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DESCRIPTIONThe Slovak Spectator is Slovakia's only English-language newspaper. It is published weekly and covers local news, culture and business.
On sale nowNEWSTrnka fights back The government has proposed new rules for prosecutors, but faces criticism from former general prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka, who has now returned to a senior position. pg 2 RTVS chief appointed Interim RTVS director Miloslava Zemkov was appointed permanently to the merged public broadcaster's top job after winning the support of 80 MPs in a parliamentary vote. pg 3
Vol. 17, No. 6
Monday, February 14, 2011 - Sunday, February 20, 2011
of this issue
Coalition loses another MPDual citizenship changes put on ice BY MICHAELA TERENZANISpectator staff
OPINIONCutting the strings Whatever justifications business may come up with for the golden parachutes granted to executives, there is no place for them in stateowned firms or for political nominees. pg 5
Igor Matovi, an MP for the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, voted for an opposition amendment to the CitizenPhoto: Sme ship Act on February 10. SaS promptly expelled him and he will now sit as an independent.
BUSINESS FOCUSInvestment matures In the last decade private equity groups in Slovakia have started to become more sector-oriented and extend their activities into neighbouring countries. pg 6 Looking to Europe Investment analysts talk to The Slovak Spectator about what makes private equity firms in Slovakia unique. pg 7
State plans to sell heating plantsGOLDEN parachutes for CEOs, fishy sales of excess emission quotas at a hefty discount on the market price and failed political nominations to top managerial posts have brought the subject of state-owned heating companies under the political spotlight. Now the government has decided to put six heat producers up for sale based on an analysis by the countrys privatisation agency which says that the state would, in the long run, be better off selling at least part of its stake in these companies rather than trying to manage them.
BY BEATA BALOGOVSpectator staff
CULTUREDubek in Rome Former Czechoslovak statesman and leader of the Prague Spring, Alexander Dubek, was commemorated in Rome with a bust of him being unveiled in January. pg 11
The cabinet approved the sale on February 9. Yet, as recently as January 20, Prime Minister Iveta Radiov said that only companies that have been consistently lossmaking would be considered for sale. Finance Minister Ivan Miklo commented that even if some of these companies, which produce hot water and steam to heat whole residen-
tial blocks and even city districts via piped distribution networks, have reported profits these have largely been down to one-off sales of excess emissions quotas and that some of the companies have remained lossmaking even after taking such income into account. Privatisation is in the public interest, Miklo said, adding that the experience of keeping heating companies in state hands has shown that they do not develop well and have slipped further into debt.See SALE pg 9ADVERTISEMENT
THE ISSUE of dual citizenship is proving as controversial as ever, and led to a major disagreement within the coalition on February 10. After parliament failed to pass the coalitions draft amendment of the citizenship law and two coalition MPs voted in favour of an opposition draft, Most-Hd blocked parliamentary business, leading Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) to sack renegade MP Igor Matovi from its parliamentary caucus. Most-Hd leader Bla Bugr announced that his party would not vote for other coalition draft laws until the situation had been clarified, and called on fellow coalition parties SaS and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) to deal with their errant MPs. Matovi, who leads the fourmember Ordinary People faction within SaS, and Radoslav Prochzka, a KDH deputy, supported a draft amendment proposed by the opposition Smer party. Bugr also called on Prime Minister Iveta Radiov to act, and convene a session of the Coalition Council, saying this is a problem for the whole coalition. SaS leader Richard Sulk subsequently announced Matovi was being expelled from the SaS parliamentary caucus, thus making him the second independent MP, following the recent departure of Andrej urkovsk from the KDH caucus. If Igor Matovi doesnt have a problem voting with him [Fico], thats his decision. We have a problem voting with him [Fico], and we also have a problem with a person who doesnt have such problem being among us, Sulk said.See OUT pg 3
