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Slovak Spectator 1722

Slovak Spectator 1722

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The Slovak Spectator is Slovakia's only English-language newspaper. It is published weekly and covers local news, culture and business.
The Slovak Spectator is Slovakia's only English-language newspaper. It is published weekly and covers local news, culture and business.

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Published by: The Slovak Spectator on Jun 12, 2011
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New highways plan tabled
MORE HIGHWAYS and betterroads have topped the wish-lists of investors and busi-nesses in Slovakia for the pasttwo decades. But despitepromises to build them com-ing from all sides of the polit-ical spectrum over the past 20 years, a cross-country high- way linking the western partof the country with the eaststillremainsunrealised.
ThegovernmentofRobertFico, which ended its term inofficein2010withoutdeliver-ing on its original highwaypromises, handed the chal-lenge on to the governmentof Iveta Radičová. Minister of Transport, Construction andRegional Development JánFigeľ has now tabled for in-terdepartmental review aplan for highway and dualcarriageway construction fortheperiod2011to2014.
The minister says theplan, which among otherthings assumes a completeconnection – with tunnels – between east and west bylate 2016 or early 2017, is real-istic. Ľubomír Palčák, direct-or of the Žilina-based Trans-port Research Institute(VÚD), says it can be de-livered if the state meets cer-tain conditions, for example byallocatingmoremoneyforhighway construction fromthestatebudget.But Figeľ’s predecessor asminister, Ľubomír Vážny,remains sceptical, arguingthat the government’s ambi-tions do not seem to haveappropriate financial cover-age, while tenders for high- way construction are notproperlyprepared.
benchmark as of  June 2
 AnnaBelousovová,oncethemostprominentrepresent-ativeoftheSlovakNationalParty(SNS), hasleftand willseektoestablishanewpoliticalparty.pg2
ChurchesaroundSlovakiaopenedtheirdoorstocuri-ousvisitorsontheeveningofMay27.Amongthem wereseveralinTrnava, wherecrowdsqueuedtoseesomeofthechurchs'hiddennooksandcrannies.pg15
Prosecutors forced toopen up by new law 
IN ORDERtoincreasepublicconfid-ence in the judiciary it will also benecessarytoshinemorelightontheprosecution process, Justice Minis-ter Lucia Žitňanská argued earlierthis year. The 76 MPs who voted onJune 2 for a revision to the law onprosecution seem to agree. Theyhave helped Žitňanská move onestep closer to her declared goal: bringing more transparency to theprosecution process, while openingituptogreaterpubliccontrol.The revision requires prosec-utors to publish their decisions onthe internet and also bans the sameperson from performing as generalprosecutor for more than one term.It also means that prosecutors willno longer be appointed by the gen-eral prosecutor but instead bepicked through a public competi-tion by a six-member selectioncommittee consisting of threepeople from the prosecution andthree from parliament, according totheSITAnewswire.
The revision has opponents,for example the opposition Smerparty, which argues that it opensavenues for interference in theprosecution department. Smeralso claims that the legislationhands too much power to thejusticeminister.
But the minister rejected theseclaims. “Neither the ministry northe justice minister will, based onthis draft law, have any authoritiesmaking it possible for them to in-terfere in any way in the operationof the prosecution – neither gener-ally in the system, nor in relationtoparticularcases,”Žitňanssaid.
 Vol. 17, No. 22
 Monday, June 6, 2011 - Sunday, June 12, 2011
of this issue
On sale now
On sale now
f this issue
Train strikecauses short
service halt
TRAIN operators turned their engines off for one hour at the end of May to expressdisagreement with the state’s plan to sortout the financial crisis affecting thecountry’sstrugglingrailwaycompanies.The state-owned passenger rail oper-ator branded the May 27 strike, which af-fected about 40 to 50 percent of passengertrains, as ‘an irresponsible act’ and said itlackedclearlyformulateddemands.
