01.12.2002, 00:00

Last Week Major Political Happenings

BRATISLAVA, December 1, (SITA) -- Summary of major political happenings over the week between November 25 and December 1

Monday, November 25

SITA and MEMO 98 Continue to Run Election Info-Service
SITA News Agency in cooperation with civil association MEMO 98 and with support from the Open Society Foundation will continue to provide its Election Info-Service project to cover the December local elections. The service opens on Monday on www.infovolby.sk and www.volebnyinfoservis.sk and offers information packages on local candidates running in mayoral races and elections of deputies to local councils.

ANO Chairman Pavol Rusko Introduces Roma Project
Alliance for a New Citizen (ANO) leader and deputy speaker of parliament Pavol Rusko spoke with journalists on Monday in Kosice on a project shaped by its party to resolve problems of the Roma community in Slovakia. Approximately 2,400 field workers should work to breathe life into the ANO ideas in about 630 Roma settlements across Slovakia. ANO is meeting with non-governmental organizations engaged in the Roma agenda to speak about the project on December 16. Mr. Rusko underscored that the ruling coalition must come to a clear decision on the issue by the end of December. He declared that the party is also willing to support projects other than its own, in the event that these are better.

Slovakia Supports Steps Towards Fulfillment of UN Resolution on Iraq
Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan underscored on Monday that Slovakia wants to see the UN resolution on Iraq fulfilled. Slovakia, he says, supports all steps leading to implementation of the resolution. Mr. Kukan also addressed the statement made by NATO candidates of the so-called Vilnius Group (V10) at the NATO summit in Prague. He says that it was a general political formulation of positions declared already in the past by countries involved. He said that speculations over sending troops to Iraq are inappropriate at the moment.

Seminar on Successful Wrap-up EU Entry Talks held in Bratislava
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda believes that the most important task prior to European Union summit in Copenhagen in December would be to successfully wrap up entry talks in a way that Slovakia is offered EU membership. "At the same time we want to have conditions for Slovakia as advantageous as possible," Mr. Dzurinda told the press after a seminar for Slovak diplomats accredited to countries of the European Union. Prime Minister Dzurinda assumed that after the EU summit, Slovakia will become even more active towards EU member countries but also in terms of communication with Slovak citizens, as the country will have to show a positive result in the referendum on joining the EU

Palko Informed on Measures against Illegal Migration in London
At an international conference in London Slovak Interior Minister Vladimir Palko reported on measures that Slovakia has taken against illegal migration. Other highlights of his address were steps made to protect the future Schengen border with Ukraine and towards enhancing border police and migration office. The conference tackled organized crime in south-eastern Europe. The conference's aim was to generate new political impetus to fight organized crime; encourage a more strategic approach to regional and international activity; and achieve real progress in the battle against crime.

November, November 26

Csaky Says Slovakia Will have Meet its Commitments Before EU Entry
The Slovak government's ministerial council for European integration met on Tuesday to evaluate progress in European Union accession talks and the use of pre-entry funds. Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Pal Csaky told the media that the council discussed commitments that Slovakia made in accession negotiation. As for PHARE and ISPA funds, Mr. Csaky said that there are improvements in projects financed through these funds, however, some problems are still interfering with the execution of ISPA projects in the sphere of environment and PHARE projects on cross-border cooperation in the Ministry of Regional Development along with the national treasury project at the Finance Ministry.

Concessions EU Offered are Satisfactory for Slovakia, Says Hrusovsky
Speaker of the Slovak Parliament Pavol Hrusovsky said in Brussels on Tuesday that he is satisfied with improvements made to the latest offer from the Danish presidency of the European Union pertaining to the financial conditions of Slovakia's entry. However, he did not specify whether the offer will be accepted by Slovakia as negotiations are still ongoing. After talks with EU commissioner for enlargement Gunter Verheugen, Mr. Hrusovsky said he is convinced that Slovakia's accession talks with the European Union will be completed to the benefit of Slovakia.

We are Pro-American and not Ashamed of it, says Slovak PM Dzurinda
Commenting an excited debate in the media in Slovakia on whether he should have signed the declaration of V10 countries pledging support of the coalition to disarm the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said that in the last few days the media have overdramatized the issue of a potential strike on Iraq. Mr. Dzurinda met on Tuesday with ambassadors of NATO member countries to Slovakia. "Sometimes I read in the media that the V10 declaration almost equals sending troops to Iraq, which I consider complete nonsense," he said.

Prime Minister Dzurinda Says Hungarian Status Law is Unacceptable
Commenting on his late Tuesday talks in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy over the Hungarian Status Law at a special news conference, Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda said that amendments proposed to the law by Hungarians are fundamentally unacceptable. He restated that application of the law would have extraterritorial effects and ethnically discriminate against a certain group. Mr. Medgyessy stressed that the draft revision to the Hungarian Status Law, rejected by the Slovak delegation, will be submitted to the Hungarian Parliament. According to him, institutions operating in schools, parents associations and educators will receive benefits, instead of distributing them directly to parents.

