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SIS 2020 Annual Report

Bratislava, December 2021
  1. Introduction
  2. Fulfilling the tasks of the SIS Strategic Direction
    1. COVID-19 pandemic in the SIS priorities
    2. Economic area
    3. Corruption and clientelism
    4. Wasteful use of state and local government property
    5. European Union funds
    6. Customs, tax and financial fraud
    7. Foreign economic relations of the Slovak Republic
    8. Security
    9. Fight against terrorism
    10. Counter-espionage protection
    11. Hybrid threats
    12. Illegal migration
    13. Fight against organised crime
    14. Trade in defence articles, proliferation and security of nuclear facilities and nuclear materials
    15. Extremist scene
    16. Right-wing extremist scene
    17. Left-wing extremist scene
    18. Pseudo religious groups
    19. Protection of cyberspace
    20. Protection of classified information and vetting activities for external applicants
    21. Foreign security
    22. Ukraine
    23. The Russian Federation and the Commonwealth of Independent States
    24. Western Balkans
    25. Crisis and conflict areas
  3. Cooperation with public authorities and the information duty
    1. Intelligence production for external recipients
    2. Communication with the public
  4. Cooperation with intelligence services from other countries
  5. Situation, principal activities and oversight of the Slovak Information Service
    1. Personnel
    2. Main indicators
    3. Spending and material and technical provisioning
    4. Budgetary spending
    5. Material and technical provision
    6. Technical-intelligence means and telecommunications secrecy
    7. Legal framework for the use of technical intelligence means
    8. Use of TIMs in 2020
    9. Legislation and control
    10. Legislation
    11. Control activities
  6. Report on the activities of the National Security and Analytical Centre
  7. Conclusion

1. Introduction

The present report is a follow-up to the annual report on the performance of tasks of the Slovak Information Service (SIS) in 2019. It informs about the status of the performance of tasks, activities carried out and the results achieved by the SIS in 2020. The document also contains a report on the activities of the National Security Analysis Centre (NBAC) in 2020 in accordance with its statute.

The level of specificity and openness of the unclassified version of the SIS Activity Report 2020 is determined by the applicable legal framework for the protection of classified information. The SIS endeavours to inform the public as much as possible about its activities. Nevertheless, it is logical that the unclassified version of the report cannot be as specific as the classified version which the SIS Director submits to the Special Control Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic (SCNR). All statements and assessments in the section of the report concerning the implementation of individual intelligence priorities are based on intelligence that SIS has obtained, verified its credibility and, as products of its intelligence and analytical activities, passed on to the lawful recipients in 2020. The SIS Strategic Direction itself, which defines the Service's intelligence and information priorities, remained unchanged in the year under review, so the Service's priorities and the way they were implemented were similar to those of the previous period. In March 2021, the new SIS Strategic Direction came into force and therefore the next activity report will reflect the changes in intelligence priorities.

The SIS is the guarantor of the intelligence protection of the State in the security system of the Slovak Republic (SR) and also performs tasks in preventing and eliminating security risks and threats in the common space of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), while actively cooperating with partner intelligence services and international organisations in protecting the security of the international community.

By performing its tasks in the intelligence area, the SIS made a positive contribution in the period under review to the intelligence protection of the constitutional system and internal order of the SR, to ensuring the security of the State and to protecting and promoting the foreign policy and economic interests of the SR.

2. Fulfilling the tasks of the SIS Strategic Direction

2.1 COVID-19 pandemic in the SIS priorities

The SIS intelligence and analytical work in 2020 was largely influenced by the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Service has adequately addressed the security aspects of the development of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Service has received and passed on to beneficiaries a number of findings of breaches of anti-pandemic measures in the context of illegal activities of organised crime and of suspicious trades in medical supplies.

The SIS reported on several occasions on violations of government regulations in the suppression of the COVID-19 pandemic and on threats against Slovak constitutional officials related to the imposition of a state of emergency in the Slovak Republic.

The Service gathered knowledge on the development of the pandemic situation in other countries, especially those that have been most successful in countering the COVID-19 pandemic, their counter-pandemic measures and informed beneficiaries on best practices. Information was also exchanged with foreign intelligence partners in this area.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on the existing forms of international cooperation between the SIS and partner services, in particular with regard to joint international projects, workshops and bilateral meetings planned for 2020. Nevertheless, the cooperation of the intelligence community and the exchange of intelligence has been effective through virtual tools or written exchanges.

2.2 Economic area

Corruption and clientelism

In the context of corruption and clientelism, during the period under review, the SIS received, collated and evaluated information on fraud in the allocation and use of agricultural subsidies from the State agency responsible for this matter. The knowledge passed on to the competent State authorities focused on corruption by officials and employees of the institution concerned and on fraud by applicants and beneficiaries in the use of subsidies. Knowledge of contacts of persons investigated by law enforcement authorities (LEAs) for agricultural subsidy fraud with was also passed on civil servants, police officers and members of the judiciary.

Cases of suspected corruption have also been reported in the environment of an organisation providing strategic material for the needs of the State, such as overpriced purchases of medical devices in return for bribes.

The SIS informed beneficiaries of tax fraud previously covered up by a then high-ranking official of the financial administration.

Intelligence information was passed on regarding suspected corruption and abuse of public office by members of the Slovak Police Force (PZ) who assisted perpetrators in the commission of criminal activities and provided classified information to unauthorised persons. During the period under review, the SIS also focused its attention on cases of suspected corrupt behaviour in the judiciary.

The Service reported on corruption by local government officials who influenced the processes of their subordinate authorities in order to enrich themselves or to secure undue advantages for related persons.

Intelligence activities have revealed corruption related to the illegal storage of hazardous waste, originating from the Slovak Republic and abroad, in facilities and on land that do not meet the legal conditions for its temporary or permanent storage. Information was also obtained and passed on about entities that illegally disposed of toxic waste in an organised manner, falsified official documents related to the handling of hazardous waste and attempted to corrupt civil servants.

Wasteful use of state and local government property

In 2020, the SIS passed a number of information on beneficiaries about the problems of the completion of a strategic nuclear energy project. The status of completion was continuously monitored and the risks of damage to the economic interests of the Slovak Republic associated with technical and safety deficiencies of the units under construction and with further delays in their completion dates were analysed. Beneficiaries were informed about the continuing problems in remedying the deficiencies in question. The SIS also pointed to the financial problems of the company in charge of the completion, which had negotiated with the financing banks to finance the completion of the project in such terms of extension of the loans that could lead to the loss of the production plants to creditors in the future or to the insolvency and subsequent bankruptcy of the company.

The SIS has observed activities by certain public officials which gave rise to suspicions that their duties in the management of foreign assets were being violated in connection with purposeful cooperation with a financial group, as well as in influencing the management processes of the State Health Insurance Company. In the context of the monitoring of the economy of public finances, information on an upcoming overpriced deal in medical supplies for financial gain at the expense of the State budget of the Slovak Republic was passed on to the beneficiaries. Information was also obtained pointing to cases of uneconomical use of public funds by representatives of some local authorities who, by virtue of their office, in order to enrich themselves or to secure undue benefits for related persons, purposely approved price increases for some contracts.

European Union funds

The SIS has detected a number of frauds in the use of non-repayable funds (NRFs) granted by the EU to the Slovak Republic. The use of EU funds involved the manipulation of tenders for the selection of suppliers of labour, goods, materials and equipment. Fictitious and inflated invoices were issued in order to illegally draw down subsidies for projects.

Organised groups carried out the most serious fraud. These groups secured the approval of subsidies for selected, usually overpriced, projects from their donors, with corrupt practices taking place in the approval of projects and the allocation of NRFs. At the same time, the organisers of the fraud, in cooperation with the recipient of the subsidy, arranged for the manipulation of tenders for suppliers of goods or services financed by the subsidy so that contracts were awarded to entities related to them. The subsidies thus obtained were channelled, for example, into the purchase of agricultural machinery and technology or into local infrastructure construction projects.

