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Slovakia starts law reform

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Wed, 2 Feb 2011 18:10 GMT
Author: Martin Santa
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BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - The Slovak parliament has broken a presidential veto to amend a law on judges, the first step in a judicial reform designed to increase the transparency of a system long criticised by the public and investors.

Weak law enforcement and corruption in the euro zone country have become a serious concern for investors in the past few years and the centre-right government of Prime Minister Iveta Radicova, in power since July, has pledged to crack down.

The European Union and NATO member, like its regional peers, has struggled to root out corruption and cronyism and strengthen the legal system since the fall of Communism in 1989.

"The path we have taken might be a new one, but it is a path of opening courts to public control," Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska told reporters after the vote on Tuesday.

"The truth is that the judiciary's problems are not only delays in proceedings, but also credibility and ... often suspected corruption of judges," she added.

President Ivan Gasparovic vetoed the law in December and said the motion, which will introduce public hiring tenders and exams and open access to courts' rulings on the Internet, was the most serious interference into the system to date.

But parliament was able to overturn his veto by a simple majority. Zitnanska said the amended law would enter into force in May, adding more changes would follow in the future.

A survey of 114 foreign investors in April last year showed they saw fighting corruption and improving law enforcement as among the key tasks for Slovakia.

Market reforms since 2002 have attracted large inflows of foreign direct investment into the heavily export-reliant economy, mainly into the car and electronics industries.

Transparency International's latest corruption perception index showed Slovakia ranked in joint 59th place in the world in 2010 for openness and integrity, lower than its Central European neighbours Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

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