"It is of utmost importance that the Slovak and Czech Republics become members of the European Union at the same time."
Rita Süssmuth, Bundestag speaker
"We have heard many times that there will be no package solution."
Ivan Korčok, Slovak foreign ministry spokesman
Slovakia and Germany's partner effort to bring Slovakia closer to European integration slipped into a higher gear on February 11-12 with the visit to Bratislava of the Speaker of the German Bundestag, Rita Süssmuth. Visiting a month after a Slovak parliamentary delegation trekked to Bonn, Süssmuth held talks with Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar, President Michal Kováč, MPs, and Foreign Minister Pavol Hamžík.
While the beat to this Slovak-German diplomatic waltz is expected to quicken when German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel visits Bratislava in early May, it already skipped, by what Süssmuth had to say.
"It is of utmost importance that the Slovak and Czech Republics become members of the European Union (EU) at the same time," Süssmuth said at a press conference ending her trip. "Germany does not want Slovakia to be left isolated."
Those rosy words caused Mečiar to gush that the country's democratic development "is keeping pace with neighboring countries. The Slovak Republic is not the problem-child of Europe," Mečiar said, "and it is pointless to create such an opinion about it."
Ivan Korčok, Hamžík's spokesman, however, played down Süssmuth's reference to Slovakia's simultaneous admission with other candidates for EU membership. "We have heard many times that there will be no package solution," Korčok said. "While the Visegrád countries [Slovak and Czech Republics, Poland and Hungary] should be admitted together, there is no dependence on one country for the admission of all."
Korčok said Süssmuth spoke frankly with Hamžík about the possible identity crisis the country may experience from having just gained independence and amalgamating into a common structure. "Having obtained sovereignty only four years ago," Korčok relayed Süssmuth telling Hamžík, "everyone knows Slovakia will have to give up a measure of its sovereignty again to join the EU." Hamžík answered that he did not see any contradiction between these two processes, Korčok said. "Slovakia as a sovereign state wants to take part in this integration," Korčok paraphrased Hamžík's as responding, "because it establishes a new quality of internal relations among European states; it is therefore natural and logical that Slovakia should want to be a part of this."
The NATO question
While Süssmuth and Hamžík touched on the government's efforts to integrate into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Korčok said he hoped German diplomats would pay more attention to his country's efforts in that area. "We wish that Germany had more open eyes, so to speak, or greater interest in Slovakia specifically in terms of its geographical and strategic position in Europe," Hamžík's spokesman said. "As one of the Visegrád Four, Slovakia is a natural candidate for NATO."
He drew back later. "We do not overestimate our geopolitical position in terms of NATO integration," Korčok said. "Although Slovakia's condition has been perceived critically, I would suppose our position in these negotiations will improve as individual evaluation of each country proceeds. We'll have to wait and see."
27. Feb 1997 at 0:00 | Tom Reynolds