Slovakia. In February, investigative journalist Ján
Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová were murdered in
a town east of Bratislava. The council came to shake
Slovakia and force a number of politicians to resign. Kuciak
had looked into embezzlement of EU funds that went to
businessmen with suspected ties to the Italian mafia.
A couple of government officials mentioned in Kuciak's
review resigned, and the Minister of Culture resigned as a
mark that he could not accept that a journalist was murdered
during his tenure.
Several cities were kept awake after the murder. In
Bratislava, tens of thousands gathered and demanded rapid
investigation. President Andrej Kiska, who spoke at the
meeting, wanted to see a government transformation and new
elections. The demonstrations grew to huge protests against
the government and corruption.
Countryaah.com, one of the coalition parties demanded the departure of
Interior Minister Róbert Kaliňak. Kaliňáks was closely
allied with Prime Minister Robert Fico and accused of
corruption. Kaliňáks bowed to the pressure and resigned in
Fico found the situation difficult to control and offered
to resign himself to resolve the crisis if his Social
Democratic party Smer was allowed to nominate the successor.
The president accepted, and Deputy Prime Minister Peter
Pellegrini from Smer became the new head of government. Fico
remained as party leader for Smer.
The protests continued with demands that the country's
police chief and the special prosecutor against corruption
should resign. The prosecutor was reported to have handled
61 cases without prosecuting anything. The demands of the
Chief of Police's resignation made the new Minister of
Interior resign, and eventually the Chief of Police also
announced his departure.
As new Interior Minister, Smer nominated a partisan
politician, Denisa Saková, who worked close to the
criticized Kaliňáks. It sparked new protests, and President
Kiska wanted to stop Saková but did not have the power and
she was appointed.
In May, one editor and four reporters from the
state-owned radio and TV company RTVS were dismissed after
signing a protest against political pressure in state-owned
media. At least 15 reporters from RTVS who supported the
criticism of the company ended in protest.
The journalist Kuciak's investigation of corruption had
concerned, among other things, the embezzlement of EU
subsidies to agriculture. In June, farmers with tractors
drove into Bratislava, protesting that the government had
granted businessmen with political contacts subsidies for
land they did not own. The government appointed a group to
investigate the fraud.
In July, the government decided that the NATO country's
Russian-manufactured MIG fighter aircraft should be replaced
with US F-16 aircraft and not Swedish JAS Gripen, which has
long been seen as an alternative.
Russian nationalist MC gang Night Wolves with ties to
President Vladimir Putin established himself in Slovakia
during the year and raised concerns about the fight against
the extreme right. The night wolves were reportedly
recruiting Slovaks and holding military maneuvers with
supplies from a war museum.
In the first half of the year, the country's GDP grew by
about 4%, partly due to the automotive industry's exports.
Slovakia is the world's largest car manufacturer in terms of
population, and the manufacturers of VW, Kia and Peugeot
were joined by Jaguar Land Rover during the year, which
opened a factory with capacity for 300,000 cars annually.
In September, eight people were arrested on suspicion of
involvement in the murder of journalist Kuciak and his
girlfriend. Four of them were charged with deliberate
murder. Media quoted a prosecutor that the murder of Kuciak
was ordered for € 50,000 (just over SEK 500,000) and a
forfeited debt of € 20,000. The client must have been a
female interpreter to a Slovak multi-millionaire who has
been examined by Kuciak.
In November, thousands of people protested against former
Prime Minister Robert Fico's attack on journalists. 300
journalists wrote in an open letter that Fico's threatening
words made them the target and appeared as a reference to
the Kuciak murder.
The government coalition disagreed on whether Slovakia
should sign the UN's new global framework for migration.
Smere's party leader Fico led the opponents, who believed
that Slovakia could be forced to bring in more migrants than
the country wanted. Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák had
chaired the General Assembly when the UN Pact was adopted,
and he threatened to leave the government if Slovakia
rejected it. Lajčák believed that the issue was kidnapped by
populists, xenophobia and nationalists. In November, Prime
Minister Pellegrini said Slovakia would not ratify the UN
pact. Lajčák then announced his departure.