Coalition supports PM in non-confidence vote
A proposal for a non-confidence motion against Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda by a group of opposition deputies was the only issue on the parliamentary session agenda that took place April 13. The proposal featured 52 signatures by members from the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS).
The party leaders of the governing coalition held their regular meeting, and all five pledged their support for Dzurinda. Only the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) expressed some reservations as its deputy chairman, Ľubomír Andrássy, said that the government should change its priorities.
The opposition's proposal has been generally viewed as an attempt to distract attention from more important topics and was anticipated to fail - as has been the case with all such previous proposals. The most recent attempt to oust a member of the government was aimed at Justice Minister Ján Čarnogurský, who was the seventh of Dzurinda's ministers to be subjected to a vote of non-confidence. All the targeted ministers have so far survived the non-confidence motions.
Pope receives Čarnogurský and Hrušovský
Pope John Paul II received Slovak Justice Minister and head of the Christian-Democratic Movement (KDH) Jan Čarnogurský and Deputy Speaker of Parliament Pavol Hrušovský at a private gathering on April 7. Their talks revolved around the preparations for the Catholic University in Ružomberok and the planned Charter of Basic Human Rights for the European Union, as well as problems of the Slovak-Vatican agreement. Čarnogurský said that the Vatican was expected to reveal its objections to the draft agreement.
Russia may store Slovakia's nuclear waste
"Russia is prepared to take over works associated with the importing and storage of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants that were built with the assistance of the Soviet Union. At the same time, we are also considering widening our services to countries that do not have the necessary infrastructure for storage," said Yevgeny Adamov, Russian Minister of Atomic Energy, at a April 10 meeting with Jozef Migaš, the Speaker of the Slovak Parliament.
Adamov said that he believed the Russian Parliament would enact a law allowing for the import and permanent storage of spent nuclear fuel from other countries. He added that there also existed the possibility that the storage of the used nuclear fuel from Slovakia would be financed within the settlement of the Russian debt towards Slovakia. However, Adamov said that no concrete plans had yet been discussed with Migaš.
Schuster's presidential pardons: 52 and counting
Since entering office in June 1999, Slovak President Rudolf Schuster has granted 52 individual presidential pardons and rejected 502, the Presidential Office announced on April 10.
The office reported 18 pardons were granted as individual pardons by the president, while 34 were based on an initiative by the Prosecutor General, and 13 on the request of the Justice Ministry. The office rejected media criticism that the President had not informed the public of individual cases when granting pardons, saying the president was not obliged to neither publish information about persons to whom he has granted amnesty nor reveal what kind of offences had been pardoned.
In a related event, on March 16 the Slovak Parliament turned down a draft law geared at cancelling amnesties given by former prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and his successor Mikuláš Dzurinda in the thwarted NATO referendum and the abduction case of Michal Kováč Jr.
Belgium imposes visa restrictions on Slovakia
On April 12 Belgium became the latest western European country to implement visa restrictions for Slovak citizens. The Slovak Embassy to Belgium had received an official notification of the measure on April 10. Spokesperson of the Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry Boris Gandel said Belgium would consider cancelling the restrictions if the number of Slovak asylum seekers dropped.
Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan said Belgium's decision had been made in order to protect its interests and said that he did not believe it would endanger Slovakia's European Union and NATO ambitions.
In the first week of April alone, 51 Slovaks applied for asylum in Belgium. In mid-1999, Finland recorded the highest number of asylum seekers from Slovakia (1150), followed by Belgium (224), Denmark (215), Sweden (124), Switzerland (85), Norway (68), the Netherlands (44), Austria (11), and Ireland (7). After Great Britain installed visas, no Slovak citizens have requested asylum there.
Cabinet to establish Catholic university in Žilina
On April 12, the Slovak Cabinet accepted deputy proposals to establish a Catholic university in Ružomberok as a private university with philosophy and pedagogy departments. The Cabinet also recommended that the Slovak Parliament judge the impact on the state budget of establishing the school, as the deputy draft did not provide such detailed information on spending as the cabinet draft did.
Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik told media that groundbreaking on the Catholic University would be delayed by one month, but that it would not influence training at the school, which is scheduled to start on September 1.
The Conference of Slovak Bishops has been trying to establish a Catholic university for several years. However, it has only been since Mikuláš Dzurinda's Government took power that an agreement has become possible. The location of the school had been a problem until both parties agreed that the Catechist-Pedagogical School of Žilina University would be transformed into the university. The Cabinet approved finances for university's establishment on December 22, 1999.
Compiled by Keith Miller