UPDATE: Overview of Slovak Political and Legal System and Legal Research
By Juraj Alexander and Juraj Gyárfáš
Update by Juraj Gyárfáš
Juraj Gyárfáš is a partner in the Bratislava office of Dentons. He earned Master in Law from the Law School of the Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, in 2007, obtained his LL.M. degree in Law & Economics in Hamburg, Germany, and Haifa, Israel, his Doctor of Laws from the Law School of the Trnava University in Trnava, Slovakia, and his Ph.D. from the Law School of the P.J. Šafárik University in Košice. He specializes in litigation, arbitration, competition and regulatory law. He publishes on various topics of Slovak and EU law and he teaches at the Law School of the Comenius University in Bratislava.
Published March/April 2020
Table of Contents
- 1. Introduction
- 2. The Slovak Political and Legal System
- 3. The Legislature
- 4. The Executive
- 4.1. The President
- 4.2. The Government
- 4.2.1. The Ministries
- 4.3. Other Central Authorities Independent of the Government
- 5. Local and Regional Authorities
- 6. Professional Self-Government
- 7. Judiciary
- 8. Legal System
- 9. Sources of Law
- 10. Legal Doctrine
- 11. Legal Education and Legal Profession
- 12. Legal Research Resources
The Slovak Republic (Slovakia) is a land-locked country in Central Europe. It has a population of some 5 million people and a surface of 49,000 square km, or about 19,000 square miles. It neighbors the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east and Hungary to the south. Slovakia is one of the two successor states established after the 1989 Velvet Revolution on January 1, 1993 after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia (the other successor being the Czech Republic). The Czechoslovak Republic was in turn created following the breakdown of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. Slovakia was a part of the Hungarian part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since May 1, 2004, Slovakia has been a member of the European Union and since January 1, 2009, the lawful currency in Slovakia has been the Euro.
The capital of Slovakia is Bratislava, the largest city in Slovakia with some 500,000 inhabitants. Košice, having some 240,000 inhabitants, is the second largest city and the most important city in the eastern part of the country (and the seat of the Constitutional Court).
Slovakia is a unitary state, divided into eight self-governing regions. The only official language is Slovak, which belongs to the Slavic language family (it is similar to Czech, the language spoken in the Czech Republic). Certain minority dialects also have a recognized legal status.
Slovakia is not a legal successor to the Slovak State (or First Slovak Republic), a puppet state established by Nazi Germany on a part of the territory of the current Slovak Republic after the forced dissolution of Czechoslovakia following the Munich Treaty in 1938.
The Slovak legal system is a “continental” legal system with some remnants from the communist legal culture and is currently heavily influenced by the implementation of EU law. Until 1950, the law applicable on the territory of current Slovakia (during the Czechoslovak Republic and during World War II) was based on the Hungarian common law, as partially codified in the nineteenth century. After the establishment of Czechoslovakia in 1918, substantial national legislation interfered with this tradition and introduced influences stemming from the Austrian tradition, which was the basis of the law applicable in the Czech part of Czechoslovakia. In 1950, the Communist Government through a rushed legal reform of most basic areas abolished this difference and established uniform laws for the entire territory of Czechoslovakia. This uniformity was conserved in the next legal reform in the early 1960’s and through the establishment of the federation in 1968. Therefore, substantial similarities remain between the Czech and the Slovak legal system. However, the two legal systems are gradually diverging, especially in the wake of a major reform of Czech law enacted in 2014. Nevertheless, practitioners as well as scholars from Slovakia often refer to Czech sources.
The characteristics of the legal system include:
- principal areas of law and procedure are codified (Civil and Criminal Codes, Codes of Criminal, Civil and Administrative Procedure etc.).
- the system of legal sources is hierarchical, forming a pyramidal structure of legal force within the legal system; the Constitution is at the pinnacle of this structure.
- only statutory law is, at least in theory, recognized as source of law.
- supranational law of the European Union plays an increasingly important role in basically all legal areas.
The Slovak Constitution (“Ústava Slovenskej republiky“) was adopted by the Slovak National Council on September 1, 1992 and amended several times since then (See the English version of the Constitution of Slovak Republic. Note: It is an incomplete version.). The Constitution includes a catalogue of basic rights and fundamental freedoms, basic provisions on the state and an institutional framework for state institutions.
The political system is a parliamentary democracy and a somewhat standard system of checks and balances is in place. The head of state is the President of the Republic, but the functions of the President are mostly representative; the main executive power is vested in the Prime Minister and the Government, who are in turn politically responsible to Parliament - called the National Council of the Slovak Republic, which is the sole legislative body. The legislature and the judiciary are supposed to provide checks on the power of the executive branch. There are also territorial self-governing units: municipalities and regions.