The misuse of EU funds in the agriculture department was also alleged to have taken place in the provision of NRFs for reforestation through inflated invoices and fictitiously carried out work.

The SIS passed information on beneficiaries about suspicions of irregular and fraudulent use of agricultural subsidies, where subsidies or part of them were paid to related companies despite the fact that they were not entitled to them. For example, area payments were received by companies on land for which other agricultural subjects also claimed subsidies and on land they did not own or lease. The allocation of such subsidies is linked to cases of non-transparent contracting of state-owned agricultural land. In a number of cases, there was alleged corruption of the staff of the competent authorities.

Customs, tax and financial fraud

In the context of tax fraud, the SIS obtained information on large-scale networks of tax entities involved in the commission of economic crimes detrimental to the state budget of the Slovak Republic.

For example, the activities of an organised group led by an entrepreneur from the eastern Slovakia, which has been committing large-scale tax fraud over a long period of time using numerous cooperating business companies, have been recorded. The organisers of the frauds used so-called "white horses" - Slovak and foreign nationals - to set up new tax entities. The group also used forged foreign identity cards to set up trading companies and bank accounts into which excessive value added tax (VAT) deductions were subsequently paid.

The Service passed on to the relevant state authorities knowledge of an entrepreneur who was committing large-scale economic crime related to the fraudulent use of EU funds for agricultural activities and the purchase of agricultural technology, with parallel tax fraud related to fictitious invoicing of goods. The entrepreneur managed a group of companies through front persons so that some of them could wrongfully claim excessive VAT deductions. He used his contacts with employees of the tax administration office to commit tax fraud. At the same time, the entrepreneur illegally used non-repayable agricultural subsidies by fictitiously increasing the price of goods purchased. The control activities of the staff of the relevant state institution were deliberately carried out in such a way that no deficiencies were detected because the entrepreneur had contacts with its senior staff.

The SIS informed the beneficiaries of the tax fraud committed by the entrepreneur through fictitious intra-community supplies of goods to other EU Member States. However, the goods were actually sold in the territory of the Slovak Republic at lower prices than those of competitors, without the payment of the relevant taxes. In these tax frauds, the perpetrator cooperated with foreign companies.

The Service has obtained knowledge of the influence of tax controls by a high-ranking official of the SR Tax Administration, who is currently being prosecuted. The manipulated tax audits were carried out in connection with suspected unjustified application of excessive VAT deductions. They also concerned a company in which the official in question was a silent partner. The company operated in a group of companies which invoiced each other for supplies of fictitious services and claimed payment of excessive VAT deductions.

In relation to the issue of money laundering, information was passed on to the recipients about a suspicious court decision concerning the forfeiture of assets acquired with the proceeds of crime of a convicted tax evader, as well as knowledge of a possibly deliberate failure to implement the court decision in question.

In 2020, intensive cooperation and information exchange with partner intelligence services aimed at detecting suspicious tax and customs evasion business operations continued.

Foreign economic relations of the Slovak Republic

In the area of foreign economic relations, the SIS focused mainly on the energy security of the SR and within it on the monitoring and analysis of threats to the provision of reliable and uninterrupted supplies of strategic energy raw materials to the SR.

Following the conclusion of a 5-year gas transit contract between Russia and Ukraine as of 1 January 2020, the risk of gas transit through Ukrainian territory being interrupted has substantially been reduced. However, Russian-Ukrainian relations, not only in the gas sector, have been complicated for a long time, so the Service will continue to monitor their further development closely, with an emphasis on possible risks for Slovakia.

The Service has been monitoring the situation regarding the supply of Russian oil to Belarus after the expiry of the contract for its purchase from Russia, as a possible halt or reduction in the transit of Russian oil through Belarus could also jeopardise supplies to the Slovak Republic.

In addition to energy security, the SIS also analysed the growing global economic influence of China, its assertive foreign economic policy and the possible implications of this development for Slovakia.

2.3 Security

Fight against terrorism

Self-radicalised individual actors, jihadist-inspired militants forming autonomous terrorist cells, supporters of international terrorist groups or ideologically aligned individuals operating in Europe, and returnees from combat zones, have posed the greatest security risk to the European states.

Although anti-pandemic measures, including restricted mobility, have affected the ability of terrorist organisations to operate, there has been a slight increase in jihadist terrorist activity in Europe in 2020. Restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a significant increase in the activities of supporters of terrorist organisations in the online space, with increasing frustration with social isolation contributing to the radical manifestations of some of them.

In the context of events in the Slovak Republic, the Service did not observe any risk manifestations or activities that would pose a specific and immediate security threat to the Slovak Republic and its citizens or indicate a possible threat to the interests of the Slovak Republic abroad.

In connection with the terrorist attack in Vienna on 2 November 2020, the SIS assessed and analysed possible links with the Slovak Republic, intelligence activities were carried out to verify the range of possible dangerous people, religious communities and extremist groups.

The SIS informed the beneficiaries about the security situation in the context of Islamist terrorism in the Western Balkans region, where the activities of radical Islam adherents in isolated parallel communities and their links in the Balkan diasporas in several EU countries continue to pose an increased terrorist threat.

The SIS has paid increased attention to the phenomenon of foreign terrorist fighters (FTF). The Service informed beneficiaries of the urgency to systematically address the repatriation and security problems associated with the possible return to the EU of FTFs held in detention facilities and internment camps in the north-eastern Syria. There was a high risk of captured FTFs escaping or being freed and reintegrating into international terrorist groups or returning in an uncontrolled way to their home countries.

During the period under review, the SIS continuously analysed the activities of the global terrorist groups Al-Qaida (AQ) and Daesh, their regional offshoots, smaller cells and lone actors influenced by jihadist ideology, which represent one of the most significant security threats in the world. In this context, the Service has, inter alia, produced a forecast for the beneficiaries of the law of the development of the terrorist threat posed by AQ and Daesh to EU States in the long term.

Counter-espionage protection

Within the framework of the counterintelligence protection of the Slovak Republic, the service collected, concentrated and evaluated information concerning the activities of foreign intelligence services. The modus operandi of foreign intelligence services on the territory of the Slovak Republic, in the period under review, was influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in particular, by the anti-epidemic measures taken by the Slovak authorities. The possibility for foreign intelligence services to conduct personal meetings within the framework of the liaison agenda was significantly reduced. Intelligence officers operating on the territory of the Slovak Republic were forced to minimise personal contacts with their sources, thus limiting the possibilities of expanding their contact base.

In this context, the SIS has seen a shift of some intelligence activities to the online space. Foreign intelligence services have started to make greater use of social networks to obtain data on individuals and cultivate relationships with persons of interest.

In addition to the virtual space, foreign intelligence officers continued to use networks of contacts they had built up in the past (e.g. foreign businessmen operating in the Slovak Republic for a long time) to make initial contact with persons of interest.

As a new government was formed in 2020, foreign intelligence services operating on our territory focused their activities on seeking opportunities to build contacts with representatives of political parties that have taken power in the SR, as well as with persons nominated for important positions.

In 2020, the SIS continued to monitor the activities of a number of Russian intelligence officers and collaborators. Members of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (GRU) operate in our territory under diplomatic cover, and in rare cases under civilian cover. In 2020, their main focus was on building contacts and obtaining information from Slovak citizens working in the state and public administration. A specific subject of their interest was former members of the security forces.

Russian intelligence services carry out a wide range of activities, with their primary interest in obtaining information of a political, military and economic nature, or influencing public opinion in favour of the Russian Federation. Activities presenting a high degree of danger, such as sabotage or attacks against persons or objects, have not yet been recorded by these services. However, the Slovak Republic, like other EU and NATO Member States, has been the target of several cyber-attacks against state institutions, which are also suspected to have been carried out by the Russian intelligence services or related groups.

In the context of counter-intelligence protection, a significant event in 2020 was the expulsion of three Russian intelligence officers who were operating in Slovakia under diplomatic cover and who, in addition to their normal diplomatic agenda, were carrying out intelligence activities in violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. The expulsion of two of them was carried out on the basis of intelligence gathered by the SIS.

