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President warns country is on verge of international isolation

President Michal Kováč issued a clear warning that the government's undemocratic policies are not only jeopardizing Slovakia's chances of joining the European Union and NATO but also threatening the young country with being ostracized in Europe, in his end-of-the-year address to Parliament on December 11.
şşThe number of clear signals that our country is moving toward international isolation is increasing,'' Kováč said. şşIt is becoming the rule that Slovakia is often excluded from among the first group of candidates for NATO and EU membership. Yet our government is not reacting to these signals that have caused such an important twist in the relations of European countries and the United States towards our country.''


Falling on deaf ears. The parties of the ruling coalition, HZDS, ZRS, and SNS walked out of Parliament when President Michal Kováč gave his end of year address.
Vladimír Hák

President Michal Kováč issued a clear warning that the government's undemocratic policies are not only jeopardizing Slovakia's chances of joining the European Union and NATO but also threatening the young country with being ostracized in Europe, in his end-of-the-year address to Parliament on December 11.

şşThe number of clear signals that our country is moving toward international isolation is increasing,'' Kováč said. şşIt is becoming the rule that Slovakia is often excluded from among the first group of candidates for NATO and EU membership. Yet our government is not reacting to these signals that have caused such an important twist in the relations of European countries and the United States towards our country.''

Though his message was intended for deputies in the three ruling coalition parties - the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), Slovak National Party (SNS) and the Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) - only Parliamentary Speaker Ivan Gašparovič and one member of the ZRS did not leave the plenary hall as soon as Kováč entered. Otherwise, deputies from the opposition parties and a balcony full of diplomats and the press followed the President's speech.

Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar did not attend the speech. He and Kováč are bitter political rivals whose feud erupted in early 1994, when Kováč's address in Parliament critical of the the-then second Mečiar Administration triggered a successful no-confidence vote that caused Mečiar's government to fall.

Augustín Marian Húska, deputy chairman of Parliament, explained that coalition MPs walked out lest they disturb the proceedings. "Of course, we cannot agree with such a view on Slovakia's development as presented by the President," Húska said. "We walked out for the sake of a decent discussion, to avoid being noisy and banging to present our protest.''

Kováč criticized the government for trying to craft its own brand of democracy. şşIt's naive to think that top representatives of the current ruling coalition have discovered a new, more perfect model of democratic governing, and that democratic Europe will sooner or later accept this model and admire us for our contribution to the development of democracy. That's a grand illusion. It's not the democratic world that has to learn from us; it's us who have to learn from the democratic world.''

Kováč rejected the government's view that negative impressions of Slovakia abound due to the lack of knowledge about developments going on in the country. şşThe ruling coalition claims that Western countries do not have trustworthy information and that they don't contact the Slovak government often enough," the President said. "But they have enough specific and objective information from their diplomatic missions.''

President objections

Kováč then named several aspects of the ruling coalition's policy that he believes damages Slovakia's reputation with its Western partners - the attempt to remove deputies from the opposition Democratic Union from Parliament, the recent ouster of ex-HZDS deputy František Gaulieder from Parliament (see story on page 1), and the coalition's refusal to place opposition members on committees supervising public television and radio, as well as the oversight board for the privatization agency the Fund for National Property.

Coalition deputies were not impressed, saying the President repeated the same issues he has said in the past to the same audience. "The President's speech was a one-sided view about the current situation in Slovakia," said the head of the HZDS Parliamentary Club, Tibor Cabaj. "This is proven by the fact that after his speech there was no discussion about it. He only said what the opposition wanted to hear."

Before Kováč concluded his speech, Gašparovič interrupted him, announcing that the Interior Minister şşhas just called to announce there is a bomb in the building that will explode.'' He added that it probably was a false alarm, and asked the President to carry on.

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