The legislative power is vested in the National Council of the Slovak Republic (Národná rada Slovenskej republiky). The National Council is comprised of only one chamber with 150 members, all elected for a four-year term in a popular election according to the principle of proportional representation. An election threshold of 5% leads to a fragmentation of the political landscape with usually around five to eight political parties being represented in Parliament. This means that governing majorities are usually formed by a coalition of several parties.
The last general election was held in February 2020 and will likely result in a coalition led by OĽaNO – Ordinary People and Independent Personalities. The internal workings of the Parliament are governed by the Act on the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure (Act No. 350/1996 Coll.).
The executive power is shared between the President of the Republic and the Government.
The President (prezident) is the head of state. S/he is elected in a direct universal election for a term of five years, with one re-election possible. The powers of the President are mostly of a representative and ceremonial nature. The President appoints the Prime Minister and Members of Government and other public officials (e.g. judges). The discretion of the President to appoint the person chosen by the relevant body (e.g. the candidates for judges elected by the Judicial Council or the members of Government chosen by the Prime Minister) is subject to an ongoing debate and has already led to several disputes between the President and other organs (most recently, a series of disputes regarding the discretion of the President in the appointment of judges of the Constitutional Court). The President also signs bills into law. He has the right of suspensive veto, which Parliament can override with a majority of all its members. The President is also the commander in chief of the armed forces.
The first President of the independent Slovak Republic was Michal Kováč (1993 – 1998). The second President was Rudolf Schuster (1999 – 2004). The third President was Ivan Gašparovič, elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2009. The fourth President was Andrej Kiska (2014 – 2019). The current President is Zuzana Čaputová, the first female President of the Slovak Republic, elected in 2019.
The Government (vláda) is the highest body of executive power. It consists of the Prime Minister, deputy prime ministers and ministers. The Government is politically responsible to the Parliament. After a general election, the President designates a potential Prime Minister. Upon the proposal of the designated Prime Minister, the President appoints other members of the Government. The Government as a body has to pass a vote of confidence by the Parliament within 30 days after its appointment.
Usually, the Government is to be formed by the party which won the general elections, but this depends on the actual political setup. It has repeatedly happened that the party winning the largest share of votes in a general election was not able to form a coalition and the Government was formed by a coalition of smaller parties. As indicated above, the current Government was formed by Smer-Social Democracy and three junior partners (one of which was effectively dissolved shortly after the election, but a sufficient number of its members continue to support the Government so that it retained the majority of votes in Parliament). The Prime Minister between 2006 and 2010 and then from 2012 was Robert Fico - the leader of Smer-Social Democracy. He resigned following massive protests after the murder of a journalist in 2018 and was replaced by Peter Pellegrini, the deputy leader of Smer-Social Democracy. The next Prime Minister following the election in February 2020 is likely to be Igor Matovič, the leader of OĽaNO - Ordinary People and Independent Personalities.
The Government decides as a college by an absolute majority of all its members. Members of the Government are generally at the same time heads of respective ministries.
The ministers are appointed by the President upon the proposal of the Prime Minister. The President must remove a minister or a member of the Government upon a request by the Prime Minister. The number and portfolios of individual ministries are established by a statute (Act No. 575/2001 Coll., on the Organization of the Activity of the Government and on the Organization of the Central State Administration, as many times amended). Usually, the exact composition of ministries and their respective portfolios are amended after every election to accommodate the political program of the incoming Government. The current number of ministries is 13:
- Ministry of Finance (“ministerstvo financií“)
- Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Affairs (“ministerstvo zahraničných vecí a európskych záležitostí”)
- Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport (“ministerstvo školstva, vedy, výskumu a športu”)
- Ministry of Culture (“ministerstvo kultúry”)
- Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and Family (“ministerstvo práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny”)
- Ministry of Health (“ministerstvo zdravotníctva”)
- Ministry of Justice (“ministerstvo spravodlivosti”)
- Ministry of Interior (“ministerstvo vnútra”)
- Ministry of Economy (“ministerstvo hospodárstva”)
- Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (“ministerstvo pôdohospodárstva a rozvoja vidieka”)
- Ministry of Defense (“ministerstvo obrany”)
- Ministry of Transport and Construction (“ministerstvo dopravy a výstavby”)
- Ministry of Environment (“ministerstvo životného prostredia”)
The daily operation of the Government is managed by the Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic.
