Slovaks preparing to request StB document transfer

Late on Tuesday, the Slovak Minister of Defense, Frantisek Kasicky, made an announcement concerning the Czech Republic. Thirteen years after Czechoslovakia split apart peacefully, the Slovak government wants to secure a transfer of secret police files dating from the communist era back to Bratislava.

Slovak Minister of Defense Frantisek Kasicky,  photo: CTK
StB or Czechoslovak secret police files remain a topic of interest--and debate--in both halves of the former state. The usual debates centre around whether names of informants should be released, and whether the StB lists are even reliable. However, on Tuesday the Slovak government made public its desire to see a portion of the old secret police archives transferred from Prague to Bratislava. The documents concerned relate to Slovak citizens, but stayed under the administrative control of the Czech Ministry of Defense after 1993, when the Velvet Divorce created two new states. I spoke to Milan Vanga, the spokesman of the Slovak Ministry of Defense, about why the Slovaks want the StB documents back now:

"The process is most important when it comes to security clearance checks in Slovakia, which are conducted by the Slovak National Security Office. This means that the past of any Slovak national, or citizen, undergoes a security screening process, so that the citizen can receive a clearance."

So the Slovak request has practical reasons, but also a symbolic component—Slovakia has been an independent state for thirteen years, and so it would seem logical that StB files concerning its citizens be accessible in Slovakia, and not a neighbouring state. Milan Vanga explains how the exchange of delicate information works now:

"It is important to stress that cooperation between the Czechs and Slovaks is very good where the exchange of security clearance information is concerned. This cooperation works on the basis of certain agreements that have already been signed, and the process that is currently underway—the process that will divide the archival materials—that concerns the return of concrete documents from the Czech Republic to Slovakia."

Since the parliaments of both Slovakia and the Czech Republic must approve the signed protocols, it could still be some time before the actual transfer of StB files happens. Milan Vanga explains the behind-the-scenes negotiations which are now in the final stage:

"This process has been underway already for a number of years, and involves efforts by the Slovak intelligence team, and the Slovak general command. Yet it was the Slovak Institute of National Memory that initiated the return of the sensitive materials to Slovakia, and now the process is in the hands of the ministries of defense of both Slovakia and the Czech Republic."

In Slovakia, Frantisek Kasicky, the Slovak minister of Defense, has already presented the Slovak President with the proposed agreement, and it appears ready to sign by both the Slovak and Czech ministers of defense.