Chinese intelligence services are increasingly active in the Slovak Republic. China and its intelligence services use a 'whole-of-society approach' to promote their interests abroad, where all parts of the Chinese state, business and culture are involved in a coordinated way in promoting the interests of the state. Representatives of the Chinese diaspora have played an important role in penetrating key sectors in the Slovak Republic. They have extensively participated in securing supplies of medical supplies from China to the Slovak Republic and have sought to use this to gain contacts with representatives of the new government. During the period under review, there were continued lobbying activities aimed at promoting the participation of Chinese telecommunications companies in the construction of 5G networks on the territory of the Slovak Republic. In addition, Chinese technology companies continued their efforts to penetrate the Slovak market in other segments, e.g. in the field of technology capable of monitoring data and communication flows or space and movement of people.

The SIS, likewise the intelligence services of other EU and NATO countries, addresses the risks arising from certain foreign investments, equipment and software supplies and other economic activities originating from non-EU countries. Some of these could potentially threaten national security, in particular in relation to the increased risk of non-member countries gaining access to sensitive information, strategic assets, know-how, cutting-edge and military technologies which they could acquire through control of companies or by supplying hardware and software exploitable for espionage. In the extreme case, to disable critical infrastructure. One of the responses to these threats is the drafting of a law on the screening of foreign investments, in which the SIS will be involved.

In the area of counter-intelligence protection, the SIS continues to cooperate actively with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic (MZVZ SR) and the Police Corps Presidium (PPZ) in the framework of pre-departure training of seconded diplomats, ministry staff and police attaches, to whom it provides specialised training on intelligence protection and security of Slovak diplomatic missions abroad.


Hybrid Threats

In 2020, the SIS created new offices primarily dedicated to the issue of hybrid threats by restructuring existing organisational units. At the same time, inter-agency mechanisms had been set up to coordinate their activities. The spread of disinformation in the Slovak online space intensified in 2020, partly due to the increased opportunities for action associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Disinformation actors filled the online space with misleading and conspiratorial narratives about various aspects of the pandemic, complementing them with traditional disinformation themes and their own agenda. The adoption of anti-pandemic measures was reflected in the increased production of polarising content, which was primarily aimed at undermining trust in the authorities and their ability to deal with the pandemic.

In the Slovak disinformation scene in 2020, several major actors continued to strengthen their position and build their own brand. In the context of the close link between the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on practical life, disinformation actors managed to reach a wider range of recipients than in previous years. Slovak actors continued to play a decisive role in the creation and dissemination of disinformation and polarising content.

In the course of 2020, the Service did not observe any significant changes in Russia's propaganda efforts on the territory of the Slovak Republic. The activities of pro-Russian activists focused on the dissemination of narratives aimed at polarising the Slovak society on the basis of value and political conflict. In the virtual space, the intensification of the dissemination of pro-Russian narratives was noted in the period under review. The actors who communicated them to the Slovak public generally acted autonomously, but at the same time they were inspired by the themes and content elaborated in the state media of the Russian Federation. The messages of pro-Russian propaganda, including disinformation, were mainly disseminated by the so-called alternative media, mostly operating on the Internet.

In the Slovak media space, China continued its efforts to influence public opinion, spread propaganda and build a positive image of China. In particular, actors acting in its favour attached high importance to neutralising the negative media coverage of the country in the context of starting the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic began to spread to Europe, they had been promoting through various media channels not only the effectiveness of the strict measures taken on the Chinese territory, but also various forms of Chinese medical aid and commercial supplies of medical materials, which were presented as aid for the European states allegedly suffering from the inaction of the EU institutions.

The SIS was also actively involved in the work of the working group set up under the Office of the Security Council of the Slovak Republic to prepare conceptual material for countering disinformation - the Coordinated Mechanism for the Resilience of the Slovak Republic to Information Operations.

Illegal migration

The development of illegal migration on the main migration routes to the EU area was strongly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic during the period under review, and the number of recorded illegal crossings of the EU external borders in 2020 was at its lowest level since 2013.

The dynamics of illegal migration on the main migration routes into the EU area over the past period have been strongly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the global implementation of anti-pandemic measures. On the one hand, secondary socio-economic impacts have led to increased movements of illegal migrants from traditional source countries as well as some transit countries along illegal migration routes into the EU, while on the other hand, measures implemented by the countries along these routes to combat the pandemic have significantly slowed down migration flows.

The most significant decrease in migration pressure during the period under review was observed on the Eastern Mediterranean route via Turkey to Greece and on the route from the Moroccan coast to Spain via the Western Mediterranean. Conversely, since the beginning of the summer 2020, there has been an exceptional influx of illegal migrants and refugees into Italy and Malta, along the migration route across the central Mediterranean from the coast of Libya and Tunisia.

In the context of the limited permeability of migration routes leading to the Eastern Mediterranean, the SIS informed external beneficiaries of the possible partial redirection of migration flows from South and South-East Asia towards the EU's eastern land border and of the risk of increased use of the so-called Eastern Land Migration Route, which flows from Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova and the Russian Federation to several EU Member States, including the Slovak Republic.

The SIS monitored the increasing intensity of illegal migration in the transit countries of the Western Balkans, in particular Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, where, as a result of strict border security measures by Hungary and Croatia, a large number of illegal migrants and refugees have long been stranded, trying to cross the EU's south-eastern land border despite the ongoing pandemic and reinforced border controls. The increased transit of illegal migrants and refugees through the Balkan countries was reflected in a change of the composition of illegal migrants apprehended in the Slovak Republic in terms of their nationality during the period under review, and an increase in the number of cases of illegal migrants being transported through our territory in trucks was recorded.

In the context of mass illegal migration to the EU, the Slovak Republic remains mainly a transit country. The SIS considers sophisticated forms of migration allowing foreigners from countries at risk to enter the Slovak Republic and the Schengen area legally and subsequently move uncontrollably within it to be a serious, long-standing problem. In this context, the visa and the institution of residence in the Slovak Republic are often abused through the purposeful establishment of companies, employment, study stays, spa stays, as well as the conclusion of marriages of convenience.

The trend of increasing so-called pseudo-legal migration through the legalisation of residence on the territory of the Slovak Republic for nationals of third countries continued in 2020. In this context, the SIS informed the external beneficiaries of the law about suspicious activities of a number of Slovak citizens and foreigners with authorised residence on the territory of the Slovak Republic.

The SIS monitored the activities of persons organising unauthorised crossings of the Slovak state border and informed external beneficiaries of the law about the activities of smuggling groups.

Fight against organised crime

In the fight against organised crime, the SIS priorities were criminal groups engaged in serious economic crime and the activities of Balkan and Russian-speaking groups (including Ukrainian) with an impact on the territory of the Slovak Republic.

In relation to economic crime by organised crime groups, intelligence attention was focused on frauds involving excessive VAT deductions and illegal income tax evasion, as well as fraud involving excise goods, in particular tobacco products, and the legalisation of proceeds of criminal activity. In the case of tobacco products, the SIS monitored the smuggling of untaxed goods imported into the Slovak Republic from Ukraine. The smuggling of tobacco products was directed by Ukrainian organised groups cooperating with domestic criminal groups operating in eastern Slovakia.

The SIS gained knowledge of the activities of international organised crime groups from the Balkans on the territory of Slovakia. Representatives of Balkan organised crime often try to obtain a residence permit in the Slovak Republic in order to establish a secure base and to be able to move within the EU area. They try to legalize the proceeds of criminal activities on our territory through legal business activities, but at the same time they commit serious criminal activities here. In connection with the above-mentioned facts, the SIS prevented a number of applicants with links to Balkan criminal clans from being granted residence in 2020.

Albanian criminal groups operating in Slovakia focused on international drug trafficking and, to a lesser extent, committed other criminal activities, such as illegal migration. Albanian organised crime has long profited primarily from import and distribution of drugs in the EU, which arrived in Europe via the so-called Balkan route or from Mediterranean ports.