4.3. Other Central Authorities
There is a considerable number of other central agencies, established by statute, that perform vital administrative tasks. These agencies are not managed by a member of the Government. Their heads are, however, appointed by the Government or by the President. These agencies include:
- Antimonopoly Office (“protimonopolný úrad”)
- Statistical Office (“štatistický úrad”)
- Geodesy, Cartography and Cadastre Authority of the Slovak Republic (“úrad geodézie, kartografie a katastra”)
- Nuclear Regulatory Authority (“úrad jadrového dozoru”)
- Office of Standards, Metrology and Testing (“úrad pre normalizáciu, metrológiu a skúšobníctvo”)
- Office of Public Procurement (“úrad pre verejné obstarávanie”)
- Industrial Property Office (“úrad priemysleného vlastníctva”), seated in Banská Bystrica
- Administration of State Material Reserves (“správa štátnych hmotných rezerv”)
- National Security Authority (“národný bezpečnostný úrad”)
- Office for Personal Data Protection (“úrad na ochranu osobných údajov”)
- Slovak Information Service (“Slovenská informačná služba”)
- Healthcare Surveillance Authority (“úrad pre dohľad nad zdravotnou starostlivosťou”)
There are other central authorities relatively independent from the Government. The bodies are entrusted with tasks, which may sometimes run against the interests of the Government. Their independence should be guaranteed by the appointment procedure for the head of the authority (typically for a fixed period of time), including financial independence.
The Supreme Audit Office (“najvyšší kontrolný úrad”):The Supreme Audit Office performs audits on the management of state property and the implementation of the state budget. The president and the vice-president of the Supreme Audit Office are elected by Parliament. The creation of the Supreme Audit Office is set out in the Constitution and details on the functioning of the Office are regulated by Act No. 39/1993 Coll., the Supreme Audit Office Act.
The National Bank of Slovakia (“Národná banka Slovenska”): The National Bank of Slovakia is the state central bank, entrusted with maintaining price stability, printing money and financial supervision. Detailed regulation is set forth by Act No. 566/1992 Coll., the National Bank of Slovakia Act. Following the entry of Slovakia into the Eurozone, the National Bank of Slovakia is a part of the European System of Central Banks.
The Public Defender of Rights (Ombudsman) (“verejný ochranca práv”): The office of the Public Defender of Rights was created in 2001 within the framework of an extensive amendment to the Constitution. His/her task is to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms. Detailed provisions are contained in Act No. 564/2001 Coll., on the Public Defender of Rights.
The Public Prosecution ("prokuratúra"): In the Slovak legal system, public prosecutors are regarded as a "fourth branch of power" that is independent from the other branches and that enjoys significant powers. The system of prosecutors is organized in a hierarchical manner with the Prosecutor General, who is elected by Parliament and appointed by the President, being able to issue binding instructions for lower prosecutors (subject to certain statutory exemptions). Prosecutors oversee criminal investigations and they have the exclusive power to bring criminal indictments. Moreover, they also have significant powers in overseeing the legality of decisions rendered in civil and administrative proceedings, where they have certain rights to intervene in proceedings and to challenge decisions of administrative authorities in court. Their power to bring appeals against decisions of civil courts has been limited over the past years by case law of the European Court of Human Rights and by the new Code of Civil Litigation, but some powers remain. Detailed provisions are contained in Act No. 153/2001 Coll., on the Public Prosecution and Act No. 154/2001 Coll., on Prosecutors.
Municipalities, as well as regions (so-called higher territorial administrative units), have their own administration elected by persons permanently residing within their territory (even if they are not Slovak nationals). Each municipality has a mayor and an assembly, and larger municipalities, as well as regions, also a council. The local and regional authorities have two types of powers:
- the power of self-administration in certain areas, where the territorial unit remains free to adopt legislation if it wishes to do so (area of independent powers of self-administration);
- the delegated state authority, where the territorial unit acts in the exercise of the authority of the state and where it is obliged to act following detailed instruction issued by the central government. In this latter function, territorial units act as a kind of decentralized bodies of the government (area of the exercise of assigned public administration).
There are eight self-governing regions. They were created and are regulated by Act No. 302/2001 Coll., on the Self-Administration of Higher Territorial Units (on Self-Governing Regions):
- The Self-Governing Region of Bratislava
- The Self-Governing Region of Trnava
- The Self-Governing Region of Nitra
- The Self-Governing Region of Trenčín
- The Self-Governing Region of Žilina
- The Self-Governing Region of Banská Bystrica
- The Self-Governing Region of Košice
- The Self-Governing Region of Prešov
There are around 3,000 municipalities in Slovakia. The composition, functioning and powers of municipalities are laid down by Act No. 369/1990 Coll., Municipalities Act.
The state delegates some public authority to professional self-governing (“záujmová samospráva”) bodies, such as:
- Slovak Bar Association, currently regulated by Act No. 586/2003 Coll., on the Legal Profession; membership is mandatory for all attorneys.
