A new report has called for stricter legislative frameworks to better combat government and police corruption in Slovakia.
To gather data for the report, an evaluation team from the Council of Europe’s Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) visited Slovakia in November 2018 and collated information from representatives of the Slovak parliament and judiciary, law enforcement, public service bodies, NGOs, academia and journalists; among others. Investigators found ‘systemic weaknesses’ where insufficient standards were set and enforced to prevent corruption in Slovakia, particularly with regard to bribery, lack of transparency; and inappropriately close relationships between the police, government officials and business.
The report referenced the 2018 murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová as a prominent indication of the depth of institutional corruption in Slovakia, saying: ‘Insofar as the investigation into Kuciak’s murder is concerned, four people were charged with his murder in September 2018, one of whom being a former policeman. On 8 March 2019, one of the country’s most influential businessmen, already embroiled in several fraud and corruption cases, was charged with ordering Kuciak’s murder. Investigations were ongoing at the time of the adoption of this report. Overall, this murder has raised a number of issues, including the possible proximity between some persons with governmental functions and corrupt businessmen or criminal networks, the lack of reporting of contacts between ministers and third parties, the perceived politicisation of police investigations, the possibility of leaks from the police of confidential information, and the insufficient integrity vetting of political advisers.
‘The aftermath of the murder of this investigative journalist has also led to much scrutiny abroad. In this context, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on 28 March 2019 on the situation of the rule of law and the fight against corruption in the EU, with a focus on two countries including Slovakia. Moreover, two other investigative journalists, who reported on organised crime and the energy sector, disappeared in 2008 and 2015; their whereabouts remain unknown to this day.’
The report details a series of recommendations to strengthen institutional protections against corruption in Slovakia, including:
- ‘Integrity checks’ for state secretaries and advisers who may influence the formation of policy;
- The implementation of a code of conduct for policymakers, providing guidance on potential conflicts of interest, the handling of confidential information and protocols for accepting gifts from third parties;
- Establishing a comprehensive anticorruption strategy within the Slovak police force and updating its code of ethics accordingly; and
- Improving protections for whistleblowers.
The Slovak government is expected to produce its own report, detailing the actions it has taken to combat corruption in accordance with GRECO’s recommendations, by December 2020.