In connection with drug-related crime, the SIS has handed over information to the police on a number of producers and distributors of drugs as well as anabolic steroids.

Also in 2020, the SIS received and passed on to the recipients information on cases of cooperation between members of the police and the judiciary and people committing illegal activities. Information was also obtained which gives rise to suspicions that, through the corrupt actions of some members of the Slovak Police Force, judges and prosecutors, a number of businessmen have been purposely prosecuted and deprived of considerable assets. Knowledge of corrupt practices was also obtained in the case of some members of the Prison and Judicial Guard Corps who were supposed to allow prisoners from criminal groups to enjoy illegal benefits, e.g. to provide them with mobile phones.

In the case of other forms of illegal activity of organised crime, information was obtained and passed on, e.g. information on cases of illegal arming, on the orderer of the detonation of an explosive device, on the hiding place of several fugitives, on the production and distribution of false documents, on theft and fraud with fake theft, on perpetrators of arson of motor vehicles, on illegal transfers of property of convicted criminals in order to prevent its forfeiture to the state, on a business probably financed by the proceeds of criminal activity, on usury, etc., etc.

Trade in defence articles, proliferation and security of nuclear facilities and nuclear materials

In 2020, the SIS collected information on the illicit production and trafficking of defence articles, firearms and ammunition, dual-use items and hazardous materials. The SIS activities were aimed at controlling the export of goods, technologies, services and financial transactions that could facilitate the development and production of weapons of mass destruction or arms exports that would be contrary to the international obligations of the Slovak Republic. The information obtained was analysed and the relevant findings were forwarded to the relevant state authorities. The SIS cooperated intensively with foreign partner intelligence services on the above issues.

The SIS monitored the sale of defence articles to SR state institutions and raised suspicions of overpriced purchases of military equipment.

The SIS intelligence focus was mainly on transfers and exports of defence articles. Information was gathered on suspicions concerning the export of defence articles from another EU Member State to end-users in risk countries. Despite the EU's common foreign policy, the existence of the EU rules and the EU information system, one of the main problems in 2020 was the different process of the EU Member States in issuing export licences. This is not only related to the different views on the assessment of defence articles exports by individual EU Member States, but also to shortcomings in the exchange of information on risky transactions and to the ambiguous interpretation of sanction measures and the European legislation. In the case of exports of defence articles from Slovakia, intelligence attention was paid in particular to trades where there were suspicions of possible further re-exports to countries or to entities for which the Slovak authorities would not issue an export licence.

In 2020, the SIS took a stand on 833 applications for licences for foreign trade activities with defence articles and on 53 applications in relation to the trade in specified products whose possession is restricted for security reasons. The SIS also commented on ten applications for authorisation of export of dual-use items.

In the area of export controls on dual-use items and other high-risk goods, the SIS continued to assess the export control system in 2020 as insufficiently effective and even dysfunctional in certain areas. Inadequate legislation and a general lack of awareness of proliferation in Slovakia is also a problem. Also in 2020, goods were exported from Slovakia that were likely to meet the specifications of dual-use items.

The issue of possible illegal transfer of know-how remains under-regulated in Slovakia, in particular the legal possibilities of not granting visas for study and doing research in Slovakia, as well as foreign direct investment originating from risky countries and going to sensitive areas.

During the period under review, the SIS focused its attention on the financing of proliferation activities as well as on the identification of financial transactions subject to international sanctions. In this area, not only inadequate legislation was identified, but also practical problems were encountered in the event of the need to stop specific financial operations and in drawing consequences related to the illegal activities of companies suspected of violating international sanctions regimes in the Slovak Republic.

Intelligence attention continued to be devoted to the issue of trafficking and acquisition of category D weapons. The SIS submitted several comments in the interministerial comment procedure on the amendment to Act No. 190/2003 Coll. on the Firearms and Ammunition and on the amendment and supplementation of certain acts, as amended. The adoption of the amendment will significantly reduce the misuse of weapons manufactured or modified in the Slovak Republic. The modus operandi on the misuse of category D weapons remains unchanged until the amendment comes into force. The SIS has a long-standing cooperation with the National Crime Agency as well as with partner intelligence services in the field of category D weapons.

Extremist scene
Right-wing extremist scene

In 2020, the right-wing extremist (XRW) scene in Slovakia remained fragmented. The primary interest of the XRW entities in early 2020 was to strengthen their position on the Slovak political scene by participating in the Slovak parliamentary election, which took place on 29 February 2020. The main themes of their election campaign were mainly Roma issues and criticism of the EU in connection with its migration policy.

The SIS paid increased intelligence attention to the reactions of the supporters of the Slovak XRW scene to the COVID-19 pandemic, which became the main topic of their public presentation from Q2 2020 onwards. On this topic, XRW actors have focused on questioning the seriousness of the disease, or denying the very existence of the pandemic and criticising the anti-pandemic measures, in many cases using various conspiracy theories.

Growing tensions in society have translated into a number of new citizens' initiatives aimed at criticising harshly the anti-pandemic measures. These initiatives were initially active on social media. Subsequently, they also presented their positions in the form of rallies and protests, despite the ban on assembly. Several protests were supported by XRW entities or some of their representatives, who sought to gain political capital from the growing civil discontent in this way. The service alerted the external beneficiaries to the risk of violent clashes during public protests and informed them about the tendencies towards radicalisation of a part of the public, which were also present in other EU countries.

At the same time, the growing tension in society, especially in the second half of 2020, began to manifest itself in an escalating level of verbal aggression by individual contributors in the online space. In this context, the service informed external recipients about several cases of threats of physical violence or physical liquidation against representatives of the Slovak Government and Members of the Slovak Parliament.

In the period under review, the SIS continued to obtain and evaluate information related to the organisation of XRW music performances in the Slovak Republic or abroad with the participation of Slovak XRW bands.

Left-wing extremist scene

The activities of supporters of left-wing extremist (XLW) entities in Slovakia were mainly focused on criticising and ridiculing the representatives of the Slovak XRW scene, which was mainly related to the political activities of the XRW entities. One of the most visible activities of the XLW scene was the effort to disrupt public electoral meetings of representatives of XRW entities running in the Slovak parliamentary election.

The leading representatives of the XLW scene in the Slovak Republic were intensively presenting the topic of environmental/climate protection, as well as supporting gender equality and raising the issue of legislative enshrinement of reproductive rights.

Pseudo-religious groups

The activities of harmful sectarian groups and pseudo religious communities were the subject of the SIS intelligence attention. In particular, the SIS focused on their efforts to expand their membership, to gain financial profit and to penetrate the educational process in schools.

The SIS informed external recipients about the ongoing efforts of one of the sectarian groups to penetrate the educational process of children and young people through personally interconnected citizens’ associations and about activities aimed at influencing public opinion. It has also provided the beneficiaries with intelligence on the ongoing efforts of the group in question to obtain the patronage of State authorities or State-established organisations for some of its activities.

The activities of another pseudo religious community were monitored, in particular in the context of ongoing registration processes. The religious activities of the community in question were severely restricted in 2020 as a result of anti-epidemic measures. Some of them were carried out online, but there were also cases of non-compliance with security and hygiene measures by the representatives of the community, which were reported by the SIS to the external legal beneficiaries. Lobbying activities of the community continued in an attempt to influence registration, including through contacts with influential persons from the Slovak political scene. The principal groups targeted by its representatives in the context of expanding the membership of the community included non-religious persons and especially youths. In this context, the community continued its activities concerning the Roma community in the period under review.

Protection of cyberspace

In 2020, the SIS fulfilled its obligations in the cybersecurity field according to the Act No. 69/2018 Coll. on Cybersecurity, as amended, where it acts as a central authority of the state administration within the scope of public authorities. It performed the roles of the CSIRT unit and operated one of the four CSIRT units active in Slovakia, thus supporting the increased protection of strategic areas of the state administration. In this context, it continued to be actively and intensively involved in the implementation of the programme "National Project: National Cybersecurity Incident Management System in the Public Administration".

