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EU summit: Slovakia on slow train

"Our representatives at the summit today demanded the possibility for Slovakia to have a more intensive screening at the pace which is the same as or approaching that of the 'five plus one'," Beláková continued.
She added that Slovakia had made better progress in preparing for membership talks than some of the "five plus one" nations, but gave no details.
Beláková's allegations were flatly denied by José María Gil-Robles, Speaker of the European Parliament (EP), who stated that in order to join the club it is necessary to respect basic democratic criteria agreed upon at the EU Copenhagen summit, which Slovakia has not done.

"Our representatives at the summit today demanded the possibility for Slovakia to have a more intensive screening at the pace which is the same as or approaching that of the 'five plus one'," Beláková continued.

She added that Slovakia had made better progress in preparing for membership talks than some of the "five plus one" nations, but gave no details.

Beláková's allegations were flatly denied by José María Gil-Robles, Speaker of the European Parliament (EP), who stated that in order to join the club it is necessary to respect basic democratic criteria agreed upon at the EU Copenhagen summit, which Slovakia has not done.

Alone among the applicant states, Slovakia was criticized by the European Commission and the European Parliament earlier this year for failing to measure up to political criteria for EU membership.

The Commission praised Slovakia's efforts in economic reform, but said the country needed to improve its respect for constitutional rights, including the rights of ethnic minorities.

Gil-Robles added that the Slovak Parliament should respect its own rules even in situations when they are inconvenient, in a veiled reference to the case of František Gaulieder, a deputy booted out of the chamber in December 1996 after he quit Mečiar's ruling coalition.

At the December session of the Slovak Parliament, ruling coalition deputies rejected both opposition proposals to re-instate Gaulieder's mandate and to adopt a law on the use of minority languages.

The EU Commissioner for External Relations, Hans van den Broek, told Radio Twist in Luxembourg: "We welcome every step that is helping to stabilize state institutions in Slovakia, making them more democratic and able to guarantee the rule of law and the protection of human and minority rights."

"We have stressed several times that despite the political deficiencies we have pointed out, it is by no means our aim to isolate Slovakia," van den Broek continued. "We are in frequent touch with [Slovakia's] representatives and I truly believe that these political deficiencies will be overcome and we will be able to start negotiations on accession also with Slovakia."


Reuters contributed to this story.

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