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August watchdog report from Slovakia

Intervening to protect the environment and citizens’ right to participation

Greenpeace Slovakia, an environmental watchdog, has achieved a court decision, which has significant consequences for the construction of two blocks of Slovakia’s Mochovce nuclear power plant. Four years ago, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic ruled Greenpeace out of the authorization process. In the authorization process, Slovenske elektrarne, joint-stock company with a minor stake owned by the Slovak state, was granted a license for the construction of the plant. The watchdog took their exclusion from the process to court and in the second half of August, the Constitutional Court ruled the decision was unlawful. As a result, the authorization procedure will have to be started anew. Moreover, the environmental impact of the construction project will have to be assessed as well. Greenpeace argue that as a consequence, the construction should be halted immediately. By ensuring the participation of the civil society in the authorization process, it may be argued that Greenpeace acted to uphold the right to a high level of environmental protection for Slovak citizens, as set out in Article 37 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.

Mochovce nuclear power plant

Source: webnoviny.sk

Throughout August, Greenpeace Slovakia also demanded more information on the plans for the construction of a new dam on the Danube river on the outskirts of Bratislava along with two other environmental watchdogs, No to the Pipeline and BROZ Regional Association for Nature Conservation and Sustainable Development. The plan to build a dam is to be presented in the government’s energy policy draft this fall. If carried out, the project is feared to have a significant negative impact on the environment in protected areas on the Danube as well as on the quality of life of the Slovak capital’s population, for whom the river is currently a popular leisure time destination. The organizations accused the government of withholding important information and demanded that the public be informed of the plan in detail.

plan of dam

Source: sme.sk

 

Alerting to lack of trust in democracy, room for the rise of right-wing extremism

More than 60% of Slovaks believe that it is not the government who actually governs their country and they in fact do not know who is pulling the strings, the IVO Institute for Public Affairs found in a survey published in mid-August. When asked who it was who really governs Slovakia, more than half of the group named international financial groups, most often pointing to two corporations, Penta and J&T, frequently cited as close to political elites. The Institute argues that a sense of economic injustice as well as a lack of transparency in politics and government contribute to the belief. The failure of authorities to investigate major political scandals, including the infamous “Gorilla case,” fuel the disaffection. The watchdog warns this situation breeds a belief that corruption and nepotism are an inherent part of politics and is likely to result in a fall in civic participation and a rise in apathy.

Earlier in August, IVO had also alerted to an alarming demand for right-wing extremism in Slovakia, which is strengthened by a lack of trust in democratic institutions and dissatisfaction with the economic situation. The findings were the result of Demand For Right-Wing Extremism, an international survey. The institute noted that Slovakia Slovaks show 6.-9. highest demand for right-wing extremism out among 26 countries, with 11 % of the population being potential supporters of right-wing extremist parties.

 

Intervening to protect human and minority rights

In a report prepared for the parliamentary committee on human rights, ETP Slovakia alerted to the shortcomings of on investigation into a police operation in a Roma-populated area in Moldava, in the east of Slovakia. The operation, which took place on June 19th, was previously mentioned in the June report on Slovak watchdogs’ activities. During the operation 60 police officers intervened in mostly Roma-populated areas, claiming to be looking for wanted persons. The media reported 30 people were injured and the police have been accused of brutality. The case was investigated by the Ministry of the Interior, which found no major fault in the operation.

Exercising its expert function, ETP Slovakia found multiple shortcomings in the operation as well as in its investigation. The organization claims the operation violated rights of the Roma by searching their homes without a warrant. It also states the police untruthfully claimed the operation had been planned well in advance. According to ETP Slovakia, all evidence suggests, that it was in fact a rapid reaction to an incident in a nearby Roma village from just two days earlier. The organization also criticizes the subsequent inspection for a failure to interview any of the Roma affected by the incident. Finally, the organizations calls for the state to answer several questions about the case which remain unclear and warns that several international organizations, including the OSN and OBSE, have also demanded a thorough investigation. Thus ETP Slovakia intervened in line with Article 4 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Logo funduszy szwajcarskich, Ecorys oraz Euroregion Bałtyk.       

 

This text is a result of a research prepared within the project “Powerful Watchdogs” supported by a grant from Switzerland through the Swiss Contribution to the enlarged European Union. The report aims to show the up-to-date information regarding activity of watchdog organizations in a given country. The author refers to the classification on watchdog functions, to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the international concepts of the transparent governance.

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