SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Čo bolo, bolo

NO PHRASE can ever sum-up Slovakia’s approach to corruption and political scandal better than: “Čo bolo, bolo.” (What was, was). It was used most recently by former Transport Ministry official Peter Havrila, who will not be tried for forging official documents with potential damages in the hundreds of millions of euros, but it has been applied throughout the country’s history.

NO PHRASE can ever sum-up Slovakia’s approach to corruption and political scandal better than: “Čo bolo, bolo.” (What was, was). It was used most recently by former Transport Ministry official Peter Havrila, who will not be tried for forging official documents with potential damages in the hundreds of millions of euros, but it has been applied throughout the country’s history.

Crimes of the communist regime, the wild privatisation and state terrorism of the 1990s, scandals of both the Dzurinda and Fico governments were left unpunished by those who succeeded them, and the key players often keep prominent public roles. Even supporters of the rule of law have often claimed that the state and society are not strong enough to deal with sins of the past, and that key focus should be on systemic improvements that prevent future wrongdoing, rather than on putting people in jail.

For sure, measures such as strict procurement legislation, the freedom of information act, and especially the privatisation of a large chunk of the public sector have brought significant improvement, as has EU membership. But still, isn’t it strange that Ľubomír Vážny, who, as minister of transport well-connected to the construction lobby, submitted the fake analysis on the building of highways isn’t sitting in prison, but at cabinet meetings as vice PM for strategic projects and European funds. Yes, the very eurofunds that Brussels has in great part frozen because of excessive abuse.

The lesson from this is that unless you deal with whatever was, what will be will be no different.

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