Political news roundup

March 1- Slovakia's Supreme Court orders the dissolution of a far right group, Slovenská pospolitosť. Judge Ida Hanzelová said the reason for banning the group was that the party wanted to impose restrictions on the voting rights of certain groups of inhabitants.

March 1- A report of the Council of Europe suggests that Slovakia failed to properly answer questions regarding whether foreign intelligence services transported prisoners through Slovakia.

March 2- Slovak Medical Chamber recommended its members not sign contracts with the insurers unless they are "realistic" to the market situation. Doctors argue that the payments they currently receive from insurers for treating patients do not correspond with their real expenditures.

March 3- PM Mikuláš Dzurinda blamed the situation in the health sector on the opposition parties. In his opinion Smer and the Free Forum are plotting their intrigues due to the approaching general elections.

March 6- Slovakia's Judicial Council, the supreme self-governing body in the judiciary, opposes a revision to the constitution that would limit immunity from prosecution for judges. The former Justice Minister Daniel Lipšic proposed the revision.

March 6- After fulfilling all conditions required by law, new liberal political party Nádej (Hope) was registered at the Interior Ministry. The party's co-founders include Culture Minister František Tóth, Economy Minister Jirko Malchárek, and former Deputy Health Minister Alexandra Novotná.

March 7- Police detained a 33-year old businessman from Košice, Robert M, in Stupava in western Slovakia after he accepted Sk2 million from Pavol Rusko, the chairman of the opposition New Citizen's Alliance. Rusko cooperated with the police in order to capture the man. According to the police, the money was a portion of the Sk10 million (€50,000) the detained man demanded from Rusko on February 26 as part of a blackmail scheme. In return, Robert M had promised that in collusion with an investigator, two prosecutors and a judge, he would arrange to sweep all of Rusko's alleged political affairs under the carpet.

March 9- The US Department of State released country reports on human rights practices for the last year. The report on the Slovak Republic suggests that the local government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, there were problems in some areas. The following human rights problems were reported: lengthy pretrial detention; restrictions on freedom of religion; corruption in the judiciary, local government, and health sector; violence against women and children; trafficking in persons; and societal discrimination and violence against Roma.

March 9- British PM Tony Blair starts a two day visit to Slovakia. At a press conference held in Bratislava he said that countries like Slovakia brought energy and vitality to the European Union. He pointed out that he greatly respects his partnership with the Slovak PM Mikuláš Dzurinda but insisted that the visit had nothing to do with early parliamentary elections in Slovakia in June.

March 10- Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič received British Prime Minister Tony Blair during the latter's two day visit to the country.

March 13- US President George Bush received Slovak PM Mikuláš Dzurinda in the White House. The Slovak PM spoke to Bush about the issue of a possible visa-free policy on the part of US towards Slovakia. Bush said that he was aware that Slovakia expected progress in the visa issue, noting that the US government was doing its best in this connection.

March 15- The medical staff labour unions, such as the Doctors' Trade Union (LOZ) and doctors from the Bratislava Teaching Hospital set up a strike committee to forward their demands to the government. The committee wants the transformation of hospitals into corporate entities to be halted immediately. The medical staff also demands that their pay be increased, arguing that their wages have not been adjusted to keep pace with inflation for the last five years.

March 20- The LOZ trade union threatens a strike at facilities of the Bratislava Teaching Hospital if the government fails to propose a solution to the bad situation in Slovakia's healthcare sector by the end of March.

March 22- Shortly after 2 pm unknown offenders targeted a vehicle of the Slovak Embassy to Iraq. The Slovak Foreign Ministry said that nobody was injured in the attack.

March 23- Robert Fico's Smer party signs an agreement with five labour union groups that promises to push reinstallment of the tripartite, the Labour Code amendment, a minimum wage increase and dual VAT rates, provided that it becomes a governing party following the next general elections. The labour unions, on the other hand, pledged to support Smer in the election campaign and encourage their members and supporters to vote likewise.

March 24- Slovakia becomes the first country to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, becoming the only state in the world so far to ratify all 13 universal conventions on the fight against terrorism.

March 27- The central election committee registers 21 political parties for the early parliamentary elections to be held on June 17.

March 30- Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda announces that he will propose the recall of Culture Minister František Tóth to President Ivan Gašparovič. The coalition agreed to replace Tóth after he sent 66,000 letters to Slovak teachers thanking them for joining the Culture Ministry's project of cultural vouchers. The letters, which cost the ministry Sk700,000 were perceived as a political campaign of Tóth and his Nádej party.

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