Bank loan rates spotlightedBY BEATA BALOGOVSpectator staffTHE FINANCE Ministry has announced that it will conduct a close examination of banking practices in Slovakia. The countrys central bank and antitrust authority will also be taking a hard look at the fees and interest rates that banks operating in the Slovak market charge to lend money, for example to finance home purchases. Finance Minister Ivan Miklo said in early February that it will be necessary to check whether what he called high banking charges are not the result of a cartel agreement across the banking sector. The minister pointed out that mortgages provided by banks in Slovakia are among the most expensive in the whole eurozone. Observers suggest that when, as is the case in Slovakia, three large banks control a majority of the banking market then they do not really need a cartel agreement. I consider the price of loans and banking charges to be inappropriately high in Slovakia, Miklo said, adding that his ministry intends to examine them together with the National Bank of Slovakia and the Antitrust Office. The banks deny that there is any cartel agreement and say that the issue should be subject to an independent audit. We are convinced that there is no cartel agreement through the banking sector; yet this could be either confirmed or denied by an independent body, Marcel Laznia, spokesman for the Banking Association of Slovakia (SBA), told The Slovak Spectator.See RATE pg 9
CAREER & EMPLOYMENT GUIDE 2011
benchmark as of February 10CANADA CAD 1.36 CZECH REP. CZK 24.25 RUSSIA RUB 39.88 GREAT BRITAIN GBP 0.85 HUNGARY JAPAN POLAND USAHUF 273.28 JPY 112.71 PLN 3.93 USD 1.36
SELECT FOREX RATES
COMING NEXT WEEKTrends in the Slovak labour market and human resources
February 14 20, 2011
Harabin seeks foreign observersTHE PRESIDENT of Slovakias Judicial Council, tefan Harabin, wants the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) to send observers to Slovakia to monitor the election of new judicial council members that are expected to be held in May or June 2012. Harabin made the request during a February 9 meeting with the newly-elected president of the ENCJ, Miguel Carmona Ruano. Harabin stated that his request was based on the absolutely non-standard and enormous pressure of political power in overruling the judiciary, as quoted by the SITA newswire. He also stated that the government had recently removed three members of the Judicial Council in violation of the constitution. Carmona said Harabins request will be passed on to the governing body of the ECNJ, SITA wrote. Carmona also met Justice Minister Lucia itansk during his one-day visit to Bratislava.
PM lays out changes in prosecutors' officesBY MICHAELA TERENZANISpectator staffSLOVAKIAS state and district offices that are charged with prosecuting those who violate the law are next on the governments agenda for what the prime minister and justice minister call more public control and transparency. At the end of last year the ruling coalition parties were unable to select a new general prosecutor despite a series of votes in parliament, a debacle that rocked the Slovak political scene. Now the post of general prosecutor, the top prosecutorial position in the country, is vacant and the Justice Ministry is promising that the next person in that position will have to follow some new rules. The amendment to the Law on Prosecution prepared by the Justice Ministry has been undergoing interdepartmental review since February 4 and will remain open for comments for another three weeks. The General Prosecutors Office had the draft earlier, for its review and comment. Prime Minister Iveta Radiov stated that the substance of the amendment is based on feedback from citizens, saying that 65 percent of Slovaks believe that the countrys prosecutors have failed in cases involving organised crime or in prosecuting big fish and white collar crimes. She added that in the future these kinds of cases should not be swept under the rug as easily because of several changes included in the amendment, such as banning so-called negative orders issued by higher-level prosecutors.Banning negative orders
Court rejects complaint by Smer MPsTHE CONSTITUTIONAL Court has rejected a complaint brought by MPs from the opposition Smer party who argued before the court that their constitutional rights had been violated in parliaments secret ballot vote on December 2 to select a general prosecutor. A panel of the court dismissed the complaint by saying it was lodged by a person without proper standing and was also groundless. The complaint was delivered to the Constitutional Court on December 3. A group of 55 deputies from Smer, led by former prime minister and current deputy speaker of parliament Robert Fico, said their fundamental rights and freedoms and their right to participate in administration of public affairs through a secret ballot were violated when some MPs took photos of their ballot papers along with an attached MPs ID card in order to have evidence of how they had voted, while other MPs came to cast their ballots in pairs, the SITA newswire wrote. Fico reacted that he had expected such a ruling from the Constitutional Court, saying he had already stated his concern about whether the initiator of the complaint had legitimate standing to submit such a complaint, the Sme daily wr