 Walking with pride,once again
LESBIAN, gay, bisexual and transgenderpeople, as well as supporters of diversity,planned to gather in Bratislava’s largestsquare on June 4 to demonstrate theirsolidarity and perhaps in some way repu-diatethetumultuousandtroublingexper-iences of a year ago when the first Rain- bowPrideParadewasheldinBratislava.
 As The Slovak Spectator went topress, the programme for 'the Pride', asSlovaks refer to it, called for opening ce-remonies and speeches in Hviezdosla- vovo Square by the event organisers, sev-eral members of the European Parlia-ment and foreign ambassadors who aresupportingtheevent.
  
MERwouldhavereceivedthevotesof47.1percentof SlovaksifaparliamentaryelectionhadbeenheldinearlyMay,accordingtoapollcarriedoutbytheFo-cuspollingagency,mean-ingthatSmerwouldhave beenabletoformagov-ernmentwithoutanyco-alitionpartners.FollowingSmer,accord-ingtothepollresults, were:theSlovakDemocrat-icandChristianUnion(SDKÚ)on12.2percent;theChristianDemocraticMovement(KDH)on9.5percent;theSlovakNation-alParty(SNS)on8.1per-cent;Most-Hídon6.1per-cent;FreedomandSolidar-ity(SaS)on5.2percent;theHungarianCoalitionParty(SMK)on4.7percent;andtheMovementforaDemo-craticSlovakia(HZDS)on3.4percent.
“Ourresearchidentified100cadremembersofthein-telligenceunitsofthe11th brigadeoftheBorderGuards,”IvanA.Petranský,thedirectoroftheÚPN’s board,saidasquotedbytheSITAnewswire.Theprincipalactivityof theseindividualswasspyingonpeoplelivinginCzechoslovakiaandprevent-ingthemfromfleeingabroad,sinceafter1948the borderswithGermanyand Austriawerethesitesofnu-merousescapeattempts.Manywhoattemptedtoflee wereshotdeadbytheborderpoliceorkilledbylandmines.
 AccordingtotheSmedaily,MilanLovich,cur-rentlyanofficialatSlovakia’sEnvironmentIn-spectorate,wasamemberoftheborderunitofthesecretpolice,theŠtB.Lovichsaidhehadnocomment,whileaspokes-manfortheEnvironmentInspectorate,MichalŠtefánek,saidLovichhadthebestqualificationsforhisposition.TheborderbetweenCzechoslovakiaandAustrianearBratislavawasalso‘protected’byanAustrianpubownerandbyAustriancustomsofficerswhore-ceivedmoneyforspyinganddeliveringpersonsbacktoCzechoslovakia,Smere-ported,writingthatacer-tainAustriancustomsof-ficerfromKittseeprovided165piecesofintelligencein-formationat52meetings withtheborderpoliceandreceived39,000Austrianschillingsinreward.
THEMUNICIPALcouncilof DiakovceintheNitraregionhasdrawnupalistofnamesofpeopleithaslabelled“problematicRomacitizens”inanattempttogetthem bannedfromenteringlocalpubs.Thecouncilaction, whichthelocalmayorve-toed,cameinresponsetoarecentviolentincidentatapubinthevillage,theSmedailyreported.
Thealtercationinthepubinvolvedfivelocalres-idents,age15to50,whoal-legedlyattackeda68-year-oldcustomer,leavinghim withheadinjuries.Whenpolicewerecalledtodeal withthesituation,a15-year-oldyoungmanpoin-tedagunatthemandthreatenedtoshoot.Fourpersonswerechargedwithdisorderlyconduct.
ThemayorofDiakovceandlocalcouncilmembersclaimthepolicemishandledtheinterventionandsub-sequentlywrotealettertopolicepresidentJaroslavSpišiaktocomplainabout whattheycalled“unbearableRomaproblems”inthevil-lage,Smewrote.“Intheeveningpeopleareafraidtoleavetheirhomes,it’snormalfor[Roma]tocarryknives,speakobscenelanguage,andtheyaremostdaringafterthey’vehadadrink,”anunnamedDiakovcecitizentoldSme.
