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Last update: 22-05-2006
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Legal order - Slovakia

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Legal instruments or sources of law 1.
2. Additional sources of law 2.
3. The hierarchy of sources of law (hierarchy of norms) 3.
4. How supranational instruments enter into force in Slovakia 4.
5. Authorities with the power to adopt legal provisions (statutory bodies) 5.
6. The legislative process 6.
6.1. Initiation of legislation 6.1.
6.2. Discussion of the bill 6.2.
6.3. Voting on a bill 6.3.
6.4. Signing 6.4.
6.5. Promulgation 6.5.
7. How national legal instruments enter into force 7.
8. How conflicts between different sources of law are resolved in Slovakia 8.

 

1. Legal instruments or sources of law

The term ‘sources of law’ is used in three senses:

  1. sources of law in the material sense – material sources of law;
  2. sources of law in the epistemological sense – sources of knowledge of law;
  3. sources of law in the formal sense – formal sources of law.

On the basis of how the legal norms came about and the binding form in which they are expressed, four types of sources of law are traditionally distinguished:

  1. legal custom;
  2. precedent (judge-made law)
  3. normative legal acts;
  4. normative contracts
    • in addition, general legal principles and common-sense
    • also contemporary books, legal literature and experts’ reports.

International treaties are a source of domestic law if duly incorporated into the legal system of the Slovak Republic.

2. Additional sources of law

Customary law – legal custom

  1. this is the historically oldest, original source of law;
  2. it constitutes a kind of transition from original customs and usage and social self-regulation of society to law-based regulation;
  3. custom is a rule of behaviour which, through repeated usage over an extended period, has made its way into people's thinking and conduct and is generally accepted by society and the state;
  4. for a custom to be recognised as legally binding, it must satisfy certain criteria, namely:
    1. the time factor;
    2. universality;
    3. determinacy;

in the Slovak legal system, legal customs are valid as sources of law only if explicitly referred to in an act (the Civil Code refers to neighbourly customs), but this does not make them a formal source of law. They acquire the force of law from the act that refers to them.

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As regards case-law, in Slovakia court judgments do not have general legally binding force. They are not a source of law. However, in passing judgments the courts follow rulings by the Slovak Supreme Court. Supreme Court rulings are nonetheless sources of law only de facto, rather than de iure.

3. The hierarchy of sources of law (hierarchy of norms)

One of the basic principles of the Slovak legal system is the hierarchy of norms. Understanding its proper place in legislative practice and implementation is hugely important from the point of view of legality. The hierarchy of norms is not, however, simply a question of straightforward logical precedence or subordination. Hierarchy relates to the whole issue of legitimate authority and also includes the categorical imperative that a legal provision may be laid down only by a body authorised to do so by an act within the limits of that act and its own legislative jurisdiction.

Legal provisions are classified by what is known as “legal force”. Legal force refers to the property of legal provisions whereby one provision is subordinate to another (i.e. to a provision with greater legal force) or one provision is derived from a provision having greater legal force. In a situation involving legal provisions with different legal force the weaker provision may not contradict the stronger one, whereas the stronger provision may override the weaker one.

In terms of the level of legal force, legal provisions may be hierarchically classified as follows:

A. Primary legislation (acts)

  1. constitutional acts (always primary);
  2. acts (primary or derived from constitutional acts).

B. Secondary legislation (below the level of an act)

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  1. government regulations – always secondary;
  2. legal provisions by central government bodies – always secondary;
  3. regulations by municipal and local representations (offices) – primary or secondary;
  4. legal provisions exceptionally issued by bodies other than government bodies – always secondary.

In the system of legal provisions, where a given act has precedence this basically means that all the other legal provisions must flow from the act, be compatible with it and not contradict it. This means that in practice, in a situation where a legal provision lower down the hierarchy contradicts a higher-ranking provision, it is the higher-ranking one that must be acted on.

4. How supranational instruments enter into force in Slovakia

General transformation requires that a given source of national law (usually the constitution or an act) should contain a provision making reference to the international law.

Special transformation requires two or more legal instruments to be adopted. The first is generally the parliamentary vote whereby the National Council of the Slovak Republic approves international political treaties, international economic treaties of a general nature and international treaties that require an act in order to be put into force. Second, there is the ratification of international treaties by the president, once they have been adopted by the parliament. Where the implementation of a treaty does not require an act, the procedure applied is confirmation by the government or individual members thereof rather than ratification. A third step is the promulgation of a ratified or confirmed international treaty in the Zbierka zákonov Slovenskej republiky (the Slovak Official Gazette).

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Regulations are universally binding normative legal instruments.

  • they take precedence over national law and do not require transposition into national law;
  • they enter into force on the date stipulated in them, or
  • if no such date is stipulated, they enter into force 20 days following publication;
  • they are binding as of the date they are published in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

Directives are binding only as to the results to be achieved by them.

Decisions are individual legal instruments binding only on the parties to whom they are addressed ; they take effect on the date stated in them or, if no such date is given, on the 20th day following their publication.

Recommendations and opinions are not legally binding.

