Good evening. Welcome to the Monday, March 28, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia with the main news of the day in less than five minutes.
Interior minister criticised for handling the refugee crisis
The Interior Ministry has faced criticism for mishandling the refugee crisis at Slovakia’s eastern border since the war in Ukraine started. Volunteers helping at the border voiced objections on the management of the crisis and they often said that the government was somewhat invisible at the border.
The Interior Ministry has taken over the management at the border, but they now have to explain why a private company got involved. Critics of Minister Roman Mikulec (OĽaNO) said that the state transferred the management of the crisis to the hands of a private company. They also cite alleged links to the senior coalition party OĽaNO.
The minister stated he does not agree and explained that the main reasons for choosing a private company in establishing the large-capacity crisis centre in Michalovce included the emergency situation, the shortage of time, the lack of government material and personal resources, as well as its ability for immediate readiness.
The opposition will attempt to remove Mikulec from his seat anyway. The session is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, March 30.
The coalition partners will also ask Mikulec questions.
New large-capacity centre opens in the capital
Refugees from Ukraine coming to Bratislava can now use the new large-capacity assistance centre on the premises of the temporary bus station on Bottova Street, just opposite the Nivy bus station.
Administered by the city of Bratislava in cooperation with the state, non-governmental organisations and private sector, the centre will operate nonstop and provide complete assistance to refugees. This includes health, legal, psychological and social aid.
Moreover, refugees will find food, as well as information, a space for relaxation, and points to process necessary documents, including the agenda managed by the Foreigners’ Police, and a children's play area.
The new centre is expected to serve up to 2,500 people a day.
Refugees from Ukraine
- Altogether 657 men, 1,816 women and 954 children crossed the Slovak-Ukrainian border on March 27; 673 persons applied for temporary protection. In total, 282,886 people from Ukraine have crossed the border, while 54,585 applied for temporary protection and 163 for asylum, according to the Interior Ministry’s data.
- President Zuzana Čaputová is ready to sign the Lex Ukraine law today, after being promised that the law will not be used at the expense of poor people. On Friday, she said that she had not signed the legislation, approved by the parliament on March 23, claiming that people from Slovakia should be protected from having their rental contract terminated.
- The national postal service operator Slovenská Pošta is offering the possibility of sending a package with humanitarian aid to Ukraine for free. The packages may be a maximum of five kilograms and “humanitarian aid” must be clearly written on it; the maximum value of the goods in the package can be €50.
- Psychologists from the IPčko civic association have provided 17,000 psychological first aid services at the Slovak-Ukrainian border since February 27; this included 10,800 professional crisis interventions, counselling and interviews. Altogether 27 psychologists from the civic association and another 11 psychologists have offered their help.
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Picture of the day
The demolition work on the Istropolis culture and congress centre close to the centre of Bratislava continues. Its owner, the developer Immocap, announced that it acquired valid permission to remove the building in mid-January.
Feature story for today
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted Slovakia’s dependency on Russian natural gas and the need to search for alternatives. These may not just be gas from other sources but low-carbon gases, which would in turn accelerate decarbonisation.
Read an interview with Richard Kvasňovský, executive director at the Slovak Gas and Oil Association (SPNZ), who talks about the possibilities of reducing Slovakia’s dependency on Russian gas, the future of the gas transmission infrastructure in Slovakia, as well as making the gas industry greener.
In other news
- Russia has announced that three Slovak diplomats will be expelled; they now have 72 hours to leave. This is a response to the earlier decision of Slovakia to expel three Russian diplomats following an espionage scandal. The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry considers this step to be unfounded, claiming that unlike their Russian counterparts, Slovak diplomats strictly observe the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and diplomatic habits.
- 2,778 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 5,690 PCR tests performed on March 27. The number of people in hospitals is 2,206; and 22 more deaths were reported on Sunday. The vaccination rate is at 51.27 percent, and 2,819,649 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
- The Russian invasion of Ukraine will most likely cut down the rate of Slovakia’s economic growth this year from the originally predicted 3.5 percent to 2.1 percent, according to a recent macroeconomic prognosis published by the Institute for Financial Policy (IFP), which runs under the Finance Ministry. The growth forecast for 2023 remains at 5.3 percent.
- Slovakia’s Armed Forces are setting up air defence systems, particularly near the eastern border. At the same time, the Patriot air defence system is already protecting a strategic part of central Slovakia, said Štefan Zemanovič, spokesperson of the Slovak Armed Forces.
- The parliament will vote on the Construction Act and the new court map, which is part of the judicial reform, on Wednesday, March 30. The adoption of the latter is crucial for Slovakia to receive money from the first package of the EU recovery fund.
- Jozef Pikna will join Ružena Sabová and Rastislav Stieranka in the Specialised Criminal Court panel to deal with the case involving the double murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, and the planned murder of two then prosecutors and a then lawyer. The court also set new dates for the proceedings; the next one will take place on April 14.
- Bratislava airport will offer a new flight connection to Zagreb in Croatia and a renewed flight connection to Sicily and Dalaman in Turkey as part of its summer flight schedule, valid as of March 27 until the end of October 2022.
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