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EDITORIAL

Walking the tightrope between identity and political necessity

SMALL nations often suffer from an invisibility complex. They know what it means to be tiny spots on the map, remembered only if embroiled in a terrible conflict that turns the whole region into a nest of unrest.
Of course, there are small nations with immense historical heritages that centuries ago likely influenced the heartbeat of whole continents. There are small nations that successfully struggled through the ages to stay alive.
Small nations often feel that their policies have to conform to rules and lines drawn in the sand by large countries, which sometimes results in the small nation adopting the negative behaviours of the neighbouring giant.

SMALL nations often suffer from an invisibility complex. They know what it means to be tiny spots on the map, remembered only if embroiled in a terrible conflict that turns the whole region into a nest of unrest.

Of course, there are small nations with immense historical heritages that centuries ago likely influenced the heartbeat of whole continents. There are small nations that successfully struggled through the ages to stay alive.

Small nations often feel that their policies have to conform to rules and lines drawn in the sand by large countries, which sometimes results in the small nation adopting the negative behaviours of the neighbouring giant.

They often walk a tightrope, leaning towards tradition and historical identity on one hand and extending the other to hold hands with bigger nations that promise protection from all kinds of events, wars, crises and conflicts.

And yet, we have not even touched upon those small nations that are also young, experiencing growing pains and coming of age in a global world.

Many wondered whether Slovakia would play mute host during the summit between the presidents of the United States and the Russian Federation or if it would take on the status of a serious discussion partner.

While the summit is an American-Russian event with Slovakia as host, both Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin will hold official talks with Slovak representatives.

The summit will become part of the modern history of US-Russian relations, whether a formal agreement is reached or none at all.

Political scientists have already suggested that any such agreement coming out of the summit could become known as the "Bratislava Agreement". If so, that would be one way to press Slovakia into the global political memory of nations.

A high profile and an opportunity to showcase Slovakia and Bratislava are immediate benefits of hosting the summit.

As one city official put it, if half the journalists put a nice spin on Bratislava, it would do more for the country in two days than the tourist board had done in four years.

A recently prepared survey shows that almost 60 percent of Slovak citizens feel Bratislava's hosting of the summit is a positive event, which means that a majority of the population realizes the benefits of hosting, regardless of political attitudes.

Not surprisingly, each political party wants a bite of the credit pie.

The ruling coalition attributes its status as host to the merits of the Dzurinda government; ex-Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's party, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), urges the event to be seen in a wider context.

There is no doubt that Mečiar's name is permanently recorded in US memory. If nothing else, Mečiar's government is the addressee of several US demarches that warned the prime minister about his government's deviations from democratic lines.

It seems slightly ironic that the announcement of a potential Russian-American summit in Bratislava coincided with speculations about an eventual coalition between the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SKDÚ) - Dzurinda's party - and Mečiar's HZDS.

At the time, the SDKÚ quickly rejected the speculations as an intentional plot to discredit the party. In fact, it was the party officials themselves that "leaded" the information as a way to test the waters of public opinion.

Though not flawless, the successive Dzurinda governments have been much better managers of state than Vladimír Mečiar and his cronies.

Thanks in part to Dzurinda, Slovakia can raise its "Tatra tiger" head and proudly display the economic reforms that have turned this relatively young country into a stable economy where world leaders choose to do business.

The summit also gives Slovakia a chance to position itself as a meeting point between East and West, which is a very strategic place to be.

Regardless of all the complaints - about the money spent on security, castle refurbishing, old town cleanup efforts and logo banners - Slovakia will have pocketed considerable political capital once the summit comes to an end.


By Beata Balogová

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