The New Agrarian Party (NAS) was established last November as a merger between the center-right Slovak Peasant Party (RSS) and the leftist Farmers' Movement (HP), both founded in 1990. The new party hopes that the merger will enhance its organizational structures and widen its electorate, while the new name indicates their intention to address and represent rural Slovakia. Spectator correspondent Fridrich Hláva interviewed Pavel Delinga, Chairman of the NAS and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Why was the NAS founded?
Pavel Delinga: The NAS was established as a logical consequence of long-time desires. Most agricultural producers - cooperative farmers, private farmers and some food industry workers - wished to see a political force that would represent Slovak agrarians. You know, the transition after 1989 in Slovakia has been very cruel to peasants and farmers - in particular, it caused a mess in the organizational and production structures which used to work under socialist conditions.
The market economy junked a huge number of subsidies, while liberalization of input prices and market restructuring left agricultural producers without political defenses. Later, even state subsidies couldn't compensate for the disproportions caused by liberalization of prices. In this, we surely bet on the wrong horse, thanks to the unreal agricultural policy of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and other parties currently united in the SDK and opposition in general. That was one of the main reasons for farmers' unity - we could not look on with folded arms anymore, so we decided to find a stronger foothold in parliament and increase our influence in decision-making bodies.
TSS: Do you believe your merger has contributed to a consolidation of the Slovak political scene?
Delinga: Yes, we wanted to show other quarelling parties that two very different political entities could have a common aim. We are sorry not to see any true followers, for those parties that unified after us do it for political profit rather than for their party programs.
TSS: Could you be more specific about your objectives if you enter parliament?
Delinga: In addition to consistent agrarian policies, we seek rural development in accordance with European Union (EU) directives. We want to enhance production and lower unemployment in the country's rural areas, while awakening the interest of young people to work and live in villages. We are not going to watch the devastation of farming and forestry anymore. We are ready to promote farming in mountaineous areas of Slovakia. We will enter the campaign on our own, but only if we have a chance to cross the 5-percent limit.
TSS: What are your foreign policy priorities?
Delinga: The most important thing for our farmers is to join farmers in other European countries, and to make our agricultural sector competitive. First and foremost we need to acquire capital for the food industry through EU rural development funds. Our foreign policy is similar to the current government's program - we want to become a member of the EU. But we are not fans of any military treaties, since our principal wisdom is that you can't plough a field with a tank. Tractors are better suited for that.
23. Apr 1998 at 0:00