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Kiska: Reason, not fear in 2016

SLOVAKIA needs better health care and education systems and Slovaks should decide rationally about a government that will be able to deliver change on the domestic front, the country’s President Andrej Kiska told the citizens at the start of 2016 – a year that will see parliamentary elections.

President Andrej Kiska(Source: Sme)

The refugee crisis and Paris terrorist attacks that provoked emotionally-charged reactions among ordinary Slovaks as well as politicians did not affect Slovaks as much as neglecting domestic problems, Kiska suggested in his address that was broadcast by the public-service RTVS on January 1.

The main idea of the address was to appeal to the citizens to focus on real problems when making important political decisions and not decide based on some manipulated impressions, political analyst Grigorij Mesežnikov said, especially as regards the refugee crisis.

“There is still enough time for the March parliamentary elections to become a plebiscite on what needs to be done on the domestic front,” Kiska said, and called on the citizens to use the remaining time to focus attention on domestic needs and responsibilities.

“What is important for the country is how political parties are able to solve real problems and he named some of them,” Mesežnikov told The Slovak Spectator.

The president pointed out two concrete areas where, as he put it, “the neglect is most visible and which deserve discussion as a matter of priority”: health care and education.

Kiska focuses on hospitals and schools

Kiska noted that 3,000 more people die in Slovakia annually of curable diseases compared to the Czech Republic, while the two countries spend a comparable amount of money on health care. Health care in Slovakia is affected by “arbitrariness, systemic chaos, non-transparent interests, cronyism, and disorder”, he said, adding that the state has been failing to solve this so far.

“This begs the question of whether – against the backdrop of discussions about tightening our security – we actually know where the threat to the lives of our people really lies,” Kiska said.

As for education, Kiska noted that the society, the state and the country show no respect for the teaching profession. While in the past, the quality of Slovak primary schools was good and comparable with other countries, Slovakia now lags in international comparisons.

Fico talks security

In contrast to Kiska, Prime Minister Robert Fico in his statement on the Day of the Founding of the Slovak Republic (a national holiday Slovakia marks on January 1) maintained his rhetoric from the previous weeks and stressed national security as the major priority for the upcoming year and both the current government and the government that will emerge from the elections in March.

“I am sorry that public officials who carry responsibility for the security of the citizens of Slovakia underestimate the security aspect of the migration crisis,” Fico stated, noting that at the turn of this year several European countries passed “unprecedented security measures” in response to the threat of terrorist attacks.

Later, on January 5, Fico was more concrete and said that the president does not hold any responsibility for the security of the country. That responsibility lies with the government, and therefore the government has the right to take “relevant and concrete measures”.

Importance of EU Council presidency

Both the president and the prime minister mentioned Slovakia’s first presidency of the European Council that the country will assume in mid-2016 from the currently presiding country, the Netherlands.

“This demanding position will require governmental stability and experience,” Fico said, in line with the election campaign of his party that stresses stability and experience as the most important feature of a new government.

Kiska expressed a hope that as the presiding country Slovakia will contribute to Europe’s efforts to restore self-confidence in its ability to cope with challenges, including accelerating economic growth and ensuring effective protection of the EU’s external borders.

Kiska did not mention the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Mesežnikov noted. However, Kiska has expressed his opinion on this matter on several previous occasions and it is well known to the public, and therefore its absence in the New Year’s address is not problematic, Mesežnikov added.

Appeal for high voter turnout

The New Year’s address suggests Kiska will not advise citizens to vote for any specific party or candidate, Mesežnikov said, adding that such advice would in fact not be appropriate.

“He is a non-partisan president and he is sticking strictly with this principle,” Mesežnikov stated.

The New Year’s address, however, suggests that Kiska will appeal to the citizens to ensure a high election turnout, but will formulate it in such a way so as nobody would blame him for preferring any specific political parties or the attitudes they represent, Mesežnikov said.

“For many a voter the choice of whom to elect is not always ideal but what is always very important is that you should not give up on your right. Do not let others decide for you,” Kiska stated at the start of 2016, two months before the parliamentary elections.

Radka Minarechová contributed to this story

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