News digest: Court orders Smer MP to stop lying about president

Big changes for universities in Slovakia. Politicians pay tribute to Madeleine Albright.

(Source: SME.sk / Hej,ty)

Good evening. Here is the Thursday, March 24 edition of Today in Slovakia, giving you the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

Court tells MP Blaha to stop spreading lies about President

He called the president a traitor and a foreign agent. The Bratislava I. District Court has ordered MP Ľuboš Blaha (Smer) to stop spreading lies about President Zuzana Čaputová.

"The court ordered him to refrain immediately from releasing and publishing false information that I was a traitor, an agent of foreign countries or a puppet of the United States," the president wrote about statuses published at Blaha's Facebook page. "At the same time, the court ordered Blaha to remove these claims from dozens of his posts within three days of receiving its decision."

Noting she had held back from using legal means to defend herself for some time, she wrote: "But in the case of MP Blaha, it is not criticism, but lies and personal insults."

The verdict is not yet final, said the Taylor Wessing law firm, which represented the president, adding that both parties can appeal.


Big changes ahead for universities

Slovakia moved a step closer to receiving money from the first €458 million EU recovery fund package as an amendment to the Higher Education Act was approved on March 23. MPs voted for several changes to universities in Slovakia, including to the powers of university management boards and academic senates, the election of rectors and the length of external study courses.

The Education Ministry says systemic change in their management will modernise universities. The ministry also wants to make decision-making processes at schools more flexible.

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The changes will come into effect on April 25, despite repeated protests from universities.


War in Ukraine

  • A large-capacity refugee assistance centre will open in Bratislava on Monday. It will be located at the former temporary main bus station on Bottova Street.
  • A new website has been established for Ukrainians who want to work either in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, or Poland. Workania.eu gathers together all verified job ads suitable for Ukrainians from Slovak, Czech, and Polish web portals.
  • Czech MPs approved a proposal to send Czech troops to Slovakia to command a NATO unit. The Senate gave its approval last week. A total of 650 soldiers will arrive to become part of a 2,000 multinational unit to be based near Zvolen.
  • NATO leaders approved the deployment of four new battle groups to Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania.
  • National carrier ZSSK scrapped evacuation trains from Ukraine to Bratislava, citing low numbers of Ukrainian passengers. The evacuation train regularly left Košice at 2:30 and arrived in Bratislava at 7:52. The service will be re-introduced if and when interest is much higher.

Photo of the day

Slovak politicians pay tribute to former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.

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"A Czechoslovak by birth & a true American patriot, Madeleine Albright played a key role in our transformation from those from behind the Iron Curtain to people living & promoting freedom & democracy. Our region was always in her heart & she’ll always be in ours. R.I.P. Madlenka," wrote President Zuzana Čaputová.

PM Eduard Heger wrote that he was very saddened by the tragic news. "Madeleine was a bridge between the former Czechoslovakia & the United States. She understood our desire to become a member of a democratic world & she significantly helped us to achieve this. We'll honor her memory & keep her legacy alive."


Feature story for today

Two years have passed since the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO) party led a new coalition into government in Slovakia.

The time has been largely dominated by the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to end it through vaccination. But just when it seemed the threat of the pandemic might be about to recede, the war in neighbouring Ukraine began, leaving Slovakia scrambling to handle the refugees fleeing across its border.

Government at midterm: Some anti-corruption achievements, but coalition could have done more Read more 

In other news

  • 9,649 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 18,588 PCR tests performed on Wednesday. The number of people in hospitals is 2,285. 24 more deaths were reported on Wednesday. The vaccination rate stands at 51.26 percent, 2,819,419 people have received a first dose of a vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The Appeal Senate of the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by ex-ministers for the Slovak National Party, Marian Janušek and Igor Štefanov, in the case of the 'bulletin-board tender'. Janušek and Štefanov are serving 11 and nine-year jail sentences, respectively. They were convicted in 2018.
  • The largest employer in Spiš, Embraco Slovakia based in Spišská Nová Ves, is planning layoffs. The firm, which manufactures compressors for residential and commercial refrigeration, has blamed lower demand for compressors. It is expected that 40 employees will be affected.
  • The former chair of Slovak National Party (SNS) and ex-mayor of Žilina, Ján Slota, has been accused of bribery. He was detained on Thursday morning by police. (Markíza)
  • The Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party submitted a motion to ban the Russian motorbike gang Night Wolves in Slovakia and the civic association Museum of Historical Vehicles Trnava with its offices in Dolná Krupá. The party said that their activities could pose a security risk for Slovakia. There is also a civic protest to stop this group.
  • People applying for sick leave from work will not get paper confirmation anymore, but an electronic form instead, under an amendment approved by parliament. The new system will be implemented gradually.
  • Dominant domestic electricity producer Slovenské elektrárne plans to build a photovoltaic power plant on the original sludge bed in Zemianske Kostoľany. They want to use the electricity produced in the production of so-called green hydrogen in the area of the Nováky Power Plant.
  • National carrier ZSSK has said there will be delays to two trains due to the switch to daylight saving time this weekend. Two trains will arrive on Sunday, March 27, an hour later than scheduled: R614 Tatran Zemplín which leaves Humenné at 21:54 with a scheduled arrival in Bratislava at 5:49, and R615 Tatran Zemplín which leaves Bratislava at 22:57 with a scheduled arrival in Humenné at 6:33. International trains will be also delayed.

Do not miss on Spectator.sk today

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

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