PRESS digest

"Subsidies, minorities and nonsense "
By Peter Schutz


One futile wish that will not be fulfilled in 2007 or any other year is for serious arguments in politics. Nonsense as a pillar of communication is what unites the coalition and the opposition in Slovakia.

In a New Year's interview with the SITA news agency, opposition Hungarian SMK party leader Béla Bugár said that there could not be good relations between two countries (i.e. Slovakia and Hungary) if in one country there was tension between the government and minority representatives. This is a rather obvious "finding", since a certain amount of tension will always exist as long as a minority is in opposition. The "solution" would be to have the SMK permanently in government. And as we remember, sparks flew even while the SMK was part of the previous Dzurinda government, such as over the Law on Hungarians Living Abroad and other issues.

But Bugár took a step further, from nonsense towards dishonourable conduct, with his threat to "inform Brussels" of the fact that "the government gave half as much money to minority culture in 2007 as in 2006", and that Fico broke his promise "to keep the status quo on minorities". This is a sneaky and dishonest claim, because the Sk160 million that the 2006 state budget gave to minorities was a 100 percent increase from the year before, and was a pre-election sweetener for the SMK and its clients. No one knows this better than Béla Bugár himself. Given that Robert Fico's Smer party is building its "social state" by cutting state spending on all sectors, including culture, telling Brussels that the abolition of Dzurinda's campaign gift to the SMK is an attack on minorities is the height of irresponsibility.

Bugar just has to accept that "the clientele of the previous government has been replaced by another", according to political scientist Gábor Egry. And we, meanwhile, have to accept that serious arguments in politics are about as common as snow in the Sahara.


Sme, January 3

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