Watching his country be excluded from NATO expansion, Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar kept his chin up.
"I don't consider it a tragedy at all, because being among the invited with a promise of full membership in 1999 doesn't necessarily mean fulfilling all the conditions for membership by 1999," Mečiar said in an interview for Radio Twist in Madrid. "The break between this round and the next round will be two years," he added, hinting that Slovakia will be there in 1999.
Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplová seconded Mečiar's mood. "I think we should view it positively," she said. Stating that Slovakia wasn't excluded for good, Kramplová added that Slovakia will continue cooperating with NATO within the Partnership for Peace framework and in the Euro-atlantic Partnership Council. "We will do everything to send a signal that we are prepared to join NATO in the next wave," she said.
Evaluating the first wave, however, Kramplová criticized the Alliance's criteria. "I think they didn't use the same rule to measure all candidates," she said.
At home, the military leadership sounded bitter. "I am sorry and sad, but not frustrated," Slovak Chief of the General Staff, General Jozef Tuchyňa told a news conference after congratulating Slovakia's neighbors who made it in. Then he went on to say that the Slovak Army did everything possible to achieve the goal of integration and corroborated it by evaluations of foreign military experts.
This way comrade. Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin escorting Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar during a visit to Bratislava in 1995.
Continuing that failure to join NATO in the first wave requires deep analysis and should have serious repercussions not only within the Army, Tuchyňa identified with opinion of those western diplomats who said in Madrid that it is our top political leaders who should be asked why Slovakia wasn't invited to talks.
But Mečiar on behalf of the cabinet refused to take any blame for expulsion of the once ambitious runner-up. "The government is responsible for practical steps in military preparedness, which was evaluated as one of the best," he said. "Then it is responsible for fulfilling the agreements concluded with NATO, i.e. maneuvers and diplomatic activity. We were evaluated as an example pupil of NATO," he added.
Mečiar also ruled out that the exclusion would be his personal defeat. "Not at all. It has been signaled to us for the past year," said Mečiar and suggested that Romania and Slovenia should be more disappointed, since majority of delegations were pushing them in and eventually, they stayed outside just like Slovakia. "We knew [about our negative status] since 1996," Mečiar added.
Unlike Mečiar, deputies of his Movement for Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) expressed anger over the decision. Asked whether it is not a shame that Slovakia wasn't envisaged even for the second wave of expansion and was queued behind Romania, a HZDS deputy Eva Zelenayová who had reiterated in the past that she hates to be compared with Romania, said, "This was not our fiasco. It is a shame on those who adopted that kind of decision."
Roman Kováč, a Democratic Union (DU) vice-chairman, said that likes of Zelenayová only play dumb. "The ruling coalition deputies... realize that excluding Slovakia is a failure of their government's foreign policy," Kováč said. "Not that they would want to be in NATO, they are only taking offence from the actual expulsion."
Pinning the blame
Embracing the West. US President Bill Clinton welcomes Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski into NATO.
The first signals of such tactic were already located. When asked what Slovakia should do in order to catch the 1999 NATO train, Mečiar cracked a domestic whip. "These small groups and parties should stop thinking that their domestic interests are more important than pan-European integration," Mečiar said, referring to the opposition.
"[They] should forget that they can win elections by involving Euro-Atlantic structures in domestic fights, by exposing the ruling coalition parties to double pressure - from inside and outside - and finally defeat [us]. It's stupid. That's not the way to do it," Mečiar added.
One day after the decision on newcomers was made public, Kováč proposed that next day Mečiar be summoned to the assembly to give explanation and take responsibility for the failure. The coalition majority rejected the move, making Kováč and František Mikloško, the DU and KDH respective deputy club leaders, to announce their deputies' departure from the chamber "as a way of protest against the fact that the parliament is giving up its right to supervise the cabinet."
While the deputies were leaving, Víťazoslav Moric, a Slovak National Party deputy, shouted, "First they did everything possible to make us excluded and now they are fleeing like rats." Augustín Marián Húska, the chamber's vice-speaker presiding the session, reacted, "But this ship is not sinking," causing the coalition majority's burst of hearty laughter.
Peter Weiss, a Party of Democratic Left vice-chairman, emphatically rejected the coalition's attempt. "The NATO decision is an official confirmation of the fact that the ruling coalition simply failed to fulfill the basic priority of its declared program and totally bankrupted in pursuing the long-term strategic national interest of Slovakia," Weiss said. "All the excuses that it is the coalition's fault, or bad foreign and domestic journalists' fault, or the president's fault, and that it all was just some conspiracy against the young Slovak Republic, is of course ridiculous rubbish."
17. Jul 1997 at 0:00 | Daniel Borský