In the period under review, the SIS alerted the recipients to possible vulnerabilities of some Slovak institutions’ websites. Another issue brought to the SIS' attention was the imminent leakage of databases containing user data (login name, e-mail address, name and surname, etc.), including active and inactive passwords to several state-managed central registers.

The international cooperation of partner intelligence services focused in particular on the issue of 5G networks as one of the areas of potential risk to stability, integrity and functionality, which depends on security elements of the network and the set of components making up the backbone communications network of a country. As part of international cooperation, information was obtained regarding the misuse of servers located on the territory of the Slovak Republic for illegal activities in cyberspace.

In 2020, the SIS participated in NATO CYBER COALITION international cyber defence exercise.

Protection of classified information and vetting activities for external applicants

In 2020, the SIS participated in the security clearance process carried out by the National Security Authority (NBÚ), Military Intelligence and the Police Force. Information on the proposed persons and entrepreneurs’ security reliability was provided to relevant applicants to the extent as stipulated by the Act No. 215/2004 Coll. on the Protection of Classified Information, as amended.

By providing statements on the basis of requests from the Office of Private Security Services of the Police Force Presidium and regional directorates, the SIS participated in the process of assessing the reliability of persons vetted according to Section 14(4) of the Act No. 473/2005 Coll. on the Provision of Services in the Area of Private Security (Private Security Act), as amended. Further, by providing statements on the basis of requests from the Transport Authority (Civil Aviation Division), it participated in the process of assessing the reliability of persons vetted according to Section 34a(5) of the Act No. 143/1998 Coll. on Civil Aviation (Aviation Act), as amended.

The SIS also provided statements to the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic according to Section 5(2 and 4) of the Act No 392/2011 Coll. on Trading in Defence Products, as amended, in connection with company applications for permits to trade in defence industry products and mediate deals in them.

Table: Summary of processed applications concerning the clearances according to special regulations in 2020

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In 2020, the SIS carried out administrative checks on 21,849 natural persons (third-country nationals) as part of the cooperation with the Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic and the Office of the Border and Immigration Police of the Police Force Presidium.

Of this number, 336 administrative checks on natural persons were carried out on the basis of applications from the Migration Office of the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic under Section 19a(9) of the Act No. 480/2002 Coll. on Asylum, as amended. Here, in 4 cases, the SIS did not agree to the grant of asylum and/or extend the subsidiary protection.

The SIS carried out administrative checks on 21,513 natural persons on the basis of applications from the Border and Immigration Police of the Police Force Presidium under Section 125(6) of the Act No. 404/2011 Coll. on Foreigners’ Residence, as amended. In 35 cases it did not agree to the grant of residence.

The Service also carried out vetting activities in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic, issuing an opinion on 103 vetted natural persons, the European Commission Security Directorate (ECSD) in Brussels, issuing an opinion on 40 vetted subjects, and the NATO Security Office (NATO NOS), issuing an opinion on 268 vetted subjects.

2.4 Foreign security

Ukraine

With regard to Ukraine, the SIS continued to monitor and assess developments on its internal political scene, the security situation in the conflict zone in the south-east of the country, and the Russian-Ukrainian relations.

In view of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Service focused in 2020 on the epidemiological situation in Ukraine and warned of the threat of bringing the SARS-CoV-2 virus from Ukraine to the Slovak Republic due to intensive cross-border travel.

The Russian Federation and the Commonwealth of Independent States

The SIS monitored the internal situation in the Russian Federation (RF) and its foreign policy, with particular reference to the post-Soviet space and RF activities towards the countries of the Euro-Atlantic group, including the Slovak Republic.

The year 2020 was a period of important internal changes in the RF. As part of the government reshuffle in the RF, the position of technocrats was strengthened. Changes also affected the post of Prime Minister as unpopular Dmitry Medvedev was replaced by the technocrat Mikhail Mishustin. The SIS analysed the constitutional changes that created the possibility for President Vladimir Putin to remain in office after 2024.

For the Putin regime, it remains the main priority to ensure the stability of the state while the social and economic situation of the population is deteriorating. The increased popular discontentment (also in relation to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic) was more pronounced in several regions during the period under review. Unable to address critics in the population, the ruling regime has resorted to a strategy of restrictions and intimidating political opponents, which has so far been successful in paralysing the politically fragmented opposition. Efforts have been made to restrict the foreign-based social media and the legal possibilities to declare inconvenient individuals or organisations 'foreign agents' have been extended.

The role of military circles in shaping the Russian foreign policy has increased and Russia has become more involved in influencing the situation in the post-Soviet space (Belarus, Moldova, Ukraine, Nagorno-Karabakh conflict) and in other parts of the world, including the spread of Russian influence in Africa.

The SIS also monitored the situation in Belarus before and after the August presidential elections. There were reprisals against the opposition candidates before the elections. There was also electoral manipulation, and a crackdown on protesters by the security forces. Aleksander Lukashenko's had limited opportunities to manoeuvre between Russia and the West as a result of the 2020 events. The Russian-Belarusian cooperation intensified, particularly in the military sphere.

The SIS closely followed the military conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, in which Azerbaijan, with Turkish support, achieved almost all its objectives. In order to avoid the complete loss of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian side had to accept the ceasefire negotiated by Russia. Russia, which was not involved in the fighting, has strengthened its position in the South Caucasus by deploying its peacekeepers in the region. Armenia's dependence on Russia has deepened.

Western Balkans

In 2020, the SIS focused on monitoring the progress of the COVID-19 pandemic in the region and its implications for the political, security and socio-economic situation in the individual WB countries. Problems caused by poor inter-ethnic relations and political instability continued to persist in the region, further exacerbated by widespread corruption and power struggles. The SIS noted the continued interest of the RF in the situation in the region and the growing influence of radical Islam.

In Serbia, the period under review saw a further strengthening of Vučić and the (ruling) Serbian Progressive Party’s position of power in Serbian society, with the pro-government media playing a significant role in it. The Service monitored the progress of the Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, which continued to stagnate. The country's foreign policy direction was also a matter of concern, with the Serbian government continuing to pursue a multi-vector foreign policy as well as to balance the relations between the RF and the EU/NATO countries.

In Kosovo, where political and socioeconomic problems have long been persistent, the SIS focused its attention on the turbulent internal political developments after the parliamentary elections in late 2019 and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on developments in the country.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the SIS paid attention mainly to the deteriorating epidemiological situation in relation to the spread of COVID-19 and difficult political situation. Efforts to form government structures in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina entity were monitored and the situation in the context of the November 2020 municipal elections was analysed. The focus was also on the growing influence of the RF and Turkey on the internal situation in BiH. The ongoing refugee crisis in the country was also linked to the reluctance of local political authorities to accept refugee centres all over BiH.

Crisis and conflict areas

Regarding foreign intelligence, the SIS paid attention to crisis and conflict areas in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia with direct or indirect impact on the security and interests of the EU and the Slovak Republic as an EU member country. Regional and local conflicts, failed states and post-conflict states without reconstruction efforts supported by international development assistance and affected by external interference by foreign state actors continued to deepen instability in 2020, creating a breeding ground for globally operating terrorist organisations, political and religious extremism and uncontrolled mass migration to the West.

In Syria, the military and security situation has gradually stabilised. The government forces helped by the Russian and Iranian military have consolidated control over the key areas of so-called 'useful Syria' (economically important territories in the west of the country). The remaining parts of the country are controlled by foreign-backed opposition forces. Turkey has maintained the buffer zones in the north of the country in the provinces of Aleppo and Raqqa, dividing the Kurdish-populated territories to prevent the emergence of a compact territorial entity with autonomist ambitions. At the same time, it has thus created a sufficiently large operational space for Syrian armed opposition organisations, including Islamist ones, which might seek to move to a safe haven on the Turkish territory in the event of a government offensive. The SIS has been monitoring the escalation of tensions in the north-western province of Idlib in the first half of 2020 in the context of the Syrian government's intention to eliminate the last major centre of armed resistance, as a large-scale government offensive would inevitably trigger massive population movements, particularly towards Turkey and then potentially further afield into the EU. The critical economic and social situation in Syria has become fully apparent following the end of major military operations. In the struggle for scarce resources, a number of new actors have emerged among the commanders of pro-regime militias, complicating the efforts of the ruling regime of President Bashar al-Assad to stabilise its position.

