Opposition seen as potential NATO barrier

If early elections removed the current government from power and put the current opposition in its place, analysts say that Slovakia's NATO ambitions could be endangered.
Although the main opposition party (and the most popular party in the country) the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has voiced its support for NATO integration, its devotion to the aim has been questioned. The other main opposition party, the Slovak National Party (SNS), has been and remains today unambiguously opposed.
"We support Slovakia's EU entry, but we reject NATO entry," said Štefan Zelník, leader of the SNS parliamentary caucus. "We see no reason why we should invest money into arms when it could be used much more effectively at home."

If early elections removed the current government from power and put the current opposition in its place, analysts say that Slovakia's NATO ambitions could be endangered.

Although the main opposition party (and the most popular party in the country) the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has voiced its support for NATO integration, its devotion to the aim has been questioned. The other main opposition party, the Slovak National Party (SNS), has been and remains today unambiguously opposed.

"We support Slovakia's EU entry, but we reject NATO entry," said Štefan Zelník, leader of the SNS parliamentary caucus. "We see no reason why we should invest money into arms when it could be used much more effectively at home."

Martin Bruncko, a Slovak analyst with the OECD mission in Paris, said the SNS would present a major problem to NATO admittance if it became a government party after the next elections.

"It would really be a problem if the SNS became a government party," he said. "But it also has to be noted that the SNS already was a government party [together with the HZDS and the Workers' Party (ZRS) from 1994 to 1998], and the government included NATO integration into its programme declaration. The real problem would be if the SNS became the only governing party - and that is not at all likely."

Bruncko said another problem would be a return to power of former Prime Minister and current HZDS boss Vladimír Mečiar. "However, it's unlikely that, for example, Robert Fico [head of the Smer party, currently the second most popular party in Slovakia behind the HZDS] would go into the same government with him for fear that [Mečiar's presence] would jeopardise the acceptability of Slovakia to foreign structures."

When asked if he would ever form a government with Mečiar, Fico told the Slovak daily Sme that "I wasn't born yesterday, and I know very well what foreign countries are expecting of us."

When asked what foreign countries expected of Slovakia, Fico responded: "No Mečiar:"

HZDS member Oľga Keltošová defended Mečiar on NATO integration. "Last year, the HZDS stated our support for NATO entry. Therefore, I disagree with such one-sided evaluations of him [Mečiar]."

But Deputy Defence Minister Rastislav Káčer said that several politicians from the former government would be unacceptable for NATO, especially members of the HZDS.

"I don't believe in the seriousness of the HZDS' interests as far as NATO integration is concerned," he said. "Public opinion research shows that those most opposed to NATO entry are HZDS voters, even more so than SNS voters. I'm asking in what way are these parties working with their voters. How is it possible that a party is not able to convince its voters of the truth of its election programme?"

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