The Slovak parliament approved reforms calling for the eradication of a special prosecution branch dealing with high-level crimes in the country, as well as the lowering of punishments for financial crimes. The approval of the package of laws took place in a fast-track procedure before parliament, despite nationwide protests and statements of concern by the European Commission.
The reforms approved on Thursday were initiated by the government of Prime Minister Robert Fico, who again took power in October 2023 after previously serving at the country’s PM from 2006-2010 and from 2012-2018. Fico and his government previously asserted that the legislative changes were necessary to end alleged excesses at the Special Prosecutor’s Office (USP) and bias against his party. When introducing the reforms in December, he stated that the USP was politically motivated and violated human rights.
The decision to approve the reforms took place despite the recent protests that have taken place in the country, with 24 Slovak cities and towns, including Bratislava, seeing demonstrations. The law has been called a “monstrous amnesty” for Fico and his allies by opposition Slovensko deputy Michal Sipos. Sipos, along with over 26.000 Slovaks who have protested the reform, asserts that the legislation will protect Fico’s inner circle from investigations.
Concern over the reforms has transcended the country’s borders, with various institutions within the European Union, of which Slovakia is a Member State, adopting critical stances. The European Parliament in January adopted a resolution questioning Slovakia’s ability to fight corruption and protect the EU budget should the criminal law reforms be adopted.
The European Commission, in turn, has threatened to block Slovakia’s funding. “EU law says that a state that does not guarantee protection against corruption cannot receive funding,” EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova told AFP news agency. Speaking on the intended abolition of the USP, Jourova was especially critical, asserting that the move could allow for some cases to be “swept under the carpet”.
Incumbent President Zuzana Čaputová, following Thursday’s decision, called the approval “concerning news for Slovakia and all its citizens.”
In an English-language statement shared to X (formerly Twitter), Čaputová asserted that Fico’s proposed reforms were inconsistent with the country’s constitutional framework:
Slovakia’s constitutional framework admits a fast-track legislative process under specific and clearly defined conditions. The bill modifying our criminal policy was passed in a fast-track legislative procedure with no legal grounds for such a process. This has effectively prevented a proper expert review and a discussion about the merit of the proposed changes. Moreover, some of the last-minute modifications of the bill were proposed by the MPs whose ongoing investigations will be directly affected by the changes this law is introducing.
Čaputová resolved to take all available action to overturn Thursday’s decision, stating: “I will consider all legal and constitutional options to prevent the legislation from entering into force.”