Last Monday the Constitutional Court in Slovakia ruled that positive discrimination, which provides advantages for people of certain ethnic or racial minority groups, is to be banned in Slovakia because it “violates full equality before the law.” The court ruling is a blow against EU policy on the matter because Brussels had forced Slovakia to introduced positive discrimination legislation.
For several months a dispute had been going on in the Slovak parliament. The government wanted to drop Article 5 of the European Council Race Discrimination Directive [pdf]. Article 5 allows the option of positive action and has been part of Slovak anti-discrimination law since July 2004. The verdict of the Constitutional Court is a victory for the governing Christian Democratic Movement (KDH). “We need to get rid of building stereotypes based on race and ethnicity,” said Daniel Lipsic, the Slovakian minister of Justice. The verdict has angered spokespeople of the 500,000 Roma living in Slovakia. They see “positive action” as a necessary means to increase the chances of the Roma to find work.
The opposition of the KDH, however, goes deeper than the matter of the Roma. The KDH questions the principle itself of positive action by the government which limits the freedom of people to decide with whom they enter into private contracts. The governing party is also opposed to EU anti-discrimination legislation which attempts to prevent private individuals from voicing their opinions.
In July 2004, when Ake Green, a Pentecostal pastor in Sweden, was sentenced to a month in prison for a sermon in which he described homosexuality as “a tumor on society,” Vladimir Palko, the Slovakian minister of the Interior, was the only prominent European politician to denounce the treatment of pastor Green.
Palko cited the case as an illustration of why the KDH opposed the EU anti-discrimination law. He protested to the Swedish ambassador in Slovakia: “In Europe people are starting to be jailed for saying what they think.” Palko told the ambassador that it reminded him of the dictatorship the Slovaks had been living under until 1989. According to Palko, what had happened in Sweden was an example of how “a left-wing liberal ideology was trying to introduce tyranny.” KDH chairman Pavol Hrusovsky added that the decision to jail Green was “a breach of human rights, the right to religious freedom, and the right of expression.”