Will communist leaders ever be punished?
As a second generation Slovak-American, I was raised in a household steeped in Slovak tradition and pride. I regret that my father did not live to see the fall of Communism. He once told me, in the 1960's, that had the regime fallen the next day, there would have been a Communist hanging from every light pole. His prediction never came true.
Today we see war crimes tribunals being established to try crimes against humanity in Bosnia and other former Yugoslav countries. There also exist tribunals in Africa, to cover the conflicts between the Hutus and the Tutsis.
Sadly, it seems that those who practised fratricide and enslavement of their countrymen are free to walk the streets of Slovakia, the country they dishonoured. Where are the tribunals to bring to justice those who sold their birthright to their communist masters?
Irish vote not what it appears to be
Lest our Slovak brothers think we Irish have suddenly become selfish and insular (for the first time in history!), let your readers note some mitigating points not mentioned in your article [“Irish vote dents Slovak EU hopes”, by Ed Holt, Vol. 7 No. 24, June 18 – 24].
First, the Irish turnout was depressingly low (between 30 and 40%) which shows that Celtic Tigers cannot afford to take earning time off work on a busy Thursday, while inertia prevails in the government's appraisal of more appropriate, modern voting media. This leaves the old, the infirm, the part-time employed, and the unemployable to turn out and make up the voting numbers. In other words, those most susceptible to extremist views.
Second, the parties advocating these extremist views - a veritable trans-spectral cocktail including Sinn Fein (IRA political wing), Green parties, etc - organised themselves with stunning efficiency (allegedly with torrents of funds from Eurosceptics in the UK, Denmark, the US, and so on) with a campaign appearing to be a dry-run for next years' general elections, while the mainstream/centrist political parties seemed more concerned with saving funds, ad space and air-time for those same elections. Thus, discussion of the issues at stake was completely one-sided.
Third, it is not to be forgotten that the aforementioned few who did make it to the polling booths were presented with no less than three referenda - one on the abolition of the Death Penalty, a second on the ratification of the International Criminal Court (ICC), with the third on the crucial Nice Treaty. So not just three colour-coded bilingual ballot papers had to be perused, but a degree in legalese was necessary to decipher the ballot phrasing and treaty text references.
Finally - as if all the above were not confusing enough - during the campaign, various groups were advocating confusing combinations of 'Yes' and 'No' votes respective to the different ballots - for example Green parties argued for a 'Yes' vote on the abolition of the Death Penalty, something else to the ICC, and 'No' to Nice. Confused already?
So, put simply, the Real Irish are as Euro-friendly as ever, but a badly-organised referendum, with the government taking a presumptuous approach, and simply too many groups, too many ballots and too few people provided this even more confusing result.
Let's talk again in 18 months when we clarify our communications skills as a nation!
EU snapping at Irish outspokenness
I would like to express my opinion about your article [“Irish vote dents Slovak EU hopes”, by Ed Holt, Vol. 7 No. 24, June 18 – 24]. It is true that Ireland has benefited enormously from EU membership over the last 30 years. Our economy is booming (although at the moment it is beginning to fizzle), the brain drain has gone into reverse, there is now a population inflow instead of outflow, and generally things are in a good condition.
While I'm sure there will be some bitterness about Ireland voting against expansion (which I, personally, would not do) Slovakia and the other EU applicant countries need to remember that there has never been a moment in our history as an EU member when our opinion has been counted or views considered on an equal basis as the other member states. The EU has never shown an ounce of concern for what we have ever thought about any issue, while the Union carries on regardless - which I'm sure they have every right to do. The article even reported that the French president stated that "the Nice treaty would be enforced regardless of the Irish vote". For these simple facts I ask why has the matter been blown out of proportion?
Well, perhaps it's because we have spoken our own voice and expressed our own opinion, and we haven't followed the EU (or should I say France and Germany) like blind sheep, which is what a lot of states have and are doing. And to all who complain about Ireland voting against the Nice treaty because it doesn't want to lose its subsidies, I say...read up on the subject. Since 1999, Ireland has become a contributor, not a receiver of funds. We are paying back what we received. It is, after all, a democracy, and I do realise that the CEE region is a newly democratic region. But I'm sure that you can grasp the concept that as a democratic state we have every right to vote anyway we want. And you have no right to tell us we're wrong.
Despite bureaucracy, Slovakia still entices
While serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Slovakia I learned how the wonderful governmental organisations work, and had to laugh as I read about the bureaucrat trying to open her Microsoft Word programme ["Work Contracts: Keep that green card", by Tom Nicholson, Vol. 7 No. 24, June 18 - 24].
Regardless of the difficulties, I still find myself wanting to come back. Thanks so much for keeping me informed of the Slovak news!