- Slovak Chamber of Tax Advisers, established by Act No. 78/1992 Coll., on Tax Advisers and the Slovak Chamber of Tax Advisers ; membership is mandatory for all tax advisers;
- The health-care workers' chambers: Slovak Medical Chamber (for all doctors except dentists), Slovak Chamber of Dentists, Slovak Chamber of Pharmacists, Slovak Chamber of Medical Technical Workers, Slovak Chamber of Physiotherapists, Slovak Chamber of Dental Technicians, Slovak Chamber of Orthopedic Technicians, Slovak Chamber of Other Medical Workers and Slovak Chamber of Psychologists, all regulated by Act No. 578/2004 Coll., on Health-Care Providers, health-care workers, professional organizations in health-care; membership in these chambers is not mandatory, but the chambers have the power to issue licenses to practice the respective profession.
- The Slovak Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons regulated by Act No. 442/2004 Coll., on Private Veterinary Surgeons and on the Slovak Chamber of Veterinary Surgeons. The chambers typically exercise certain degree of disciplinary, ethical and regulatory powers vis-à-vis its members. Most of the decisions of the bodies of these chambers can be reviewed by courts.
The Constitution divides the judiciary into two branches: the Constitutional Court and general courts. Since the 2001 constitutional amendments, the Constitutional Court has, among others, the power to quash decisions by the general courts (for violations of fundamental rights and freedoms) and it is therefore de facto the highest court in the country.
There are three levels of general courts: 54 district courts, 8 regional courts and the Supreme Court. Except for administrative cases and for specific criminal cases, district courts are the courts of first instance for all cases and regional courts act as courts of appeal. The Supreme Court (“najvyšší súd”) hears appeals from first-instance decisions of regional courts and appeals against appellate decisions by regional courts and by the Supreme Court itself. There is also a Specialized Criminal Court (“špecializovaný trestný súd”), a first-instance court corresponding to a regional court, hearing serious criminal offenses (such as corruption), which was established after the Special Court has been declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court. The organization of the court system is regulated by Act No. 757/2004 Coll., on Courts.
The 2001 Constitutional amendments introduced a Judicial Council (“súdna rada”) - a self-governing body of judges reinforcing the independence of the judiciary. For this purpose, judges elect nine out of 18 members, three judges are appointed by each of the President, the Government and Parliament. The Judicial Council elects its presiding member. The Judicial Council is in charge of most fundamental decisions relating to the judiciary, such as the election of judges, election of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, organization of disciplinary proceedings against judges and representing the judiciary in budgetary discussions. The Judicial Council is regulated by Act No. 185/2002 Coll., on Judicial Council. While the establishment of the Judicial Council strengthened the judiciary's independence, there has also been some criticism that it weakened public control of the judiciary. Currently, the presiding member of the Judicial Council is Lenka Praženková.
There is no trial by jury, but laypeople participate in the administration of justice by sitting as judges in judicial panels in criminal cases in district courts. Laypersons are elected by local councils. Two lay judges sit with a professional judge, hearing non-specialized cases at first instance. Panels at appellate courts and the Supreme Court are composed of professional judges only. The position and election of judges is regulated by Act No. 385/2000 Coll., on Judges and Lay Judges.
Slovakia has a system of career judiciary, i.e. many judges do not have other professional experience before joining the judiciary. The judges are appointed for life by the President upon passing an open selection procedure and subsequent election by the Judicial Council and can be only removed for disciplinary offences following disciplinary proceedings conducted by a special judicial ethics panel, composed of senior judges.
The decisions of all courts are generally published online.
The Constitutional Court, located in Košice, was granted substantial additional powers by the 2001 constitutional amendment. The Constitutional Court has the power to review the constitutionality of any legislation and the compliance of lower level legislation with higher-level legislation. Only selected bodies, most notably the President, a certain number of Members of Parliament, the Prosecutor General and general courts, have standing to initiate such review. When the Constitutional Court finds that a legislation was adopted in violation of higher-ranking law, it has the power to quash such legislation.
In addition, the Constitutional Court can hear individual complaints against violations of fundamental rights and freedoms by any other public authorities (including general courts), subject to the exhaustion of other remedies. Such complaints can also be filed against the decisions of general courts. The Constitutional Court usually exercises judicial restraint in not reviewing the interpretation adopted by general courts, unless such interpretation violates fundamental rights. However, if the decisions or the procedure of general courts interfere with fundamental rights (with the most common infringement being the violation of procedural rights), the Constitutional Court has the right to quash such decisions, which effectively renders the Constitutional Court the highest court in the country.
The Constitutional Court publishes all its decisions on its website. The procedure before and organization of the Constitutional Court are regulated by Act No. 314/2018 Coll., on the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic.
