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How would you summarize Slovak politics in 1996?

The year 1996 was a successful one for the Slovak Republic, and the same could be said for the ruling coalition's politics. This is reflected in 1996 macroeconomic indicators in which we have set an example for other transition countries. The unemployment rate has started to fall. If there is one place where we are less successful it is in foreign trade, and the flow of foreign to our economy. Here, however, a question must be asked: What offers have been made to us in the effort to make easy money? This is one of the main reasons for our slower influx of foreign investment, more so than the less than calm political situation in the country.

The year 1996 was a successful one for the Slovak Republic, and the same could be said for the ruling coalition's politics. This is reflected in 1996 macroeconomic indicators in which we have set an example for other transition countries.

The unemployment rate has started to fall. If there is one place where we are less successful it is in foreign trade, and the flow of foreign to our economy. Here, however, a question must be asked: What offers have been made to us in the effort to make easy money? This is one of the main reasons for our slower influx of foreign investment, more so than the less than calm political situation in the country.

Previous governments were interested in gaining political capital in return for handing over profitable key companies needed for the independent managing of our economy, the current government is very cautious about what to offer foreign investors, and is equally cautious about it in privatization.

If we accept the premise that good, vigorous and sound politics is derived from economics, then it is no wonder that economic struggle is necessarily reflected in the political struggle, in which the most malicious methods are then used.

Casting doubt on the political orientation of a country which, being democratic, wants also to have economic independence, is a method which - although admissible in a democracy - should not be admissible by politicians striving to safeguard their character.

Speaking about the various presumed defects of our country before foreign audiences has become a blemish to our image in the world, and the stronger it is, the happier the opposition is. After all, the genetic code of one of our opposition political parties includes a witch hunt mentality which it is reviving although Europe emerged from the Middle Ages long ago.

How else could we refer to the allegation that the coalition's objective is to join the Commonwealth of Independent States as one of its republics particularly in light of our democratic parting with our cousin of many years - the Czechs - that many considered as a yoke.

Obviously, the efforts to set an independent policy cannot be to the liking of those who have connections to various international political structures. It is a double-edged sword- let us remember accusations brought forward by the Italian press against the international financial magnate George Soros in connection with the fall of the lira and the economic destabilization of their country.

Similar "witchcraft" is represented by ballads about the lack of media freedom in the Slovak Republic. Speaking about television stations alone, there are more of them here than in the Czech Republic, not to mention almost twenty equally independent radio stations or periodicals.

Those who do not speak Slovak can hardly convince themselves about the actual freedom of our media market. The lack of knowledge provides a biased outlook and becomes thus a suitable tool for painting catastrophic scenarios.

One might assume that opposition members themselves do not believe the words they use to massage the brains of the public. Really, among their ranks or - better to say - outside of their ranks is a party which is concerned about the stability of the country, this concern being an alpha and omega of its endeavors, and which also proved it in the summer-time crisis by giving support to the ruling movement.

It is impossible not to recognize that we do not differ in particulars but in substance. We must aim for our own prosperity. The Government is still able to preserve social peace in the country, including its coexistence with the trade unions. It is the sign of a rational approach to solving problems.

In building our new road, we have already hit bedrock, although the national "sport" of opposition political entities is complaining abroad. The Greeks have a saying: Hic Rhodos hic salta! (Show at home what you can do). It is undeniable that everybody has a chance to do it here!

Peter Janošík writes for the daily Slovenská Republika.

Speaking about the various presumed defects of our country before foreign audiences has become a blemish to our image in the world, and the stronger it is, the happier the opposition is.


Coalition undermines democracy

By Róbert Kotian

The quintessential feeling of Slovak reality is schizophrenia. Society oriented schizophrenia - in terms of culture and values - both to the nation and to the citizen, both to the West and to the East, both to the past and the future. This feeling of schizophrenia is further enhanced by a conflict between the basically satisfactory macroeconomic indicators and the unsatisfactory standard of living and wage levels, the moves toward a market economy and the bolshevik mechanisms of political power.

The main positive trend of the past year was the maintenance of certain macroeconomic indicators resulting from continuing basic trends of economic reform, modified by the needs of state bureaucrats.

Another positive phenomenon was the National Bank of Slovakia's competent monetary and budgetary policy of free of excessive intervention by the state. Vladimír Mečiar knows all too well that the people who support him are ready to forgive him for anything except turning the Slovak crown into worthless currency.

However, the fundamental trend of political life in Slovakia has been the continuation by the government coalition of taking steps undermining the country's democratic system, provoking mistrust among representatives of Western countries, and casting doubt on the proclaimed pro-Western geopolitical orientation of Slovakia.

The other side of the coin is the relentless resistance of political and civil forces against the advent of an authoritarian regime. One of the few positive foreign policy acts of the current government - ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty - was accompanied by HZDS's concessions to its coalition partner, the SNS, that resulted in the passage of an amendment to the so-called act on the Protection of the Republic.

A fierce attack against democratic freedoms was represented by the coalition's stripping of František Gaulieder seat in Parliament after he resigned from the HZDS.

There are clear indications that Mečiar is implementing the geopolitical strategy he outlined sometime ago: "If we don't succeed in the West, we'll turn East." One such indicator is the failure to heed the admonitions of some leading Western diplomats (the most serious of which was the statement of the American ambassador on the need to solve the kidnapping of Michael Kováč Jr. and the death of Róbert Remiáš, if Slovakia is to have a chance to enter NATO and the EU). Mečiar's seeming acceptance of the fact that Slovakia will not be among the first group of countries admitted to NATO and the government's incessant flirtation with Russian politicians manifested in a concrete offer to create a free trade zone are other examples of following this geopolitical strategy.

The HZDS managed - with the help of the Social Democratic Party (SDĽ) - to settle a short-lived shakeup within the coalition caused by a dispute related to the privatization of Slovenská Poisťovňa and to subordinate even more its coalition partners.

Among the HZDS's great achievements was gaining control over the process of privatization which resulted in a number of very peculiar sales last year (Nafta Gbely, the Piešťany spa resort). Although the Constitutional Court ruled that the transfer of decision-making powers concerning direct sales from the Slovak government to the National Property Fund (FNM) is in conflict with the Constitution, the FNM continues with privatization.

Slovakia has not avoided huge scandals, either. The murder of Remiáš (the case was ultimately tabled), the abduction of the President's son (tabled), the telephone conversation between Ivan Lexa and Ľudovít Hudek (tabled), forging signatures on the ZRS's petition (tabled), the Prime Minister's accusation of the President that were it not for the latter's immunity, he would be prosecuted for fraud in the Technopol case (tabled), the corruption-tainted sale abroad of more than 600,000 tons of wheat and the illegal sale of the FNM's apartments to members of the government, all these cases sufficiently demonstrate the weakening legal consciousness and the decreased capability of law enforcement authorities. It is bound to backfire on the Slovak society.

Róbert Kotian writes for the daily Sme.

The fundamental trend of political life in Slovakia has been the continuation by the government coalition of taking steps undermining the country's democratic system .

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