Slovakia

   

Executive Accountability

#32
Key Findings
With a number of outstanding gaps, Slovakia scores relatively poorly overall (rank 32) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.3 points 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 strongly supported groups facing discrimination, while the data-protection office’s effectiveness has been limited by resource constraints.

Disenchantment with politics has contributed to declining popular policy awareness, a situation exacerbated by the government’s paternalistic governing style. However, the murder of a journalist and his fiancée has kindled greater political interest among some, and spurred journalists to engage in more investigative reporting. The quality of media reporting is nonetheless not high overall.

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 analyses of reform needs, while unions are more fragmented. The vibrant civil society strongly influences public discourse.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#26

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

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


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


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

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
6
Given the liberal legislation on access to public information and the existing media pluralism, information about policymaking is available to all citizens. However, population’s overall policy knowledge has suffered from the Fico government’s paternalistic approach. Fico’s main message to the citizens was that the government takes care of people’s everyday worries as well as the national interests of Slovakia, so that there is no need for citizens to engage in politics and to deal with policymaking. Social media have also had a negative impact on citizens’ understanding of public policies, as they contribute to the spread of different “alternative” news and conspiracy theories promoted by low-quality media such as Hlavné správy and Zem a Vek. In the wake of the Kuciak and Kušnírová murders, however, the political interest among broad strata of the population has increased, and this has contributed to a growing interest in policymaking as well.

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
5
Slovakia joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011 and opened an Open Data Portal in 2015 (www.data.gov.sk). In its 2016 government manifesto, the third Fico government pledged to increase public administration transparency and make public information available in the form of open data. It also emphasized its ambition to support a data-based economy and stimulate the business environment. The current quality of published datasets at the open data portal suffers from persistent problems with insufficient updates to some datasets and the non- standardization of formats.

Citations:
Schneider, J. (2015): Bringing Government Data into the Light: Slovakia’s Open Data Initative, 2011-2015. Princeton, N.J. (https://successfulsocieties.princeton.edu/sites/successfulsocieties/files/JS_OGP_Slovakia_FORMATTED_012Oct2015.pdf).

Office of the Plenipotentiary of the Government of the Slovak Republic for the Development of Civil Society (2017): Open Government Partnership National Action Plan of the Slovak Republic 2017 – 2019. Adopted by the Government Resolution No. 104/2017. Bratislava (https://www.minv.sk/swift_data/source/rozvoj_obcianskej_spolocnosti/otvorene_vladnutie/akcne_plany/2017_2019/Slovakia-OGP-nap-2017-english.pdf).

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#32

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, can draw on a set of resources for monitoring government activity. Members of parliament have a budget for assistants and expertise and tend to have a support staff of at least two persons. They can draw on the Parliamentary Institute, an information, education and research unit providing expertise for parliamentary committees, commissions and individual legislators. In addition, there is a parliamentary library.

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 request 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 do not support opposition members of parliament in their legislative activities. As a result, the committees’ access to government documents is often not timely.

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, committees make relatively litte 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 current term, the Slovak National Council has more parliamentary committees than there are ministries (by a ratio of 19 to 13). Two committees (the European Affairs Committee and the Committee for Human Rights and Minorities) have several ministerial counterparts and three committees enjoy the status of a special committee, that is, as supervising intelligence services. However, committees cover all ministerial task areas and thus, the allocation of subject areas among committees does not hamper parliamentary oversight of ministries.

Media

#35

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. 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 public policies. 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. The Kuciak and Kušnírová murders have somehow united journalists and has fostered interest in investigative journalism, but has not changed the structural constraints on media quality.

Parties and Interest Associations

#26

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 issue agendas 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 issue agendas 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 issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
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 SNS, came back to parliament while the former governing parties SDKU-DS and Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) remained outside. Smer-SD remains strongly centered around Robert Fico, who has led the party since its founding in 1999 and has remained its head even after his resignation as prime minister in March 2018. The inner circle of the party and the number of party representatives with influence are rather limited. The two centrist parties established in 2017/18 – Spolu–Občianska Demokracia (Together – Civic Democracy) and Progresívne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia) – are more inclusive and engage in open decision-making with their members.

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) 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 (Employers & Unions)
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.

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#30

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
6
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. While Mitrík was suggested by one of the opposition parties, he did not muster the support of the majority of the opposition. While the NKÚ has been active, its findings have often been conspicuously inconclusive. In a number of sensitive cases, such as overpriced cultural events and dubious commissions during Slovakia’s EU presidency in the second half of 2016 or the suspicious allocation of EU funds for farmers in the Nitra Region, the NKÚ has found no crimes, but only “flaws.” This recurrent pattern has raised some doubts about its independence from the government.

Citations:
Nemec, J. (2018): Slovakia, in: N. Thijs, G. Hammerschmid (eds.), Public Administration Characteristics and Performance in EU28. Luxemburg: European Union, 899-900 (https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/a7c9b4c2-960 f-11e8-8bc1-01aa75ed71a1/language-en).

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent 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. 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. In 2018, she announced that she would focus on education rights and the right to compensation for Roma women subject to unlawful sterilization.

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
7
Based on the 2013 Act on Personal Data Protection, the Office for Personal Data Protection was established in 2014. Headed by Soňa Pőtheová, the office contributes to the protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms by supervising how personal data is processed. The effectiveness of the office has been limited by a lack of resources and a lack of clarity and differing interpretations of individual parts of Slovak data protection legislation. The amendment of the act on personal data protection in January 2018, which has aimed at incorporating the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation, has further aggravated the problems.
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