Slovak president rejects nomination of climate change denier as environment minister

Slovak president rejects nomination of climate change denier as environment minister
A frosty meeting between President Zuzana Caputova and incoming premier Robert Fico. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera October 20, 2023

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova has rejected the incoming populist government's nomination of Rudolf Huliak as the minister of environment.

Huliak is a known climate change denier and was nominated by the far-right SNS, which this week signed a coalition agreement with populist leftist Smer of former Prime Minister Robert Fico and the centre-left Hlas party.

“The president’s decisions shall secure the proper functioning of constitutional bodies,” Caputova’s spokesperson Martin Strizinec stated, highlighting that Huliak’s statements contradict Slovakia’s environmental policies and its international obligations.

“The president is convinced that unlike with other nominees, in the case of Rudolf Huliak, there are constitutional and legal grounds of such intensity that he cannot hold the post of minister of environment given the tasks and role of the ministry,” Strizinec also stated, saying that his appointment would not guarantee the functioning of the ministry.

Caputova, who is a former environmental campaigner herself, asked Fico to submit a new name to head the ministry.

In some of his previous statements, Huliak described the fires which raged in the Mediterranean during the summer heatwave as set up by elites to demonstrate the climate change taking place.

“SNS, [its] parliamentary club, and the party leadership won’t revoke the nomination of Rudolf Hulika,” spokesperson Zuzana Skopcova was quoted as saying by the Slovak Press Agency (TASR) in response to Caputova’s statement.  

Online news outlet wrote that Fico was supposed to submit the name of an alternative candidate to Caputova.

On Thursday, October 19, the Smer party released a full list of its nominees. Juraj Blanar is the nominee for the Minister of Foreign Affairs, while Fico’s close collaborator, Robert Kalinak, is the nominee for the Minister of Defence.

In a break with practice seen in the country since 1998, Smer did not nominate a career diplomat. Speculations mounted in the Slovak media that none of the diplomats wanted to head the ministry under Fico, who has radicalised his rhetoric and may find it difficult to find allies at the international level.     

Fico’s Smer, as well as Hlas, were suspended from the Party of European Socialists grouping over their coalition with SNS and Smer's stance on Ukraine, which Fico vowed to stop supporting militarily.

Since his victory in the September 30 elections, Fico has repeatedly “rejected gender ideology” and also caused controversy by declaring that the “rule of NGOs in Slovakia has ended”.

Last week, Fico declared he wanted “a pike fish which will chase the old carps in the pond of Slovak diplomacy,” which, according to Fico, is designated “only for the elite types of [ex-ministers] Kacer, Korcok, Demes, etc.”

It is yet unclear whether this delay in signing the cabinet could derail Fico’s ambition to attend the EU leaders summit on October 26-27 as the country’s PM.