Visa rules hindering tourism
I am writing in regards to your article ["Visa rules making for border complications" Chris Togneri, Vol. 7 No. 7 February 19 - 25,]. Since I am working for a travel agency in Vienna, which focuses especially on tourists from Asia - who, wherever they travel in Europe, need a visa - I understood the difficulties foreigners have to face in Slovakia.
I myself am of Slovak origin, and was very happy when given the opportunity to make Slovak promotional tour itineraries for Asian tourists. However, the new visa regulations created by the Foreign Police and the Interior Ministry have discontinued the practice of issuing group visas. Instead, they gave the responsibilities to Slovak embassies and ordered that the person applying for a Slovak visa must be present in person (imagine the whole group, usually between 30 and 40 people, applying at the very same time). Those familiar with the system can imagine the consequences of the above mentioned points.
It all makes me wonder whether Slovakia wants to be discovered by tourists. There is much to be seen. Don't they even consider it an option?
Lamenting moral erosion misses true point
I am writing in reference to your editorial ["Justice is alive and well: It's the law that's blind", Vol.7 No. 6, February 12 - 18]. I certainly agree that some laws may need to be revised or scrapped. However, I do not agree that the law "forces everybody who lives here to ignore the rules at least part of the time just to get by".
As an example, the article states, "If foreign firms want to bring in an expert on a consultancy contract for several months, they haven't a chance to arrange the necessary papers in time, and thus are unable to pay their expert legally." This is total nonsense. Foreign firms have every opportunity to find out about the current status of the law and to comply with it before they bring in their foreign expert. Granted that the laws on this subject may be complex, outdated, or just downright silly and incoherent. However, if the firm chooses not to make this effort in sufficient time to plan properly, that is (at best) only marginally related to the condition of the country's laws.
The editorial asserts that "moral standards have been eroded by four decades of communism and another of frustrated hopes". The moral standards of Slovaks are "eroded"? Compared to whose? Those of Westerners? I doubt it. This "moral erosion" argument fails to address any specifics and is therefore so general as to be useless.
Content simply to lament the supposed moral erosion caused by the Communists, the editorial refuses to address the other half of this equation: individual choice. Ironically, the article seems to fall into the Communist mentality: Government has the solution to every societal ill. One of the false assumptions in this socialist concept is that people are merely components of the state, not free beings with innate moral, intellectual and spiritual capacities and rights who should weigh their own moral choices.
The article's assumption that the government should increase scholarships to foreign students is a case in point. This seems to be presented as the only alternative. Perhaps scholarships should be increased to ease the pressure on the foreign student scratching by on pitifully low stipends. But there are other choices that can be made by the foreign student himself. Should not we also expect this student to be aware of the laws and obey them? Perhaps he may have to do without smokes and dates. Perhaps he will decide it is not worth the hassle, give up his studies and leave the country. Perhaps he will simply continue skirting the law. But it is the individual student's responsibility to make this choice. So why is the assumption made that it is only the government's responsibility to address this?
The same holds true for other examples of moral erosion listed: "many foreigners are forced to work illegally, and cannot pay taxes even if they wanted"; firms bully people about to be fired into accepting less than the statutory five-months' dismissal wages; "people take under-the-table jobs to meet tax dues on their day wages"; "firms conspire with welfare recipients to take black market wages and remain on state benefit rolls". All of this may be true (although I question whether someone is "forced" to work illegally). But again, you deliberately turn away from addressing the issue of individual moral choice in these situations.
Your editorial decries moral erosion, but then refuses to address morality. So whose morals are eroded after all?
Forgiven at last for stockings column
From time to time I read The Slovak Spectator. I am not an ex-pat, but I am quite curious how foreigners view us. Two years ago, I read an article from one of your colleagues about women in Slovakia who wear socks and/or nylons with open-toed shoes
I was so disappointed and sad. I think that we are a quite friendly nation, and it is up to the ex-pat to decide if he or she feels good about being here or not. And your colleague judged Slovaks based on footwear.
The reason I am writing you is that your article by Matthew J. Reynolds, Vol. 7 No. 4, January 29 - February 4] gave me a warm feeling inside. Reading it, I had to smile. I was so happy that you can see also nice parts about Slovaks and Slovakia. I was also surprised because I never looked at my own people like you did.
I translated the article for my friends and sent it to them. Reading your article made me so proud to be Slovak. You have great eyes and an open heart which allows you to see things which for us have no real value or are less obvious. I would like to thank you not only for your article, but also for opening my eyes (and the eyes of my friends). We will try to capture from it as much as possible for our kids. I am happy that you are in Slovakia.
26. Feb 2001 at 0:00