News Briefs

Investigator says Krajči accepted 2 million Sk bribe
SDĽ party unhappy with cabinet decisions to hike prices
Slovaks, Czechs discuss visas for east bloc states
IVO Poll: little support among voters for early elections
Roma attend assertiveness and behavior training

Investigator says Krajči accepted 2 million Sk bribe

Jaroslav Ivor, chief investigator for the Interior Ministry's Serious Crimes Section, announced on January 24 that a member of parliament for the opposition HZDS party, Gustav Krajči, had accepted 2 million crowns in bribes in 1996 during his tenure as Interior Minister. Ivor requested parliament to lift Krajči's parliamentary immunity to allow for criminal proceedings.
"Ján T. asked Krajči in August 1996 at the HZDS Bratislava headquarters for a license for Goldfin Invest to trade National Property Fund (FNM) bonds," Ivor said. Krajči allegedly asked for 4.5 million crowns for the service, and actually recieved two separate installments of one million crowns in September 1996. The sale of FNM bonds were then made illegal and the remaining 2.5 million crowns was never paid. Ivor said Krajči never returned the two million crowns.
Krajči told TV Markíza that the allegations were "nonsense. "This is a continuation of comrade Pittner's attempts to fight the HZDS," he said. "This is a police government that uses tactics comparable to fascist Germany."
If convicted, Krajči could face a maximum of 5 years in prison.

SDĽ party unhappy with cabinet decisions to hike prices

The reformed communist member of the governing coalition, the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ), disagrees with the pace of further price deregulation that was agreed on by the cabinet last December. Its representatives announced at a meeting of a senior government body, the Coalition Council, on January 26 that their party wanted price hikes 5% to 7% lower than those suggested by the cabinet, and additionally wanted the increase in gas prices to take effect on April 1, not February 1 as the cabinet had planned. The other three parties in the governing coalition voiced their backing for the February 1 deadline for the agreed-upon deregulation model.
The Coalition Council further requested that cabinet ministers take swift action to stop any further rise of unemployment, which reached record levels of over 20% last month.

Slovaks, Czechs discuss visas for east bloc states

Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan said on January 24 that in order to bring Slovakia's immigration legislation into harmony with European Union standards, Czech and Slovak experts would meet to discuss imposing visa restrictions on six countries: Cuba, Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, Romania and Bulgaria. Kukan stressed the importance for the countries of the Visegrad Four (Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia) to jointly address the visa question.
The imposition of visas for Ukraine nationals was of special concern, Kukan said, because although visas alone would not solve the problem of the Ukraine mafia presence in Slovakia, they would complicate mob organisation and would solve the problem of illegal employment of Ukrainian workers in eastern Slovakia. Kukan said he expected the Ukraine government to react to Slovakia's decision by taking a reciprocal step.

IVO Poll: little support among voters for early elections

According to a poll conducted between January 19 and 23 by the Institute for Public Affairs (IVO), 57% of the population does not support early elections. The results of a telephone poll involving 500 persons suggest that the public has a negative attitude towards the recent initiative of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which has announced it will launch a petition demanding early elections. The IVO reports that 44% do not support the initiative at all, and 13% hold a more negative than positive view. A positive response to early elections was given by 18% of respondents, and 20% were more positive than negative. Undecided responses totalled 5%.
Those with higher education, the Hungarian minority, and inhabitants of large cities tended to be negative about the HZDS initiative.

Roma attend assertiveness and behavior training

A training course to enhance assertiveness and acceptable social behavior was held under the umbrella of the Slovak cabinet's project "Accomplishment of the Human Rights of Roma in Slovakia" in the central Slovak village of Staré Hory from January 20 to 22.
Participants came to the conclusion that inferiority feelings are the main syndrome in Slovakia's Roma community, and said it was necessary to give the Roma a chance to overcome this syndrome through communication and open dialogue.
The participants of the program - organized by the Association of Young Roma in Slovakia, the Office of Deputy Prime Minister for Human Rights, the Sandor Marai Foundation and the Slovak Helsinki Committee - stressed the importance of common opportunities for self-reflection and increased tolerance that would improve the quality of co-existence between Roma and the Slovak ethnic majority. The program also underscored the need for the Roma community to participate in forums dealing with their problems and general-interest issues.
Participants underwent several tests, including role-playing situations, psychodramas and other psychological techniques, to help increase the ability of the Roma to operate within civil society. The lecturers stressed that the Roma tend to be more communicative in talking about their problems than are non-Roma.

Compiled by Keith Miller from SITA and TASR

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