News Briefs

Dzurinda wants more NATO support by year's end
Cabinet approves debt solution for Slovak Telecom
Nový Čas is most-trusted daily paper
SNS's Malíková calls for meeting with Mečiar
Schuster also dissatisfied with his own performance
Suspected Kováč Jr. kidnapper detained in Trenčín

Dzurinda wants more NATO support by year's end

Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda addressed a NATO gathering in Snekkersten, Denmark on May 26, telling participants that the Slovak government hoped to increase public support for NATO integration from its current sub-50% to 60% by the end of this year. Although the Slovak Constitution does not require a referendum on NATO entry, he said, 60% support would clearly indicate a united Slovak desire to join the
defence alliance.
Deputy Defence Minister Rastislav Káčer said that the workshop was a prestigious event hosting the foremost policy-makers of international security. Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan reported that former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar had pledged in a closed-door meeting last week to use his political power to increase popular support for Slovakia's NATO entry to the desired 60% by the end of the year.

Cabinet approves debt solution for Slovak Telecom

The cabinet on May 30 approved a scheme that would make it possible to settle the debt owed to fixed-line telephone monopoly Slovak Telecom (ST) by public media Slovak Television and Slovak Radio. FNM state privatisation agency president Jozef Kojda said that the programme would have the FNM cover the outstanding 927 million Slovak crowns in debt owed to Slovak Telecom before the German telecoms firm Deutsche Telekom privatised ST last year.
Kojda said that the FNM would cover the debt from the proceeds of the privatisation of state gas utility Slovenský plynárenský priemysel (SPP), Slovnaft or eastern Slovak steel-maker VSŽ. The debt owed to ST includes 565.6 million crowns by Slovak Television and 361.4 million from Slovak Radio.
The debt was created from 1996 to 2000 due to a radical increase of prices for transmission services which was approved by the former government of Vladimír Mečiar. When ST was sold to Deutsche Telekom last July, the government pledged to settle the debts within a year.

Nový Čas is most-trusted daily paper

The media research department of state-owned Slovak Radio polled 3,389 respondents above the age of 14 to determine which Slovak daily paper was the most trusted. Its results suggest that Nový Čas (New Time), which has the nation's largest circulation at over 180,000, was the most trusted.
The daily was first with 37.4% of the population saying they trusted the paper, while 23.3% said they did not trust it. Sme (We Are) finished second in the polling, followed by Pravda (Truth). Both were trusted by more than 20% of respondents, and distrusted by over 10%. Práca (Work) and Národná obroda (National Revival) followed with 10% support each.

SNS's Malíková calls for meeting with Mečiar

The chairwoman of the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) Anna Malíková publicly requested a meeting with her opposition partner Vladimír Mečiar, boss of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), on May 30. Calling the current political situation in Slovakia "alarming", she said she wanted to discuss the "acute political crisis in the country" with her main opposition partner.
Malíková wants the HZDS to support her efforts to call a special parliamentary session in order to hold a vote of non-confidence against FNM state privatisation agency president Jozef Kojda. The SNS wants him dismissed from his post because of an FNM decision to sell shipping company SPaP to the company Dunajservis Slovensko for a price the SNS says was less than half its market price (see story, page 7).
The SNS called the decision another in a series of non-transparent privatisations by the FNM, which have damaged the economic interests of Slovakia and its sovereignty. By dismissing the FNM president, the SNS wants to "minimise the economic damage and social decay caused by the current ruling coalition."

Schuster also dissatisfied with his own performance

President Rudolf Schuster said May 29 that he was not satisfied with his two-year performance as Slovakia's first ever directly-elected president. Schuster said he was unhappy that while he had talked about achieving public reconciliation when he entered office, he has so far failed to do so.
Schuster said that he had created enemies by being an active president and by trying to get involved in things which others believed were none of his business. "But when companies and different groups are trying to talk to me, it is my duty to listen to them and try to help them," he said.
Schuster added that he had taken several measures to improve Slovakia's image abroad, and that it would be left to others to judge whether he had been successful.

Suspected Kováč Jr. kidnapper detained in Trenčín

According to a report by the private TV station Markíza, police in the western Slovak town of Trenčín arrested two men on charges of extortion on May 27. One of the men was a former Slovak secret service officer suspected of involvement in the kidnapping of Michal Kováč Jr., son of the former president, while the other was a police officer. The information was confirmed by a police spokesperson.

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA and press reports

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