I've attended the last two Friday gatherings here in Lučenec and whilst emotions are understandably running high there seems to be a little uncertainty over the scale of the change necessary right now. These are my reflections.
The chance for a new optimistic future is here for the taking. People are angry and, from what l can see, rightly so. I think the appetite for change has always been there but history has bred a pessimistic outlook and a reluctance to voice this publicly.
Surely Slovakia is now beyond this.
Belief that change can happen needs people to trust in those that will be in a position to lead and deliver that change. But as Einstein said 'no problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it'. If external views help to focus on the scale of change just look at two very recent EU reports.
The EU country report for Slovakia (published 7 March 2018) states:
Corruption remains one of the main barriers to doing business in Slovakia. According to the World Economic Forum (2017), corruption is the most problematic factor for doing business. Out of 137 countries surveyed, Slovakia ranks 117th with a score of 2.5/7 on the diversion of public funds, 130th on favouritism in decision-making (1.9/7) and 79th on irregular payments and bribes (3.7 /7), placing it among the worst performers in the EU.
The second is the report by the European Parliament delegation following last weeks visit. We expect the EU to stand for raising and maintaining standards for all its members. They have a golden opportunity to take a positive role in Slovakia. To be specific they could lead by acting firmly and decisively over the misuse of EU funds. Their report should make the blood boil. Taking just a short section from their Key Findings, it would surely be hard for the current government to produce credible responses. Judge for yourself though, this is what they said:
....the delegation was confronted with the following affirmations made by the representatives of the civil society:
- allegations for corruption are not being followed-up and do not lead to sentences;
- whoever is in power will steel [sic], notably the EU money because in Slovakia there are no other assets;
- “organized structures” are working on the EU funds in Slovakia, they are connecting to people who select the programmes and some people get the money without having anything to do with the land; serious criticism in this regard has been expressed in a report by the supreme audit office on the functioning of the agricultural paying agency;
- EU funds have always been seen as a gift and as a package of money which goes to oligarchs;
- some groups are organized to live on EU funds, they know how to get the money before even the calls for tender are being made;
- EU funds are a major opportunity for corruption which is seen as risk free since in the worst case the money has to be paid back, but no other sanction is to be feared;
- the EU money is seen as a means to reward people close to the ruling party;
- EU funds for the media have entailed considerable competitive advantages for the owners of certain media.
Now must surely be the time for the younger generation. For instance, look at France. Emmanuel Macron was 39 when he became President last year and a year before that the party he leads didn't even exist.
So, where's the Macron of Slovakia?
Alan Gillman is an Englishman currently living in Lučenec. He shares his views and experiences of living in Slovakia here occasionally as well as on his Facebook page.
18. Mar 2018 at 11:42 | Alan Gillman