THE LAST time Slovakia had a national emergency was the 1968 Warsaw Pact invasion.
Replacing legislation dating back to the 1960s, the entire number of MPs present in parliament, 113, voted April 11 to support the Law on Security During War, Wartime Emergency, Martial Law and State of Crisis.
Although the law was expected to be passed, the level of support took those who had worked on the new legislation by surprise.
"The high level of consensus reached in parliament was very encouraging and unusual in Slovakia. It is a signal of the widespread backing for Nato entry in parliament and society," said Deputy Defence Minister Rastislav Káčer.
The new law defines what role the state plays in times of war and crisis (see chart below). It is not just designed to replace what Káčer described as "obsolete" legislation, but is also part of a wider package of laws related to the military that will make the armed forces and Slovak defence operations more efficient.
Káčer said the law was important internally rather than having direct significance for Slovak Nato ambitions ahead of a summit in Prague in November at which the country is hoping to be invited to join the alliance.
"There are no laws we have to pass before the Prague summit and there are no legislative obstacles to our receiving an invitation. The laws being passed and discussed in parliament now are designed just to raise our military efficiency," he said.
There are three other key laws on the military currently under parliamentary discussion: the Law on Military Service, the Law on Defence of the Republic, and the Law on the Position of the Armed Forces in Society.
Foreign diplomats say the current government has worked hard to win international backing for Nato membership since coming to power in 1998, pledging reform of its armed forces and supporting Nato in military operations, including the 1999 bombing of Serbia.
Only a few weeks ago President Rudolf Schuster was invited to meet US President George W. Bush at the White House this summer in what was seen by several analysts as a sign of US backing for Slovak membership in the alliance.
In 1997 the country was left out of a round of Nato expansion because of concerns over the authoritarian rule of then-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar. But in the last nine months Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party has appeared to give its full backing to Nato entry.
Some defence analysts see support for the recent legislation as a sign of the HZDS's continued public backing for western integration.
"There is no doubt about the government parties supporting it, and the largest party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, is looking to prove to the West that it is the biggest backer of Nato admission," said Ivo Samson of the Slovaak Foreign Policy Association.
Select restrictions in times of war or crisis
- Strikes are forbidden
- Media can be censored
- Ban on political parties and unions
- No calling of scheduled elections
- Use of cars and telephones for private or business purposes is forbidden
- Limited mail privacy
- Limited education opportunities and choice of profession
- Citizens must make accommodation and possessions available to soldiers or evacuees
- Citizens must work for the benefit of the state, for example in securing supplies