SLOVAKIA's future membership of the European Union could have been decided by the strength and skill of just 25 men. The improvement in the mood of the nation based on their success in the world ice-hockey championships could be just enough to make the difference in the referendum on entry to the European Union on May 16 and 17.
The Slovak hockey team has shown itself, once again, to be world-class; something a country often lacking in pride can be proud of. Hopefully, that pride will transfer itself to the ballot box when Slovaks finally get the chance to decide whether they want that world-class sheen to stay by becoming a member of the European Union.
The clock is ticking down in the final period before the referendum, the most important two days in Slovak history since the fall of the communist regime in 1989 - and Slovaks need every encouragement they can get to go out to vote.
This match is far more important than the actions of the hockey team on the ice over the last two weeks, because this time it will be Slovakia versus Slovakia, and the European Union is waiting to find out which will win - the will of the people to join the union or basic voter apathy.
After all, there is no doubt that the majority of Slovaks want the country to be part of the European Union - opinion polls have been showing overwhelming support for months. Now they must go out and register that opinion. This referendum is too important for apathy to prevent the 50 percent minimum voter participation required by the constitution.
We urge every Slovak reading this paper to get out and vote for the future of this country. It will be a tragedy if Slovakia fails to become a member of the European Union not because of a failing economy or unstable politics but simply because people could not be bothered to spend a few seconds securing Slovakia's place in a modern Europe.
Even those standing on the sidelines have a role to play. Foreigners with an interest in this country, both in Slovakia and abroad, should cheer on their Slovak friends and colleagues, and make sure that Slovakia does not score its biggest own goal of the 21st century.
The statistics are clear: Slovakia is only 2,080,000 votes away from becoming a member of the European Union. Let us hope that a roar of pride goes up when the referendum results come in, that Slovaks have shown themselves ready and willing to express their democratic rights, and that they deserve their place among the strongest nations in Europe.
Failure now would see the country relegated to the second division, with a hard struggle ahead to put itself back in the top league where it belongs. That cannot be allowed to happen.
12. May 2003 at 0:00