NEWS BRIEFS

Slovak cabinet cancels visas for British and Irish citizens

The Slovak Cabinet on November 4 canceled the visa duty for British and Irish citizens visiting Slovakia. Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan announced that this decision was made at the Cabinet session on November 3. He said the introduction of visas for British and Irish citizens traveling to Slovakia was an empty gesture of the outgoing government of Premier Vladimír Mečiar that helped nothing and complicated the situation of the new government.

Slovak citizens traveling to the United Kingdom still need visas to enter the country as of October 8. Great Britain decided to reintroduce the visa duty for Slovak citizens as a result of the growing number of asylum seekers, mostly Roma, who had arrived from Slovakia since the middle of the year.

The new Slovak Foreign Affairs Ministry discovered that since the reintroduction of the visa duty for Slovaks traveling to Great Britain, many more Slovak citizens have been leaving the country for Belgium. Kukan pointed out that Belgium is a member of the Schengen agreement and thus a rise in immigration of Slovaks to Belgium could result in a decision by all member countries of the Schengen agreement to reintroduce a visa duty for Slovaks. "We will do our utmost to convince the Belgian government that the introduction of visas is not needed," Kukan elaborated.

At its November 3 session, the Cabinet approved an appeal asking Slovak citizens to reconsider their intentions to solve their problems by emigration and applying for asylum in foreign countries. "We want to start to solve this question and especially to hold a dialogue with the Roma community," Kukan said, adding that the new deputy prime minister for human rights and minorities, Pál Csáky, would deal with these problems.

The British government welcomed the cancellation of the visa duty, and expressed regret that the Mečiar cabinet had considered it necessary to respond to the British decision by reintroducing the visa obligation for British citizens.

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