Matečná to temporarily head Education Ministry

Resulting from the coalition crisis and the ensuing resignation of Education Minister Peter Plavčan, the ministry has been left without a leader just as the new school year begins.

Agriculture Minister Gabriela MatečnáAgriculture Minister Gabriela Matečná (Source: SITA)

President Andrej Kiska will task Agriculture Minister Gabriela Matečná (a Slovak National Party/SNS nominee) to temporarily lead the Education, Science, Research and Sport Ministry as of September 1. Kiska will do so as soon as he receives the resignation of the current Education Minister Peter Plavčan – also an SNS nominee – on August 31. The President's Office informed the TASR newswire that Plavčan will not take part in the act in person.

He is leaving his post after Prime Minister Robert Fico called on him to do so on August 16. The PM asked the SNS leader, Andrej Danko, to give him the name of a new minister as soon as possible. Danko has not yet done so.

Since early July, the ministry has been criticised for the distribution of EU-funds for research and innovation, as subsidies were provided to companies that had never done research before. Later, the European Commission suspended payments for four project calls organised by the ministry and also banned the ministry from inking new contracts with subsidy applicants. The distribution of European Funds is being looked into by the European Anti-fraud Office, as well as the National Criminal Agency.

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The opposition has been demanding Plavčan's removal ever since the scandal erupted. The circumstances also contributed to the government crisis and the SNS' decision to unilaterally withdraw from the coalition agreement.

Reactions to the appointment

The President's decision to appoint Matečná will in no way harm the situation in the education sector, head of unions in education Pavel Ondek said, as cited by the SITA newswire, after the August 30 session of the Council of Unions of School and Education Employees in Slovakia (OZPŠaV). He added that Plavčan has been the 18th education minister since 1990, which makes an average span in function for such ministers about 18 months. It is not a good sign – neither for teachers and professors, or for students, or for the public, as it shows there is no stability in the education sector, he noted.

Matečná wants to calm down the situation at the ministry but has no plans to make any changes, TASR wrote, citing her. “I am not a person who would like to make changes – and I am not even expected to make any changes or fundamental decisions,” Matečná noted, adding that normal everyday functioning of the ministry must be secured.

It is not clear who will make the traditional address at the beginning of the new school year on September 4, Education Ministry State Secretary Peter Krajňák (of Most-Híd) said on the same day, as quoted by TASR. In this connection, he mentioned that both he and the second state secretary, Oľga Nachtmanová (of Smer) are both prepared to take over this task but usually, it is the minister or the deputising minister who does so.

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