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SHELVED SUMMIT

Planned meeting between EU country's parliamentary speakers, Slovak speaker cancelled after parliament's decision not to reinstate ousted MP.

The cancelled Bratislava summit of EU-associated countries' parliament speakers and the European Parliament's (EP) resolution that preceded it, may well be the first sign of Slovakia's growing international isolation according to the opposition.
The two-day summit was supposed to take place in the Slovak capital on October 27. But Ivan Gašparovič, the Slovak Parliament's Speaker announced on October 21 that he had decided to cancel the event, because José María Gil-Robles, the EP Speaker, had announced in a letter that he would not participate.
"Gil-Robles summoned representatives of all EP factions [to hear their opinion]," said Jozef Migaš, chairman of the Party for Democratic Left who learned about the decision during his visit to Brussels one week before it was made official.


Slovak Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Gašparovič.
Vladimír Hák

The cancelled Bratislava summit of EU-associated countries' parliament speakers and the European Parliament's (EP) resolution that preceded it, may well be the first sign of Slovakia's growing international isolation according to the opposition.

The two-day summit was supposed to take place in the Slovak capital on October 27. But Ivan Gašparovič, the Slovak Parliament's Speaker announced on October 21 that he had decided to cancel the event, because José María Gil-Robles, the EP Speaker, had announced in a letter that he would not participate.

"Gil-Robles summoned representatives of all EP factions [to hear their opinion]," said Jozef Migaš, chairman of the Party for Democratic Left who learned about the decision during his visit to Brussels one week before it was made official.

"All deputies - ranging from communists to Christian Democrats - maintained that the EP delegation shouldn't be traveling to Slovakia either at the chairman's level, or at regular officials level," Migaš continued.

The opposition Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) said the cancelation of the meeting is a serious failure on the part of Slovakia and called for Gašparovič to resign from his post over the matter.

But Gašparovič said there should be no political, economic or social pressure on deputies in the Slovak parliament to influence their decisions. This referred to the EP's strict demand to reinstate in the chamber František Gaulieder, a deputy which expulsion from the parliament last December was declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional Court.

The pro-government daily Slovenská Republika quoted Gašparovič as saying that Gil-Robles' decision "only shows there is certain pressure upon individual countries."

The EP leadership decided on Gil-Robles not traveling to Bratislava after lengthy discussions on Slovakia's democratic reforms during the week before the summit. They cited as the most serious reason, the governing coalition's repeated ignorance of the Constitutional Court's ruling in the Gaulieder case.

"The case of František Gaulieder is the last in a long row of examples which convincingly show that Slovakia did everything to jeopardize its relations with the European Union," said Charles Goerens, an MEP with the Group of the European Liberal Democratic and Reformist Party, at a stormy EP session on October 23..

"I believe it is rather unusual to deal with one associated country for an entire Thursday afternoon," said Herbert Bösch, an MEP with the Group of the Party of European Socialists and a co-chairman of a joint parliamentary committee of Slovakia and the EU. "But it is also unusual that the Speaker of our Parliament considers it impossible to take part in a long-planned meeting with his colleagues... in Slovakia, because our colleague from the Slovak Parliament was recently stripped of his mandate by a gross violation of the Slovak Constitution."

Although Bösch was promised by Gašparovič last spring that the Gaulieder case would be resolved before November, Gašparovič and his party colleagues haven't found a solution acceptable to EU parliamentarians.

In July, the Slovak Constitutional Court ruled that the Parliament should correct its December decision and reinstate Gaulieder back in the chamber. But the governing coalition majority dismissed the Court's ruling as politically biased.

The opposition had repeatedly requested a vote on Gaulieder's mandate, but the coalition had ignored two single-purposed special sessions. They finally agreed to vote on the case in early October, only to remain steadfast in their stance which went against the court's ruling. Gašparovič, who chaired the session, did not vote.

Many EU parliamentarians expressed their disgust with the Slovak parliament's lack of action. Otto von Habsburg, an MEP with the Group of the European People's Party, dealt a strong blow when he addressed the chamber.

"I've read with interest the draft [of our] resolution on Slovakia," said von Habsburg. "However, I would like to add that it doesn't appropriately distinguish between the Slovak people and its current tyrants. For we older ones who have experienced dictatorships, know very well that there are culprits on one hand, but on the other there remains the population that must not be unconditionally punished for the fact that some fiend has seized power. This is especially true in the case of Slovakia."

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