PRIME Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda firmly stands behind his determination to sack his long-time ally, Defence Minister Ivan Šimko, and the head of the National Security Office (NBÚ), Ján Mojžiš, despite NATO circles becoming increasingly alarmed about the recent developments.
Dzurinda already submitted his proposal to recall Šimko, on September 16, to President Rudolf Schuster, who will shortly follow through with the sacking, though he remains unenthusiastic about having to politically execute the defence minister.
Šimko, one of the co-founders of Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), disobeyed his party's command to support the withdrawal of Mojžiš on September 10. He was the only SDKÚ minister to vote against the will of his boss. Only hours later, based on Dzurinda's proposal, the SDKÚ party top body deprived Šimko of his party vice-chairmanship and ruled that he must leave the defense ministry.
However, such determined steps, which Dzurinda had avoided in the past, even when it came to obstructions by the ruling coalition partners, have surprised NATO circles, political analysts, and even Dzurinda's own people.
On September 12, a diplomatic source close to NATO told news wire TASR that the alliance is closely monitoring the situation but refused to confirm whether the NATO Secretary General had phoned Dzurinda over the issue.
NATO is not likely to officially interfere with the proceedings against the leader of the NBÚ or the defense minister.
Although Dzurinda has not submitted any new proposal to sack Mojžiš, he has made it clear that his reasons for sacking the NBÚ boss, which still remain concealed from the public, are very strong. To emphasize his distrust in Mojžiš, Dzurinda refused, on September 16, to approve an official trip that the NBÚ head was supposed to pay to NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Since New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) leader Pavol Rusko received support for his being nominated to the recently vacated economy ministerial seat, ANO has been the only ruling coalition partner firmly supporting Dzurinda's efforts to force Mojžiš out from the top post of Slovakia's vetting authority.
The Christian Democrats (KDH) and Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) have avoided taking a clear stand so far. Although the parties voted against Mojžiš' recall, they have not pressed on the PM to explain his reasons for the move.
Šimko compared Dzurinda's actions to "mechanisms applied in the communist party" and blamed his boss for not initiating a wider discussion over Mojžiš.
He believes that recalling Mojžiš without any serious grounds would have a grave impact on Slovakia's international image.
Šimko argued that a crucial issue, such as sacking the boss of the NBÚ, cannot be the decision of one single person.
Dzurinda and Šimko each started his political career within the Christian-Democratic movement, with Šimko being one of the truest allies of the prime minister.
Their relationship had even survived bruises caused by Šimko's running against the incumbent Dzurinda for the SDKÚ top post during the spring 2002 party elections. However, Šimko, who at that time headed the predominantly unpopular interior department and was almost invisible to the public, had very little or no chance to win.
Dzurinda has denied personal disagreements with Šimko, claiming that "it is all about party discipline."
The daily SME reported that Dzurinda allegedly withdrew his confidence from Mojžiš, based on a screening by the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS). NBÚ's Juraj Puchý confirmed that the office has information that Mojžiš' SIS file has been provided to Dzurinda.
However, Šimko, suggesting that intelligence information is not always trustworthy, told SME that Dzurinda should have consulted with his partners over the confidential information.
The outgoing defence minister also feels that he was not given many choices; Šimko insists the prime minister had known his attitude towards Mojžiš' recall even before the vote. However, Šimko refused to confirm media speculation that the prime minister had intentionally allowed his dissenting vote, using it as a justification for the recall.
However, Šimko neither plans to quit politics nor the SDKÚ, even hinting that he might try forming an internal opposition within the party.
22. Sep 2003 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová