Ján Čarnogurský quits
Ján Čarnogurský has announced his intention to quit the leadership of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), saying he would not be a candidate for the chairmanship of the KDH at its congress in the autumn, but would continue in the post of Justice Minister. Čarnogurský has been a leading figure on the Slovak political scene for over a decade, leading the KDH since its foundation in 1990. He is one of the few present-day Slovak politicians with dissident credentials from the Communist era.
As a lawyer, Čarnogurský defended members of Charter 77 and religious activists in the courts and was involved in the underground church movement. He was imprisoned in 1989 and released after the fall of Communism. Recent months have seen a collapse in support for the KDH in the opinion polls. They suggest that support for the party has fallen below the five per cent level required for representation in parliament.
EU progress a rollercoaster
Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda has reaffirmed his government's commitment to reforming the economy and achieving political stability. These aims are vital to Dzurinda's ultimate goal of integration with Western institutions. "We need to realise that success will come, but we also need to make sure that we will be successful in the 2002 parliamentary elections," the Premier commented to journalists on Monday 5 June.
Dzurinda is pinning his hopes on a turnaround in the economy before the elections. The government hopes to achieve membership of the EU in 2004.
There were mixed signals about Slovakia's progress towards membership of the European Union. Pál Csáky, Deputy Premier for Minorities and Human Rights, told journalists he believed this year's progress report from the European Commission would be more critical of Slovakia than last year's.
An altogether more rosy picture was drawn in reports of a meeting between the EC's Director General for Enlargement, Eneku Landabaru, and Finance Minister Brigita Schmoegnerová in Bratislava on Monday 5 June. Landabaru told reporters that the opening round of entry talks between Slovakia and the EU had been very successful.
An estimated 6000 supporters of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) gathered outside the cabinet offices in Bratislava on Thursday 8 June to protest against the government's handling of the economy and the alleged violation of human rights. HZDS chairman Vladimír Mečiar made a lengthy speech, calling for the resignation of the Government and its replacement by a "government of national understanding."
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The Defence Minister, Pavol Kanis, is to request a bank loan of five to six billion Slovak crowns to bring the Slovak army up to NATO standards. It follows embarrassing criticism of the army's state of readiness by US General Joseph Garrett. See last weeks Slovak news General Garrett described the army's current combat capability as almost zero.
The Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner thanked Slovakia for refusing to support EU sanctions against the Vienna government, which includes Jörg Haider's far-right Freedom Party. "We have supported Slovakia through hard times, and now Slovakia has supported us," she said, after a meeting with Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan in Bratislava on 6 June. The Austrian government continues to support Slovakia in its bid to join the European Union.
The patriotic cultural organisation Matica Slovenská is protesting against a new law which deprives it of ownership of the Slovak National Library and the Memorial of National Culture. Matica Slovenská was founded in 1863 and formed the basis for the Slovak national revival and opposition to Slovakia's then Hungarian rulers. In recent years it has been known for its virulent nationalist politics, and was seen to be close to the previous government of Vladimír Mečiar.
The Czech and Slovak Orthodox Church has a new leader. Archbishop Nikolai of Prešov was installed as Archbishop of Prague and Metropolitan of the Czech lands and Slovakia at a ceremony on Sunday 4 June. The church has a membership of around 180,000 in the two countries.
The website of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) has been attacked by hackers, who changed the party's name to the Movement for a Devastated Slovakia, and the Movement for Drastic Feeble-Mindedness. According to the revised version of the party statutes, the HZDS brings together "people of all ethnic groups and religions seeking rapid and easy enrichment". Photos of HZDS leaders were altered to resemble Hitler and the Devil.
Robin Sheeran, 12 June 2000
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TASR (Press Agency, Slovak Republic)
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