Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan.
The announcement of Kukan's appointment was made unofficially by diplomats in Berlin April 28. His acceptance of the position was confirmed the following day by the Foreign Ministry spokesman in Bratislava.
"It's a big thing. It's a big honour and a big sign of recognition of his (Kukan's) ability," said spokesman Karol Šefčík. "I think it makes Slovakia even more [internationally] visible."
Foreign observers and domestic analysts said the appointment could have an effect on a wide range of issues, from improving Slovakia's standing as a potential NATO member to having an influence of the nation's direct presidential elections May 15.
Reached in Brussles, Slovak Ambassador to NATO Peter Burian called the appointment "an outstanding success."
"Its an honour Slovak diplomacy could not have expected. It is a testament to recent changes in Slovakia and particularly to the person of Minister Kukan as a world-class diplomat."
"This is a really big success for Slovakia diplomatically," said Alexander Duleba, a research fellow with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association. "It should improve Slovak relations with western Europe, with NATO, and importantly, with Russia. Russia is interested in finding a U.N. solution to the Yugoslav crisis instead of the use of NATO aggression."
Domestically, the appointment is a sign that the government of Mikuláš Dzurinda really has made some concrete strides in its moves towards the west, he continued.
"The Kukan appointment will be helpful for democratic forces in Slovakia," Duleba said. "Along with the coming of Albright May 10 this shows that we are not just a little country, but an important intentional player. This government can show its people that its western looking policies are good for foreign relations, that there is no other option for Slovakia."
The appointment of Kukan is being cited by observers as an intelligent compromise for the U.N. Kukan is a career diplomat who has served as a U.N. representative from Czechoslovakia and Slovakia. He has known Annan personally for 8 years, according to a source in the Foreign Ministry who asked not to be named.
Ironically, the fact that Kukan is from a non-NATO country likely helped his appointment, as this fact makes him more acceptable to Russia, the source said. Other analysts opined that the fact that he is from a Slavic nation will likely make him more acceptable to the Serbs.
Kukan will be the envoy representing eastern Europe in the negotiations. Three men are being considered for the position of the western European envoy, Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt or Swiss Foreign Minister Flavio Cotti. The foreign ministry source here said Vrantizky was the most likely to be named.
Kukan has said he plans to continue in his post as Slovak Foreign Minister, despite the fact that the envoy position will be full-time.
"He said he cannot imagine giving up his current job."
Right now we don't know how long the appointment will be for, 14 months or 14 years. No one knows," Šefčík said.
The international publicity for Slovakia which will result from the appointment, will be a definitive answer to domestic critics who are saying that the government of Dzurinda is supporting the bombing of other Slavic peoples, Duleba said. "What they are supporting now is the diplomatic resolution to the problem,".
The upcoming visit of Madeleine Albright to Slovakia on May 10 and 11 and the Visegrad Summit in Bratislava scheduled for May 14 together send the message that Slovakia could have a important diplomatic role to play in the future, he added.
3. May 1999 at 0:00 | Sharon Otterman