Despite the fact that the EU integration train appears to have rejected a whistle-stop in Slovakia, the Slovak government is still hoping to flag it down with a belated concession to EU political criticisms. With the crucial EU summit in Luxembourg only weeks away in December, Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and President Michal Kováč signed a joint declaration on October 16th affirming their mutual commitment to integration into the EU and western security structures.
Though it was a concrete show of unity, it was a rather tentative one, and both EU parliamentarians and Slovak opposition politicians said that they wanted to see more than "lovely words." "Oral declarations are not enough for catching the integration train," said Jozef Migaš, leader of the Democratic Left Party (SDL'). "Concrete steps in the government and the Parliament must follow."
The rift between Mečiar and Kováč, former political allies become bitter enemies, has drawn sharp and repeated criticism from both the EU and the United States, and has been cited as one of the reasons that Slovakia was not invited to first-round talks on EU integration.
The mutual declaration proclaimed Slovakia's readiness to comply with the recommendations of the joint Slovak-EU Parliamentary Committee, and said that while the country felt its economic and legislative evolution was at least comparable to that of other candidates for admission, it would "try to renew the confidence of EU countries in Slovakia from the viewpoint of...political criteria."
The government has been at pains recently to be seen to be cooperating with EU recommendations. The appointment of Democratic Union Chairman Ivan Mikloš to the supervisory board of the National Property Fund (FNM) in early October was clearly aimed at the EU's demand that opposition politicians be given oversight roles on parliamentary committees.
But given the government's refusal to compromise on the reinstatement of ousted deputy František Gauleider, and its foot-dragging on language and minority rights, opposition deputies doubt the joint declaration will impress EU politicians. "(These) illegal actions must be redressed," said Kalman Petocz, Vice-Chairman of the Hungarian Civic Party (MOS), "(or) nothing will change concerning Slovakia's evaluation."
6. Nov 1997 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson