Slovakia

   

Executive Accountability

#31
Key Findings
With a number of outstanding gaps, Slovakia scores relatively poorly overall (rank 31) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have moderate resources. Oversight powers are not always respected by the executive, and the government’s legislative majority limits scrutiny. The audit office’s independence from the government has been questioned. The ombudswoman has taken vocal stances on behalf of groups facing discrimination.

Disenchantment with politics has contributed to declining popular policy awareness, a situation exacerbated by the government’s paternalistic governing style. The quality of media reporting is not high, with ownership changes exacerbating concerns about political bias. Online conspiracy sites pose a new risk.

Slovak parties tend to be dominated by their leaders, although several newly formed centrist parties are more democratic. Business lobbying groups are active and produce comprehensive analysis of reform needs, while unions are more fragmented. The vibrant civil society strongly influences public discourse.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#31

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
6
While the liberal legislation on access to public information has improved the availability of information about policymaking, the population’s overall policy knowledge has suffered from the public disenchantment with politics and the political elite. Fico’s main message to the public continues to limit incentives for citizen participation, as he prefers that the government takes a “caretaker” role, meaning that the government takes care of people’s everyday worries as well as the national interests of Slovakia. However, this kind of paternalism seems to be counterproductive, as his party and the prime minister himself is losing support.

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#31

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
6
Members of the National Council, the Slovak parliament, have some resources enabling them to monitor government activity. Most members of parliament have a support staff of at least two persons, and there is a parliamentary library (with about 65,000 books). In addition, there is the Parliamentary Institute – a research unit providing expertise for parliamentary committees, commissions and individual legislators. However, most members of parliament tend to rely on other sources of information. Whereas members of parliament from the governing party have access to government organizations such as the Institute for Financial Policy, members of parliament from the opposition parties make heavy use of experts among party members or draw on analyses by think tanks.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
5
Parliamentary committees have the formal right to ask for almost all government documents. The main limits stem from the logic of party competition. Smer-SD members of parliament are highly disciplined and do not support opposition members of parliament in their activities. As a result, the committees’ access to government documents is limited.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
7
The right of parliamentary committees to summon ministers is enshrined in Article 85 of the Slovak constitution. In practice, however, committees make little use of this right.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
8
In Slovakia, parliamentary committees may invite experts. However, this is not a very common practice.

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
9
In the third Fico government, the Slovak National Council had more parliamentary committees than there were ministries (by a ratio of 19 to 13), and two committees (the European Affairs Committee and the Committee for Human Rights and Minorities) had several ministerial counterparts. However, committees have covered all ministerial task areas and the control responsibilities for major issues have not been split; thus, the division of subject areas among committees has not hampered parliamentary oversight of ministries.

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
7
The Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic (NKÚ) is an independent authority accountable exclusively to the National Council. The chairman and the two vice-chairmen are elected by the National Council for seven years each, and the office reports regularly and whenever requested by the council. There is an informal agreement that the chairman should be proposed by the opposition. After NKÚ Chairman Ján Jasovský’s term expired in 2012, Fico’s Smer-SD successfully prevented the election of a new chairman four times. In May 2015, the National Council eventually elected a new chairman, Karol Mitrík, the co-founder and the former member of parliament for the Dzurinds’s party SDKÚ (2002 – 2006). He was also the head of the State Intelligence Service under the former government of Iveta Radičová (2010 – 2012). While Mitrík was suggested by one of the opposition parties, he did not muster the support of the majority of the opposition, which has raised doubts about his independence from the government. In 2017, the NKÚ was criticized for being too lenient on overpriced cultural events and dubious commissions during Slovakia’s EU presidency.

Citations:
N.N. (2017): Probe into Foreign Ministry scandal shows Slovakia in bad light, in:Slovak Spectator, November 21, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20700405/probe-into-foreign-ministry-scandal-shows-slovakia-in-bad-light.html).

