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News Briefs

Slovakia to run again for Security Council
President awards US Senator on Independence Day
US Air Force officers arrive to prepare exercise
Ružomberok to be home of new Catholic university
Officials dismayed by poll on Roma segregation

Slovakia to run again for Security Council

Foreign Ministry spokesman Boris Gandel said on January 4 that Slovakia would apply for the post of non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2006. Slovakia's permanent representative to the UN in New York, Peter Tomka, has officially submitted his country's candidacy for this post for 2006-2007.
Elections to the Security Council will be held in the fall of 2005. Along with Slovakia, Latvia will also run for the post reserved for an eastern European country.
The delegates of the 54th General Assembly of the UN voted on a non-permanent member to the Security Council in October, 1999. Slovakia ran for the post along with Ukraine, but withdrew its candidacy after the third round of voting, when it became apparent that Ukraine would win.
The Security Council has five permanent and 10 non-permanent members. The UN General Assembly chooses the Security Council non-permanent members for two-year terms, and elections are held each year, meaning that the Security Council has five new members every year.


President awards US Senator on Independence Day

On the occasion of the seventh anniversary of the establishment of an independent Slovakia, President Rudolf Schuster decorated 10 figures with high state awards on January 1, among them a US politician.
The Pribina Cross of the First Class went to Bishop Pavol Gojdič and dissident Milan Šimečka in memoriam. The Pribina Cross of the Second Class for lifelong achievement went to archaeologist and medieval expert Alojz Habovštiak and the foremost Hungarian literary historian in Slovakia, Lajos Turczel. For his activities in the sphere of economy, former Volkswagen Slovakia boss Jozef Uhrík also received the award.
The Pribina Cross of the Third Class went to the first Slovak Ambassador to the Netherlands, Štefan Pauliny, for his lifelong contribution to Slovakia's development. The Cross of Milan Rastislav Štefánik of the First Class went to Rudolf Tvaroška for his work in Slovakia's armed forces. The Cross of Milan Rastislav Štefánik of the Third Class went to Emil Natera for his contribution to the establishment and defense of Slovakia.
The president also awarded US Senator Benjamin J. Gilman with the state order for foreigners, the Order of White Cross of the Second Class, for his contribution to the development of friendly relations between the United States and Slovakia.


US Air Force officers arrive to prepare exercise

A group of 32 officers of the United States Armed Forces arrived in Slovakia on January 3 to start preparations for a two-week US Air Force exercise that will be held in Slovakia in April.
The first exercise mission was scheduled for last year, but was postponed because of the Kosovo crisis. The exercise will take place based on a memorandum between Slovakia and the United States signed on February 9, 1999, which allowed the US Air Force in Europe to use the training facilities of the 33rd Air Force Base in Kuchyňa, in southwestern Slovakia.
Over the past few months, several groups of US experts visited the training area to find out what adjustments are needed to serve the US Air Force. The money the United States will spend in Kuchyňa will modernize the training area and create better conditions for Slovak air-force training.
Six two-week missions are planned annually, using US F-15 and F-16 fighter jets. The number of jets will vary from six to twelve, and in the latter case, about 200 US soldiers should be on-site to man the operation. The United States plans to invite Slovak pilots and technicians to their bases in Europe, and they plan flights of mixed crews.
In addition, United States Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Henry Hugh Shelton and his entourage were scheduled to visit Slovakia from January 10-12 at the invitation of General Milan Cerovský, Chief of Staff of the Slovak Army.
Apart from talks with his Slovak counterpart, Shelton will visit the air force base and shooting range in Malacky and will meet with Slovak President Rudolf Schuster and Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda.
This is Shelton's first visit to Slovakia since he was appointed chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bratislava is his first stop in a tour of European capitals at the beginning of this year.


Ružomberok to be home of new Catholic university

The cabinet agreed on December 22 partially to cover the expense of building a non-state Catholic University founded by the Catholic Church. The university, which is expected to open its gates next September, will cost 10 million Slovak crowns ($240,000). Education Minister Milan Ftáčnik said the university should emerge by transforming Žilina University's School of Theology in the northern Slovak town of Ružomberok, while parliament is expected to pass a law on founding the university.
Preparations for a Catholic university began in 1992, when the Conference of Slovak Bishops (KBS) planned to open one in Košice. Responding to pressure from the Vatican, the Slovak bishops then accepted the proposal of Vladimír Mečiar's government to transform the Cyril and Methodius University in Trnava into a Catholic university.


Officials dismayed by poll on Roma segregation

A recent poll by the little-known Taylor Nelson Sofres agency, commissioned by the SITA news agency, has drawn angry accusations of racism and sensatioalism from the government and Roma minority leaders.
The poll, conducted from December 8 to 12 on 1,046 respondents, claimed to show that over 60% of people were in favour of segregating the Slovak Roma population from the rest of society; fewer than 10% of those asked were decidedly against the idea.
Deputy Prime Minister for Minorities Pál Csáky was particularly incensed by the poll, saying that it was unfair and tendentious. Sociologists agreed, saying that the poll had asked only whether people were for or against segregation, rather than giving them a number of options on how to solve the Roma issue, as was standard practice in sociological surveys.


Compiled by Tom Nicholson from SITA and press reports

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