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BY PETER SCHUTZ

In the desert and in the rainforest

The observation of a media analyst that the Sme daily's reporting on PM Fico's recent trip to Libya was "overblown" gives us serious pause for thought. After all, journalists should use an appropriate tone and language to faithfully record what happened.

The observation of a media analyst that the Sme daily's reporting on PM Fico's recent trip to Libya was "overblown" gives us serious pause for thought. After all, journalists should use an appropriate tone and language to faithfully record what happened.

So here we go. What happened in Libya was a burlesque of an official state visit. All that was really needed was for the sound system to fail, and for Fico's picture to be replaced on the screen by one of Buster Keaton.

The image of Fico, who has said he "will not be anyone's lapdog", waiting for a phone call from a dictator who should not be in a tent but in a clinic, to see if he would be allowed a 30-minute audience, is the lowest point in Slovak foreign policy since former President Schuster met his infamous anaconda in the Amazon. The alleged "slip of the tongue" that led Fico to refer to the Bulgarian nurses as "perpetrators" was a first-class international scandal that exposed the inability of Slovakia's communists not only to tell the difference between Libya and a state ruled by law, but also to deliver on what the public expects of its prime minister in such situations. Fico used the word "perpetrators" out of a desire to ingratiate himself to his host, whom he admires and respects, because as he himself said, "Mr. Khaddafi is not a politician, he's a leader".

Fico's so-called "Tripoli Agenda" was just a marketing device to obscure the fact that no normal politician would have participated in such a farce in the desert. Agreements with the likes of Khaddafi are either comical or dangerous. Aircraft repair contracts should be sought by the repair facility in Trenčín, not by the Slovak prime minister. The two-week recuperative stays in Slovakia that Fico offered might help Khaddafi, as long as he was billeted in the right sanatorium, but will do little to help the Libyan children infected with AIDS. The recovery of Libya's debt to Slovakia also looks like nonsense, although Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek's statement that "we will not inform the public of concrete steps because these are classified" cannot fail to alert anyone who remembers the recovery of the Russian debt, and fiascos such as Devín Banka and Katrim Stella. Similarly, invitations to "invest in Slovakia, especially in tourism" will not amuse the secret service, which regards Libyan capital as extremely risky.

If we proposed that the prime minister be fired due to his Libya excesses, that would be an overblown reaction. But it wouldn't be inappropriate to demand that he surrender his passport for the time being. The exotic trips that the PM has been taking are a parody of foreign policy, while the Libya safari was an embarrassment for the whole country.


Sme, February 26

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