"The year 1999 will be the year of an uncompromising fight against criminals, blackmailers and the underworld."
Prime Minister Dzurinda addresses the nation on January 1.
Esteemed fellow citizens. Now, at the beginning of the New Year and on the eve of a new millennium, allow me to convey to you my cordial greetings and best wishes.
I would like to express my happiness and satisfaction at the fact that the Slovak Republic came out of the previous year - and a truly fateful year it was - so extremely well. Not all of us will necessarily agree on the reasons for this, but I think we all will agree that 1998 put all of us through a serious test. It was a year chock full of important issues and big question marks, and also a year of uncertainty and nervousness, even tension, among the people. A year when we faced the most serious issues concerning the future of our country, the relationship between constitutional representatives and relationships between individual people.
In 1998 Slovakia was divided to such an extent that we could not even elect our next president. It is for this reason that right now it is me, in my capacity of acting president, who is delivering this address which in line with tradition should be delivered by the head of state.
Electing the head of state will be one of the main tasks of 1999. I am firmly convinced that it will be possible, among other things thanks to the decision to have a direct presidential election. I am pleased that we have not succumbed to the temptation to elect the president in parliament because, as the latest polls confirmed again, citizens want to be directly involved in electing the president of their state... I trust that at this time next year this address will be delivered by the president of your choice.
Today we can all say with great satisfaction that Slovakia has passed the tests and has coped with all the dangers of 1998 with flying colours. Europe was pleasantly surprised to see that in this country under the Tatra mountains, the turnout in the parliamentary elections was 84% and that the people chose peace, freedom and democracy...
Slovakia is one of the countries which had the courage to change from dictatorship to freedom. We have overcome many obstacles on this complex journey. We coped well in 1998. The finale, however, is still ahead of us. Now we have to fare well in 1999.
Last year was important for Slovakia's fate, but this year will be decisive for our country. This year we shall decide whether we are really capable of solving our complex economic and social problems, whether we are able to reverse our unfavourable economic development, export more Slovak goods and spend less on imported foreign goods, run a more efficient state administration with fewer civil servants, drive corruption out of our offices, tackle the deficit in state finances, decrease the state debt, revive ailing factories which are laying off staff, improve education and health care, help those who want to work and be more strict with those who avoid working.
This year we shall decide whether also in Slovakia it pays off to be honest, active and hard-working. In my view, the most complex, important and crucial task of 1999 is to overcome the unfavourable economic situation in which Slovakia has found itself... In order to disrupt the downward trend we have to summon up our strength and, within the first six months of 1999, we have to adopt radical key revival measures to reverse this development. The remedial measures will be adopted in several spheres of our life. They will have to be robust and at the same time sensitive, gradual and bearable. They will have to be accompanied by well targeted social benefits for the lowest income group. These remedial measures will also have to be complemented by an uncompromising attitude to those who gained huge property in an illegal or dishonest way...
We must not accept a situation in which the chosen few have amassed property and the whole nation must patch up the holes left by them... It seems to me that in Slovakia the gold rush culminated in 1998 - with privatizers rushing for property and money becoming paramount. I strongly hope that 1999 will be a year of solidarity: the solidarity of those who have with those who have nothing or very little, the solidarity of the strong with the weak; the solidarity of those who allocate means with those who depend on them...
The year 1999 will also be the year of an uncompromising fight against criminals, blackmailers and the underworld. In every society mafias are like cancer. It is an insidious disease and we have to fight it. Our society is waiting to see the clarification of several crimes. Our society is waiting to see us deal with several economic contracts which are unfavourable for the state, and with the unlawful appropriation of our common property. We have to act fast...
Dear fellow citizens! We are standing on the threshold of a really difficult and complex year which, however, may also become for our country a historic and happy year which brings new hope. It is a year in which the EU will decide on which countries to invite to talks on EU membership. It is beyond any doubt that the year 1999 offers our country perhaps its last chance to jump on the train of European integration. I am sure that our future, the future of our children and the future of the whole of Slovakia is with a united Europe only. Any other option is a worse option...
Unity, responsibility and solidarity should become the new qualities in relations between the people. Slovakia needs unity - the unity of people of goodwill. A unity which - in all its diversity - relies on the principles of the 10 commandments, on moral and ethic values, and is backed by mutual solidarity and responsibility of all of us. A unity, the criterion of which is service to the country. Each of us, regardless of our positions, can contribute to this work and help our homeland in this year which is going to be difficult, but which also brings a lot of hope.
You may be asking how an ordinary person can help - for example - the Slovak economy. Well, for example, one can help it by buying Slovak products. Let 1999 be a year in which Slovakia's citizens prefer our own, Slovak products every time these products are the same quality as foreign products. In that way we shall help many Slovak factories and firms, we shall help to deal with unemployment and save the enormous amounts of foreign currency which are spent on buying foreign goods.
Political stability is yet another of the essentials which are needed for successful completion of the tasks ahead. There is no time for artificial ideological conflicts. Only if we cooperate in this way will Slovakia be able to enter the next millennium as a stable, modern country which develops in a promising way.
11. Jan 1999 at 0:00