The Slovak legal system is a civil law system. Historically, it had been influenced by the Austrian and the German legal orders and can thus be grouped within the Roman-Germanic continental legal culture. During the Communist period ranging from 1948 until 1989, it has been influenced by Socialist legal thinking. As of the 1990s, it has been also largely shaped by the reception and implementation of EU law.
The substantial areas of law are codified. The main codes are:
- The Civil Code – Act No. 40/1964 Coll. – is the basic code, providing foundations for the entire area of private law and the legal system generally, containing provisions on legal personality and subjects of legal relations, property rights, legal rights and obligations, types of obligations and contracts, unjust enrichment, civil liability, succession.
- The Commercial Code – Act No. 513/1991 Coll. – regulates the relationships between undertakings and commercial activity generally, types of commercial contracts and obligations, law of companies (types, incorporation, company rules, dissolution), some special provisions on liability in commercial transactions and competition law.
- The Labor Code – Act No. 311/2001 Coll. – regulates the relationships between employers and employees, basic forms of labor relationships, rights of employees, liability for damage in labor relationships and employees’ representation (trade unions).
- The Criminal Code – Act No. 300/2005 Coll. – defines the types of behavior constituting a criminal offence, contains enumerative list of criminal offences and types of punishment.
The main procedural codes are:
- The Code of Civil Litigation – Act No. 160/2015 Coll. – basic code of judicial procedure containing the rules for the courts of general jurisdiction acting in civil and commercial cases.
- The Code of Non-Adversary Civil Litigation – Act No. 161/2015 Coll. – regulates specific non-adversary types of civil proceedings, such as inheritance proceedings, custody proceedings and certain proceedings related to the incorporation of companies.
- The Code of Administrative Judiciary – Act No. 162/2015 Coll. – regulating the judicial review of administrative decisions.
- The Code of Criminal Procedure – Act No. 301/2005 Coll. – contains procedural rules for the investigation, prosecution and execution of sanctions in matters falling under the Criminal Code.
- The Code of Administrative Procedure – Act No. 71/1967 Coll. – codifies the rules of procedure for administrative authorities when deciding on individual rights of natural and legal persons in the area of public administration.
As a civil law jurisdiction, Slovak law recognizes only written law as a formal source of law. Based on their legal force, those formal written sources of law are assorted in a pyramidal-type structure (the Kelsenian pyramid of norms). The lower levels of the pyramid have to be compatible with the higher ones. The structure is as follows:
- Constitution and constitutional acts
- International treaties, approved by Parliament and ratified and promulgated in a manner laid down by a law
- Acts of Parliament
- Derived legislation (Government regulations, generally binding legal regulations of ministries and other central state administration bodies, acts of self-governmental units, generally binding legal regulations of local bodies of state administration)
The hierarchy of legal sources was partially reshaped by Slovakia’s accession to the European Union. The Constitution expressly recognizes the precedence of European Union law over acts of Parliament. Thus, if a national statute is in contradiction with EU legislation, the latter prevails.
Constitutional amendments and other constitutional acts as well as ordinary acts are adopted by Parliament (i.e. even constitutional amendments do not require the involvement of other organs). For practical purposes, the main distinction between constitutional acts and ordinary acts is thus the majority required to pass such legislation. Constitutional acts have to be adopted by a constitutional majority of three-fifths of all members of Parliament (i.e. 90 members of Parliament).
Important international treaties, as well as acts blocked by the President under his power of suspensive veto, must be passed by an absolute majority of all members of Parliament. Ordinary acts must be adopted by a simple majority of members of Parliament being present at the session. The Parliament constitutes a quorum when a simple majority of all members is present. Lower derivative legislation is adopted by the Government, various ministries or other state administration bodies or self-governing units.
Constitutional acts (“ústavné zákony”) are legislative acts of the highest force. They enjoy the same legal force as the Constitution and also amendments to the Constitution are formally adopted in the form of constitutional acts. Since its adoption in 1992, the Constitution has been amended 18 times, including, most importantly, the introduction of popular presidential elections in 1999 (before that, the President was elected by Parliament) and a major amendment in 2001 inter alia introducing self-governing regions, setting up the Judicial Council and preparing the constitutional framework for EU membership.
In addition to the Constitution, there are several other constitutional acts, including:
- Constitutional Act No. 227/2002 Coll., on the Security of the State in War, State of War or State of Emergency.
- Constitutional Act No. 357/2004 Coll., on the Protection of Public Interest in the Exercise of the Functions of Public Officials.
- Constitutional Act No. 397/2004 Coll., on the Cooperation of the National Council of the Slovak Republic and the Government of the Slovak Republic in European Union Affairs.
- Constitutional Act No. 493/2011 Coll., on Prudent Budgeting.
