Parliament Leadership Wants to Tackle Extremism in House

Parliamentary Chairman Andrej Danko (left) and House vice-chair Bela Bugar at a briefing regarding the issue of addressing displays of extremism and xenophobia in the House (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, November 9 (TASR) – The management of the Slovak Parliament featuring representatives of the governing coalition intends to address displays of extremism and xenophobia in the House, said Parliamentary Chairman Andrej Danko (Slovak National Party/SNS) and House vice-chair Bela Bugar (Most-Hid) after meeting Prosecutor-General Jaromir Ciznar on Wednesday.

Narrowing MPs’ immunity for statements in Parliament would be the final resort, stated the coalition partners.

“The Slovak Parliament is struggling with manifestations that defame nations and states. I’m fully aware of my responsibilities, so I welcomed the opportunity to discuss it with the prosecutor-general,” said Danko.

“It’s sad that we’re living in a period when some people declare their support for things of the past with which our ancestors had to fight. It’s very sad to see displays of racism, xenophobia and Holocaust denial, or to see [Opposition OLaNO-NOVA leader] Igor Matovic comparing his suffering to that of Jews,” added Danko, adding that such statements are at the edge of MPs’ freedom of expression.

At the same time the parliamentary chairman is aware of the fact that MPs have immunity for statements made at plenary sessions.

“The debate with the prosecutor-general was aimed at clarifying the boundaries of criminal responsibility in the House and the possibilities of [filing] disciplinary proceedings [on this matter],” said Danko, adding that the MPs concerned have to realise what the difference is between a political fight and “insane xenophobic manifestations”.

According to Bugar, freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom to spread hatred. If ordinary citizens said the same thing as MPs at the most recent parliamentary session, they could be prosecuted for it. Of course, due to immunity this doesn’t apply to the House, he said.

As for possible solutions regarding this matter, Bugar explained that it has to be addressed sensitively. “It’s important to show that Slovakia wants to fight extremism,” he said, adding that stripping MPs of their immunity is the least likely option.

In this context Danko added that the solution lies in more effective disciplinary proceedings and in tightening sanctions against MPs.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary chairman noted that on Friday [November 11] he’ll file a motion for disciplinary proceedings against Matovic and three MPs from the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) concerning their statements about Jewish people.

At the latest parliamentary session, Matovic in his criticism of draft changes to the parliamentary Rules of Procedure compared MPs to Jews in concentration camps.