TRADITIONALLY harvesting praise from the opposition and a mixture of reactions ranging from reservation to criticism from right wing coalition parties for his New Year's address President Rudolf Schuster spoke for the first 20 minutes of 2002 on state owned Slovak television.
The length of his speech, however, was not the only aspect that some politicians have objected to.
Grigorij Mesežnikov political analyst and head of Intitute for Public Affairs (IVO) said the address was "somewhat more to the point and less confrontational than usual, it still can be dubbed a president's standard speech; rather subjective and superficial".
President Schuster briefly summed up the previous year and said 2002 would be a "key" year for both domestic politics, which will see parliamentary elections in September, as well as foreign policy in expectation of the Nato summit in Prague in late autumn.
He appealed to people to go to the ballots in September and to the parties' sense of political culture in the upcoming competition for voters.
He said: "It should be common that political power after parliamentary elections is passed on to those whom voters have expressed their trust in and in a cultural way without being revengeful and without writing black books."
Schuster said he expects that Slovakia will receive an invitation to join Nato and expressed his belief that "concerns over changing our strategic direction which in the past our foreign partners showed before parliamentary elections will not occur again".
He added that he was convinced that political parties have learned from the past and pointed to the overt pro-Nato stance recently shown by the largest opposition party Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).
But Peter Tatár, an independent member of parliament (MP) and a member of Civil Conservative Association (OKS) said he thought Schuster's HZDS optimism was in fact "campaigning in favour of the opposition".
Mesežnikov added he did not understand why Schuster thought that the HZDS, blamed for thwarting the 1997 referendum on Nato entry has changed.
He said: "I understand that the president wishes the country become Nato and EU member but I don't know why he thinks HZDS has changed. All that's changed is their pro-integration rhetoric. I think he's overestimating the HZDS."
The President also touched upon aching social issues such as the high unemployment rate, problems in the health care and education sectors and a record high trade deficit. He did, however, give the cabinet credit for its achievements in 2001, especially its strides towards the western integration, GDP growth and lowering the inflation and tax burden.
The head of state thanked his countrymen, particularly "those who lost their jobs, young families, retired and other citizens who live on a minimum wage and carry the heaviest burden of economic reforms".
He appealed to the cabinet to complete the reforms speedily. "I think there's been enough promises...I think the time has come when the government should be giving to rather than taking from the people."
Commenting on his May 2001 state of the nation address in parliament which earned him criticism from cabinet members, media and political analysts, Schuster said: "My performance met with understanding and support of most of you."
"Cabinet members and coalition MPs however had a different opinion. Helped by some of the media they started a witch hunt which ended in personal attacks against me and my family."
The comment provoked several critical responses in the Slovak dailies. Pravda's commentator Milan Stanislav said the speech was "traditionally stiff", filled with "trifles" and "did not miss an egomaniac's passage full of words such as my, me, and I am either".
Deputy Prime Minister for EU integration Mária Kadlečíková said the president's remarks about his May address was unnecessary and "tampered the festive atmosphere".
Hungarian Coalition MP Arpád Duka-Zólyomi, criticised the speech for being "very long" and said that the country could have done without the address whatsoever. "The president didn't say anything new," he said.
But Democratic Left MP Ľubomír Andrassy said Schuster gave a standard speech balanced with criticism and praise adding that cabinet "shouldn't be offended by the criticism, but should learn from it".
Although the president admitted that most of his speech was "about politics and some other unpleasant things" he concluded the address by wishing improved interpersonal relations among the people best achieved, he said, through everyday gestures of kindness "be it a simple smile".
"May every day of 2002 be pleasant and happy," the president concluded. "May God bless and lead our steps."
14. Jan 2002 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová