The recent scandal over the allocation of council flats by the Old Town borough of Bratislava to friends and employees has blown up to reveal that the practice has been going on for years, with many national and local politicians and celebrities on the list.
From the current government, those that received a flat, which they subsequently bought for a fraction of the market value, include transport minister Jan Figel, justice minister Lucia Zitnanska and finance minister Ivan Miklos.
In response to the accusations of cronyism in the allocation of flats, transport minister from the ruling Christian democratic party KDH, Jan Figel, made the gesture of giving up the flat that he was allocated back in 2001 and which he bought from the city two years later for just SKK 54,000 (approx. EUR 1,800). In a public statement he said: “I want the flat to be used for some charity purpose, I will not be its long-term owner”.
Justice minister Lucia Zitnanska explained that she had received her flat back in 1992, when she had nothing to do with politics. “I honestly have a clear conscience, because just like thousands of other people in Slovakia in 1992, I was allocated a flat and had no idea at the time that I would end up in politics one day”, she explained. She said no special connections helped her get the flat and that she had not been given any kind of special treatment.
Concerning the case of finance minister Ivan Miklos, he said that he had acquired his flat by exchanging it for the one he had at the time. He explained that he had merely exchanged a two-bedroom flat for another two-bedroom flat because his son suffered from asthma and so they did not want to stay in the concrete panel flat that they owned, as it was detrimental to his son’s illness. Miklos also pointed out that the replacement flat was in a devastated condition and that he had to spend a lot of money renovating it.
Prime Minister Iveta Radicova appreciates Figel’s decision to give up his flat, but when queried about whose idea it was, she said “sometimes an idea can arise from sensible discussions”.
The law wasn’t broken in any of the cases, as it was standard practice for municipalities to allocate flats to families and people in need, whereby they later got first option to buy when the municipality was selling them off. As is often the case in Slovakia, though, it seems like it is not a case of ‘who you are’ that matters, but rather ‘who you know’.
The official list of those who received flats in the Old town borough can be found at: