HZDS condemns the World Congress of Hungarians
The opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) on May 29 issued a statement condemning positions taken at the World Congress of Hungarians last week. A resolution passed at the congress clearly indicated that the group had not given up its goal of revising the Trianon Treaty from 1920, which governed relations between Czechoslovakia and Hungary after World War I, the HZDS statement read. HZDS spokesman Igor Žvach said that any effort to revise current European borders would not be acceptable as it put the territorial integrity of Slovakia at risk and was an open threat to peace and security in Europe.
Mikloš Duray, the vice chairman of the Slovak Hungarian Coalition (SMK), cancelled his membership in the Congress in protest of its resolution. Though the HZDS said this move was positive, the party added that it was nothing more than a politically empty gesture unless the SMK publicly distanced itself from the congress. "The moment has come for the SMK to clearly and undoubtedly confirm its loyalty to the Slovak Republic and publicly declare that it rejects forever any efforts to revise current borders in Europe," the HZDS statement read.
Dzurinda to hear universities' demands by July
Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda met representatives of the Slovak Rectors Conference on May 26 to discuss the demands of 20 Slovak university rectors. Dzurinda said afterwards that although he was not sure the government would be able to meet all the demands, he had promised to address the issues by July 15.
The Slovak rectors are demanding 100 million Slovak crowns ($2.1 million) to cover overdue invoices, an additional 100 million crowns to keep wages at 1999 levels, plus 20 million crowns for scholarships. Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik said that the rectors had also proposed increasing funding from the state budget for education by 0.1% of GDP (or 800-900 million crowns).
Dzurinda said that the government was eager to create conditions which would allow for the acceptance of more university applicants. After meeting with Dzurinda, Finance Minister Brigita Schmögnerová proposed a plan to accept 10% more students next year.
Slovak universities are currently only able to accept 25% of university applicants per year, a number the universities would like to see increase to 35% (meaning an increase of 2,000 to 3,000 students).
Schuster calls for long-term agricultural plan
President Rudolf Schuster met with his advisers for agriculture, the food industry, and forest and water management on May 26 to discuss the preparation of a long-term development plan for the agricultural sector. "We need to establish what needs to be done in the sector so that agriculture achieves a better position in social and economic structures," he said.
Stanislav Němec, spokesman for the Slovak Agriculture and Food Chamber, said that the plan should answer questions ranging from agricultural production to European integration. Němec also criticised the media for failing to alert the public of the serious economic problems besetting the sector. He said that mainly political affairs were covered in the news while the plight of farmers remained unknown
All attendants of the meeting said that although only 5% of Slovak labourers worked in agriculture, its importance to society was much higher. Schuster also emphasised that the importance of the agricultural sector was in preserving rural life as well as in securing food self-sufficiency for the country.
Schuster receives Polish Prime Minister Buzek
Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek paid his first official visit to Slovakia on May 31 despite the current Polish political crisis. The governmental crisis began after the liberal Freedom Union backed out of its co-operation with the larger, trade-union-based Solidarity Bloc, saying that it wanted to begin discussions on forming a new cabinet which would implement tough economic reforms.
Buzek met with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster to discuss Slovak-Polish co-operation in the Visegrad Four group (which also includes Hungary and the Czech Republic). He reported on the decision of the Polish government to open additional border crossings with Slovakia, the first of which should be opened in the High Tatras. The Polish PM added that he is a Slovak ice hockey fan, and that his allegiance only changes when they play against Poland.
Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA