JUST hours before the results of the US presidential elections were known November 3, The Slovak Spectator asked the former Slovak ambassador to Washington, Martin Bútora, about his thoughts on the US presidential race and the implications of the resulting vote.
The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Do Slovaks have their favourite in the US presidential election, or do you think this is a topic Slovaks don't care about?
Martin Bútora (MB):It depends on whom you talk to. Both politicians have their fans here. Most members of the ruling parties and their supporters prefer Bush, and those who support current opposition parties prefer the Democratic candidate.
Political affiliation, however, is not the only dividing line. People who are more conservative are traditionally closer to Republican viewpoints, and vice versa. If the Slovak population voted for the US president, however, Kerry would probably win. To a considerable extent, Kerry's appeal is a result of the Iraqi crisis, which overshadows other aspects. It is also linked to the Slovak media having created a rather critical picture of Bush.
TSS: Will there be a difference for Europe or Slovakia for that matter, if Bush or Kerry wins?
MB: The relationship towards the US and their president cannot be taken out of the context of the overall situation of Slovak foreign policy. The current Slovak cabinet stands on the side of European atlanticism, and some members of the opposition side with that position as well.
A balanced European atlanticist position does not mean courting the US but it means recognising the special role of the US in the world, and the need for a European-American alliance. Part of the opposition has sharply criticised the cabinet's steps, especially in the case of Iraq. It was rather easy to criticise Iraq but it is much harder to imagine a different position for Slovakia, it being a member of NATO and the EU.
TSS: What do you think is the principal difference between the two rivals in the US presidential election?
MB: President Bush represents more conservative values in life that are reflected in a whole series of issues, starting with his negative stance on a women's right to decide freely on her motherhood, up to reservations on stem cell research. As far as foreign policy is concerned, differences between nations in the past are well known, but I think we have to look to the future.
Every newly elected US president has to look at transatlantic relations anew and at the role of the US allies in general. It will take a lot of effort for the president to refute the idea that the US wants to act unilaterally, and that it is not looking to others as equals.
The improvement of the relationship between the US and Europe will also depend on the Europeans with respect to the extent they are prepared to write a new chapter.
It is in the interests of the Europeans, including Slovakia and the EU, to start writing a new chapter in American-European relations and to achieve a new era of cooperation. Realistically, there are still many things that connect the US with Europe. The US and Europe need each other - this is not a phrase but a vital necessity. The challenge that stands in front of European statesmen and the new US leader is massive. It is not written anywhere that they will overcome their difficulties, but if success is not achieved, the whole world will pay for it.
8. Nov 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Jurinová