The president gave a speech at a conference for lawyers in Kroměříž

The president gave a speech at a conference for lawyers in Kroměříž

President Zuzana Čaputová gave a speech at a conference for lawyers at Kroměříž in the Czech Republic on Tuesday 8 September 2020.

In her speech, the president recalled that a few years ago she had stood in the same place making a speech as a lawyer and analyst concerned with the professional ethics of judges and the question of how to raise institutional and personal standards in the judiciary so that it was not just independent but also responsible. “But today I am standing here in a different role. In my current role as president of the republic, I have a direct influence on the staffing of the judiciary in Slovakia by appointing the judges and presidents of the most important courts. I can also influence legislation that affects the justice system.

In the president’s view, justice in Slovakia is facing several challenges that also affect other countries in the region. “The Slovak justice system has one of the highest levels of public mistrust in the EU and public opinion gives a fair assessment of the extent of its problems. Questions of justice and fighting corruption have been talked about for many years and were a major issue in Slovakia’s most recent election. It is therefore natural that the executive and legislative branches wish to make a more meaningful contribution to reforming the judiciary.

As the president sees it, it is vitally important to bear in mind the need for the temporary holders of public office to exercise restraint and great care in imposing reforms on the judiciary. “This must go hand in hand with self-reflection on the part of the judiciary, who need to demonstrate their ability to respond to individual failings and ensure that judicial power is exercised responsibly. This is especially important because judges are the only people who can hold a mirror up to justice without being open to the accusation of interfering in its independence.

The president closed her speech by saying that now more than ever before, Slovakia needed to hear the voice of wise and honourable judges. “It is no accident that professionals such as pastors, doctors, teachers and judges are considered the highest authorities in society. We need personalities whom we can trust so that we can have confidence in our institutions and our democracy. Because all those things are now at stake.”