Wednesday, November 27

SRo Poll Shows SMER Improved its Position the Most since September
Were general elections held in the middle of November, all seven political parties and movements represented in the new Slovak Parliament would overstep the 5-percent limit, necessary to make it to parliament. The media research department of the Slovak Radio carried out an opinion poll of political preferences on 3,039 respondents between November 12 and 18. The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) would win the elections, backed by 17.6 percent of citizens. Robert Fico's party the Smer would come in the second, since 16.7 percent of respondents would cast their ballots for this party. Another 14.9 percent of respondents would support the Slovak Democratic and Christian Democratic Union (SDKU) and 11 percent of respondents the Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK).

Term in Office of General Cerovsky Ends on Wednesday
The term in office of General Milan Cerovsky, Chief of the General Staff of the Slovak Armed Forces ended on Wednesday. Until the appointment of his successor, his duties will be performed by General Peter Novotnak, Deputy Chief of the General Staff.

Slovakia's First TV Music Box Channel Goes On Air in December
Slovakia's first music television channel Music Box will go on air on December 1, head of CREATV, the TV station's license holder, Marcel Dekanovsky told the press. Music Box will offer a 24-hour a day program in the form of music video clips.

Linden: Slovakia Will Have to Work Hard after the Copenhagen Summit
Head of the European Commission's delegation to Slovakia Erik van der Linden expressed appreciation on Wednesday for Slovakia's progress in European Union accession talks. Mr. Linden was addressing a gathering at the Leaders to Leaders conference in Bratislava.

Berenyi Meets Danish European Affairs Minister Bertel Haarder
Slovak Foreign Ministry state secretary Jozsef Berenyi met on Wednesday in Copenhagen with Danish Minister for European Affairs Bertel Haarder. High on the agenda of their talks was completion of accession negotiations with the European Union. The Slovak representative highly appreciated concessions offered by Denmark as EU presiding country to countries seeking EU membership. The proposal, Mr. Berenyi said, creates favorable conditions for successfully closing negotiations and inviting Slovakia to join the European Union at the Copenhagen Summit in December.

Thursday, November 28

Russian Diplomat Says Relations with Slovakia Successfully Developing
New Russian Ambassador to Slovakia Alexej Borodavkin says relations with Slovakia have been developing very successfully especially over past several years. After his meeting on Thursday with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, Mr. Borodavkin told journalists that political relations have achieved a high level while economic cooperation is also progressing well.

Association Sues a Reporter for Articles on Supreme Court President
The "Association of Independent Judiciary at Slovakia's Supreme Court" is suing PRAVDA daily reporter Vanda V. for libel. The association claims that Vanda V. disseminated incorrect information about Supreme Court President Stefan Harabin and thus harmed his credit in the public. According to the association, Vanda V. committed the crime of label.

Army, Churches, and Local Councils Most Trusted Institutions
A 3,093-person opinion poll conducted between November 12 and 18 by the Slovak Radio's media research department claims that the Slovak Army, churches and local governments enjoy the highest trust of Slovakia's citizens. The poll says that 56.5 percent trust the Slovak Army, 53.4 percent trust churches while 50.9 percent of the citizens have invested trust into local governments. President came in fourth trusted by 30.2 percent and regional governments placed fifth having trust of 30.2 percent of the polled.

European Commission will not Comment Slovak-Hungarian Dispute
The European Commission will not comment the planned revision of the Hungarian Status Law, which enacts various benefits to Hungarians living outside Hungary at this point. The European Commission is still examining the prepared revision. The European Commission's spokesman said that the EU Commissioner for enlargement is communicating on the matter with prime ministers of both countries.

FOCUS Opinion Poll Estimates 40 percent Turnout in Local Elections
In its 1,015-person opinion poll conducted between November 12-18, FOCUS polling agency claims that turnout in local elections on December 6 and 7 will be 40 percent. The poll says that 31 percent of respondents said they would probably cast their votes.

Friday, November 29

Court Frees Convicted Gangland Boss Mikulas Cernak
Trencin Regional Court Senate decided on Friday to release gangland boss Mikulas Cernak. Trencin Regional Court dismissed the prosecutor's complaint against the Trencin District Court decision that approved a request from Mikulas Cernak to be released from jail after serving half of his prison term. This means freedom for Mr. Cernak. Mr. Cernak should be released from the Ilava prison, where he has been serving his 8.5-year sentence, later on Friday.

President Schuster Vetoes Law on Social Aid
President Rudolf Schuster has vetoed the recently passed law on social aid, revising also the legal norm on subsistence level and returned it to parliament for re-discussion. Presidential spokesman Jan Fule informed SITA on Friday. President Schuster announced he would not to sign this revision reducing social benefits shortly after parliament adopted the law arguing that receivers of social aid will also be hit by other governmental restrictive measures.

SMER Leader Demands Measures against Hungarian Status Law
Opposition party the SMER calls on the cabinet to adopt measures to prevent the application of the Hungarian Status Law in Slovakia. SMER leader Robert Fico says that steps taken by Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda are rather only verbal affray between the representatives of Slovakia and Hungary. However, Mr. Fico appreciates that "the cabinet has built its arguments on SMER criticism." Mr. Fico restated that the law cannot be applied in Slovakia because it threatens sovereignty and territorial integrity of Slovakia.

