News Briefs

Statistics office releases 1999 demographic data
SNS MP Kotian obediently gives up parliamentary post
Schuster addresses Holocaust meeting in Stockholm
Schuster receives OECD support at Davos summit
SNS proposes revoking asylum-seekers' passports

Statistics office releases 1999 demographic data

During the first eleven months of 1999, 51,645 children were born in Slovakia while 45,598 people died. The death rate in Slovakia remained at the level of previous years but the birth-rate decreased, said Peter Mach, the director of the Slovak Statistics Office on February 1.
As of November 30, 1999, Slovakia's population was 5,398,659, with women accounting for 51.4%. The Bratislava region reported the highest ratio of females. For every three marriages in 1999, there was one divorce - some 26,400 couples married while more than 8,800 were divorced. The Prešov region had the most marriages while the Trnava region had the fewest. The highest divorce rate was in the Bratislava region and the lowest rate was reported in the Prešov region.

SNS MP Kotian obediently gives up parliamentary post

Miroslav Kotian, a deputy for the Slovak National Party (SNS), stepped down from his parliamentary post on January 31, as requested by SNS boss Anna Maliková. While he will continue operating as a member of parliament, Kotian said he gave up his post as chair of the Committee for Conflict of Interests because it was in line with a January 10 resolution of the SNS Central Board.
The SNS Central Board decided to withdraw its deputies from the leading functions of the Slovak Parliament in order to show that the SNS is "not just interested in political offices." Maliková announced on January 10 that Kotian and deputy speaker of parliament Marian Andeľ would both leave their posts, although both men initially refused.
Andeľ has not yet resigned from his post and tensions between Maliková and Andeľ, a staunch supporter of ousted SNS boss Ján Slota, have escalated.
The SNS also announced they had approved the text of the opposition agreement between Vladimír Mečiar's HZDS party and the SNS. Mečiar and Maliková are expected to sign the co-operation agreement by February 15.

Schuster addresses Holocaust meeting in Stockholm

President Rudolf Schuster addressed an international Holocaust conference on January 27 in Stockholm, discussing the extermination of Slovak Jews during WWII. In 1942, two-thirds of the Jewish population in Slovakia, a total of 57,628 Jews, were deported to concentration camps in Poland.
Schuster told the participants that Slovakia has focused on teaching the country's youth about the Holocaust. Pupils at elementary schools can learn about the Holocaust at the Museum of the Jewish Culture in Bratislava, he said, and at the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp in neighbouring Poland.
Schuster also talked about the activities of the Jewish religious community in Slovakia over the past 10 years. He mentioned the foundation of the Museum of Jewish Culture, the publication of the book Judaica Slovaka, the construction of a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Bratislava, the renovation of five synagogues, and the setting up of the Institute of Judaism at Comenius University in Bratislava.

Schuster receives OECD support at Davos summit

President Rudolf Schuster met with several international leaders on January 30 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Schuster held talks with Czech Prime Minister Miloš Zeman, Canadian businessman of Czech origin Tomáš Baťa, Secretary General of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Donald Johnston, and US President Bill Clinton. Schuster reportedly invited Clinton to visit Bratislava, to which Clinton said he would try his best.
After the meeting between Schuster, Deputy PM for Economy Ivan Mikloš and the OECD's Johnston, Schuster said that all OECD member countries supported Slovakia's OECD ambitions and added that he expected membership within the next six months.

SNS proposes revoking asylum-seekers' passports

Slovak National Party (SNS) MP Rastislav Šepták announced on January 28 that his party would introduce a proposal to parliament giving the state the right to revoke the passports of asylum seekers for five years. Šepták said the move would protect the country from future Roma exoduses which have resulted in several European Union countries imposing visa restrictions on Slovaks traveling abroad.
"These people do not mind at all that the affected countries protect themselves by reintroducing visas for all Slovak citizens, and that they are in fact harming the interests of our country," Šepták said, adding that Romany citizens are committing a crime by applying for an asylum abroad.
Juraj Hrabko, the Government Director of Human Rights and Minorities, said the proposal was unconstitutional. "It is unthinkable that a democratic state could introduce any sanctions against the citizens who decide to apply for political asylum abroad," Hrabko said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Ján Sitár stated that according to the law on travel documents, a citizen has the right to travel abroad and the right to freely return to the Slovak Republic. It is impossible to revoke the passport of an unsuccessful asylum seeker who returns to Slovakia based only on the fact that they travel abroad with the intention to apply for an asylum, he said.

Compiled by Chris Togneri from SITA and TASR

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