The SIS has been monitoring the security situation in the Gulf region, which has been tense for a long time and has escalated further following the liquidation of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force special forces commander Qassim Sulaymani in Baghdad, Iraq in January 2020. While the threat of an imminent escalation of violence related to this assassination diminished after a cautious Iranian response, the fundamental rift in US-Iranian relations persisted throughout the year. The US further strengthened its sanctions regime against Iran in order to maximise pressure on the Iranian leadership, to which Iran responded with asymmetric means, notably attacks by pro-Iranian militias on US and other Western targets and interests in Iraq. The attacks have complicated the continued presence of NATO forces in Iraq, including the Slovak training unit. In the context of the Iranian regime’s internal stability, the Service has not noticed a more substantial impact of international sanctions that would see a weakening of those conservative circles that pursue a confrontational foreign-policy course towards the West. The SIS has also monitored Iran's efforts to procure technology from EU states, including military materiel, and activities of individuals related to the Iranian regime in its efforts to invest funds of unclear origin in EU states, as well as the unofficial trade in oil and petrochemical products, or the Iranian regime's activities aimed at circumventing the sanctions regime in force.

The internal political situation in Lebanon has been affected by the imminent collapse of the economy and the critical social situation, which has given rise to massive unrest. The massive explosion in the port of Beirut in August 2020 contributed to its intensity.

The SIS monitored developments in Libya with a focus on the progress of the military offensive of the so-called Libyan National Army (LNA) against the capital Tripoli and the power rivalry between geopolitically relevant actors in the country, particularly Russia and Turkey. Russia's foreign policy activities in relation to Libya have been characterised by pragmatic flexibility in order to maximise the geopolitical and economic benefits. While on the diplomatic front the RF maintained its image as an impartial actor, in the military sphere the support provided to the LNA, in which Russian private military companies played a dominant role, was increasingly evident. However, it was only Turkey's military support for the coalition of armed groups supporting the internationally recognised Government of National Accord fighting the LNA that turned the tide in the Libyan conflict, resulting in the final failure of the LNA offensive on Tripoli in June 2020. After the fragile ceasefire between the warring parties in October 2020, the Service monitored the progress of a UN-sponsored political process aimed at forming a new transitional government with the potential to lead the country to national elections in 2021. The SIS also monitored the ongoing efforts of certain interest groups in Libya to place individuals in diplomatic posts in EU Member States who may subsequently be involved in facilitating entry into the Schengen area of other Libyan nationals or carrying out other potentially risky activities for the benefit of these interest groups.

The regime of President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi in Egypt remained in control of the internal political situation and the so-called annual demonstrations organised mainly by the foreign opposition in September 2020 were suppressed. The dominance of the ruling regime was confirmed by the results of the elections to both houses of the parliament in October and November 2020, which were overwhelmingly won by political parties and candidates supporting the President. However, potential unrest due to the deteriorating social and economic situation in the country may continue to pose a continuing threat to the stability of the regime. The situation regarding the construction of the Ethiopian GERD dam, which is one of the biggest external security threats to Egypt regarding its water supply, has also been monitored. There has been no progress in the negotiations between the parties and Ethiopia has taken steps towards the full operation of the dam, which has led to the threat of force by Egypt.

China has been on the SIS's radar as an emerging power with global ambitions, including efforts to influence political developments in Europe and undermine the Euro-Atlantic security structures. The Service also monitored developments in China with regard to its being the source country of the new coronavirus that triggered the COVID-19 pandemic.

Developments in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) were monitored particularly in relation to its WMD development and production programme and the uncertainties surrounding the whereabouts and health of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in April 2020.

3. Cooperation with public authorities and the information duty

In 2020, the SIS continued to engage in intensive cooperation with other state authorities of the Slovak Republic primarily in respect of state security. Through official external service relations, the SIS was actively cooperating particularly with the Office of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, the Office of the President of the Slovak Republic, the Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic, central state administration bodies and other authorities and institutions of the Slovak Republic. Within the framework of inter-ministerial cooperation, the SIS actively participated in activities of several national expert groups established to deal with tasks in the field of counterterrorism, illegal migration, extremism, organised crime, as well as the security of nuclear installations.

Cooperation with the Office of Deputy Prime Minister for Investments and Informatisation, the National Security Authority and the Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic has been carried out particularly in the field of cybersecurity. Cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic continued in order to achieve the required level of physical and object security of its individual facilities. The main subject of cooperation with the Ministry of Interior of the Slovak Republic was the issue of making available the required information and data for the SIS to be able to perform its duties, as well as cooperation in the area of surveillance of individuals and things.

Intelligence production for external recipients

As per December 31, 2020, the SIS had produced 378 intelligence products for external recipients covering the Strategic Focus areas, of which 191 (51%) were related to security, 88 (23%) to economy, and 99 (26%), to the foreign-policy area. A statistical overview of the intelligence production is given in the following tables and diagram.

In the area of security, production focused especially on organized crime, extremism, terrorism and illegal migration.

In the area of economy, key areas of focus included uneconomic handling of state and municipal property, foreign economic relations, corruption and preferential treatment.

In the area of foreign policy, SIS production focused on topics related to Russia, Ukraine and CIS states, crisis areas and Western Balkans.

Tables and a diagram: Overview of intelligence production from Jan 1, 2020 to Dec 31, 2020 according to external recipients

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Overall, during the period under review, SIS submitted to statutory recipients 560 intelligence products in the area of security, 207 intelligence products in the area of economy and 500 intelligence products regarding foreign policy topics.

In 2020, most intelligence products were submitted to the president of the Police Force (197), closely followed by the Minister of Interior (171). Both received intelligence products focused mainly on security.

In the course of 2020, SIS submitted 163 intelligence products to the Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, 138 intelligence products to the President of the Slovak Republic and 124 intelligence products of the Chairman of the Slovak Parliament. This group of the most senior-ranking state representatives – also called 3P within SIS – simultaneously receives a good number of intelligence products as a group.

Other major statutory recipients of intelligence products in 2020 included Military Intelligence (99) and the Minister of Defence (96).

Communication with the public

In the second half of 2020, the SIS launched a new communication strategy aimed at achieving greater openness towards the public while fully respecting the legal and reasonable limits of disclosure of information relating to intelligence activities. This strategy also included extension to other communication channels of the Service. In addition to the traditional website, the SIS actively communicates with the public via Facebook and Instagram. Social networks, which are steadily increasing in importance, are an effective tool for communicating information to the public. The aim of using new channels of communication is to bring some of the SIS activities or recommendations to the widest possible audience. One of the positive consequences of the new communication strategy is that since the launch of the social networking activities, the Service has seen a 100 % increase in the number of applicants for recruitment.

4. Cooperation with intelligence services from other countries

Cooperation with partner intelligence services was significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on travel as well as on physical meetings have been imposed by all partner services.

Multilateral cooperation in 2020 due to the pandemic outbreak, focused mostly on maintaining the normal multilateral agenda by exchanging information through communication systems and ensuring the participation of the SIS experts and senior management in expert multilateral meetings by videoconference channels. The absence of the possibility of attending expert and directors-level meetings in person was compensated for by the exchange of analytical and intelligence reports.

Multilateral cooperation between partner intelligence services in the field of cyber-security during the period under review focused primarily on 5G networks' security issues.

