News digest: Blocked speaker’s desk, boos and protests. MPs discuss defence deal

General prosecutor not allowed to speak about defence agreement, while protest was held in front of the parliamentary building. Children of foreigners often struggle in schools.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Good evening. The Tuesday, February 8, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia is ready with the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

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US defence deal discussion disrupted

Following the signature of the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) by Defence Minister Jaroslav Naď (OĽaNO) and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington late last week, the parliament launched a discussion on the deal on February 8.

The reason is that the agreement needs approval by the parliament, and then be ratified by the president as well.

Yet, the session was accompanied by several disruptions, initiated mostly by the MPs representing the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS). They were blocking the speaker’s desk, holding the Slovak flag, and even became involved in an incident after two deputies of the junior coalition party Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) brought a Ukrainian flag.

The ĽSNS MPs were not wearing any covering on their faces, despite valid regulations requiring an FFP2 respirator when inside a building, and were booing and blowing whistles during the speeches of other politicians.

Meanwhile, General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka, known for his opposition to the DCA, wanted to address the deputies, recommending that they not support the deal. Yet, he was not allowed to speak.

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Nevertheless, his speech was delivered to journalists and later published on the internet. He claimed, among other things, that the interpretation clauses attached to the agreement by both Slovakia and the USA are insignificant, and even called the agreement on the stay of Soviet soldiers on the territory of Czechoslovakia after the 1968 invasion more advantageous than the current defence deal with the USA.

Outside the parliament, several hundreds of people gathered in protest against the DCA.


Struggles of foreigners' children in Slovak schools

The Sme daily talked to several foreigners living in Slovakia, whose children experience misunderstanding, isolation, bullying and trauma due to the language barrier.

The parents of these children, as well as experts and state institutions, are stressing that Slovak schools are not ready to educate foreigners.

“At one meeting, the teacher pushed us not to talk English with our daughter at home. She said that her Slovak is awful and we are to blame for that. We were shocked,” said an American and Slovak couple who live in a smaller Slovak town.

They and several others wanted to remain anonymous because they fear their children's situation could get even worse. They say that the teacher did not take into consideration that English is the only language of communication between father and daughter.

The official data says that while 10 years ago about 800 foreigners attended primary schools, today it is 3,700. This number is likely to increase, because more Ukrainians, Serbs and foreigners outside the EU are moving to Slovakia.

A state school inspection looked at the education of children of foreigners a year ago, coming to the conclusion that the current school system is not ready for such a challenge.


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Coronavirus and vaccination news

  • 19,240 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 36,874 PCR tests performed on February 7. The number of people in hospitals is 2,178; and 22 more deaths were reported on Monday. The vaccination rate is at 50.97 percent, 2,803,285 people having received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • Testing centres can carry out about 42,000 PCR tests a day; this limit has not been exceeded in the past weeks. There are more than four million antigen tests upon disposal as well, the Health Ministry said. Meanwhile, the Association of Private Labs reported that they conducted about 23,000-26,000 PCR tests a day, with their capacities being exhausted at 70-90 percent.
  • People who have been administered their first or second Covid vaccine dose abroad will be able to ask for the EU Digital Covid Certificate from Wednesday (February 9), the National Health Information Centre (NCZI) said. Here is a guide on how to request it.
  • The vaccination centre situated at the National Football Stadium in Bratislava will be closed in late February due to low interest in Covid vaccination. More than 350,000 vaccine doses have been administered there since last March.
  • The Poprad-Tatry airport is ready to offer help in the case of an unfavourable pandemic development. This includes providing its area to build a field hospital, logistics warehouses or offering spaces to test people.

Picture of the day

Even though it is still winter according to the calendar, the first snowdrops have appeared in Bratislava.


Feature story for today

Calls for increased efforts to find a diplomatic solution to de-escalate tension between Russia and Ukraine have materialised this week in a number of high-level ministerial visits in Europe. Slovakia's Foreign Minister Ivan Korčok (SaS nominee), who has stressed the need for a diplomatic solution, joined his Czech and Austrian counterparts on a trip consisting of three foreign affairs ministers to Ukraine on February 7 and 8.

Czechia's Jan Lipavský, Slovakia's Korčok and Austria's Alexander Schallenberg travelled to Kyiv and to the contact line in the east of the country to familiarise themselves with the situation regarding the lasting tension at the Russian-Ukrainian border, the press department of the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Read more in a report by Nina Hrabovská Francelová:

Slovak minister teams up for Ukraine visit with Czech and Austrian counterparts Read more 

In other news

  • The General Prosecutor’s Office has only partially accepted the complaint by the investigators of the National Criminal Agency (NAKA) elite team against charges brought against them last September. The office dropped charges just in a few cases, meaning that the investigators still remain under prosecution, despite an earlier decision of the regional court.
  • NAKA investigator again charged businessman Zoroslav Kollár and ex-director of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) intelligence agency, Vladimír Pčolinský, with corruption. The information was confirmed by Jana Tökölyová, spokesperson of the General Prosecutor’s Office.
  • The law enforcement bodies seized the property of prosecuted mobster Marian Kočner, worth some €15 million, in connection with the dubious transfers of hotels in Donovaly (central Slovakia). (Aktuality.sk)
  • Poland has introduced checks at its border with Slovakia following the huge amount of fuel transported from its territory. The police will be checking cars leaving from Poland to Slovakia; people will be allowed to have a full tank and no more than four 60-litre fuel canisters with them.
  • The Slovak Embassy in Ottawa reminded the public of the state of emergency declared in Canada’s capital due to continuing protests, and recommends that Slovaks reconsider their travel plans. Those already in Ottawa should be very careful.
  • The total export of goods amounted to €7.6 billion in December 2021, with a year-on-year growth of 18.5 percent. For the entire year of 2021, Slovak exports were record-high, rising by 16.3 percent, and exceeding pre-pandemic values by 10 percent, according to the Statistics Office.
  • The low-cost carrier Wizz Air restored regular flights between the Poprad-Tatry airport and London-Luton. The flights will be dispatched twice a week, with the first one scheduled for February 18.
  • The parliament will be discussing the largest petition for the strict protection of nature, containing more than 103,700 valid signatures. Initiated by the activists from the Vlk association, the petition is calling to reduce the protection regimes in protected areas down to two, setting the size of the strictly protected area at 10 percent the size of Slovakia, and allowing tourists to enter all protected areas.

More on Spectator.sk:

What does one eighteen-year-old Slovak have in common with Tom Holland? Read more 

Tabloids have body-shamed me for years, first Slovak Idol winner says Read more 

Road builders discover cave in Liptov region Read more 

If you have suggestions on how this news overview can be improved, you can reach us at editorial@spectator.sk.

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