“Theyget€60[amonth];ifyouhadsuchanincome, youwouldgostealingtoo,themayortoldSme.“It’seasytosaytheyshouldgotowork, butnobodywantsthem;thestatehasforgottenthem.”
CompiledbySpectatorstaff frompressreports
Nationalist politicianssplit up – again
SLOVAK nationalist politi-cians and their supporterscould be forgiven for experi-encingaspotofdéja-vuatthemoment. Anna Belousovová,once the most prominentrepresentative of the SlovakNational Party (SNS), has lefther party to establish a new political party based on whatshecalled“anon-xenophobicand non-confrontationalpatriotism”.
Heractionisanalmostex-actre-runofaprevioussplitinthe party a decade ago, a pois-onous spat which resulted inthe SNS and its splinter partylosing all their seats in par-liament for one election term. Apoliticalanalystsayshedoesnot expect the new party tohaveaverybrightfuture.
Belousovová and Rudolf Pučík, two of the nine mem- bers of SNS's parliamentarycaucus, announced on May24 that they were leaving thecaucus to become independ-ent MPs. They stated theirmembership in the caucusrecently had been only aformality as the caucus hadstopped invitingBelousovová to its sessionsand Pučík only sporadicallyreceivedinvitations.
The departure of the twoMPs from the SNS caucus pro- vokeddiscussionamongsomelawyers and parliamentariansabout the future of the SNScaucus in this parliament be-cause the applicable law sayseightMPsarerequiredfor cre-ation of a caucus. The Speakerof Parliament, Richard Sulík,announced that he had con-sulted with parliament’s law- yers who had concluded thatthe law does not specificallyauthorise the speaker to dis-solve a caucus with less thaneightMPs.
Three days after she leftthe SNS caucus, Belousovová,accompanied by Pučík, an-nounced she was starting apetition to found a new polit-ical party named Nation andJustice (NAS). The signaturesof 10,000 Slovak citizens arerequiredforapoliticalpartyto belegallyregistered.Belousovová said she be-lieves it is necessary for a newpolitical party to emerge inSlovakia, one that would be based on what she called “thecurrent civilised, democratic,non-xenophobic and non-confrontational patriotism”, which she said is represented by newly-emerging move-ments and parties in Europeand beyond: the Tea Partymovement in the US; the TrueFinns party in Finland; theParty of Freedom of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands;andnationalistpartiesinAus-tria and Switzerland that arecurrently on the rise in theircountries.“The leaders of the tradi-tional ruling parties and rep-resentatives of the UK, Ger-manyandFrancearerejectinglate-20th-century multicul-turalism and are speaking outloud about the need for newapproaches,Belousovoalsostated.
Political scientist GrigorijMesežnikov does not foresee a bright future even if NAS islegally established, believingthat it has little potential to become a relevant player ontheSlovakpoliticalscene.
LAW: Vote for GP challenged again
She argued that the prosecutionneedsto be underpubliccontrol,becausea system which is closed in on itself andfunctions without any control mechan-ismscannotfunctionwell.“The goal of the proposal is that theprosecution is no longer a mysterious in-stitution behind those heavy doors; in-stead it allows us to see how prosecutorsare selected and how they reachdecisions,”shesaid. Among other things, the revision re-stricts the possibility for so-called negat-ive orders, which in the past have madeit possible for senior prosecutors to ordertheir junior colleagues not to bringcharges or order them not to takesomeone into custody, and has even al-lowedthemtocompletelyhaltaprosecu-tion. From now on, if top prosecutorstake a case away from a subordinate they will have to publish a written explana-tionfortheirdecision. WhileŽitňanskáisconfidentthatthedeputies have approved a good law, PeterMuránsky of the Christian DemocraticMovement(KDH)saidthathewouldsigna proposal challenging the law at theConstitutional Court. Muránsky, whofirst criticised the law and then voted forit, said that he would wait for the de-cision of the presidential office. He be-lieves the law might be at odds with theconstitution,SITAreported.Smer leader Robert Fico accused theruling coalition of politicising the pro-secution in a way which is unpreceden-ted even by the standardsof the 1950s. Asan example he cited giving the justiceminister the authority to issue bindingordersinrelationtotheprosecution. Acting General Prosecutor LadislavTichý said that he is disappointed by theadoptionofthelawsinceinhiswordstheprosecution had “done the maximum topersuade deputies that passing the revi-sion in such a form would not be a goodthing”. Tichý said that it is unpleasantthat the development of the law on pro-secution has been linked to the ongoingprocess of selecting the general prosec-utor,TASRreported.
