She served as the right-hand woman of minister Lucia Žitňanská, now she returns to the Justice Ministry as the minister. Mária Kolíková has a clear idea of what changes the Slovak judiciary needs.
Since the Búrka (Storm) police action, we have seen the resignations of judges en masse, but there has also been a wide support for the statement of Trnava judge Martin Smolko, who said that the media and politicians are ruining the reputation of judges.
Mária Kolíková (MK): I think statements like this do not help the judiciary. It would be more helpful now if there were voices like "we perceive that mistakes have been committed among us and it is important to take steps for the public to trust us again". And also, to say what steps and changes should happen. We see that it is not just one isolated case. It is dozens of cases that cannot leave us cold.
What do you want to do about it as minister?
MK: All these things need to be investigated so that the public understands what happened too. People must see what steps have been taken in places where suspicions occurred, what has been confirmed and how the persons in question were punished.
All this must happen at the appropriate time. Another thing is that it is not enough to investigate just these cases. People need to see that when they come to court and have a judge handle their case, that judge is not corruptible. The question is which tools can be used, how to secure this and not threaten the independence of the judiciary in the process.
Which tools do you think can be used?
MK: We need to look at the property of judges first. We need to focus on things we already have at our disposal - the judges' property returns.
Who should audit the property returns? The Judicial Council, which has done it so far?
MK: Yes, I think that is a body that has everything it takes to do this job.
Experience shows the Judicial Council does not have the time to do it in detail. The audit of the property returns has always been rather formal.
MK: I don't think they cannot manage time-wise.
Even with the corruption in judiciary suspicions that have been reported in the media the council could have acted faster and draw disciplinary responsibility. It is similar with property returns. There's enough space for the council to work with them more effectively and faster.
They could focus on the circumstances that are remarkable, to say the least, like big gifts. They should summon the judges who got them and ask about it.
For instance, the head of the Judicial Council, Lenka Praženková, has an apartment worth half-a-million in a new development under Bratislava Castle, as well as luxury cars and one car that she won. Will that be a reason for a further check-up?