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Slovakia a staunch ally of US in Iraq

DEVELOPMENTS in the Middle East have had little direct impact on Slovakia. Unlike in the rest of Europe, the country saw little popular opposition to US action against Iraq and no large anti-war protests.
Slovakia, a part of "new" rather than "old" Europe, has stood by the US throughout the conflict, not only in words but also in actions, as the developments of the year clearly illustrate:

DEVELOPMENTS in the Middle East have had little direct impact on Slovakia. Unlike in the rest of Europe, the country saw little popular opposition to US action against Iraq and no large anti-war protests.
Slovakia, a part of "new" rather than "old" Europe, has stood by the US throughout the conflict, not only in words but also in actions, as the developments of the year clearly illustrate:


January 26 -Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda receives a diplomatic note from Ronald Weiser, the US ambassador to Slovakia, that lays out specific demands for Slovak aid in the event of a possible attack on Iraq. Slovakia is asked to pledge its support for a US-led military operation in Iraq with or without the blessing of the United Nations. Slovakia agrees.


January 29 - The cabinet decides to allow flyovers and landing by US and multinational coalition aircraft in the event of an armed conflict in Iraq.


February 7 - By a small majority, the Slovak parliament votes in favour of the deployment of Slovak soldiers in the Persian Gulf in support of any allied action that might be taken against Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. Defence Minister Ivan Šimko announces that 75 members of the chemical, biological, and radiation unit are preparing to leave Slovakia by the end of February.


February 13 -The cabinet decides that US military convoys heading for Iraq can use Slovak roads and railways. Only two government members, both from the Christian Democratic Movement, oppose.


February 25 - PM Dzurinda receives a phone call from US President George W Bush, who says he appreciates Slovakia's firm stance in support of US-led action in Iraq. In a conversation lasting about 12 minutes, Bush says "the US will never forget Slovakia's attitude."


February 26 - A unit of military chemical engineers leaves Slovakia for a base in Kuwait, from which it will be able to assist any military action against Iraq. The unit, composed of 70 Slovak soldiers, is based in Kuwait's Doha military camp.


February 28 - US Secretary of Commerce Don Evans visits Slovakia and says the US has "not asked anything of [the Slovak] government that they have not delivered and delivered quickly".


March - A thousand soldiers help police protect Slovakia's most important routes and buildings as the country tightens security. Officials say stricter controls are in place at the country's airports and border crossings, and visa applications from countries in the Middle East will come under more scrutiny than usual.


March 21 - The coalition starts its attack on Iraq.


March 28 - PM Dzurinda tells a conference that cooperation and a strategic partnership with the United States are key for Slovakia's foreign policy. "I sincerely hope that we gain more US investment and that Slovakia establishes itself as a clear, firm, and reliable partner of the US in Europe," he says.


April - The US embassy in Bratislava says Slovakia should receive $6 million (€5.5 million) of the $74 billion (€68 billion) US President Bush has requested from Congress.


April 9 - In a meeting in Washington, DC, US President Bush tells Slovak President Rudolf Schuster that the US administration had prepared reconstruction plans for Iraq and that Slovakia would have a role to play. Bush asks Schuster to thank the families of Slovak soldiers in Kuwait.


April 30 - Defence Minister Šimko informs the press that the Slovak anti-chemical unit currently stationed in Kuwait is crossing the border into Iraq to help provide drinking water to people living in the south of the country.


May - Slovakia agrees to send Sk25 million (€625,000) in aid to Iraq in response to an earlier call by the United Nations.


June 3 -The last members of the Slovak anti-chemical unit, part of a joint operation with Czech equivalents stationed in Kuwait during the Iraqi crisis, return to Slovakia.


June 5 - The cabinet decides to send 85 soldiers to Iraq to assist in mine clearance and the elimination of explosive systems in the war's aftermath. It is estimated that the expedition will cost about Sk300 million (€7.1 million).


Late June - A new study by the Institute for Public Affairs think tank shows Slovaks are increasingly critical of the US, their disagreement with the superpower growing dramatically after the Iraq war.


December - The Pentagon decides Slovak companies can participate in bids for large reconstruction contracts in Iraq.


Compiled by Lukáš Fila.

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