THE EURO-Socialists, by an absolute majority of votes, has decided to renew the candidacy of Slovakia's ruling party Smer for membership in the Party of European Socialists (PES). The European Socialists did so on February 14, despite the fact that the Slovak National Party (SNS) remains part of Slovakia's ruling coalition. PES suspended Smer's candidacy in October 2006 after Robert Fico formed a coalition with the SNS.
According to press reports, more than 80 percent of PES members voted in favour of the renewal of Smer's candidacy. The French, Belgians, and Hungarians, who are still annoyed by the presence of the SNS in Slovakia's ruling coalition, voted against.
The vote was supported by the fact that on February 13, Smer chairman and Slovak PM Robert Fico made a promise during a phone call with the chairman of the Euro-socialists, Poul Nyrop Rasmussen, that he and his coalition partners would support minority rights and European democratic standards, the SITA newswire and the Sme daily reported on February 14.
Moreover, Fico and SNS leader Ján Slota wrote a letter to Rasmussen pledging to observe the basic principles of democracy and the legal state, wrote Sme.
"We reject all forms of discrimination, intolerance and hatred," the daily Sme quoted the letter as saying. "In Slovakia, every person has the right to a dignified life and treatment with no regard to ethnic origin, race, sex, sexual orientation or religion."
"We had believed in this outcome, but it was tense and open until the last moment," MEP Vladimír Maňka of Smer said.
Smer said that it now has a chance to get to where it has always belonged.
"Smer can now concentrate on securing strong economic growth and a social state without being distracted," a Smer press release said. "These, and not the ravings of the destructive Slovak opposition, are our priorities."
Slota was satisfied with the PES decision.
"It would have been a shame if they had left them outside because of the SNS," Slota told SITA on February 14.
According to Slota, the PES only had fictitious reasons for rejecting Smer.
"The Socialists had no other option if they did not want to make fools of themselves in front of all of Europe," he added.
The PES suspended the Smer's candidacy for membership in October 2006. As Rasmussen told media, the Euro-socialists acted in compliance with the Berlin Declaration from 2001, according to which the member parties must restrain from any political grouping or cooperation on all levels with any political party fomenting or inciting racial or ethnic prejudices and racial hatred.
18. Feb 2008 at 0:00 | Compiled by spectator Staff from press reports