Tichý himself has become closely in- volved in that process. The ruling coali-tion went to considerable lengths overthe past six months to turn the secretmethodofvotingpreviouslyusedbyMPsto select the general prosecutor into apublic vote. But Tichý has now lodged achallenge against the public votingmethodwiththeConstitutionalCourt,in what appears to be another twist in anincreasingly complicated and politicisedsaga. Tichý, who got his job by default when the previous general prosecutor,Dobroslav Trnka, left office in February before MPs were able to choose a suc-cessor, has also requested that the courtissue a provisional ruling that would banMPsfromholdingapublicvote.Speaker of Parliament Richard Sulíkmeanwhile announced that a public votefor the position would nevertheless takeplace, inviting deputies to submit thenames of candidates by June 10 at 20:00.Sulík was quick to add that his call forcandidacies was not intended to pre-empttheConstitutionalCourt’sdecision.The court assigned the case to a judge onJune 1, meaning that a ruling could takeaslittleasaweek.“I do not consider the reasons in MrTichý’s proposal to be serious enough tostop us from holding the vote,” Sulíksaid,asquotedbytheSmedaily.Nevertheless,accordingtoSme,Sulíkhas not ruled out the possibility of asecret ballot, adding that it is still pos-sible to hold the vote in secret if 15 depu-ties request it and parliament backsthem.Trnka, whose bid to retain his posi-tion has been supported by the opposi-tion Smer party, failed to get enoughsupport in a secret ballot of MPs held onMay17.Theballotwasare-runofaprevi-ous secret vote held in December which was ruled unconstitutional by the courtafterachallengebyTrnka.By rejecting him, MPs apparentlyheeded a threat by Prime Minister IvetaRadičová to resign if Trnka, about whomshe has expressed strong reservations, weretoprevail.Trnka has not announced yet wheth-er he will run again for the post in anopenvote.Ficosaidthatifthevoteonthegeneral prosecutor was secret, his Smerparty would run Trnka again as its can-didate. Fico claimed that Sulík had madea mistake in announcing a vote without waiting for the verdict of the Constitu-tionalCourt,TASRreported.The candidate of the ruling coalitionisprosecutorJozefČentéš.
Belousovováwantsto foundanewpoliticalparty.
June 6 – 12, 2011
Gay rights still taboofor some Slovaks
THE COLOURS of the rainbow were due to shine over Bratis-lava on June 4 in the form of the Pride march, but the world had become slightlygreyer for Slovakia’s non-het-erosexuals a few weeks earli-er.Itwasthenthatgaypeopleliving in Slovakia came veryclose to getting an official body, working under the aus-pices of the government, tolook after their interests – butthe initiative to set up a com-mittee to do that ultimatelyfailed. And while politicianstend to use the unprepared-ness of Slovak society as a jus-tification for their timidity,the lesbian, gay, bisexual andtransgender (LGBT) com-munity insists that society is,in fact, ready for somechanges
.In March 2011, the cabinetdissolved several of its advis-orybodiesthecouncilforna-tional minorities and ethnicgroups, the council for NGOs,for seniors, for disabledpeople, for gender equalityand the committee of minis-ters of children. The agenda of these bodies was transferredtoanewly-establishedCouncilfor Human Rights, NationalMinorities and Gender Equal-ity. The new council then pro-posed that seven committees be created under its auspices,among them a committee ontherightsofnon-heterosexualpeople. But while the cabinetagreed to establish the othercommittees, it baulked at theideaofoneforgayrights.The decision, which someLGBT activists called an act of homophobia, was made onMay11,lessthanaweekbeforethe International Day AgainstHomophobia was markedaroundtheworld.
