— EP PressService (@EuroParlPress) March 14, 2018
As the The Old Continent reported before, on Sunday 25 February Ján Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova were found murdered in their house, East of Slovakia’s capital city Bratislava. Kuciak, who was a journalist, had been investigating possible criminal activities by certain businessmen, as well as their possible connection with politicians. Specialising in exposing fraud and cronyism, the Slovakian police reported they were working from the understanding that the double murder was in connection with Kuciak’s work.
The murders immediately led to a number of political resignations, a reportedly aggressive police investigation, with 20 suspects arrested and questioned, and Prime-Minister Robert Fico offering a cash (lol) reward of a million Euro. Citizens took to the streets in large numbers, demanding action. On 9 March, Slovakia’s Minister of the Interior, Robert Kalinak, resigned following what The Independent calls “the biggest street protests in decades.”
An estimated 50.000 people rallied in Bratislava, together with thousands more in other cities, calling on Fico to dismiss Kalinak, who in response resigned, saying:
“It’s important for stability to be maintained, therefore I decided to resign the post of deputy prime minister and Interior Minister.“
Two days later, Fico also offered his resignation. Pressure to do so came, according to Politico, from the protests as well as from a report by European Parliament.
Just as it did in reaction to the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in October 2017, the EU decided to send an ad-hoc delegation of six MEPs to Slovakia. As the press release states:
“The delegation will meet with anti-corruption NGOs, journalists, government and state representatives (including the Slovak President and the Prime Minister and ministers of interior, justice, finance and agriculture), law enforcement authorities (including the General Prosecutor and the President of the Police), and the Slovak Agricultural paying agency. They will also visit Veľká Mača, the village where Mr Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová lived and were found murdered.“
Just how much such a delegation can find out in two days is a moot point. It did result in a 39 page report (PDF), while the delegation’s findings were discussed in EP on Wednesday 14 March. During the discussion, MEP’s have talked about the need for an independent and thorough investigation, with full involvement by Europol.
MEP’s called for an independent, international and thorough investigation, superfluously adding that it would need to bring the perpetrators to justice. Of course, there was also a call for “better rules” at both the national and EU level. Although it might seem cynical to notice, one can be pretty sure that those rules are already in place, and it is hard to see the need for extra rules to protect journalists from murder, when, surely, there are already laws in place that at least penalise murder. Then again, it wouldn’t be the EP, if it didn’t ask for more of the same, more rules and more regulations. There was also some direct excuse for EP involvement, as Kuciak’s last article discusses the alleged misuse of EU funds in Slovakia.
All in all, the EP discussion comes across as something of a mixed blessing. The delegation went to Slovakia for two days, which is not long for what is a complicated investigation. It then took time to go and visit the place where the bodies were found. Which just sounds like some sort of tourist-trip: hardly a place to go for a delegation investigating the political implications of the murder, especially when there isn’t much time. The report the trip yielded is, in short, not the EP’s finest hour. Ranging from bad English, to sweeping claims such as
“they mentioned that there were several cases of intimidation of journalists, and charges were pressed against online media platforms; it was mentioned that two years ago the journalists considered themselves free, now, they are scared (…).“
that are reported, not in any way substantiated. The murder of Kuciak is a serious matter. It should be investigated thoroughly. Europol should be involved, maybe even take over, in view of the suspicions of corruption and political links. It deserves more than six MEP’s taking a short trip and producing an embarrassingly unprofessional report.