Coronavirus number higest since April, epidemiologists will convene on Monday (news digest)

Read the July 9 overview of news from Slovakia.

PM Igor MatovičPM Igor Matovič (Source: Government's Office via SITA)

This is your overview of news from Thursday, July 9, 2020. We prepare Today in Slovakia every day to bring you an overview of the most important events happening across the country. To have a full access to our stories, please, buy our online subscription. Thank you for your trust and for being our reader.

Controversial businessman Bödör taken into custody

The Supreme Court has taken Norbert Bödör into custody after its July 9 public session.

Related articleCorruption suspect with alleged ties to Smer and Kočner taken into to custodyRead more 

On July 5, it accepted the complaint of the prosecutor against the earlier decision of the Specialised Criminal Court which released Bödör, an alleged Smer sponsor who has been in contact with mobster Marian Kočner according to the Threema messages found on the latter’s phone during the investigation of the Ján Kuciak murder.

The decision is now valid.

Bödör faces charges of money laundering in the Dobytkár (Cattle Breeder) case, one of the largest corruption affairs in Slovakia’s history involving suspected bribes and money laundering worth more than €10 million.

New coronavirus cases on the rise

Slovakia has seen its highest increase in the number of new coronavirus-positive cases since April 22. As many as 53 people out of 2,284 tested on July 8 were positive.

The most positive cases occurred in the Prešov district (12), followed by the districts of Bratislava and Čadca (nine each), and Košice and Trebišov (five each). The new cases were mostly people in contact with others who are infected or they were imported from abroad, according to the Public Health Authority (ÚVZ).

PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) has hinted that the current measures may be toughened up.

“Unfortunately, the number is too high to continue relying solely on the responsibility of people,” he wrote on Facebook.

Related articlePM Matovič hints at stricter measures after coronavirus cases surgeRead more 

The council of epidemiologists will convene on Monday and decide whether the measures will be tightened again. Matovič told journalists at his press conference in the evening that the most likely measures, if they are to be taken, will concern mass events.

The Health Ministry said that the situation is under control, and the regional ÚVZ branches know about the hot spots and is monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, of the 200 samples taken from the nursing home in Trenčín, whose employees and clients had to be isolated, 134 were negative.

The Justice Ministry presents its planned reform

Justice Minister Mária Kolíková has introduced the long-awaited reform of the judiciary. The draft constitutional law proposes changes to the Judicial Council and the Constitutional Court, the introduction of a new Supreme Administration Court, and also checks on property disclosures.

Related articleChanges to top judicial bodies take concrete shape as minister introduces reformRead more 

The reform also introduces age caps for judges.

“It is a crucial change for the Constitution which means the reform of important judicial institutions,” Kolíková said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

The reforms will now be submitted for interdepartmental review, and will require a constitutional majority (i.e. at least 90 votes) to be adopted by the parliament.

“Kilečko” passed

The parliament adopted a package of dozens of measures aimed to support the business environment in Slovakia, known as “kilečko”. The package was prepared by 10 ministries, with the Economy Ministry and its head Richard Sulík (SaS) taking patronage.

It contains several measures to simplify doing business in Slovakia, including the cancellation of the bank levy. Most measures should not burden the state budget and can be implemented very quickly.

It was supported by 91 of 142 MPs present.

In other news

  • The Defence Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry are to prepare a brand new security and defence strategy by the end of this year. The security strategy should set basic parameters for security policy and define the values and interests of Slovakia. The defence strategy should deal with the state’s security to maintain its safety. The current documents are more than 10 years old and need to be updated to reflect the current international and geopolitical situation. The preparation of the new security strategy caused tensions in the previous government, as some members of the then-ruling coalition disagreed with the wording.

The bridges are the first to be blown up in conflicts. Slovakia cannot be a bridge as it belongs somewhere.

Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok

  • The non-parliamentary Spolu party has submitted a criminal complaint against the pollution in the Istrochem plant in Bratislava. Its representatives referred to the results of an analysis of water taken from the well close to the chemical company that confirmed the presence of harmful chemicals.

  • Although the May foreign trade numbers improved compared with the previous month, they still suffer from the impact of the measures adopted to stop the coronavirus from spreading. The total export of goods amounted to €4.5957 billion, down by 33.9 percent year-on-year, while the total import of goods went down by 35.8 percent y-o-y to €4.3961 billion. The foreign trade balance was in surplus, amounting to €199.6 million, up by €94.3 million compared with last year, the Statistics Office data shows. The coronavirus pandemic will continue affecting the numbers in the coming months, even though observers expect some improvement.
  • The cabinet has approved changes to this year’s state budget. The deficit is expected to increase by €9.2 billion compared to the original plans, while total state expenditure should rise by nearly €7.8 billion. The changes are in response to the current coronavirus pandemic, and the drop in tax and non-tax incomes, the Finance Ministry explained.
  • Ryanair will restore flights between Košice and Prague on August 2, operating twice a week. Passengers need to observe strict hygiene measures.
  • Czech private carrier RegioJet will dispatch trains from Bratislava to Croatia and Slovakia on a daily basis, starting on July 10. It will also introduce so-called silent coaches for passengers who want to rest without being disturbed, and increase the space for transporting bicycles to 30 per train.
  • The Slovak Hydrometeorological Institute (SHMÚ) issued warnings for July 10 and 11. The first-level warning against high temperatures will be in place for southern Slovakia between 11:00 and 18:00 on July 10, with temperatures in some areas being as high as 34 degrees Celsius. The first-level warning against storms was issued for almost all Slovakia on July 11, except for the Bratislava Region, Trnava Region and several districts in the Nitra and Žilina Regions. It will be in place between 12:00 and 24:00.
  • The European Commission started infringement proceedings by sending a letter of formal notice to Czechia, Cyprus, Greece, France, Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Slovakia on the grounds that their national rules infringe EU law on consumers’ and travellers’ rights. They are all criticised for introducing travel vouchers for cancelled trips, instead of reimbursing people's money. However, under EU law, passengers have the right to choose between reimbursement of money and other forms of refund, such as a voucher.
  • The prices of flats and houses in Slovakia grew by 13.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020. It was the second quickest growth in the EU, after Luxembourg with 14 percent. Third was Estonia with 11.5 percent, followed by Poland with 11.3 percent and Portugal with 10.3 percent. The only EU country where real estate prices dropped was Hungary, by 1.2 percent.

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