NEWS BRIEFS

Slovak, Hungarian Prime Ministers pledge mutual support

Prime Ministers Mikuláš Dzurinda of Slovakia and Viktor Orbán of Hungary met in Bratislava on February 12 and pledged to heal old political wounds in a new spirit of cooperation.

"I think this meeting (forms) a new basis for our mutual cooperation... I hope that in the new era, in contrast with the untransparent past, the questions between us will be out in the open," Orbán, seated with Dzurinda, told a joint news conference.

Ties between the two central European neighbours came close to the breaking point under former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. His treatment of Slovakia's 500,000 strong ethnic Hungarian minority provoked criticism from the European Union and within Hungary itself. At one point, Mečiar even suggested population transfers as a solution to the problem.

Dzurinda's coalition government includes the main ethnic Hungarian party. The new pro-Western government has promised to improve Slovak democracy and pass a language law to satisfy Hungarian concerns.

"I hope that by June 30 at the latest, parliament will have approved the law on the use of minority languages in official relations," Dzurinda said. He added that the dispute over the Gabčíkovo dam project on the river Danube was in the hands of experts from both sides.

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