“We perceive it as a polit-ical decision,said RomanaSchlesinger, an LGBT rightsactivist from the non-gov-ernmental Queer Leaders For-um and a Rainbow Pride or-ganiser,addingthattheChris-tian Democratic Movement(KDH) made clear to all theparticipantsinthedebatethateither the statute of the newcouncil would be passed without the LGBT committeeoritwouldnotbepassedatall
.“We regard this commit-tee as being redundant, sincethe human rights issues of allcitizens are dealt with by theGovernment Council for Hu-manRights,NationalMinorit-iesandGenderEquality,”KDHspokesperson Matej KováčtoldTheSlovakSpectator.Rudolf Chmel, the DeputyPrime Minister for HumanRights and National Minorit-ies,whoproposedthecreationof the committee, arguedalongwithothersupportersof the idea that the committee would bring together repres-entatives of the communityand representatives of all theministries and be a platformfor experts to discuss issues,including related legislation, but also anti-discriminationpractices, educational pro-grammesanddatagathering.“I am convinced that it would be an advantage for allthose concerned to create aspace for the formulation of concrete solutions to improvethe life of the LGBTcommunity,” Martin Poliačik,an MP for the Freedom andSolidarity (SaS) party, told TheSlovak Spectator. His partypresented registered partner-ships as part of its electioncampaign for the 2010 parlia-mentaryelection,butfailedtoget them adopted as part of the coalition government’sprogramme.Most-Híd, the party of Deputy Prime MinisterChmel, considers the non-ex-istence of the committeeto beadeviationfromtheEuropeanstandard, “but not an insur-mountable problem that would fatally divide the cur-rent ruling coalition”, theparty’s spokesperson NoraCzuczorovásaid.Július Kolenič, a boardmember of the Inakosť (Oth-erness) initiative, remarkedthat such a platform wouldcost the state no money, butcould have helped signific-antlytoimprovethequalityof life of the LGBT community, which constitutes a consider-ableportionofthepopulation.“We regard this to be ahomophobic act by IvetaRadičová’s government, sinceother proposed committeeshad been created,” Kolensaid, hinting that the LGBTcommunityistheonlyminor-ity (based on grounds for dis-crimination as defined by theSlovakia's Anti-Discrimina-tionAct)nottoberepresented withinthecouncil.
“We do not believe thatSlo
 vak citizens are discrimin-ated against in any way basedon their sexual orientation,”KDH’s Kováč said. “If thesepeople suffer violation of their basic human rights,they have the possibility toturn to the existinginstitutions.”Most-Híd spokespersonCzuczorová, however, saidthattheinstituteofregisteredpartnerships, for instance,remains taboo in Slovak soci-ety despite the fact that inneighbouring countries likethe Czech Republic and Hun-gary it has existed for several yearsnow.“We are lagging behindour neighbours in Europeconcerning many legislativesolutions,SaS MP Poliačikadmitted, listing issues likeinheritance, common owner-shipofproperty,andaccesstohealth records in the event of illness or injury. “All thesethings concern the everydaylife of equal citizens of Slov-akia and we shouldbe dealing withthem.”
Despite the odds, Koleničsaid, support for the LGBTcommunity from the Office of the DeputyPrimeMinisterforHuman Rights and NationalMinoritiesisnowgreaterthanit was in the past. He citedconferences organised by theoffice and brochures that theyareplanningtoissue.
“But it’s still too little,” hesaid, adding that the com-munity is less than satisfied with the current position of the non-heterosexual minor-ity in society, the main fail-ure being the fact that onlyNGOs are keeping alive publicdiscussion on related topicsthrough events such as theRainbow Pride march or theInakoFilmFestival.
