I have just read (after some delay caused by the holiday festivities) your interview with Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Mikloš ["Man of the Year 1999," By Peter Barecz and Tom Nicholson, Vol. 5 No. 48, December 20, 1999-January 9, 2000].
I noticed that in answer to a question about the voting preferences of the HZDS opposition party, Mr. Mikloš maintained that the HZDS found itself in a position similar to that of the Italian Communist Party in the 1950's, 60's and 70's: "Depite the fact that they formed the strongest party in Italy, the communists never governed the country because all the other parties considered it a threat, and always united to govern the country to keep the Communist Party out."
Mr. Mikloš is unfortunately wrong. The Italian Communist Party was never the strongest party in Italy; this place was occupied by the Christian Democrats. I would add that at least after 1975, the communists had a say in the most important questions concerning our country, particularly after Italy was accepted into NATO in 1976.
Embassy of Italy in Bratislava
I have watched with fascination and dismay the ongoing debate regarding the Romanies in your letters page. Whenever I challenge people about the Romanies, they always tell me that, as a foreigner, I don't understand the situation. Well, I don't accept that for a minute!
In Ireland, we also have a travelling community who, although not related to the Romanies ethnically, share many aspects of their social culture and have experienced the same loss of traditional employment as the Romanies have. Luckily, in Ireland people are beginning to be a bit more imaginative in finding ways of communicating with the travellers. Being Irish I understand full well what it's like to be labeled work-shy, lazy, dirty, alcoholic, "they don't even know who their children are," etc. Some people still have these racist ideas about the Irish, despite the fact that we have the fastest growing economy in the EU.
Would it be outrageous to suggest that the 'problem' with the Romanies is really a problem with Slovakia's economy? Every time I've had a conversation about the Romanies it's always been in the context of discussing economic woes. Personally, I admire the Romanies. I like the fact that they have no repect for second-rate housing in Košice. Why should they? I worry about the growth of right-wing ideas in eastern Europe and the all too familiar scape-goating of minorities for what are essentially economic problems (does anyone else remember what happened in the 1930's?).
Some people have even tried to convince me that the forthcoming plans for stricter passport requirements are the fault of the Romanies. I'm not convinced. No Roma ever asked me for my passport.
I was pleased to see a review of the new IVO publication, Slovakia 1999-2000: A Global Report on the State of Society, in this week's issue ["Global Report in a class of its own," By Tom Nicholson, Vol. 6 No. 2, January 17-23]. I was, however, disturbed to see that the review was written by Tom Nicholson, who is one of the three editors of the book.
I do not feel it is right for the Editor-in-Chief to write glowing reviews of his own book in The Slovak Spectator. Was it because he was afraid another reviewer might attack the collected essays and hence dent sales?
Please, The Slovak Spectator has a good reputation for objectivity. It is one of the main reasons political scientists like myself read the paper. Don't lose it.
(Ed. Note: The book review was written by the Editor-in-Chief (who had also co-edited the Global Report) for a banal reason: on our small staff, no one else had had time to read the book thoroughly and deliver a considered judgement. The review should have included a disclaimer to the effect that the editor did not make any royalties on book sales, and that he therefore hoped the readership of The Slovak Spectator would forgive his impertinence in reviewing work to which he had contributed. This disclaimer did not appear in the printed version of the paper. The Slovak Spectator regrets the error.)