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DEPARTING PRESIDENT MEETS WITH OFFICIALS

Schuster counts down his last days

WITH THE END of Rudolf Schuster's five-year term in office approaching, the outgoing Slovak president started a series of meetings with top state officials and political parties on June 2.
Schuster, the former leader of the once ruling Party of Civic Understanding, which was part of a cabinet under PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, was elected president on May 29, 1999, and sworn into office two weeks later in mid June.
Five years later, "I am not leaving with a bad feeling; it is quite the contrary," Schuster said.

WITH THE END of Rudolf Schuster's five-year term in office approaching, the outgoing Slovak president started a series of meetings with top state officials and political parties on June 2.

Schuster, the former leader of the once ruling Party of Civic Understanding, which was part of a cabinet under PM Mikuláš Dzurinda, was elected president on May 29, 1999, and sworn into office two weeks later in mid June.

Five years later, "I am not leaving with a bad feeling; it is quite the contrary," Schuster said.

Although Schuster came from Dzurinda's previous ruling coalition, the relations between the president and the cabinet were not always harmonious, observers say.

"Despite the fact that Schuster originally came from the cabinet camp, he ended [his term] as a strong critic of the government programme," political analyst Ľuboš Kubín, from the Slovak Academy of Sciences, told The Slovak Spectator on June 3.

Schuster refused to sign several cabinet laws, criticising Dzurinda's new right-wing cabinet for what he perceived to be its failure to keep in mind the socially weaker layers of society.

"In the end, life will show whether it was right or wrong not to sign all of the laws," Schuster said at the meeting with the cabinet members.

Admitting that, on the domestic scene, "we were not united all the time", Schuster highlighted positive cooperation with the cabinet in the field of foreign policy.

Kubín agreed. "The consistency in the foreign policy area needs to be evaluated positively," the analyst said.

At the meeting with the representatives of the ruling Christian Democrats, Pavol Hrušovský, the speaker of parliament and the party's chairman, said he considered the president's term in office to have been "in line with the standards and correspondent to the [requirements of the] presidential post".

"Although things often came to great misunderstandings and differences of opinion [between the cabinet officials and the president], we managed to find good solutions," Hrušovský said.

PM Dzurinda would not comment on the president's performance in office, saying that time and the voters would best evaluate his work.

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