Politicians tend to excusetheir lack of action in thesphere of LGBT rights withthe argument that society isnot yet ready to accept somelegislative steps that wouldimprove the rights of non-heterosexual people in Slov-akia. But the LGBT com-munity itself dismisses thisas a false argument, sayingthatsocietyisbecomingmoreand more open and acceptingof people with other-than-heterosexualorientations. According to Schlesinger,there has been limited re-cognition by all govern-ments, regardless of theirideological basis, that thereis no room in terms of publicdebate about registered part-nerships of same-sexcouples, for instance, andthat expert discussion needstobelaunchedfirst.“Politicians keep talkingabout the need for public andexpert discussion, but theirdeeds are the exact oppositeof that – as seen from theirrecent decision to not estab-lish the LGBT committee within the government’scouncil,” Kolenič agreed,adding that there are partiesin the government unable tofree themselves from the“unjustified, panicked fear of losingvoters”.Paradoxically, Koleničsaid, most people in Slovakialong ago understood thathuman rights are no threat toanyone and that all people,including LGBT people, havetherighttoadignifiedlife.Schlesinger also said thatthecommunityfeelsachangein the perception of LGBTpeople among the majority,and added that research thatthe Queer Leaders Forumconducted a couple of yearsago showed that more thanhalf of Slovakia’s populationhas nothing against re-gistered partnerships, al-though there were still somenegative sentiments when itcame to the adoption of chil-dren.Sheputthisdowntothefact that this issue has beendiscussed for a much shortertimeinthepublicarena.“Theonlythingpeoplearemissing is information,Schlesinger said. “And if theyget the information, their view of things changes. Ourfeeling is that society is chan-ging and becoming muchmore open not only towardsotherness in sexual orienta-tionbutalsotowardsanyoth-erdifferences.”
LGBT: Policereadied for march
umanRights.”Theprogrammepreced-ingthemarchincludedsev-eralconcerts,headlinedbythewell-knownandopenlylesbianCzechsinger-song- writerAnetaLangerová.Despitefearsinspiredby violenceatlastyear’smarch,whenanti-gayex-tremistsattemptedtodis-rupttheparade,RomanaSchlesinger,oneoftheor-ganisers,toldTheSlovakSpectatorpriortothemarchthattheyexpectedabiggercrowdthanlastyear,whenanestimated1,000peopletookpart.
Securitymeasureswill betighterthanlastyear,in-cludingadoublingofthepolicepresencetoapprox-imately400officers.Theor-ganiserswillalsonotre-leasetheexactrouteofthePridemarchuntiljustbe-foreitbegins.
“Threealternativerouteshavebeenplannedandthedecisiononwhichtotake willbemaderightthereonthespot,”ĽubomírAn-drassy,thespokespersonof BratislavaMayorMilanFtáčnik,toldtheSmedaily.
Unlikelastyear,the re-cently-electedmayoristak-ingaleadinthesecuritymeasuressurroundingthePridemarch.Andrassysaidseveralothereventshave beencancelledinBratislavaonthatdaytomakesuretherewillbeenoughpoliceofficersonhandtomaintainpublicorderinthestreets.
MayorFtáčnik,whowaselectedtohispostinautumn2010,announcedthathewasplanningtojointhemarchaswell.Slovakia’sDeputyPrimeMinisterforHumanRightsandNationalMinorities,RudolfChmel,wasalsore-portedlyplanningtospeakatthePride,alongwithAus-trianMEPUlrikaLunacek whoattendedthegayprideparadelastyear.
FirstPride sawclashes
ThefirstRainbowPridegatheringtookplaceinBrat-islavaonMay22lastyear. Whenseveralhundredsup-portersoftheeventgatheredinHviezdoslavovoSquare,around100anti-gayprotest-ersattackedthegatheringbythrowingtear-gascanisters,rocksandeggsattheaudi-enceaswellasthespeakersonthestage.Inresponsetotheat-tacks,thePrideorganisersmodifiedtheirplans,includ-ingtherouteoftheirmarch.Thoughtheoriginalplan wastoparadethroughthestreetsofBratislava’sOldTown,thePrideparticipants woundupmarchingonlyfromthedowntownsquareacrosstheNewBridgethatspanstheDanubeRivertoashipanchoredonthesouth-ernbankwheretheystagedanafter-marchcelebration.
June 6 – 12, 2011

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