European Parliament concerned over Slovakia proposed legislative reforms News
European Parliament concerned over Slovakia proposed legislative reforms

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Wednesday, expressing concerns over Slovakia’s proposed criminal code reforms and the dissolution of the Special Prosecutor’s Office. The European Parliament is worried the moves potentially endanger the rule of law in Slovakia.

Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico introduced reforms in December. The reforms relaxed penalties for corruption and economic offenses. Additionally, the reforms eliminated whistleblower protection for public officers. Furthermore, the government decided to abolish the prosecutor’s office, which has been operational since 2004 and oversees high-level corruption and organized crimes in the country. In doing so, the Slovakian government cited to alleged bias and unfair treatment of officials.

The European Parliament adopted their Wednesday resolution with 496 votes in favor, 70 against and 64 abstentions. The resolution raised concerns about Slovakia’s ability to combat corruption, particularly regarding the proposed changes and the fast-track procedure introduced through the reforms. The planned overhaul of the criminal code has also drawn the EU’s attention due to potential risks it poses to EU funds. This is because the proposed changes could hinder the detection of potential fraud and affect the financial interests of the EU.

The resolution further expressed the European Parliament’s apprehensions over the reforms, which could impede the freedom of citizens and limit the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). The resolution marked the conclusion of the EU’s debate of December 13, 2023. During the debate, member of the European Parliament Hidvéghi Balázs from Hungary, supported the government of Slovakia and asserted that the matter is “an internal affair.” He said the EU should refrain from intervening in it.

The reforms ignited widespread protests in Slovakia, with people taking to streets against the criminal reforms. Fico, who resigned in 2018 from the position of prime minister amid mass protests against corruption following the murder of an investigative journalist, criticized the Special Prosecutor’s Office. He alleged that the office was politically motivated and violated human rights, proposing it be dismantled.

The Special Prosecutor’s Office had played a pivotal role in addressing high-profile corruption cases—many of which were associated with the ruling Smer party during its previous term. President Zuzana Čaputová said that she intends to veto the reforms.

In this context, the European Chief Prosecutor in December 2023 highlighted concerns in a letter addressed to the European Council regarding the rapid pace at which the Slovak government plans to enact these amendments. In it, they raised serious doubts about its commitment to the obligation of sincere cooperation mentioned in the Article 4(3) of the Treaty on the EU. The government’s stated intention to effectively protect the EU budget was also called into question. The European Commission requested Slovakia to refrain from proceeding with these amendments, especially through a fast-track procedure, without adequate consultation at both national and European levels.