At the bilateral level, the SIS cooperates or has contacts with more than 100 intelligence partners from all over the world, with an increasing trend in recent years. The establishment of communication channels or points of contact also with intelligence services of countries geographically distant from Slovakia is of particular importance in cases of unexpected crises or threats to the interests of the country and its citizens abroad. The thematic focus of bilateral intelligence cooperation is determined by the permanent priority of protecting the security, political and economic interests of the country.

The key partners of bilateral international intelligence cooperation were mainly partners from EU and NATO Member States.

An important pillar of bilateral cooperation was the exchange of analytical information. There was also bilateral international cooperation in a number of operational areas, joint exercises and projects.

The most significant manifestation of the long-established trust between the partner services is the participation of the SIS in a number of joint intelligence operations.

5. Situation, principal activities and oversight of the Slovak Information Service

5.1 Personnel

Main indicators

Several hundred citizens have applied to join the SIS. Of the applications received, 39 % (of the applicants) were admitted to the further recruitment procedure, their professional profile corresponding with the staffing needs of the service and them meeting the legal requirements for admission. 18% of applicants successfully completed the recruitment procedure, which is a decrease compared to 2019 (37%).

As of 31 December 2020, the service’s staffing level was at 84.90% of the plan, a slight increase compared to the numbers on 31 December 2019 (82.92%).

The staff composition by type of service has remained essentially unchanged over the long term, with a substantial proportion of officers serving in the permanent civil service (91.50%), thus ensuring the personnel stability of the service. A small proportion of officers (0,75 %) were in temporary service, mainly qualified professionals needed to carry out the tasks of the service. The remainder of the officers (7,75 %) were in the preparatory service, which is preparation for the permanent service.

The composition of the staff according to basic demographic characteristics has remained unchanged, compared to previous years. In terms of age structure, the number of younger officers aged under 40 years - 23,54 % - was lower than the number of middle-aged officers aged under 50 years - 46,32 %. 71.36 % of the officers had a university degree. 59.52% and 40.48% of the officers are male and female respectively.

Newly recruited officers, including those who had already gained some experience in the ranks of the SIS, underwent various forms of specialised intelligence training in order to obtain specialised intelligence proficiency and thus fulfil the statutory requirement of intelligence training, as well as to meet the current needs of the service.

During the period under review, further training and education of officers was also carried out in order to acquire the special qualifications required for the performance of the service, in accordance with specific regulations.

5.2 Spending, material and technical provision

Budgetary spending

To ensure the activities of the SIS 2020, a total expenditure limit of EUR 63 405 323 (of which EUR 4 000 000 capital expenditure) and a binding revenue indicator of EUR 130 000 were approved by Act No. 468/2019 Coll. on the State Budget for 2020.

In the course of 2020, the Ministry of Finance adopted nine budgetary measures adjusting the SIS expenditure limit for 2020, namely:

- An authorised expenditure limit excess by EUR 3 506 884,11 in the program 06T Information activities, sub-program 06T04 EU projects, element 06T0401 National Cyber Security Incident Management System,

- An authorised current and capital expenditure limit excess to ensure the exercise of the SIS intelligence activities, to modernise information and communication technologies, to support and prepare technology for the transition to the 5G network, to strengthen cooperation with foreign intelligence services, to detect environmental crime, to detect technological and hybrid threats, to monitor the web space and to ensure the SIS cyber security,

- An authorised current expenditure limit excess by EUR 116 352 to release funds to compensate the SIS expenditure brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In the course of 2020, the SIS budget administrator adjusted the limit of revenues and expenditures by EUR 13 399.58 in accordance with Section 17(4) of Act No.523/2004 Coll. on Budgetary Rules of Public Administration as amended; these are funds from insurance settlements resulting from contractual and compulsory insurance.

Material and technical provision

The budgetary funds in the category of capital expenditure were used primarily for the construction and modernisation of the information and communication system in the SIS premises, means of cryptographic protection of information, modernisation of telecommunications technology, modernisation of electronic security systems, intelligence and monitoring technology, partial renewal of worn-out technical equipment, renewal and replenishment of physically and morally obsolete vehicle fleet and service equipment necessary for the effective exercise of missions under Act No 46/1993 Coll. on the Slovak Information Service, as amended. Within the framework of building investment, the funds were used for project documentation related to the reconstruction of the SIS facilities and for construction activities in the premises to ensure energy savings in line with the sustainable development, economy and efficiency of the operation of the SIS facilities and improving of the working environment.

In the category of current expenditure, the funds were used for the financial coverage of intelligence activities, for the settlement of due statutory and contractual payments, and, to the extent necessary, for the repair, maintenance and partial replacement of morally and technically obsolete technical equipment and the SIS facilities. Other expenditure was incurred only in connection with the basic maintenance of the proper functioning of the SIS and the elimination of emergency situations and operational malfunctions in the SIS premises.

The SIS is a partner within the project 'National Cyber Security Incident Management System in Public Administration', implemented under the Integrated Infrastructure Operational Program. Its aim is to build a new CSIRT – the SIS unit and to create specialised workstations for comprehensive solution of cyber protection and security issues, as well as a comprehensive solutions in incident management within statutory defined competences and legal obligations of CSIRT units. The project activities were completed by the end of 2020.

In 2020, the SIS performed its tasks in accordance with law and internal regulations. The SIS used the state budget funds in compliance with the defined purpose of their use, the principle of maximum efficiency and economy.

5.3 Technical-intelligence means and telecommunications secrecy

Legal framework for the use of technical intelligence means

Pursuant to Section 10(1)(b) of Act No 46/1993 Coll. on the Slovak Information Service, as amended, and Section 2(2) of Act No 166/2003 Coll. on the Protection of Privacy against the Unauthorised Use of Technical-Intelligence Measures (Act on the Protection against Interception), as amended, the SIS is entitled to use technical-intelligence means (TIMs) in the performing of its statutory tasks. Their use may interfere with the privacy of persons without their prior consent, but only under the conditions laid down by law.

This legal authorisation is subject to the prior written judicial approval. TIMs may only be used upon the written consent of the legitimate judge for the time necessary, not exceeding six months. The period begins on the day the judge gives his approval. If necessary, several types of TIMs can be used at the same time or sequentially, but each of them can be used only within the limits expressly stated within the judge’s approval. If a TIM at places inaccessible to public, the judge will specify whether the approval also applies to entering these place.

Use of TIMs in 2020

In 2020, the SIS submitted 428 requests for TIM use, 4 of which were rejected by the court did. Of the 424 consents granted for the use of TIMs, 187 cases have been assessed in respect of achieving their statutory goal and purpose by 7 April 2021. The statutory goal and purpose has been achieved in all TIMs uses assessed to date. By the date of this report's submission, the remaining 237 placements could not be assessed, since they were still active or the 30-day post-closure assessment period has not elapsed yet.

Comparing the number of ITM placements by the Slovak Information Service and the number of granted judicial approvals issued by the competent court in 2019, it was determined from the statistics provided by the Bratislava Regional Court that the number of submitted applications was the same as the number of granted judicial approvals for ITM use.

By comparing the number of the SIS applications for approval to use TIMs and the approvals granted by the competent court for 2020, consultation with the Regional Court in Bratislava revealed that the number of submitted applications was the same as the number of granted judicial approvals for TIM use.

All cases of TIMs use in 2020 were provided with the necessary approval of the judge and in no case was there any illegal use of TIMs.

Table: Detailed account of TIMs use in 2020 (TIMs use assessments updated as of 7.4.2021):

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Notes:
* Each request for TIMs use, including the request for prolongation of the TIMs use, is recorded separately.
** The SIS does not have the authority to use TIMs without the prior written consent of a lawful magistrate, unlike the Police Corps.

The conditions for the use of TIMs by the SIS is fully compliant with the provisions of Act No. 46/1993 Coll. on the Slovak Information Service, as amended, and Act No. 166/2003 Coll. on the Protection of Privacy against the Unauthorised Use of Technical-Intelligence Measures (Act on the Protection against Interception), as amended. The technical solutions used, together with strict organisational and control measures, guarantee the control of legality in the use of TIMs and exclude the possibility of unauthorised interference with the monitoring system, as well as the storage and archiving of data.