New Conflict of Interests Bill Should be Presented in January 2003
Slovak Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic announced on Friday that the first version of a new constitutional bill on conflict of interests will be ready by the end of January. It will serve as the basis for two executive regulations that will contain concrete measures, mechanisms and sanctions, said Mr. Lipsic after an initial working group meeting involving representatives of the cabinet, parliament and non-governmental organizations. He assumes that the bill could become effective from January 2004, also applying to current deputies and constitutional representatives.

Almost 170 HIV Positive People in Slovakia, 21 Cases Since January
Slovakia currently records 168 people with the HIV virus, while 21 were entered into the registers since the beginning of 2002, Vlastimil Mayer from the National Reference Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention informed SITA on Friday. The center registered 17 new cases over 2001. According to Dr. Mayer, these figures show a slow but constant increase in the number of HIV positive people in Slovakia.

Lipsic will File a Complaint to the Supreme Court on Cernak's Release
Slovak Justice Minister Daniel Lipsic will file a complaint with the Supreme Court on violation of a law in the case of Trencin Regional Court's decision, which resulted in releasing on probation Banska Bystrica gangland boss Mikulas Cernak after he served half of his prison term. Mr. Lipsic argues that the crime for which Mr. Cernak was convicted belongs to the group of crimes with stricter conditions for conditional release. "The criminal must serve at least two-thirds of his prison sentence," he stressed. The Supreme Court must make a decision within three months of receiving the complaint. If the court accepts the minister's arguments, Mr. Cernak would return to jail.

Saturday, November 30

Dzurinda Comes under SMK Fire Regarding Hungarian Status Law
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and a member of his coalition, the Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK) exchanged statements on Saturday on the outcome of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda talks with his Hungarian counterpart Peter Medgyessy last week over the Hungary presented changes to its Hungarian Status Law. The Hungarian party says it drafted a solution that could dispel Slovakia's objections regarding the law's extraterritorial effects and submitted it to Hungary, after it agreed on the move with Mr. Dzurinda. However, at his November 26 meeting with Mr. Medgyessy, Slovakia's Prime Minister presented a stance completely differing from the agreed upon one, says the SMK.
On the other hand, the Prime Minister says he has never met with any SMK representative on the Hungary proposed amendment to the Hungarian Status Law. He just talked with SMK leader Bela Bugar on acceptable way in which Hungary could provide benefits to Hungarians living in Slovakia. They agreed that funds should not flow directly to parents of children attending schools with Hungarian as the language of instruction but to institutions operating at schools. This agreement, which is just one of the fields enacted in the law, is still valid, Mr. Dzurinda said.

Prime Ministers Dzurinda and Spidla Support Joint Protection of Skies
Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda had talks with his Czech counterpart Vladimir Spidla in Bratislava on Saturday. Mr. Spidla is paying his first ever visit to Slovakia since he took over.
The Prime Ministers supported the idea of joint defense of Czech and Slovak skies. However, it is necessary to give the plan more concrete shape, they agreed. Mr. Spidla is convinced that such system could be developed that will bring benefits to both Slovakia and Czechia. Also Slovak Defense Minister Ivan Simko and his Czech counterpart Jaroslav Tvrdik met in Bratislava over the possible Joint Skies project and spoke about concrete form of cooperation. On Monday expert commissions should sit to judge the project.

Spidla and Hrusovsky Speak about EU Entry Referendum
Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla who was paying his first official visit to Bratislava met Speaker of Parliament Pavol Hrusovsky on Saturday.
The officials discussed coordination of the term of holding a referendum on both countries' entry into the European Union. The referendum should be held in the Czech Republic in mid-June 2003 while in Slovakia it will be held even before, on June 7. Representatives of the Visegrad Four have already agreed that the entry referendum should be held first in the country with the most massive support for membership.

Sunday, December 1

V4 Prime Ministers Agreed on Joint Steps During Final EU Entry Talks
Prime ministers of the Visegrad Group met in Budapest on Sunday to compare their opinions on the final phase of EU accession talks prior to the EU summit planned for Copenhagen in mid December. Czech Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla, his Polish counterpart Leszek Miller, Hungarian Prime Minister Peter Medgyessy and his Slovak counterpart Mikulas Dzurinda agreed on joint steps during the final phase of EU talks in problematic fields. However, they refused to elaborate joint position in spheres of agriculture, finance, budget and transition periods as they would wait for their EU partners in the union first.

SMER Adds Appendix to Its Program Theses
On Sunday, SMER congress delegates added an appendix to the party's program theses that will make SMER an alternative to the current center-right government. The appendix features three fields: economy as basic precondition for operation of a socially-oriented market economy, a socially just state and the rule of law.
SMER chairman Robert Fico said at a press conference, that SMER used programs of the Labour Party in Great Britain and the Social-Democratic Party of Germany when elaborating the appendix. Though, SMER's shift towards center-left political parties is obvious, the party does not want to accelerate this process. It will attend the session of the Social International as observer in March 2003, but it will not apply for a membership sooner than 2006.