As for international treaties, the Constitution specifies most important types of international treaties (i.e. treaties on human rights, self-executing international treaties, treaties that directly confer rights or impose duties on natural persons or legal persons). Those international treaties, after being ratified and promulgated in a way set forth by law enjoy precedence over acts of Parliament. This means that in case of conflict, the international treaty prevails, and the Constitutional Court may quash an act of Parliament contravening an international treaty. One of the most important of such international treaties in the Slovak legal order is the Council of Europe’s Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Acts (“zákony”) are the universal form of legislation adopted by Parliament. For an act to be adopted, a simple majority of the present members of Parliament is required (Art. 84 of the Constitution). Codes (i.e. complex acts containing provisions for an entire area of law such as the Criminal Code) are formally on the same level as ordinary acts and can thus be amended or repealed by any later act.
Government regulations (“nariadenia”) are a form of derived legislation, adopted by the Government. Consent by an absolute majority of members of Government is required for adopting a regulation. Regulations may be adopted to implement acts and within the limits laid down by law (Art. 120 of the Constitution). A special exception expanding the power of Government in adopting regulations necessary to implement European legislation was used during the process of EU accession.
Ministries and other state administration bodies may further adopt generally binding legal regulations provided they are empowered to do so by a law (Art. 123 of the Constitution).
Draft acts may be introduced by the committees of the Parliament, by members of Parliament or by the Government. In practice, most complex legislation is proposed by the Government and then debated by Parliament. Before the Government submits the draft act to Parliament, the draft is published online in a public consultation procedure, in which other authorities as well as members of the public may submit their comments. As mentioned above, the adoption of an act requires a simple majority of present members of Parliament. The adopted act must be signed by the Speaker of Parliament, by the Prime Minister and by the President. In case the President refuses to sign an act and returns it to Parliament with comments (veto), Parliament may override this veto by an absolute majority of all its members. In case the President does not sign such act, it is promulgated even without the President’s signature (Art. 87 of the Constitution).
The detailed provisions of the (floor) debate, the three rounds of reading and voting on draft legislation and other parliamentary procedural questions are governed by Act No. 350/1996 Coll., on the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure.
For legislation to be valid, it must be duly promulgated first (Art. 87 of the Constitution). The mode of promulgation of legislation is laid down by Act No. 400/2015 Coll., on the Drafting of Laws and the Collection of Laws. Constitutional acts, important international treaties, ordinary acts, regulations and certain other derivative legislation are promulgated by being published in the Collection of Laws. Moreover, certain decisions of the Constitutional Court and of other bodies (e.g. decisions on amnesties, on calling elections, etc.) are also published in the Collection of Laws.
Once an act or another piece of legislation has been published in the Collection of Laws, a conclusive presumption applies that anyone, whom it may concern, is acquainted with the content thereof. Generally, binding legal regulations become valid on the day of their publication in the Collection of Laws. Unless specified otherwise, they come into force on the fifteenth day upon publication. Exceptionally, they may apply before the fifteenth day; however, not earlier than on the day of publication.
If an act is published in the Collection of Laws (“Zbierka zákonov”, abbreviated in Slovak as “Z.z.”), the standard form of citation is “number of the document”/”year of the publication” Coll. The number of each document is unique. The document number 1/1993 Coll. thus refers to the first document published in the Collection of Laws in the year 1993, which was the previous Act on the Collection of Laws.
The Collection of Laws is published in a printed version by the Ministry of Justice and in an online version at Slov-Lex.
The only authentic version of Slovak legislation is in the Slovak language. Some acts are officially translated into English, but generally, only private non-authentic translations compiled by various public or private institutions are available. The full text of an international treaty is published in one of its authentic languages (mostly English) along with its translation into Slovak language.
Case law is not regarded as a binding source of law by continental legal theory and in this respect, Slovakia is no exception. Nevertheless, some scholars consider case law of higher courts as “quasi-precedents.” Legal practitioners and judges of lower courts often refer to case law when solving legal problems. Higher courts often cite previous cases in their decisions. This applies particularly to important decisions of the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, especially those published in the official Collection of Supreme Court Rulings. Moreover, case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and of the European Court for Human Rights are of particular importance. The decisions of these courts also serve as de facto precedents.
There is no generally accepted system of citation of case law and most practitioners and scholars cite according to the court docket number and the date of decision.
Neither legal doctrine is regarded as a formal source of law in the Slovak legal system. Nevertheless, scholarly interpretations of legal sources and, in particular, commentaries to most important acts play an important role in legal practice and legal argumentation.
The general legal program offered by Slovak public law schools is the first-level three-year Bachelor (“bakalár“, abbreviated with Bc. before the name) program followed by second-level two-year Master (“magister”, abbreviated with Mgr. before the name). Magister is the qualifying degree and the minimal requirement for any traditional legal profession (attorney, prosecutor, judge).