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
7
In addition to the Petitions and Complaints Office of the National Council, there is an independent ombudsman, the Public Defender of Rights, who is accountable exclusively to the Council. The Public Defender is elected by the Council for a term of five years and reports regularly to it. From March 2012 to March 2017, Jana Dubovcová, a former judge and one of the most vocal critics of the current state of the Slovak judiciary, took the position. Dubovcová adopted a quite proactive role with regard to anti-discrimination issues and was a vocal critic of unlawful detention cells and the excessive use of force by Slovak police officers in Roma settlements. However, most of her critique was ignored by the ruling majority in parliament and the government, as she was perceived as a “opposition” figure. Usually her reports were not approved by the parliamentary committee for human rights. In March 2017, when her term had expired, Dubovcová was succeeded by Mária Patakyová, a law professor at Comenius University in Bratislava nominated by Most-Híd. Like her predecessor, Patakyová has taken her advocacy role seriously. Despite fierce criticisms by the SNS, she has participated in the Pride Parada in Bratislava in August 2017 and has actively defended LGTBI rights.

Citations:
Minarechová, R. (2017): Ombudswoman: I need to point out human rights violations, in: Slovak Spectator, August 24, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20633169/ombudswoman-i-need-to-point-out-human-rights-violations.html)

Media

#35

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
5
The quality and professionalism of media reporting in Slovakia is not extraordinarily high. The public TV and radio stations provide daily news programs and some analytical, critical programs on a weekly basis. However, much of the commentary is superficial, and debates usually serve as a vehicle for the views of the parliamentary parties. The commercialization of nationwide broadcasters, with a consequent negative impact on public-interest news and current-affairs coverage, has not left the public stations untouched. TA3, a private TV channel dedicated to news, is heavily influenced by its owner, who allegedly sponsors SNS and its leader. The commercial media sector tends to eschew in-depth analysis of current affairs and instead follows an infotainment or scandal-driven news agenda. As for the print media, the recent ownership changes have raised concerns about the political agenda of the new owners and the resulting decline in journalistic quality. A new risk is the growing popularity of conspiracy websites, many of which are sponsored by Russia. For example, the negative and often inaccurate articles on migration issues in most of the print media testify to the lack of quality.

Parties and Interest Associations

#25

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
3
All Slovak parties are elite projects that are dominated by a few party leaders. In the parliamentary elections in March 2016 new parties entered the parliament: the extreme right ĽSNS, the populist Sme Rodina and the center party Sieť. The nationalist party SNS, a former coalition partner of Prime Minister Fico’s Smer-SD) could renew its parliamentary presence while two standard parties – the former government parties SDKU-DS and KHD – remained outside. Smer-SD remains strongly centered around Fico, who has led the party since its founding in 1999. The inner circle of the party and the number of party representatives with influence are rather limited. Rank-and-file members have little influence on decision-making. Since 2016, dissatisfaction with Fico within the party has grown. After the losses of Smer-SD in the regional elections in November 2017, the party’s vice-chairman, Marek Maďaric, voiced criticism and stepped down from his party position. The two newly formed centrist parties – Spolu – Občianska Demokracia (Together – Civic Democracy) and Progresívne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia) – are relatively democratic.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
6
In Slovakia, business associations and unions alike have some policy competence. Business associations are in a better position to provide full-blown policy proposals as they have more resources and some of them run or support think tanks. In the period under review, the National Union of Employers (RUZ), the Federation of Associations (AZZZ) and the Business Alliance of Slovakia (PAS) were quite active and made many policy proposals. Trade unions are less well equipped and have suffered from fragmentation. Some trade unions, including those representing medical doctors, nurses and teachers, can analyze the impact of decisions and formulate relevant policies. KOZ SR, the main Trade Union Confederation representing almost 30 sectoral unions, has focused primarily on increasing the minimum wage and an assortment of less controversial issues such as workplace security.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
8
Slovakia has a vibrant third sector and many competent interest associations whose analyses and proposals have featured prominently in the media. Think tanks are an integral part of civil society, feature close links to academia and other experts and profoundly influence public discourse. They often serve as a substitute for political opposition. Following the 2012 change in government, many experts from the Radičová government became active in NGOs or have cooperated with them, thereby providing important policy knowledge. Some of them now cooperate with Most-Híd.
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