Social Democrats move towards SOP merger
Chairman of the ruling Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) Pavol Hamžík used a June 12 press conference to announce that an agreement on cooperation between his party and the Social-Democratic Party of Slovakia (SDSS) is ready to be signed. Hamžík added that the text of the agreement has been approved by both parties' leaderships.
The SDSS is one of the five constituent parties (KDH, DU, DS, SZS, SDSS) of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), which was created to circumvent previous election laws setting a 5% limit for each single party to hold seats in parliament. After Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda this spring formed his own party for the next elections, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), tension inside the SDK and among its partners in the ruling coalition grew.
Hamžík said that one of the most important parts of the agreement involves the integration of centre-left parties in the coalition. SDSS head Jaroslav Volf said that for his party the most important question was integration with the SOP.
Asked about the SDSS' further participation in the SDK caucus, Volf said that the question was premature and that he would take a stance on this after the union of the two parties. He said that SDSS deputies are loyal to the SDK election programme.
SHV says Slovak respect for human rights rising
The Slovak Helsinki Committee (SHV) at its annual meeting reported that respect for human rights has improved in Slovakia. However, SHV Executive Director Agnes Horváthova said that Slovak top officials are still not prompt enough to condemn racism and xenophobia, adding that while cabinet has taken measures to prevent racism, segregation of the Roma and other endangered groups, leading politicians are still not decisive enough in their criticism of racial hate.
The Committee disagreed with the opinion that the Roma exodus was exclusively economically motivated, and appealed to representatives of churches and other institutions to talk more openly about existing racism, discrimination and intolerance.
One year ago the SHV warned that relations between the majority and the Roma ethnic minority in Slovakia were tense and mutually hostile. The group identified racism and discrimination in monitoring the Košice, Špiš, Gemer, Záhorie, Prešov and Prievidza regions while also recording numerous attacks on Roma.
Fico proposes social benefit cuts as fix for Roma problem
Smer party boss Robert Fico shocked media June 9 by suggesting social benefits be cut for Romany families with more than three children. At a press conference Fico said the Romany issue was a "time bomb that will cause trouble if we do not keep it under control."
Fico said that, after meetings with obstetricians in the eastern Slovak region, he saw clearly that in 10 years the number of Romany citizens could match the number of the majority population living there. He said that according to the prognosis he had, in 2010 there will be 1,200,000 Romanies in Slovakia and that at least 800,000 of them will live on social benefits. Fico added that the state has avoided solving the Romany problem and that state authorities often leave violations of laws by Romanies unpunished.
Compiled by Ed Holt