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  • Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace after her swearing-in ceremony in Bratislava, Slovakia, June 15, 2019.

    Zuzana Caputova at the Presidential Palace after her swearing-in ceremony in Bratislava, Slovakia, June 15, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 June 2019

The Central European country will be led by a woman environmentalist who is also a gender rights defender.

Environmental lawyer Zuzana Caputova was sworn in Saturday as Slovakia's first female president. She ratified her commitment to battle climate change and strengthen the European Union (EU) during her inauguration speech.

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"Europe, with us as a party, must be a spiritual leader to combat global threats," the new head of state said in her speech after taking the oath of office before parliamentary legislators.

Embracing a pro-Europe discourse, Caputova positioned herself away from the nationalist, Eurosceptics rulers leading neighboring countries, such as Italy, Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

These last three countries are Slovakia's main Visegrad Group (V4) partners, an alliance of Central European states aimed at collaborating in military, cultural, economic and energy projects.

She also called global warming one of the biggest "threats we face," adding that about 143 million people may become climate refugees by 2050.

"Climate change must be slowed down because otherwise it can have substantial effects in Slovakia," said the woman who was awarded the 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize in recognition of her 14 years of fighting the installation of a landfill in Pezinok, her hometown.

"I offer my experience, sensitivity and healthy activist interests. I offer my wisdom, heart and hands," Caputova said, calling for the return of hope in the country's institutions, which has been seriously damaged by the presence corruption and organized crime at the highest levels of power.

"The feeling of injustice has grown and has demonstrated itself in calls for change and decency but also in anger over 'the system,'" she added, alluding to the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak, which sparked a wave of unprecedented protests in 2018 due to the apparent ineffectiveness of Slovak justice.

"Decency and transparency" was Caputova's main campaign motto that led her to defeat the Smer leader, Robert Fico, in the presidential elections last March.

While her political experience is little, the now head of state convinced voters with her grassroots activism and participation in the social-liberal Progresivne Slovensko (PS) party founded only two years ago.

Although she formally separated herself from the PS after being elected as president, Caputova vowed herself to defending the country's minorities as a "president of all."

"Under the constitution, people are free and equal in dignity and in rights, meaning nobody is so irrelevant to have their rights compromised, nor is anyone that powerful to stand above the law," stated the newest European leader.

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