AND the winner is: Inhospitable as a Slovak.
The competition, run by Slovakia's main EU negotiator, Ján Figeľ, was inspired by a postcard drawn by British caricaturist John Wilson. It depicts what EU member nations contribute to the character of the 'Perfect European' with their typical negative attributes. So Wilson's ideal European is a good cook like the British, is quiet as the Italians, adaptable as the Swedes and a good driver like the French. Get the idea?
Participants from home and abroad were asked to come up with an attribute that would best represent the typical Slovak - or rather, an attribute that was the opposite of a negative national characteristic, in the ironic manner shown in the examples. Even though sobriety and world fame had already been taken by Ireland and Luxembourg respectively, there were plenty of other characteristics in the running.
Despite dozens of appropriate suggestions (see postcards, right and left), 'Inhospitable as a Slovak' was the winning slogan, accompanied by a drawing of a man sitting behind a table packed with food. The choice was made by a committee comprised of Figeľ, Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan, head of the EC Delegation in Bratislava Eric Van Der Linden and Monika Beňová, head of the parliamentary Foreign Committee, among others.
Figeľ said the winning piece had to be "acceptable from the perspective of international policy". Can we assume, then, that self deprecation is now forbidden in the realm of international relations? It was supposed to be the very point of this competition, but the victorious piece lacks it completely. While other nations were mocked for their weaknesses, Slovakia chose to highlight one of its strong points.
"This [competition], which was supposed to be a source of self-irony, turned into thinly veiled self-promotion," said literary critic Valér Mikula, who called the result "embarrassing".
When the results were announced, Minister Kukan (who is not known for his sense of humour) said he was glad the country was able to take such a humorous look at its national characteristics.
"This kind of [competition] is a very good way of promoting the EU. It is excellent that we can make fun of ourselves," he said.
The committee distributed 50,000 flyers around Europe and received around 800 responses, most of which chose 'hardworking' as the most appropriate anti-characteristic for Slovaks.
Milan Kňažko, former Foreign and Culture Minister, was disgusted with the judge's choice, exclaiming: "It doesn't make me smile and it's not true."
He added that he would describe most Slovaks as "honest, incorruptible, cultured, fair, kind-hearted and diligent nondrinkers".
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9. Dec 2002 at 0:00 | Compiled by Lukáš Fila from press reports