Rule of Law in Slovakia

Justice

Effective justice systems are essential for upholding the rule of law. Independence, quality and efficiency are the defined parameters of an effective justice system, whatever the model of the national legal system and tradition in which it is anchored. Whilst the organisation of justice in the Member States falls within the competence of the Member States, when they are exercising that competence, Member States must ensure that their national justice systems provide for effective judicial protection. The independence of national courts is fundamental to ensuring such judicial protection. National courts ensure that the rights and obligations provided under EU law are enforced effectively. As re-affirmed by the European Court of Justice, the very existence of effective judicial review to ensure compliance with EU law is of the essence for the rule of law. Effective justice systems are also the basis for mutual trust, which is the bedrock of the common area of freedom, justice and security, an investment friendly environment, the sustainability of long-term growth and the protection of EU financial interests. The European Court of Justice has further clarified the requirements stemming from EU law regarding judicial independence. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights also provides for key standards to be respected to safeguard judicial independence.

Independence

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Longstanding concerns regarding the independence and integrity of the Slovak justice system have continued to mount since August 2019.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The perceived level of independence of the judiciary in Slovakia has remained very low, despite some efforts in the past to strengthen judicial independence and transparency.
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The Government has announced reform plans to strengthen judicial independence and integrity.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Government has announced reform plans to change the current composition of the Judicial Council.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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The Government has also announced plans to strengthen the appointment process for the Constitutional Court.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Government further announced that it would introduce a fixed retirement age for judges.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Quality

green
Efforts to improve the quality of the Slovak justice system have picked up over the last years.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Reforms of the justice system have been adopted and are being implemented, whilst additional reforms have been announced.
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Slovakia is actively engaging to advance the digitalisation of its justice system.
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Some challenges remain as regards access to justice and potentially high court fees
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Efficiency

green
Efficiency-oriented reforms undertaken in past years have started to show results and by now, the Slovak justice system largely manages to deal with its workload.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Anti-corruption

The fight against corruption is essential for maintaining the rule of law. Corruption undermines the functioning of the state and of public authorities at all levels and is a key enabler of organised crime 48 . Effective anti-corruption frameworks, transparency and integrity in the exercise of state power can strengthen legal systems and trust in public authorities. Fighting corruption needs to be based on evidence about its prevalence and form in a given country, the conditions that enable corruption and the legal, institutional and other incentives that can be used to prevent, detect and sanction corruption.

Institutional Framework

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Slovakia scored 50/100 over the past three years in a row in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, ranking 16th in the European Union and 59th globally.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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The fight against corruption has been identified as one of the key priorities in the political programme of the new government
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The criminal legal framework for fighting corruption is broadly in place and specialised institutions have been set up.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The competences for the prevention, detection and prosecution of corruption are shared between several authorities.
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Prevention

yellow
The 2019 Whistle-blower Protection Act aims to increase the protection measures by establishing an independent office for complaints but its implementation is being delayed.
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There is currently no regulation governing lobbying in Slovakia and postemployment restrictions are weak.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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New legislation concerning asset declarations and conflict of interests of members of the Government and other public office-holders took effect on 1 January 2020.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The control of asset declarations is currently performed at national level by a parliamentary committee and, at the local level, by a local council committee.
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Integrity systems for the public administration have been improved by way of an amendment to the Civil Service Act.
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Repressive measures

red
In recent years, only few high-level corruption cases have been investigated and are being prosecuted.
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The effectiveness of the specialised anti-corruption institutions is a serious challenge.
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Media Freedom

All Member States have legal frameworks in place to protect media freedom and pluralism and EU citizens broadly enjoy high standards of media freedom and pluralism. Freedom of expression, media freedom and pluralism and the right of access to information are generally enshrined in the Constitution or in secondary law. Media pluralism and media freedom are key enablers for the rule of law, democratic accountability and the fight against corruption. The murders of journalists who were investigating high-level corruption and organised crime allegations have been a wake-up call reminding Member States of the obligation to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists, protect their safety and pro-actively promote media freedom and media pluralism.

Regulatory authorities

green
A Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission exists and has clear competences and responsibilities.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Transparency of Media

red
There is no systematic regulatory framework in Slovakia allowing for transparency of media ownership.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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In terms of political independence, Slovakia lacks the legal safeguards that would effectively preclude conflicts of interest between owners of media and the ruling parties, partisan groups or politicians.
View source | Our evaluation: red
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Currently no framework for regulating the distribution of state advertising exists.
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Journalists' Protection

green
The murder of a journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in 2018 led to a wide-ranging debate across Slovak society on the safety of journalists.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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It is widely agreed that Slovak civil society, the political level and the relevant authorities have reacted robustly following the assassination and in its aftermath.
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Some degree of harassment against journalists persists.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Other Institutional Issues

Institutional checks and balances are at the core of the rule of law. They guarantee the functioning, cooperation and mutual control of State organs so that power is exercised by one state authority with the scrutiny of others. In addition to an effective justice systems, checks and balances rely on a transparent, accountable, democratic and pluralistic process for enacting laws, the separation of powers, the constitutional and judicial review of laws, a transparent and high-quality public administration as well as effective independent authorities such as ombudsperson institutions or national human rights institutions.

Preparing and enacting laws

green
Improvements have been announced as regards the process for preparing and enacting laws.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Government is considering to strengthen the powers of the Constitutional Court.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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As of 16 March 2020, the Government declared the state of emergency in the health care system in order to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Civil Society

green
While Slovakia has an enabling framework for civil society in place, the Government has announced a policy for further strengthening civil society.
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There is an increasing attention for rule of law topics in society.
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Accessibility

yellow
Further work is necessary to strengthen the transparency, efficiency and accountability of the public administration.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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Access to information, including to administrative decisions, is ensured by Slovakia’s legislation on access to governmental information.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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Independent Authorities

yellow
Independent authorities play a role for safeguarding fundamental rights, but would benefit from clearer mandates, including full legal status and sufficient resources to exercise their roles effectively.
View source | Our evaluation: green
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The Supreme Audit Office of Slovakia is another key body tasked with supervising the accountability, quality and work of public authorities.
View source | Our evaluation: yellow
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