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Fico will not have to explain Žilina debt deal

Prime Minister Robert Fico will not have to speak to the Parliamentary Committee on Conflict of Interest the debt relief for the city of Žilina approved by the cabinet earlier this month.

Prime Minister Robert Fico will not have to speak to the Parliamentary Committee on Conflict of Interest the debt relief for the city of Žilina approved by the cabinet earlier this month.

The committee members from his ruling party, Smer, on October 21 unanimously rejected the motion to start proceedings against the prime minister and the cabinet, submitted by OKS party chairman Ondrej Dostál. The complaint concerned the cabinet resolution from October 8, adopted at its session in Žilina, which allowed the Žilina city hall to write off a debt €17.5 million.

“We want to help the city of Žilina; and here it shows how necessary it is to work together, how necessary it is that a mayor and head of a county have a connection to governmental structures or parliamentary structures,” Prime Minister Robert Fico said then, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “And we have here just such a link, the mayor is also an MP, but we also have a common political structure, which has allowed for making such decisions, otherwise these decisions would be very difficult to make,” said Fico. The debt came from the construction of a village in Krasňany built in connection to the project of Korean carmaker KIA Slovakia. Žilina Mayor Igor Choma is a member of Fico’s Smer party.

Dostál claimed that Fico and other members of his cabinet violated general conditions and limitations of public office required from them by law, and to punish them by a fine equalling their annual salary. Dostál argues that according to the law, “a public official is obliged to carry out his duties in a way to support and protect the public interest”. In exercising their public office, they cannot give priority to personal interest above the public interest. According to him, the cabinet with its decision concerning Žilina gave preference to the interests of the Smer party above the public interest.

Committee chairman Viliam Novotný (Slovak Democratic and Christian Union-SDKÚ) believes that this is a “classical case of what media refer to as party cronyism”. Novotný also pointed out that all governments in the past had a problem with party cronyism, but while right-wing prime ministers rejected it when it was uncovered and fought against it, Fico is changing views on the subject. “It’s not a sin anymore, but rather a virtue. The prime minister has elevated it to a virtue,” said Novotný, as quoted by SITA.

“If we’re going to deny the government’s interest to help any city, we’re against what is the government about," said MP for Smer Otto Brixi. By rejecting the opposition MPs’ initiative, the committee will not open proceedings on whether Fico and his cabinet violated the law or not.

(Source: SITA)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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