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IN SHORT

Fico: Tensions reduced after a year in power

ONE year after the general election swept the current coalition into power, the partisan bickering that once characterised the country's political scene has significantly decreased, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said.

Fico made these comments to journalists following the cabinet session on July 4 in Bratislava. His cabinet was officially formed on July 4, 2006.

"The public is not dragged into political mudslinging as intensively as in the past," said Fico, adding that this has contributed to a calmer atmosphere in the country.

According to the prime minister, the past year also helped standardise the political scene.

"People now know how to identify who is representing what," he said.

Fico stood firm on the state of the economy.

"There are no economic, social or financial fields for which this government can be criticised," he said.

"Unemployment is not on the rise, inflation is decreasing, and practically all figures are developing favourably," said Fico. "The trends are well established."

The opposition does not share this optimism. The Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) criticised Fico's governing coalition, with KDH leader Pavol Hrusovský claiming that it doesn't have any vision and is "unpredictable".

The coalition "is flavourless, without smell and creates chaos," Hrušovský said.

Hrušovský did point out a positive aspect, however - the government has not abolished any of the previous coalition's key reforms, although in several ministries "there have been such tendencies".

KDH vice-chairman Martin Fronc said the country's foreign policies have also suffered over the past year, and have prevailingly focused on business. Moreover, none of the ruling parties is a member of any of the leading European parliamentary factions.

The Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) shares this critical view. Speaking at a press conference on July 2, SMK chairman Pál Csáky said that the coalition cannot keep pretending to govern forever, but must address problems arising in various areas.

The coalition, however, is neither intellectually nor professionally prepared to handle this task, he said.

"I expect that they'll become increasingly bogged down with difficulties," said Csáky.

He added that the coalition will face a very difficult time next year when it will have to decide on Slovakia's behalf whether to adopt the euro as of 2009.

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