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News Briefs

Number of violent crimes drops slightly in 2000

Police in Slovakia recorded 12,927 violent crimes between January 1 and December 22, 2000, of which over 90% were solved. The number of violent crimes dropped 607 on the figure for the same period in 1999, the Interior Ministry has said.
Police registered 133 murders in the period, down 8 from 1999. From that total 104 murders have been solved, a 78.2% success rate. In the same period there were 1,213 robberies, of which 851 were solved.
The most significant year-on-year decrease was registered in sex-related crimes, with the number of reported rapes down from last year's 171 to 127 this year.

Schuster meets Roma representatives in Košice

President Rudolf Schuster met an expert committee that prepared a study on the problems of the Roma community in Košice December 28 to discuss ways of tackling these problems, particularly employment.
The committee's work was aimed at starting projects that will lead to several pilot programmes and link them to similar activities within other Visegrad Four [Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic and Slovakia - ed. note] countries.
"The pilot projects would focus on the problem of unemployment that is the nucleus of Roma pain," committee member Gejza Adam said, adding that the programme also dealt with issues of housing and social care.
Schuster promised to help the committee to obtain finances for covering the pilot projects from European Union funds.
The International Roma Union (IRU) has said that the Slovak government has the will to solve the economic and social problems facing Romanies but that it would need billions of Slovak crowns to do so.
However, some Roma activists disagree with any plans to simply pour money into the Roma community without having a clear development concept in mind.

Fico calls for political reform to improve system

The Smer party will initiate political reform to improve the workings of the political system in Slovakia and strengthen order, justice, and stability within the system itself, Smer leader Róbert Fico said December 27.
Fico added that his party wants to see presidential powers widened to include the right to dissolve parliament in special cases, such as when a parliamentary majority is broken down, a budget is not approved, or a cabinet is not formed within three months of elections.
Smer also recommends changes in parliament itself, calling for a reduction in the number of deputies from the current 150 to 120, with half elected from parties' candidate lists and others by direct election in election precincts. Deputy immunity should apply solely to deputies' parliamentary operations.
Fico added that he would also like to see the creation of three deputy prime minister positions: one for the development strategy of Slovakia, one for human resources, and one for state services. The last two deputy prime ministers would serve also as ministers.

Bardos claims parliament has not done enough

Head of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) deputy caucus Gyula Bardos said December 27 that he was not satisfied with the achievements of parliament this year, citing as the biggest failures not adopting amendments to the constitution and a delay in the reform of public administration.
Bardos was also critical of relations between the governing coalition and opposition. He said that parliament is still polarised, adding that he would like to see fair relations between coalition and opposition deputies.
He also reproached the cabinet for putting undue pressure on deputies to push through drafts in shortened legislative procedures.

Last EU chapters to be opened except Financial Control

In the first half of next year Slovakia will open accession talks with the European Union in all remaining chapters of the European legislation, except Financial Control. Diplomatic sources in Brussels have said that the first round talks would be held in late March. Slovakia has already opened 16 EU chapters.
Though the European Commission has criticised Slovakia for several shortcomings in the Financial Control chapter many wersuprised by the decision not to put this chapter on the agenda of the talks.
Slovak Ambassador to the EU Juraj Migaš has said that by summer the EU should open talks on Financial Control with Slovakia.
The EC has recommended that Slovakia create a sound system of financial control, strengthen the independence of auditors and set audit procedures related to drawing funds from EU pre-accession funds.
The 12 new chapters in which Brussels will open talks with Slovakia are Economic and Monetary Union, Social Policy and Employment, Free Movement of Goods, Free Movement of Persons, Company Law, Agriculture, Taxation, Energy, Regional Policy and Co-ordination of Structural Instruments, Environment, Co-operation in Justice and Home Affairs and Financial and Budgetary Provisions.
Slovakia has already submitted position documents to these chapters and they are scheduled to be on the EC agenda in January.

Compiled by Ed Holt from SITA and TASR

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