May 21. 2024. 6:36

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Slovakia leads ‘tough discussions’ with Brussels over controversial reforms


The government of Prime Minister Robert Fico is engaged in “an extremely tough professional and political discussion” regarding the changes to the Criminal Code and the abolition of the Special Prosecutor’s Office, Fico said in a recent press conference.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Fico discussed his relationship with the Commission, particularly his government’s push for criminal law reform.

Referring to the previous government he blames for rule of law violations, Fico said, “We have decided we will react to this dark period with the new laws, i.e., by reforming the Criminal Code and abolishing the Special Prosecutor’s Office.”

He added that he has given “specific tasks” to Slovak Justice Minister Boris Susko.

Fico said, “We lead an extremely tough professional and political discussion regarding the rule of law, in which we defend our positions.”

While the Commission did not care about what he called “serious” rule of law violations during the previous government’s rule, the same government’s investigations of people close to his party constituted rule of law and human rights violations, he added.

The prime minister also said he had used the last European Council meeting for a short consultation with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, where Fico “also dynamised certain processes.”

Due to come into force on 15 March, the reform of the Criminal Code, which abolishes the Special Prosecutor’s Office and significantly reduces penalties and statutes of limitations for serious crimes, including corruption, was temporarily suspended by the Constitutional Court.

Both the European Commission and the European Public Prosecutor Office (EPPO) have repeatedly criticised the reform and warned of potentially far-reaching consequences for its implementation, saying the reform could also lead to Slovakia having its EU funds frozen.

Fico also pointed to the other issues his government discusses with Brussels, such as government spending.

The prime minister said Slovak Finance Minister Ladislav Kamenický will present a new proposal to amend the laws on spending limits and send a letter outlining their plans to the EU commissioners.

Regarding the pension system, Fico said his government is coming up with proposals that would relate to early retirement pensions.

‘Punishment of the West’

Fico’s push for reform, including for the criminal code, has put his government in hot water with Brussels.

These include the aforementioned reform of the criminal code, a draft law to tighten state control over the public broadcaster and, most recently, a draft law that would introduce the labelling of some NGOs as “organisations with foreign support.”

The day after Peter Pellegrini’s victory in the Slovak presidential elections, Fico said he would not be surprised if the European Commission were to threaten the receipt of EU funds for Slovakia.

In a video shared on social media, Fico hinted that the European Commission might touch the EU funds “for political reasons and because of the result of the presidential elections.”

In mid-February, the Commission warned of possible problems with EU funds earmarked for Slovakia and the recovery plan because of the amendments to the Criminal Code.

(Natália Silenská | Euractiv.sk)

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