TODAY IN SLOVAKIA

News digest: High-profile arrests and discussion on reopening schools continues

PM Matovič proposes pilot testing for schools. Slovakia will have the very first Slovak ambassador to the EU.

PM Igor Matovič has stepped into the debate about opening the schools for older children. (Source: TASR)

This is the Wednesday, December 2, 2020 edition of Today in Slovakia. Learn about politics, business, and other notable events of the day in Slovakia in less than five minutes. If you like what we are doing and want to support good journalism, buy our online subscription. Thank you.

NAKA continues arresting former high-ranking police officers

Following the arrests made during the Očistec (Purgatory) operation, which has seen several former top police officials including ex-Police Corps president Tibor Gašpar arrested, and the Božie Mlyny (Mills of God) operation, six more people ended up in handcuffs on the morning of December 2.

Titled Judáš (Judas), the operation targeted more former police officers, including the former head of the Office of Special Police Activities of the Interior Ministry, Jozef Rehák; former vice president of the Financial Administration, Daniel Čech; deputy director of the SIS intelligence service, Boris Beňo; and former head of the counterintelligence at SIS, Peter Gašparovič.

Former Police Corps president Milan Lučanský has been charged too, according to the Denník N daily. He has been called to police interrogation but has not been detained yet because he is reportedly en route from Croatia.

Related articleAnother former police president reportedly charged in a corruption case Read more 

Dispute over reopening schools continues

It still remains unclear whether children from grades five through nine of primary schools and secondary school students will return to in-person classes before Christmas.

Education Minister Branislav Gröhling announced after the December 1 meeting of the central crisis staff that they did not adopt his plan for the reopening of schools, and that he now has to work on a new one that should be submitted by December 23.

He claimed that it is not possible to test all schoolchildren and their parents, but suggested that they can open classrooms if at least 70 percent of the class is tested.

The plan has been criticised by several cabinet members, including the health and interior ministers.

There’s no time for political disputes, children need to return to school.

President Zuzana Čaputová

Even President Zuzana Čaputová has become involved, calling on the government to reopen schools as soon as possible. Despite the efforts of both parents and teachers, distance learning is not an adequate alternative to education, and a great educational debt is being created.

“It isn’t good news if pupils have to stay at home only because the government failed to find a common solution to this important problem,” the president wrote on Facebook.

Meanwhile, PM Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) has also stepped in, presenting his own plan on how to return children to classrooms as soon as next Monday.

Related articleOlder children will not return to schools before Christmas Read more 

Other coronavirus-related developments

  • The number of new coronavirus-positive cases has exceeded 2,000 for the first time since November 12. The labs identified 2,043 positive people out of 11,136 PCR tests carried out on December 1. 30 more people died.
  • Economy Minister Richard Sulík (SaS) has suspended the purchase of 16 million antigen tests, asking for a change in the government’s resolution. The prime minister originally asked for the first batch to be delivered by December 2.

State wins over Interblue Group

The Environment Ministry does not have to pay over €34 million to the Interblue Group company.

The Bratislava I District Court has dismissed the lawsuit submitted by the company on December 2. The verdict is not valid yet as the complainant can appeal.

Environment Minister Ján Budaj (OĽaNO) has welcomed the ruling, claiming that the whole scandal has entered the final phase, saying that the ruling shows the speculative nature of the lawsuit.

The legal dispute, which started back in 2016, involves the claims of the Interblue Group (Europe) AG company about the sale of free carbon dioxide emission quotas during the first Robert Fico (Smer) government.

Related articleSlovakia wins €34-million dispute in the emission sale scandal Read more 

Picture of the day:

Feature story for today:

Matovič could have made comments about the US rather than Mongolia

"That would be funny indeed," Billy Altansukh laughs at the idea of Slovak Economy Minister Richard Sulík trying to sell his anti-pandemic plan to the Mongolian government. He still talks about Mongolia as "back home," but at the same time he says "we in Slovakia." Altansukh has lived and worked in Bratislava since 1998. He is now a Slovak citizen.

His laugh fades when we speak about how his family in Mongolia is living through the pandemic, where people took the infection threat "dead serious."

Mongolians did not wait to record the first coronavirus case in their country, and as soon as the WHO reported a perilous virus was spreading in neighboring China, Mongolia sealed borders, closed schools, and cancelled the biggest festival, the February New Year's festivities.

Read more about how Mongolia is fighting the pandemic and what Altansukh's life in Slovakia is like.

Related articleMatovič could have made comments about the US rather than Mongolia Read more 

In other news

  • Petra Vargová, who currently works in the European affairs sector of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, will become Slovakia's new permanent EU representative in January 2021. She will be the first woman to hold this post.
  • The Supreme Court has sentenced Miroslav Marček, who confessed to shooting investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová to death, as well as entrepreneur Peter Molnár, to 25 years in prison. The Specialised Criminal Court originally sentenced him to 23 years in prison.
  • The parliament has adopted an extensive amendment to the law on income tax. It proposes to introduce new measures to fight tax evasions and extend the benefits for taxpayers, and cancelled the tax bonus of 13th and 14th salaries.
  • Jaguar Land Rover will launch the production of its Discovery and Defender models in a hybrid version. (Hospodárske Noviny)
  • Slovakia supports a strong NATO ready for the challenges of the future decade, said Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Ivan Korčok on the first day of a two-day meeting of NATO foreign affairs ministers. He also labelled Russia a security challenge for both NATO and Slovakia.
  • Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) has completed the purchase of airport radars worth €23 million, which was launched by the Slovak National Party (SNS). Only one company, the Czech producer from Pardubice, submitted a bid.
  • The Interior Ministry plans to launch the new register of non-governmental organisations on January 1, 2021. It should replace the current individual registers and lists of non-governmental organisations.
  • The cabinet has approved the allocation of €575 million to eliminate the debts of hospitals. The proposal still needs to be passed by the parliament.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) should be removed from the list of psychotropic substances, according to the Health Ministry’s proposal approved by the cabinet. This step might have a positive impact on the cosmetic industry, according to the ministry.

Also on Spectator.sk:

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