British Secretary of State for Justice and Anti-Corruption Champion, Kenneth Clarke, visited Bratislava on 27-28 September as part a wider visit looking at Justice and Home Affairs issues to three EU member states. Mr Clarke met Justice Minister Lucia Zitnanska, Interior Minister Daniel Lipsic, and the Parliamentary Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. His two-day programme also included sessions with British investors in Slovakia and representatives of the legal community.
Mr Clarke said: “I am delighted to be visiting Slovakia, and meeting my counterparts here. Both our countries enjoy the benefits of membership of the European single market, and share responsibility for maintaining and strengthening it. Justice and home affairs co-operation is crucial if we are to help our businesses prosper across Europe, and keep our citizens safe from harm. I have discussed these issues in my meetings with colleagues here.
Another important challenge for us all is strengthening the rule of law and stamping out corruption, and I have been following with great interest the Slovak Government’s approach to tackling these issues. In the UK we are in the process of implementing a new Bribery Act which will greatly enhance our own ability to deal effectively with bribery both at home and abroad. We all agree that constant challenges such as these are best met through close co-operation and I look forward to working together with colleagues here to achieve this goal.”
Courtesy of the British Embassy in Slovakia
On the hot topic of immunity, which has been the centre of debate in Slovakia recently and is something that the government wants to curb by amending a constitutional law, Clarke presented his opinion at a press conference:
“Nobody in Britain would dream of people being given immunity. If you drive drunk, you will be prosecuted regardless of whether you are a judge or an MP” he said. He added that although MPs have complete freedom of expression in parliament, criminal law applied equally to everyone in the UK, although some special measures were in place to ensure the independence of the judiciary.
He stated as an example the recent cases of MPs in the UK suspected of abusing their expenses entitlement. Four of those accused tried to use parliamentary privilege as a defence, but their pleas were rejected in the first and second instance courts. Clarke believes that their appeals will also be rejected by the Supreme Court.