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SLOVAK COMMUNIST PARTY (KSS) WANTS REFERENDUM ON NATO ENTRY

Communists call Nato a "US power tool"

THE SLOVAK Communist Party (KSS) wants to call a referendum on Slovakia's entry into Nato, claiming that the organisation is a "Cold War anachronism" used by the US to push through its political interests.
The KSS says it is prepared to respect the outcome of any such referendum, but believes that a national vote is crucial, as the country's "defence decisions should not be made by political parties, but by the people," according to the party's vice-chairman, Ivan Hopta.
Observers say it is unlikely that the unreformed communists will succeed with their plan, as six out of seven parliamentary parties placed Nato and European Union (EU) integration at the top of their election agendas. Public opinion surveys also show a firm pro-Nato orientation, with 60 per cent of Slovaks supporting entry.

THE SLOVAK Communist Party (KSS) wants to call a referendum on Slovakia's entry into Nato, claiming that the organisation is a "Cold War anachronism" used by the US to push through its political interests.

The KSS says it is prepared to respect the outcome of any such referendum, but believes that a national vote is crucial, as the country's "defence decisions should not be made by political parties, but by the people," according to the party's vice-chairman, Ivan Hopta.

Observers say it is unlikely that the unreformed communists will succeed with their plan, as six out of seven parliamentary parties placed Nato and European Union (EU) integration at the top of their election agendas. Public opinion surveys also show a firm pro-Nato orientation, with 60 per cent of Slovaks supporting entry.

Slovakia is a hot candidate for Nato entry, according to unofficial information from western diplomats, and an invitation to join is expected at a November Alliance summit in Prague. The KSS is radically opposed to such a development.

"Nato is an aggressive military organization that defends the political and military interests of the US exclusively," said KSS central secretary Ladislav Jača. "Through this military grouping, the US has become a global policeman who is making decisions about the whole world."

Instead of joining Nato, the KSS would like to see Slovakia's defense policy shaped by a European umbrella organization for security and cooperation.

Having gained 11 parliamentary seats out of a total of 150 in the recent general elections, the KSS is about to enter the legislature for the first time since the fall of communism in 1989. According to a rewritten constitution passed in February 2001, the government is not obliged to call a referendum on Nato entry.

In order for a referendum on Nato to take place, the communists would have to either collect 350,000 signatures from citizens who support the idea or convince the majority of its parliamentary colleagues from other caucuses to vote in favour of the proposal.

That latter possibility, however, seems unlikely according to analysts, as the KSS is the only parliamentary force to oppose Nato entry.

"Those who voted for the [other six] parliamentary parties agreed with their foreign policy programmes. If those MPs now decide to vote in favour of a referendum or against the country's Nato entry, they would break their election promises and betray their voters," said Ivo Samson, an analyst with the Slovak Foreign Policy Association think tank.

In reaction to the KSS proposal, President Rudolf Schuster said: "If a party doesn't support Nato entry, it doesn't support Slovakia either."

"The KSS has a right to have this opinion, but it is more important that the majority of citizens support our entry into Nato," said Schuster.

Although the KSS has said that it would respect a referendum result that showed widespread support for Nato entry, the party insists that Nato is becoming an increasingly "political and military pact that transgresses the borders of mere defence," said Jača.

The KSS will be one of the participants at the so-called counter-summit that will take place in Prague one week before the Alliance summit.

It is expected that several left-wing European parties will participate in the counter event, entitled "Nato escalates security risks and threatens peace".

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