In 2020, the SIS submitted 152 requests to the Regional Court in Bratislava to order a disclosure of data covered by the telecommunications secrecy, of which the Regional Court in Bratislava granted request in 148 cases, and rejected the request in 4 cases.

5.4 Legislation and control

Legislation

In the field of legislation, the SIS cooperates with ministries, other central administration authorities and other administration bodies.

In 2020, the SIS reviewed 46 materials sent for interdepartmental scrutiny; to 15 of these SIS raised 29 substantial comments and 30 general comments. The aim of the comments was to draw the attention of the author to problems of application and to create a legal basis for the proper and efficient performance of the SIS's statutory tasks. In the framework of the interdepartmental scrutiny, substantial comments were also raised, on which mediation procedures were held. Some of the comments made have been incorporated into the documents concerned.

Control activities

In 2020, one internal inspection was carried out in the administrative security domain, focusing on the storage of Top Secret and Secret classified documents in the SIS Archive Room. At the same time, one unscheduled inspection was carried out on the completeness and handing over of classified registry records, classified data media, registry records, administrative and filing subsidiary records and official stamps.

In the area of physical security and buildings security, two inspections were carried out in 2020, namely an inspection of the physical security and buildings security documentation of protected premises of the categories Confidential and Restricted and an inspection of the external protection measures for the SIS premises. Moreover, two inspections launched in 2019 were completed in the period under review, aimed at inspecting the Service's premises for which no physical security and building security documentation has been drawn up, in order to ascertain whether classified information is stored or transmitted in these premises via a communication network, and to inspect the physical security and building security documentation of the protected premises of the Confidential and Restricted categories.

Internal control activities in 2020 included:

- 14 planned internal inspections; 7 inspections were carried out in the period under review aimed at detecting the presence of alcohol in the breath of officers,

- seven unscheduled internal inspections,

- seven on-the-spot financial audits pursuant to Act No 357/2015 Coll. on Financial Control and Audit, as amended.

Non-compliance of the audited facts with law was detected by an internal control focused on procedures for issuing, using and registering payment cards in one audited entity and by an internal control focused on compliance with deadlines for settlement of advances and expenses for domestic business trips in one audited entity.

The other internal audits did not reveal any breaches of law or the SIS internal rules and the audits were concluded with issuing of internal control reports.

The on-the-spot financial audits identified deficiencies in one case, namely an audit focusing on the financial operations for the reimbursement of expenses for domestic business trips.

The other on-the-spot financial audits did not reveal any deficiencies.

In 2020, five planned internal audits were carried out to verify and evaluate:

- the SIS inventory system and stock levels,

- the handling of requests for opinions in a selected area,

- compliance with the procedure for granting access to the SIS premises to providers of services and their employees,

- the system of training and retraining of the SIS security staff and of the cooperation between the various units,

- the verifiability and regularity of financial transactions, with a focus on special funds.

No deficiencies were identified in the internal audits carried out and all internal audits were concluded in 2020 with internal audit reports or internal audit partial reports.

6. Report on the activities of the National Security and Analytical Centre

n 2020, the National Security and Analytical Centre (NBAC) continued to fulfill its role as a national fusion center in processing and evaluating information on security threats. The Centre focused primarily on collecting and evaluation of information on terrorism and other serious security incidents and security threats against the Slovak Republic and its citizens in accordance with the NBAC Statute and the Concept for Combating Hybrid Threats.

In the period under review, the Centre's attention was focused on topical security issues, especially terrorist and extremist threats, hybrid threats, threats to Slovak citizens and Slovak embassies abroad, threats to important elements of critical infrastructure, illegal migration and possible arrival of high-risk individuals in Slovakia.

The center’s analytical activities involved continuous comprehensive assessment of the security situation in Slovakia, in neighbouring countries and in the EU countries, in the context of the declared degree of terrorist threat to Slovakia. In coordination with the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, the Centre also dealt with selected issues of international and European security and security policies, as well as the development of the security situation in crisis regions with a possible impact on Slovakia.

In order to identify potential security incidents in a timely manner, the Centre paid increased attention to the security situation in Slovakia, especially in response to the terrorist attacks committed in Europe in 2020, knife attack at a school in Vrútki, attempts of illegal purchase of ammunition and the arrival of high-risk persons from abroad. Enhanced monitoring of the security situation was also adopted before and during the GLOBSEC international security conference and during the transfer of military equipment of allied armies through the national territory. Particular attention was also paid to the efforts of extremist groups to disrupt the peaceful exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed right of citizens to assemble, dangerous threats and threats of attacks against protected persons and security incidents against elements of critical infrastructure.

The Centre paid particular attention to security risks related to the spread of COVID-19, including infodemia and weaponisation of Facebook.

During 2020, the Centre also carried out activities in the field of security prevention, in particular on security screening of nationals of selected third countries applying for visas and their inviters. During the period under review, a total of 1 209 persons were screened by various State authorities through the Centre. The decrease in the number of persons screened compared to previous years was due to restrictive measures adopted by the state administration to reduce the risk of the spread of SARS-CoV-2. In addition to the increased monitoring, security and preventive actions were also taken through the Centre before and during the Jewish holidays and the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the form of NBAC's international cooperation with foreign partner centres and national counter-terrorism coordinators, which in 2020 consisted of intensive sharing of information and analyses. Within the framework of multilateral cooperation effectuated through a platform bringing together counter-terrorism centres and counter-terrorism coordinators of the countries of Europe, North America, Japan and Australia - CTTA Madrid Group (Cooperation on Terror Threat Analysis Madrid Group), it was the NBAC that initiated the exchange of information on security risks related to the spread of COVID-19 within this informal association.

In the area of coordination of the fight against hybrid threats, the Centre, in cooperation with SITCEN SR, continued its cooperation with the academic community and the non-governmental sector, in which they, together with other public authorities, participated in a hybrid threat simulation organised by the non-governmental organisation GLOBSEC and the University of Žilina. Together with other ministries and the NGO GLOBSEC, a representative of the Centre participated in awareness-raising activities on hybrid threats for public administration employees in the form of lectures in regions of Slovakia. NBAC representatives were also actively involved in expert discussions on this issue at a conference held under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior, at an expert meeting conducted as part of the project Audit of Information Security of the Slovak Republic and were also part of working groups preparing policy-outlining documents in the field of combating disinformation and hybrid threats, especially the draft of the Coordinated Mechanism of Resilience of the Slovak Republic to Information Operations. In the perspective of building and strengthening the NBAC's capabilities as a national cooperation centre for hybrid threats, the inclusion of the Slovak Republic in the European Centre of Excellence for Combating Hybrid Threats based in Helsinki is a significant achievement. From August 2020 on, this will enable NBAC to participate in its activities through the SITCEN SR.

Representatives of the Centre also participated in other inter-departmental meetings during 2020, in particular in the Inter-Departmental Expert Group for the Coordination of Information Exchange and Analysis and Counter-Terrorism Cooperation and the Permanent Inter-Departmental Working Group for the Updating of the Threat Identification for Nuclear Facilities and Nuclear Materials in the Context of Projected Threat to the State.

In the area of training, the NBAC continued to participate in pre-departure training for selected Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs personnel and internal training for the SIS officers.

In the first half of the period under review, the new NBAC information system was put into operation and thus the processing of individual information was made more efficient. During this period, the trend towards an increase in the number of documents processed by the participating State authorities in the Centre's information system related to security incidents and events falling within the Centre's remit continued.

The process of preparing a new NBAC offices remained suspended in 2020 until sufficient funds are allocated. The allocation of funds for new premises suited to the nature and needs of the NBAC is not within the exclusive competence of the SIS and the Service has been presenting the urgency of its allocation for several years.

7. Conclusion

In 2020, the SIS carried out tasks of collecting and evaluating information for its statutory recipients, within its competences and powers under Act No. 46/1993 Coll. on the Slovak Information Service as amended.