Ex-presidents Urge Kiska to Heed Counsel, But Not to a Tee

Current President Andrej Kiska meets for lunch with former heads of state Rudolf Schuster and Ivan Gasparovic (photo by TASR).

Bratislava, January 10 (TASR) – The president of Slovakia should pay adequate attention to what his aides advise and double-check their advice, former heads of state Rudolf Schuster and Ivan Gasparovic told incumbent President Andrej Kiska at the annual New Year’s presidential lunch on Tuesday.

“Mr President is smart, because whenever we meet, he only asks us questions without expressing his own opinion. At any rate, we’re happy to answer his questions. As to what he’ll do with the advice, it’s his call. But every piece of advice must be checked against reality.

The point is to find out whether you listen to your advisors too much, because that is harmful. Advisors are people too, they pursue their own interests, so the president must read between the lines, rather than say blindly whatever someone else writes for him,” said Schuster, who was in office between 1999-2004.

Gasparovic, who was in office for two terms (2004-14), echoed Schuster’s take on the issue in that the president needs advisors, but that he ultimately makes the decision himself. “The decisions are sometimes difficult. I was faced with several of such decisions myself during my term in office,” he said.

Kiska called the lunch cordial and lively. “We discussed the situation in Slovakia and extremism. I was looking to find out what their thoughts were on this. We also touched on the issue of judges, as well as on what it feels like to be a retired president,” said Kiska.

Regarding extremism, Gasparovic noted that all countries, not just Slovakia, are only dealing with the phenomenon verbally. “Tangible action to protect society is called for at last. Thinking about what needs to be done won’t change a thing. Current country leaders need to make concrete measures so as to prevent such afflictions from occurring. We must be much gutsier,” he added.

As for the post-presidential life, Schuster noted that he’s happy with what he has. “We have no offices or secretaries, but it’s fine,” said Schuster. He remarked that Kiska, being formerly a businessman, will not struggle once his term is up.

Gasparovic bemoaned the fact that former heads of state are somewhat left out of public life. “A (former) president is legally only entitled to a car, a chauffeur, and bodyguards, who aren’t actually needed. Instead, a (former) president could do with a chance to share his experience, including a small secretariat. He could do with at least a single person who would help him, because the way things are now, he’s on his own and has nobody but his family. Former presidents in Slovakia who seek to be engaged in public life are at a major disadvantage compared to their peers in Hungary, Austria and Poland,” he added.

This year’s edition of the New Year presidential lunch was the first to take place without the first Slovak president Michal Kovac (1993-98), who died in October 2016. “That’s life, that’s destiny. Next time round, another chair may be missing,“ said Gasparovic.