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EDITORIAL

Slovakia falls off the map

Scanning the photos, poring over the text, there was not one place where Slovakia was mentioned in the international press coverage of the historic NATO summit which invited former East bloc countries the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join the military alliance. Slovakia was also missing from NATO's words of encouragement for Slovenia and Romania which practically promises membership in a second round in 1999. Ukraine was even highlighted at the summit.
This event along with the July 15 EU announcement that listed the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus as candidates for negotiations into EU integration, means that Slovakia has fallen off the European map.
Slovakia has had the disadvantage of not having any country take it under its wing while it builds a democracy and new state from scratch. Slovakia is not important to NATO and EU countries because its current borders do not touch a NATO state, foreign investment has not entered the country, and the market is very small.

Scanning the photos, poring over the text, there was not one place where Slovakia was mentioned in the international press coverage of the historic NATO summit which invited former East bloc countries the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to join the military alliance. Slovakia was also missing from NATO's words of encouragement for Slovenia and Romania which practically promises membership in a second round in 1999. Ukraine was even highlighted at the summit.

This event along with the July 15 EU announcement that listed the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus as candidates for negotiations into EU integration, means that Slovakia has fallen off the European map.

Slovakia has had the disadvantage of not having any country take it under its wing while it builds a democracy and new state from scratch. Slovakia is not important to NATO and EU countries because its current borders do not touch a NATO state, foreign investment has not entered the country, and the market is very small.

As far as NATO goes, Slovenia has had much support from Italy, Romania has France as a backer, and Ukraine with its long border with Russia is a perfect pawn in the western geopolitical game with the Russians. It has been obvious that Germany was quite insistent on protecting its borders, taking the Poles and the Czechs under its wing. And Hungary as a regional leader of incoming foreign investment has virtually all of western Europe and the United States on its side. This is important because investors seek the security and stability that NATO can bring.

Since Austria is not a member of NATO, it could not help sway Slovakia's fate. Foreign investment is so small in Slovakia that there are few real business interests from the West represented here. Plus the market is so small - only five million people - compared to Poland or Romania, that the EU doesn't lose much if Slovakia is excluded.

Face it, nobody cares about little Slovakia, no one has reason to. It doesn't matter, that like Slovakia, the Czech Republic's privatization is non-transparent and the banking sector is tied into bailing out failing state enterprises. It doesn't matter that former communists in Poland and Hungary took control of their countries slowing down the pace of reform. It doesn't matter that Romania is so far behind Slovakia economically that there are doubts whether they could afford NATO membership.

While it is easy to feel sorry for Slovakia - especially its citizens - NATO and the EU are not going to deal with Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's government, which they view as undemocratic. The West has calculated that by snubbing Mečiar's government, Slovak citizens will in turn elect someone new in next year's parliamentary elections who will lead Slovakia into NATO and the EU. The only problem with this strategy is that Mečiar is the best campaigner in the country, has a loyal following, has strong and powerful financial backing, and knows how to play to Slovaks' fears of Hungarians. He is not going to disappear so easy.

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