5. Authorities with the power to adopt legal provisions (statutory bodies)

National Council of the Slovak Republic – constitution, constitutional acts, acts, international treaties higher than acts, international treaties with the force of an act

Government of the Slovak Republic – government regulations

Ministries and other central government bodies - decrees, declarations and measures

Municipal and city authorities – generally binding regulations

Citizens (voters) of the Slovak Republic – results of a referendum with the force of a constitutional act, results of a referendum with the force of an act

Residents of a municipality or city – results of a local referendum with the force of a generally binding regulation

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Municipal and city authorities and local government bodies – generally binding regulations

6. The legislative process

Stages of the legislative process

  1. Tabling of a bill – initiation of legislation
  2. Discussion of the bill
  3. Voting (decision on the bill)
  4. Signing of the adopted bill
  5. Promulgation (publication) of the normative legal instrument
6.1. Initiation of legislation

Under Section 87(1) of Act No 460/1992 (the Slovak Constitution), bills may be tabled by:

  1. committees of the National Council of the Slovak Republic
  2. members of Parliament
  3. the Government of the Slovak Republic

Bills submitted are set out paragraph by paragraph with an explanatory memorandum.

6.2. Discussion of the bill

In accordance with the rules of procedure of the National Council of the Slovak Republic (Act No 350/1996), bills go through three readings.

The first reading involves a general debate on the substance or what is known as the “philosophy” of the proposed act. At this stage no amendments or additions may be tabled.

On the second reading the bill is discussed by the National Council committees to which it has been assigned. Every bill must pass through the Constitutional Committee, in particularly as regards its compatibility with the Slovak Constitution, constitutional acts, international treaties binding on the Slovak Republic, acts and European Union law. On the second reading amendments and additions may be tabled and these are voted on after the committee discussions are completed. This is why the various positions have to be brought together before discussion of the bill in the National Council; this is the job of the Coordination Committee, which then approves the committees’ joint report by special resolution. The report forms the basis for the National Council’s debate and vote on the second reading bill.

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The third reading is restricted to those provisions of the bill for which amendments or additions were approved on the second reading. On the third reading the only changes members of parliament can put forward are corrections of legislative drafting errors and grammar and spelling mistakes. Amendments and additions intended to eliminate any other errors must be put forward by at least 30 members of parliament. Once these have been debated, the bill is voted on as a whole.

6.3. Voting on a bill
  • The Constitution may be adopted or amended and individual articles repealed only if passed by a qualified majority, which means three-fifths of all the members of the National Council.
  • For a law to be passed, it must be voted for by at least half the members present.
  • The National Council is quorate if at least half its members are present.
6.4. Signing
  • The adopted bill is signed by:
    1. the President of the Slovak Republic;
    2. the Speaker of the National Council;
    3. the Prime-Minister.
  • This step in the procedure serves the function of checking the content, procedural correctness and final form of the adopted bill. By signing, these highest-ranking constitutional officers endorse the act as it is worded.
  • The President has the right to exercise what is called a suspensive veto and refuse to sign an adopted act on the grounds of faulty content. Together with his comments, he sends the adopted act back to the National Council to be debated again. The returned act goes through the second and third reading stages, as it concerns only the President’s comments. At this point the National Council may – but does not have to – take the President’s comments into account. The National Council may overturn the suspensive veto by voting again; in that case the act must be promulgated, although the President does not have to sign it.
6.5. Promulgation
  • is the final stage in the legislative process;
  • legal provisions of nationwide territorial application are formally published in the Zbierka zákonov (Official Gazette) of the Slovak Republic; this publication falls within the remit of the Slovak Ministry of Justice.

7. How national legal instruments enter into force

Legal provisions of nationwide territorial application are formally published in the Zbierka zákonov (Official Gazette) of the Slovak Republic; this publication falls within the remit of the Slovak Ministry of Justice. Normative legal instruments take effect on publication.

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Given their restricted territorial application, local legal provisions are posted up on an official notice board for a given period, which is generally 15 days.

8. How conflicts between different sources of law are resolved in Slovakia

  • A normative instrument with lower-ranking legal force may not contradict a normative instrument of higher-ranking legal force.
  • A normative instrument may be repealed or amended only by a normative instrument of equal or higher legal force.

Where there is a conflict between legal provisions of equal force, the legal practice is to apply the principle that a more recent provision repeals or amends an older provision and the principle that a special rule repeals or amends a general rule.

The Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic oversees and rules on the compatibility of:

  1. laws with the Constitution and constitutional acts;
  2. government regulations, universally binding legal provisions of ministries and other central government bodies with the Constitution, constitutional acts and laws;
  3. universally binding regulations of local authority bodies with the Constitution and laws;
  4. universally binding legal provisions of local bodies of state administration with the Constitution, laws and other universally binding legal provisions;
  5. universally binding legal provisions with international treaties promulgated in the manner laid down for the promulgation of laws.

Where the Constitutional Court rules that there is incompatibility between legal provisions, the provisions or relevant parts thereof or rules contained therein cease to be effective. If the bodies that issued the provisions fail to bring them into line with the relevant higher-ranking instruments within the statutory time limit from when the ruling was issued, the provisions or relevant parts thereof or rules contained therein cease to be in force.

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Last update: 22-05-2006

 
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