Slovak parliament likely to approve defence agreement with the US

Slovak parliament likely to approve defence agreement with the US
President Caputova did not find any conflict between the DCA and the Slovak Constitution, therefore she said she won't address the Constitutional Court.
By bne IntelliNews January 25, 2022

The Slovak parliament is likely to approve the Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) with the US, which has become one of the most talked about issues in the last few days, OLaNO MP and head of the parliamentary defence and security committee Juraj Krupa said on RTVS's discussion programme Five Minutes to Twelve

"Every parliamentary caucus has at least one MP who has some issues with the agreement and so won’t vote in favour of the document," said Krupa, stressing that this shouldn’t prevent parliament from approving the agreement, he said, as quoted by the Slovak News Agency (TASR). 

The DCA was approved by the government last week. If approved by the parliament and ratified by the president, it would allow the US airforce to use Slovak military airports of Malacky-Kuchyna and Sliac and potentially other facilities without a request of rental payment, for a period of 10 years. 

Already 23 NATO countries have concluded a DCA or similar status agreement, including 17 EU countries. The agreements are generally very similar, but in many points the DCA agreed with Slovakia is more precise than those with other states.

As Krupa also pointed out, Slovak President Zuzana Caputova's support of the DCA and her decision to include an interpretation statement of how Slovakia sees the agreement, stating that it will never limit sovereignty and security of Slovakia, was an attempt to dispel any concerns. 

"The clause explains that there’ll be no [US] military bases in Slovakia and that the document doesn’t threaten Slovak sovereignty," Krupa once again stressed, as quoted by TASR.

Caputova did not find any conflict between the DCA and the Slovak Constitution, therefore she said she won't address the Constitutional Court. "As part of the interpretative statement, we tried to capture and explain all the most mentioned, controversial points that are associated with fears by part of the public. It will be part of the authorisation that I'll give to the [government] member, and I'll ratify the deal only with this interpretation clause," Caputova said.

Caputova also stressed that the interpretation clause should include that no presence of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons will be allowed in Slovakia. "I think it would help to have a wider acceptance of this treaty if it were formulated in a way that doesn't create interpretive misunderstandings. Nevertheless, I support it because I don't think that it threatens the Slovak Republic in any way, rather, on the contrary," she pointed out.

There is no obligation for the US to sign the interpretation clause, but Slovakia´s statement will be attached to the agreement. "If [the US] rejects [the agreement], then we aren't interested in signing it," the president added.

According to Independent MP Matus Sutaj Estok, the clause won’t solve anything. "If the agreement was unambiguous, there would be no need for any interpretation clause," he stressed, adding the agreement violates the Slovak Constitution on several counts. 

The senior government party OLaNO and its junior partner For the People already confirmed they will support signing the document. "[Ukraine] is our neighbour and it’s in Slovakia’s interest to ensure that it can defend itself against a possible invasion. … It is in the national interest to have a pro-democratic and strong Ukraine between Russia and Slovakia,” Investment Minister and For the People head Veronika Remisova was quoted by the news agency as saying.  

The opposition parties have criticised the agreement and rejected creating US military bases in the country. Smer-SD chair Robert Fico announced that his party will protest against the DCA, as the “anti-Slovak” and “pro-American” stance of Slovak president is an important reason for a referendum to be held as soon as possible. 

"The president has committed … another betrayal of Slovakia's citizens. When more than 600,000 people asked her to call a referendum on an early election, she filed a completely useless motion against the referendum and thwarted it,” Fico was quoted by TASR as saying. 

“If the people are asking her today to also challenge the agreement between Slovakia and the USA at the Constitutional Court, she arrogantly tells them that it isn't necessary, because according to her everything is fine," he added. 

Also the extra-parliamentary party of former PM Peter Pellegrini is disappointed by the position taken by Caputova, adding that Voice-SD does not consider the interpretation clause to be a solution. 

"It's incomprehensible why the president suddenly took on a responsibility that doesn't belong to her at all. Compliance with the constitution, along with maintaining sovereignty and territorial integrity, is the most important precondition for concluding a treaty with any country," Pellegrini said.