Higher degrees are the JUDr. (iuris utriusque doctor, so-called “small” doctorate in law, written before the name) and the research degree of PhD. (“normal” doctorate in law, written after the name). The small doctorate is obtained by submitting and defending a written piece of work at least 1 year after completing the master’s degree. The candidate also has to take a “rigorous” exam. The “normal” doctorate is obtained by research undertaken as a part of 3-year (full-time) or 5-year (part-time) study and after submitting and defending a dissertation. Other academic titles one may encounter especially with lawyers that are more senior are the CSc. (Candidate of Science) or the higher degree of DrSc. (Doctor of Science), both written after the name. The academic title “CSc.” has been replaced by “PhD.”, the academic title “DrSc.” remains to be awarded (however, very rarely and after satisfying very rigorous requirements).
Slovak law faculties are obliged to implement the Bologna model of higher education consisting of three years Bachelor, two years Master and three years Doctorate. There are four public law schools in Slovakia: in Bratislava, Trnava, Banská Bystrica and Košice. Moreover, there are two private law schools in Bratislava and Sládkovičovo.
The Faculty of Law of the Comenius University in Bratislava is the oldest and arguably the most respected law school in Slovakia (although in recent years, other law schools have managed to build considerable reputation). The University (including the Faculty of Law) was established shortly after the establishment of the first Czechoslovak Republic in 1919.
The Faculty of Law of the Trnava University builds on the tradition of the historical Trnava University established in the early 17th century with a Faculty of Law established in 1667. The historical Faculty of Law was closed 110 years later in 1777. The current Faculty of Law was established in 1998 and its reputation has been consistently improving.
The Faculty of Law of the Matej Bel University, named after the famous Slovak scholar from the 18th century is located in the city of Banská Bystrica. It has been established in 1995.
The Faculty of Law of the Pavol Jozef Šafárik University is located in Košice. The University was established in 1959 and is named after a famous Slovak philologist and poet of the 19th century.
The first private law school in Slovakia is the Faculty of Law of the Pan-European University, established under the name Bratislava School of Higher Education in law in 2004 and late renamed Paneuropska Vysoka Skola – Fakulta Prava. The second private law school in Slovakia, the Faculty of Law of Janko Jesenský of the University in Sládkovičovo is located in the southern town Sládkovičovo and has been established in 2005.
Apart from the teaching institutions, there is also the Institute for State and Law within the Slovak Academy of Science. The Institute is a research-only institution. There is a special institution established for the continuing education of judges, prosecutors and court officers the Judicial Academy located in Pezinok.
Attorney (“advokát”): Attorneys provide legal services for remuneration, including representing clients before a court of law, providing other legal advice, drafting legal documents, legal analyses, etc. Attorneys are admitted in all courts in both civil and criminal cases. Previously, the law distinguished between attorneys and commercial lawyers, with the latter not being admitted in criminal proceedings. The two professions were joined in 2003 and currently, even attorneys practicing exclusively civil and commercial law have to pass bar exams in criminal law and are entitled to represent clients in criminal proceedings.
Attorneys must have completed a master’s degree in law followed by professional training with a senior attorney and successfully passing the bar exam. In 2012, the compulsory duration of such professional training was extended from three years to five years, sparking a vivid debate in which supporters of the extension argued that it will increase the quality of legal services, while opponents pointed to the quality of legal services in other countries with shorter periods of compulsory training and asserted that it constitutes a measure designed to restrict competition on the market for legal services. In 2019, the duration of professional training was reduced back to three years.
The list of attorneys entitled to practice is published and regularly updated online (Slovenska Advokatna Komora). The exercise of the profession is regulated by Act No. 586/2003 Coll., on the Legal Profession. The professional self-governing body is the Slovak Bar Association.
Public Prosecutor (“prokurátor”): In Slovakia, the office of public prosecution (“prokuratúra”) is a body established directly under the Constitution and independent from the Government. The office is headed by the Prosecutor General (Art. 150 of the Constitution), who is appointed by the President of the Slovak Republic on a proposal by the Parliament. As discussed above, prosecutors represent the state in criminal proceedings. They indict persons and bring criminal proceedings from pre-trial stage to court trial. Moreover, prosecutors enjoy important powers in administrative and civil proceedings. In administrative proceedings, they may use extraordinary remedies against administrative decisions, which they consider unlawful. In civil proceedings, they may appear in some proceedings and use their power for an extraordinary appeal against judicial decisions.
In order to be appointed a public prosecutor, a person must have a master's degree in law, no criminal record, at least 25 years of age and must have passed a prosecutor exam after three years of practice as a prosecutor clerk. Prosecutors are appointed by the Prosecutor General without a time limit.
