“Enough! Shame! You won’t get away with this!” – these slogans are shouted by Slovaks to their prime minister and his government. Robert Fico plans to reform the justice system, but protesters talk about dismantling it, the aim of which is to ensure impunity for the populist government. What exactly is this plan and what is the prime minister accused of not only by his opponents?
Slovaks are now experiencing what Poles experienced a few years ago. In recent days, they have been taking to the streets to defend the rule of law. – If I stay at home on the couch, nothing will change. I can’t pretend it doesn’t concern me. I cannot accept such actions of the government, says 44-year-old Janka. – The fight that we are starting today here in this square is a fight over which side of history Slovakia will stand on – emphasizes Magda Vasaryova, actress and former Slovak ambassador to Poland.
This is the government of Robert Fico, who has already been Prime Minister of Slovakia several times. At the end of September, his SMER party won the parliamentary elections and formed a coalition government. For several years now, Fico has been openly expressing anti-Ukrainian and pro-Moscow views, and now one of his government’s flagship projects is the liquidation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office fighting corruption. – I was surprised by the speed and brutality with which the government began to dismantle the rule of law. To take revenge and ensure impunity, they will destroy our rule of law, says Michal Simecka, leader of the opposition party Progressive Slovakia.
The opposition is talking about revenge and impunity, because the Special Prosecutor’s Office has conducted and continues to conduct many proceedings against politicians associated with Fico and his party. This elite part of the prosecutor’s office is also investigating the murder of Jan Kuciak in 2018. The death of a journalist who was investigating links between the SMER party and the mafia led to the dismissal of Robert Fico. Now, using his regained power, the politician wants to take away prosecutors’ powers as quickly as possible. – Such a step means deliberate, unacceptable intervention of political forces in the functioning of the prosecutor’s office. The proposal represents a fundamental change in criminal law. It is carried out at an unreasonably rapid pace. Without preparation or consultation, emphasizes the President of Slovakia, Zuzana Czaputova. The President of Slovakia announced that she would veto the bill, but the government could gather a sufficient majority to overturn the veto.
The United States and the European Union have already expressed their opposition to such rapid changes. “We ask the Slovak government not to continue working on these amendments for now, and in particular not to accelerate the procedure without appropriate, reliable consultations at national and European level,” appeals the European Commission. “We are concerned about the proposed changes to the Slovak code. They may mean that crimes against the implementation of the EU budget will not be prosecuted and punished in an effective and proportionate way in Slovakia,” emphasizes the Office of the European Attorney General. In response to these objections, the Slovak Minister of Justice replied that issues related to the rule of law were the competence of individual Member States.
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Main photo source: Reuters