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News Briefs

Schuster sets date for referendum on early elections
Belgium imposes another visa regime on Slovakia
Court issues international warrant for fugitive Lexa
US Ambassador presents credentials to Minister Kukan

Schuster sets date for referendum on early elections

President Rudolf Schuster announced on September 5 that a referendum on early elections would be held on Saturday, November 11.
Voters will be asked to answer the question: "Do you agree that the Slovak Parliament passes a constitutional law stipulating that the election term of the Slovak Parliament elected in 1998 ends on the day of new elections to be held within 150 days from when the referendum results are announced?"
Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda has said that the ruling coalition will appeal to its voters to boycott the referendum in hopes that less than 50% of the voting population will participate, thereby rendering it invalid. Recent polls suggest that around 30% of voters - primarily supporters of the opposition parties Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and Slovak National Party (SNS), and the non-parliamentary party Smer - would take part in the referendum, although the HZDS claimed to have had an independent agency poll which showed that 51% would participate.
If the referendum succeeds, the result would have to approved by a two-thirds majority in parliament; the ruling coalition currently controls 90 of the 150 seats in the house, although coalition parties have not clearly said how they would vote.


Belgium imposes another visa regime on Slovakia

Belgium reintroduced mandatory visas for travelling Slovaks on September 5. The Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the decision was reached as a result of the sharp increase in the number of Slovak asylum seekers in August, which reached 450.
The ministry added it was disappointed with the decision, and said that Belgian authorities had failed to implement new rules in the country's asylum procedures which would have discouraged Slovak Romanies from seeking asylum in the country.
The visa requirement for Slovaks travelling to Belgium had been cancelled on August 1. At the time, Belgian Interior Minister Antoine Duquesne warned that an influx of new asylum seekers would result in the immediate re-introduction of the visas.


Court issues international warrant for fugitive Lexa

Miroslav Lehoczky, the head of the Bratislava District Court, issued an international warrant for the arrest of former Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) boss and Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) deputy Ivan Lexa on September 4.
Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner said he was pleased with the decision, and said that Interpol would request the country where Lexa is hiding to extradict him to Slovakia. According to the Interior Minister, Lexa is currently hiding in a country that has signed an agreement on the extradition of criminals with Slovakia. When asked whether Lexa was in South Africa, he would not comment. Pittner said that Lexa may now leave the country he is staying in and seek shelter in a country that would not extradict him.


US Ambassador presents credentials to Minister Kukan

Carl Spielvogel, the new US Ambassador to Slovakia, arrived in Bratislava on August 30 and presented his credentials to Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan on August 31. Spielvogel said he wanted to continue the development of good relations between Slovakia and the United States.
Kukan said he was happy that the US had filled the ambassadorial void in the US embassy which had existed since the departure of former Ambassador Ralph Johnson over a year ago. Kukan and Spielvogel then discussed Slovakia's NATO ambitions.
Spielvogel was named ambassador to Slovakia by US predident Bill Clinton in 1999, but his appointment was blocked by Republican Senator Charles Grassley who was protesting the firing of a UN employee . Grassley dropped his protest in early August, 2000.


Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA and TASR

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