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SMOOTH PASSAGE EXPECTED

Parliament to vote on EU Constitution

THE SLOVAK Parliament will vote on the EU Constitutional Treaty on May 11. The document is expected to pass despite a 60-percent majority required for approval.

THE SLOVAK Parliament will vote on the EU Constitutional Treaty on May 11. The document is expected to pass despite a 60-percent majority required for approval.

Wide public support for Slovakia's membership in the European Union is providing the impetus politicians need to pass the treaty. The most recent survey shows that 83 percent of Slovaks are happy about membership.

So far the document hass been ratified in national referenda or in parliaments in six EU member states: Spain, Slovenia, Lithuania, Italy, Hungary and Greece.

In Slovakia, even official representatives who oppose the passage of the EU Constitutional Treaty expect it to pass in parliament.

Speaker of Parliament Pavol Hrušovský is a critic of the constitutional treaty. "The more I study the document, the more I reject it," he said.

However, Hrušovský, who is also the chairman of the conservative ruling party, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), is resigned to its passage. He said on April 28: "There are no fears that it would be Slovakia who would block the EU constitution."

The KDH maintains that the EU Constitution is a badly prepared document that will weaken the powers of national legislators and will complicate rather than simplify the internal relationships between EU member states.

From the debate's onset, the KDH complained that the treaty's preamble failed to acknowledge Europe's Christian roots.

The KDH is one of two Slovak parliamentary parties that say it will not vote for the EU Constitution. The other is a member of the opposition, the Slovak Communist Party (KSS).

The reasons the KSS gives for rejecting the treaty differ from that of the KDH. The communist party objects to the treaty's content and tone.

"We will not support the constitution because, as it is drafted, the treaty enhances the attempts of the right-wing political force to further pauperize the people. The treaty fails to incorporate a sufficient dose of social principle into its fabric, which the KSS stands for," KSS Central Secretary Ladislav Jača told The Slovak Spectator.

Some supporters of the EU Constitutional Treaty admit that it is not a perfect document but one born from a series of compromises.

Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič said that the constitutional treaty contained some "problematic issues", especially how it impacts the position of national parliaments.

According to Gašparovič, however, there is "just one way for Slovakia: to approve and accept the treaty".

He thinks that kinks in the treaty can be ironed out later.

Slovak Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan also backs the ratification of the EU Constitution in the national parliament.

"I agree that it is not a perfect document and that life will bring about the need to adjust it," he said at a press conference held April 28.

Several independent MPs signalled that they would not support the EU Constitutional Treaty.

Independent MP Rudolf Žiak said that the document was "incomprehensible to citizens". He believes that by approving the treaty, Slovakia agrees to enter into a union with the other EU member states. He supports a national referendum rather than parliamentary ratification.

Some groups including the KDH supported holding a referendum on the EU Constitution, but the idea petered out through lack of support.

In order for Slovakia's parliament to ratify the treaty, 90 out of 150 MPs must vote in support. It is believed that the 60-percent quorum will be easily achieved.

Former KDH member Ján Figeľ, who is also European Commissioner, told the SITA news agency that he supported the passage of the EU Constitutional Treaty.

He sees it mainly as an attempt to consolidate the EU's primary laws after the historic enlargement by 10 new member states in May 2004.

"This consolidation is needed in the union and is also a part of the political development. It is a result of many demanding and essential negotiations of the 25 EU members and therefore it must not be seen only as some detail or an issue on which popularity of the public opinion will be tested," he said.

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