News digest: One half of districts is following very strict pandemic measures

Court decision reveals details about war among the police. Problems surround another planned reform. Slovak film awarded in Chicago.

(Source: / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Catch up on the main news of the day in less than five minutes with the Monday, October 25, 2021 edition of Today in Slovakia. We wish you a pleasant read.

Court’s reasoning reveals details about war among the police

It took three weeks for the Bratislava Regional Court to publish the reasoning of its decision to release four investigators of the National Criminal Agency (NAKA) from custody, where they were taken due to the suspicions of manipulating the testimonies of cooperating witnesses.

The reasoning, obtained by the Sme daily, not only clearly states that the court saw no reason to prosecute the NAKA officers but also reveals more details on the suspicions they had about the work of the Bureau of Inspection Service, running under the Interior Ministry, which is the agency that pressed charges against the NAKA investigators.

At the centre of the suspicions is the head of the inspectorate’s team that pressed the charges, Diana Santusová. The Bratislava Regional Court did not comment on the suspicions, but backed the NAKA officers’ investigation of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency and the inspectorate as the right thing to do, Sme reported.

The court also questions the reasons given for taking the four investigators into custody by the lower instance court in mid-September.

The entire operation was considered a strong blow against the NAKA investigators in the so-called war among the police. Now it is up to the General Prosecutor’s Office to decide whether it will continue in the prosecution of the four NAKA investigators.

Reform of national parks to come later

The long-awaited national park reform in Slovakia will become effective later than originally planned. Instead of January 1, 2022, it will come into force only in April of next year.

The decision, announced by Environment Minister Ján Budaj (OĽaNO), came after the reform was criticised by Speaker of Parliament Boris Kollár, who threatened that his Sme Rodina party would withdraw its support to the reform, currently under discussion in the parliament, if it remains in its current form. He questioned, for example, the missing details on the changes to the zoning system and how the state wants to secure the transfer the state-owned lands under the management of the State Nature Conservancy of Slovakia (ŠOP SR).

The decision surprised several representatives of the ruling coalition, including PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO), who said on one political talk show held last weekend that if a certain line is crossed, he will no longer tolerate Kollár’s behaviour. The reason is that he has objected to three big reforms presented by the coalition – besides national parks, the party objects to the planned reforms of hospitals and courts.

Heger failed to specify this line.

Meanwhile, Budaj and Agriculture Minister Samuel Vlčan (OĽaNO nominee) signed a memorandum, which the former hopes will solve the problems voiced by Kollár.

For a deeper insight into current affairs, check out our Last Week in Slovakia, published earlier today. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

Coronavirus and vaccination developments

  • 993 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 3,854 PCR tests performed on October 24. The number of people in hospitals has increased to 1,144. Fourteen more deaths were reported on Sunday. The vaccination rate is at 45.28 percent, 2,490,447 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Altogether 10 districts switched to the black tier on Monday, meaning that they have to follow the strictest measures of the alert system, known as Covid automat. These are namely the districts of Bardejov, Čadca, Kysucké Nové Mesto, Levoča, Michalovce, Sabinov, Stará Ľubovňa, Stropkov, Svidník and Tvrdošín. Another 30 districts are in the dark red tier, meaning that they are applying quite strict measures as well. Another 27 districts are in the red tier and the remaining 12 (mostly in western Slovakia) are in the orange tier.
  • The conspiracy theories are significantly impacting the vaccination rate, as those prone to them are less likely to get vaccinated. This stems from a recent edition of the “How Are You, Slovakia?” poll carried out by the MNFORCE agency, Seesame, and the Slovak Academy of Sciences (SAV).

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Picture of the day

Slovak skier Petra Vlhová kicked off this year's World Cup season with third place in the opening women's giant slalom in Soelden, Austria. The race was won by US skier Mikaela Shiffrin, while Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland placed second.

Feature story for today

When Eastern Europeans in the USA, commonly referred to as “Hunkies,” an ethnic slur used until the mid-20th century, wanted to secure a better future for their children, they had to raise them as Americans, not Slovak Americans. Many parents therefore decided to eschew Slovak in front of their offspring. Yet, some people of the younger generations of Slovak Americans are now trying to learn Slovak.

Parents did not want them to speak Slovak, but “totally Americanised” old boys are giving it a try Read more 

In other news

  • Slovakia marks Equal Pay Day on October 25, a symbolic day to raise awareness that female workers still earn on average less than their male colleagues. From this day on, it is as if women in Slovakia work for free until the end of the year; it is three days less than last year. The gap between the salaries of men and women in Slovakia belongs to the highest in the EU; last year, it amounted to 17.8 percent in average nominal monthly wages, according to the Statistics Office data (€1,446 men vs €1,191 women).
  • The four people who died in Gent, Belgium early on Saturday (October 23) morning were Slovak citizens, as the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry confirmed. The ministry failed to provide more details.
  • Altogether 110 organisations from across the globe sent a letter to Slovak MPs, asking them to turn down regressive and harmful legislation proposals concerning access to legal abortions in Slovakia, and abstain from any further attempts to limit or breach the reproductive rights of women.
  • President Zuzana Čaputová has vetoed the amendment to the law on state service, claiming that it creates room to recall a state employee from a managing function without claiming a reason, i.e. due to a purely political decision.
  • Slovakia provided material humanitarian aid to Bosnia and Herzegovina, amounting to €36,000. In addition, it will soon start the training of social workers in the newly-established Lipa migration centre, situated near the city of Bihać.
  • The Slovak film 107 Mothers, directed by Peter Kerekes, received the Silver Hugo award for Best Director at the Chicago International Film Festival, held on October 13-24. “With a strong background in documentary filmmaking, Peter Kerekes brings his unique eye for authenticity to his first fiction film,” the jury said, adding that his unflinching presentation of institutional callousness is consistently cinematic, political and moral.

More on today

Direct flights to Dubai return to Bratislava Read more 

Writer of history: Dobrá voda Read more 

Man finds ancient grave and remains while digging foundation for garage Read more 

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