News Briefs

Róbert Fico tops latest popularity poll
SE wants its own security at Mochovce nuclear plant
German chancellor makes first visit to Slovakia
Roma leaders sign agreement on political programme
SD1 leaders bashed by colleagues at party congress
Slovenský raj forest fire kills six

Róbert Fico tops latest popularity poll

A recent poll conducted by the Statistics Office's Institute for Public Opinion Research (ÚVVM) showed that non-parliamentary Smer party boss Róbert Fico is still the most popular politician in Slovakia. Fico, with an 18.6% popularity rating, beat out former Prime Minister Vladimír Meeiar (15.7%), and current PM Mikuláš Dzurinda (13.5%). They were followed by far-right Slovak National Party head Anna Malíková (12.1%), President Rudolf Schuster (11.9%), Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Ivan Mikloš (7.9%), Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová (6.7%), and Hungarian Coalition Party leader Béla Bugár (5.5%). The poll, conducted between September 29 and October 9, was carried out on 1,086 respondants.

SE wants its own security at Mochovce nuclear plant

Energy utility Slovenské elektrárne (SE), the operator of the country's nuclear power plants, requested permission from the ÚJD national nuclear supervisory authority to establish its own security service at the Mochovce nuclear power plant. SE spokeswoman Alena Melichárková said on October 20 that the ÚJD would rule on the request by the end of month.
The plant has been guarded by Mochovce staff and local police since late September after it was discovered that the security firm hired by SE did not have a licence from the ÚJD to guard a nuclear plant. Economy Minister 1ubomír Harach said recently that security at Mochovce and Slovakia's Jaslovské Bohunice plant should be provided by an independent SE subsidiary in cooperation with a police unit.

German chancellor makes first visit to Slovakia

Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda received German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder on October 23 in Bratislava, marking the first visit ever of a German chancellor to independent Slovakia. Schröder assured his counterpart that Germany would support Slovakia's EU and NATO integration ambitions.
He said that Germany supported EU enlargement, adding that Slovakia could be among the first countries added to the alliance. The Slovak government had begun the EU accession process rapidly, he explained, having already closed nine of 30 chapters in the acquis communautaire, and if it continued or evensped up its reform pace, Slovakia could be ready to join the EU by 2003.

Roma leaders sign agreement on political programme

Representatives of 14 Roma political parties and 29 non-governmental organizations signed an agreement in Košice on October 22 committing them to a joint political programme and cooperation during the next parliamentary elections. Gejza Adam of the Roma Civil Initiative said the country's multiple Roma parties would unite for the elections as the Roma Coalition (RK).
Adam said the RK could attract potentially 700,000 national voters and collect up to 12% of the vote. Adam said the Roma would not rule out cooperation with any party.
The unification of Roma parties has been slowed over the past several years by quarrels between Roma leaders over the chairmanship of their two largest parties - the Roma Intelligentsia for Coexistence (RIS) and the Roma Civil Initiative (ROI). Most Roma leaders have also rejected cooperation with the cabinet appointee for the Roma community, Vincent Danihel, and have been critical of Deputy Prime Minister for National Minorities Pál Csáky.

SD1 leaders bashed by colleagues at party congress

Delegates of the Party of the Democratic Left (SD1) began their party congress in Košice on October 21 by criticising the party's leadership for the continual decline in the SD1's voter support. During the 1998 general elections, the reformed communists won over 14% support, a number which some polls indicate has slipped to below the 5% support needed to secure parliamentary representation.
Party delegates reproached their leaders for recent allegations of corruption within the party stemming from scandals involving Devín banka and Štefan Košovan, the former director of Slovenské Elektrárne who resigned after accusations of clientelism. SD1 member Rudolf Tvaroška added that the party's threats to leave the ruling coalition had hurt the SD1's image among voters.
Defence Minister and head of the SD1 ministerial club Pavol Kanis stressed that there were no reasons for the SD1 to quit the ruling coalition. However, he said that it was at times difficult to preserve the unity of the ruling coalition while maintaining the party's left-wing line. Delegate Michal Beneík responded that SD1 ministers should emphasise the interests of the party over those of the ruling coalition.
One delegate also called on party boss Jozef Migaš to resign from his post. Migaš, who was elected party chair over Education Minister Milan Ftáenik at the SD1's party congress in July, said that since he had been elected to his post for two years, he would remain SD1 leader.

Slovenský raj forest fire kills six

A forest fire near the village of Hrabušice in the Slovenský raj national park claimed the lives of six volunteer fire fighters, aged between 16 and 39, on October 25. The fire, in the eastern Slovak region of Spišská Nová Ves, burned 12 hectares of pine and spruce forest with the aid of strong winds, and caused over 700,000 Slovak crowns ($14,000) in damage.

Compiled by Chris Togneri
from SITA

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