Interior Minister, Ladislav Pittner, survived a no-confidence vote in Parliament on Thursday, 27 April. Twelve hours were set aside to debate the motion proposed by the Movement For A Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) in protest against the arrest of their leader, Vladimír Mečiar, by armed police commandos (see last week's news review). Opposition deputies accused Pittner of acting out of a desire for revenge, of being senile, and of laying the groundwork for state terrorism. Only 51 of the 128 deputies present voted for Pittner's removal.
Mečiar could now face a charge of perjury following his refusal to co-operate with the investigation into the 1995 abduction of Michal Kováč Jr, son of the former President. Chief Investigator Jaroslav Ivor said the leader of Slovakia's most popular political party could face an eight-year prison sentence for his refusal to give evidence. According to Ivor, perjury, "is committed not only by those who deliberately provide untrue information, but also by those who deliberately withold information."
The police say they have now completed their investigation into the Kováč Jr case. Twelve people have been accused in connection with the abduction, most of them former members of the the Slovak Counter-intelligence Service (SIS). They include Ivan Lexa, who led the SIS at the time of the abduction, and was a close ally of Mečiar. They face possible prison terms of between five and twelve years. Intriguingly, an Interior Ministry spokeswoman stated: "Mečiar continues to be a witness in the case. However... a change in his position cannot be ruled out."
The Democratic Left Party (SDĽ) continues to call for a cabinet reshuffle. The party chairman and Parliamentary Speaker, Jozef Migaš wants to see a slimmed-down cabinet, with the removal of three or four ministerial posts. The SDĽ, which is member of the Government coalition, remains in a state of crisis following the decision of Migaš and some of his colleagues to vote against Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda in a recent vote of confidence. There have been rumours of a defection to another party by anti-Migaš deputies. According to the daily newspaper, Pravda, the calls for a slimmed-down cabinet are mere window-dressing. The paper says the coalition's problems stem from decisions taken at the time of its formation to divide control of stategic state-owned industries among the coalition parties.
Premier Dzurinda has moved to assure representatives of EU countries of the stability of the ruling coalition. Following a working lunch with EU ambassadors on Tuesday, 25 April, Dzurinda told reporters, "My report on the developments on the Slovak political scene was quite frank. I said that I firmly believed that the current Government, the current governing coalition, would go on governing despite the upheavals we have witnessed of late." Dzurinda's great worry must be that increasingly fractious in-fighting among the coalition partners will begin to impinge upon the Government's bid for EU membership.
The Government is showing signs of frustration at the imposition of a visa requirement for Slovak citizens by increasing numbers of EU countries. Luxemburg and Belgium were the latest to introduce visas for Slovak travellers. According to the Národná Obroda newspaper, Deputy Foreign Minister Ján Figeľ sees the imposition of visas as a price being paid by Slovakia for other countries' inadequate asylum laws. Mr Figeľ also blamed the visa restrictions for stirring-up resentment against the Roma minority in Slovakia. A total of seven EU countries now require Slovaks to apply for visas.
The police investigation into the murder of former Economy Minister Ján Ducký has been wound up. Ducký, who served in the previous coalition government, was shot dead outside his Bratislava home in January of last year. A Ukrainian citizen, Oleg T, has denied the charge of murder.
Slovakia's telephone network could soon find itself under new management after German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom made an initial bid of USD 800 million for a 51 percent stake in Slovak Telecom (ST). The bid, which values ST at 4.6 times its annual sales, was announced by Financial Times Deutschland on Friday, 28 April. The paper suggests the valuation is higher than is strategically justifiable, with a major telecoms player such as Britain's BT being valued at only 4.3 times its annual sales. The Government has said it wants USD 920 million for the company. Other companies said to be in the race to buy ST are KPN of the Netherlands, and Telekom Austria.
Robin Sheeran, 29 April 2000
- Return to CER front page
- Read the Slovak News Review from previous weeks
- Archived articles on Slovakia
TASR (Press Agency of the Slovak Republic)
SITA (Slovak News Agency)
ÄŚTK (Czech News Agency)