The legal profession is regulated by Act No. 154/2001 Coll., on Prosecutors and Prosecutor Clerks.
Public Notary (“notár”): A public notary is a private person entrusted with the public office of notary, which entails activities such as certifying legally important occurrences, providing escrow services, running certain public registers (e.g. register of pledges), certifying copies of documents, verifying signatures on deeds, etc. Moreover, notaries are also in charge of certain types of inheritance procedures.
The number of notaries is determined by the Minister of Justice. A notary must have obtained at least a master's degree in law, five years of legal practice, must have passed notary exams and must have a clear criminal record. Once a position of a notary becomes vacant (or the Minister of Justice increases the overall number of notaries), the Chamber of Notaries chooses the designated notary in a tender. The designated notary is then appointed by the Minister of Justice.
The profession is regulated by Act No. 323/1992 Coll., on Notaries and Notarial Activity (Notarial Code). The professional self-governing body of notaries is the Chamber of Notaries of the Slovak Republic.
Judge (“sudca”): Judges are appointed by the President of the Slovak Republic based on a proposal by the Judicial Council. They are appointed without time restrictions. To be appointed a judge, one must be at least 30 years of age, must hold a master's degree in law, pass a judicial examination, must have a clear criminal record and be chosen in a tender. The profession of judges is regulated by Act No. 385/2000 Coll., on Judges and Lay Judges.
Executor (“executor”): The enforcement of civil and commercial judicial decisions, arbitral awards and certain other awards is vested in executors – essentially private persons endowed with significant rights in the course of enforcement. Conditions for becoming an executor include earning a master’s degree in law, three years of executorial or enforcement practice, a clear criminal record, and passing an exam. Executors are appointed and overseen by the Minister of Justice. The professional self-governing body of executors is the Slovak Chamber of Executors. A list of all executors can be found online (Slovenska Komora Exekutorov).
One of the online places to search for laws of the Slovak Republic is Slov-Lex.sk. It is available in Slovak and English and it is open access. It contains consolidated versions of all legislation including previous versions. It is maintained and regularly updated by the Ministry of Justice.
Law Reports and Court Decisions Online
- Decisions of the Constitutional Court are published in the official (printed) collection of decisions of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic (“Zbierka nálezov a uznesení Ústavného súdu Slovenskej republiky”), which is available in electronic form (Ustavny Sud Slovenskej Republiky).
- Starting with 2012, decisions of all ordinary courts are available online at the Ministry of Justice Portal - Decisions. The website is available in English and Slovak. Decisions are available in Slovak only. Older decisions of lower courts are not available in a single database. Some of them are available in ASPI (described below).
- Some decisions selected by the Supreme Court as leading cases are published in a Collection of Positions of the Supreme Court and Decisions of Courts of the Slovak Republic.
The following are subscription-based legal databases. They contain a compendium of all the valid law (consolidated versions) and most of the available case law.
- ASPI – the basic database used by most Slovak lawyers, which contains all legislation, a substantial amount of case law and of copies of articles in law journals
- Beck-Online – a database of the publishing house Beck, which contains legislation, case law and commentaries published by Beck
- Epi – a database of the publishing house Epi containing legislation, case law and the publications of the publishing house
Major Law Journals and Law Reviews
- Justičná revue – published by the Ministry of Justice
- Právny obzor – a theoretical journal for issues of state and law, published by the Institute of Law and State of the Slovak Academy of Sciences
- Zo súdnej praxe – a collection of case law and comments thereon, private
- Bulletin Slovenskej advokácie – a monthly journal published by the Slovak Bar Association.
- Ars Notaria – a quarterly published by the Notary Chamber
- Súkromné právo – a journal on private law matters published by Wolters Kluwer
- Lexfórum – law blog dealing with current legal developments in Slovak, Czech and European law
- Najprávo - a website publishing case law, articles and opinions on current legal topics
- E-pravo - a website publishing case law, articles and opinions on current legal topics
- Iura Edition
- Wolters Kluwer
- Poradca podnikateľa
- Law Faculty of the Šafárik University in Košice – publishes a number of its books online for free
- The catalogue of the Comenius University Libraries
- The online catalogue of the Slovak National Library. The National Library is a copyright library, which means that it receives a mandatory copy of every book published in Slovakia.
Open Access Resources
- Gateway to the Slovak public administration
- Land Registry – contains, free of charge, information on land ownership
- Commercial Register - contains, free of charge, information about all the natural or legal persons exercising commercial activity and being registered under the Commercial Code
- Register of Enterprises (containing information about all economically active entities in the Slovak Republic, i.e. the register is broader than the Commercial Register)
- www.zoznam.sk is a Slovak search engine along with www.azet.sk