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Opposition parties call for Csáky's head

THE HUNGARIAN Coalition Party (SMK) expressed its support for Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration Pál Csáky, as opposition and some coalition MPs continued to call for his resignation over his handling of the EU agenda.
The SMK's senior body, the council of chairmen, met recently to discuss several issues, including the perceived shortcomings of the cabinet's EU referendum campaign in May, for which Csáky was responsible. The campaign, which ran in the final two weeks before the vote, was widely condemned for providing too little information too late.
Suspicions of clientelism have been added to the barrage of criticism against Csáky, after a report in the local daily SME revealed that the wife of Csáky's spokesman had received several contracts to do graphic design for the referendum campaign materials without a proper tender.


THE DEPUTY PM has tried to deflect blame for lagging EU policy.
photo: TASR

THE HUNGARIAN Coalition Party (SMK) expressed its support for Deputy Prime Minister for EU Integration Pál Csáky, as opposition and some coalition MPs continued to call for his resignation over his handling of the EU agenda.

The SMK's senior body, the council of chairmen, met recently to discuss several issues, including the perceived shortcomings of the cabinet's EU referendum campaign in May, for which Csáky was responsible. The campaign, which ran in the final two weeks before the vote, was widely condemned for providing too little information too late.

Suspicions of clientelism have been added to the barrage of criticism against Csáky, after a report in the local daily SME revealed that the wife of Csáky's spokesman had received several contracts to do graphic design for the referendum campaign materials without a proper tender.

On June 4 Csáky announced that the spokesman, Peter Mikloši, had been released from his job.

Opposition parties, including the Smer party headed by Robert Fico, have been questioning Csáky's ability to do his job for several months, and recently called for a vote of no confidence in Csáky and Finance Minister Ivan Mikloš, to be held during the upcoming session that starts June 17.

In addition, Csáky's department and the cabinet as a whole have come under fire for Slovakia's lack of preparation as an EU candidate in terms of administrative capacities and preparation of projects expected to make use of EU funds. Slovakia and nine other countries are scheduled to enter the economic bloc in May 2004.

Some of the criticism has come from top EU officials. Luiz Riera, general director for regional policy in the European Commission, was quoted in the local press as saying that "in comparison with other accession countries, where there are also problems, Slovakia's problems have accumulated, and it is the least-prepared [candidate] country".

Csáky surprised some of his party colleagues, including the SMK boss Béla Bugár, when he responded to the criticism by deflecting the blame. He said that the negative comments had not been directed at him, but rather at his party colleague László Gyurovszky, the minister for regional development.

Following the recent meeting of senior SMK members, Csáky's job remained secure, with Bugár announcing in a press conference that the deputy prime minister's possible recall had not even been discussed.

"With regard to several shortcomings in the area [of EU integration], we have received information from Mr Csáky that some personnel changes have taken place in his EU integration section, and that more will follow," Bugár said.

The SMK's senior body agreed that it would meet more regularly, in order to oversee the fulfillment of tasks in the Euro funds agenda.

While the majority of the SMK's ruling partners said they respected the party's decision to stand by Csáky, some coalition MPs insisted that the country's inablility to access EU funds was a serious problem, and that Csáky was politically responsible for that agenda.

Imrich Béreš from the New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party told The Slovak Spectator on June 3: "A regular report [on accession countries] that is being prepared by the European Commission will show the bare truth regarding the existing shortcomings in this area, and Mr Csáky carries full political responsibility for the process [of EU integration]."

He said, however, that he believed coalition partners would discuss these issues at an upcoming meeting of ruling parties, the so-called coalition council. Béreš said that whether ANO MPs supported or rejected Csáky's recall in parliament would depend on the outcome of those talks.

Soňa Szomolányi, political analyst and head of the political sciences department at Comenius University in Bratislava, said she thought it "rather unlikely" that Csáky would be recalled in parliament.

The main reason for her scepticism was that the vote of no confidence proposed applied to Csáky and Mikloš together, not on an individual basis.

"If separate votes were held on Mikloš and on Csáky there might be a chance that some coalition MPs would support the latter's recall. But in this joint form, the chances are small," Szomolányi said.

The analyst admitted, however, that in terms of managing the Euro funds, Csáky was "not the right man for the job".

"From that point of view, replacing Csáky should be considered. His mistakes and other types of questionable behaviour are accumulating," she said.

However, finding a replacement for Csáky could be a problem for the SMK, which lacks qualified politicians in this field. And it could endanger the "fragile balance inside the ruling coalition," Szomolányi added.

The SMK's ruling partners are expected to discuss the issue and ask Csáky questions at the coalition council meeting, preliminarily scheduled for June 10.

The SMK and its ruling partners stress that they are determined to resolve this issue within the coalition.

"Opposition parties will not get a chance to tell us who we should replace or when," said Gyula Bárdos, head of the SMK's parliamentary caucus.

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