German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel (middle) and his Slovak counterpart, Pavol Hamžík (right) mark the official opening of the new German Embassy in Bratislava. German Ambassador to Slovakia Heike Zenker (second from the left) looks on.
"We [Germans] feel a responsibility for the central and east European region," Kinkel told a news conference after his first meeting with Slovak Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík, during which he signed a bilateral cultural agreement. "But the conditions for membership are the fulfillment of all criteria, both economic and those concerning the development of democracy."
Kinkel's remarks sounded like a lecture, especially when compared to a statement made by German President Roman Herzog on a visit to Prague on April 29. Herzog, speaking to Czech parliamentary deputies, pledged Bonn's support for Czech efforts to join both the European Union (EU) and NATO, Reuters reported from Prague. "We welcome the Czech Republic into the EU," Herzog said. "You can count on full German support."
Hamžík reiterated Slovakia's desire to be among the first countries invited by NATO to join the alliance at its summit in Madrid in July. But the country's chances appear to have waned in recent months after repeated U.S. and EU criticism, including that of Germany, over the pace of its democratic reforms.
Kinkel said no final decision had been made on which countries would be invited to join in the first round. He was contradicted in this assessment by another German official who accompanied him on the trip. Andreas Krautscheid, a parliamentary deputy of the ruling German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the Pravda daily that Germany will not support Slovakia's invitation to be included in the first wave of NATO enlargement, but Bonn supports Bratislava's attempts to integrate into Western structures.
It's been no secret that Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's government has been lobbying hard for a meeting between the Slovak premier and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Kinkel touched upon this issue, but said only that Kohl has so far not visited Slovakia because of a busy schedule and not because he was not interested in the country as such.
Kinkel said NATO's Madrid summit would also include policy decisions on the reshaping of NATO from a purely defensive alliance to structures of peace- keeping and peace-making. "We must also develop a strategy for helping those countries which will not be invited to join the alliance in the first round," he said.
Kinkel arrived in Slovakia from a two-day visit to Romania where he gave a similar message to Bucharest, which is striving to overcome long odds and win quick entry to NATO.
8. May 1997 at 0:00 | Jan Krcmar