visit that one street in Komjatice, where you can meet half the staff of the Agriculture Ministry.

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