Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda's party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), says it will not take part in the forthcoming referendum on early elections, due to be held on 11 November. SDKÚ committee member Ivan Šimko said the party considered the referendum to be an example of political intrigue, and a power game being played by ex-Premier Vladimír Mečiar and his Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS).
The HZDS has accused the Government coalition of planning to rig the referendum. The accusation was made by the HZDS General Secretary, Jozef Grapa, who said that opposition representatives on the referendum commission would carry out a parallel count of voters.
The Government's strategy of non-participation is based on the requirement that more than 50 per cent of the electorate must take part in the referendum for its result to be valid. Even then, the proposal can be thrown out by Parliament, so the threat to the Government is minimal.
Swedish Premier Goeran Persson expressed his concern about the referendum during a visit to Bratislava on Monday 2 October. In talks with the Speaker of the Slovak Parliament, Jozef Migaš, Mr Persson said the referendum had raised concerns about Slovakia's internal political stability among European Union member countries.
The European Parliament's rapporteur for Slovakia, Jan Marinus Wiersma, says the government must redouble its efforts to implement legislation introduced as part of the drive for EU membership.
Speaking at a plenary session of the Parliament in Strasbourg, Mr Wiersma drew particular attention to the anti-corruption programme, moves to improve the status of the Roma community and reform of public administration. "The fight against corruption is good, but we expect specific results," he commented, "On the other hand, implementation of the cabinet strategy to resolve Roma issues needs more money."
Wiersma was more complimentary in his assessment of the state of democracy and economic progress in Slovakia. He made special mention of the recent invitation to join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as evidence of progress in these areas.
The resolution proposed by Wiersma warned about problems in the area of financial supervision and audit. It also included a call to EU member countries to rescind the visa requirements they imposed on Slovak travellers in recent months.
The police have taken over security duties at the Mochovce nuclear power station amid accusations of dirty-dealing over the awarding of tenders to private security firms. The G5 company, which has been providing security at the plant since 1996, was awarded a tender in March of this year. According to the TASR news agency, the management of Slovenské Elektrárne (SE), which runs Mochovce, decided in July to drop G5 and employ the services of another security firm, SBS Dynasty, starting on 30 September.
It emerged that SBS has neither a licence from the Nuclear Regulatory Office, nor sufficient trained personnel to carry out the job. The firm came fourth in the competition for the tender in March. At six o'clock in the evening of 30 September, G5's 200 employees left the premises, to be replaced by police officers.
Some politicians have now called for responsibility of security at nuclear plants to be returned to the state. The owner of SBS Dynasty, Miroslav Guman, told a press conference there were no political reasons behind the allocation of the contract to his company. Guman, who is a former employee of the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS), said he and several other ex-SIS employees who work for his company had no involvement in any of the scandals surrounding the intelligence service.
President Rudolf Schuster has been under the knife again. He returned to the hospital in Innsbruck, Austria, where he had been treated in the summer. Schuster had an operation to remove a colostomy on Tuesday. The procedure took four-and-a-half hours, instead of the expected two. By Thursday, he was reported to be in good health and free from complications.
He is expected to take 10 to 12 days to make a full recovery. The surgeon carrying out the operation emphasised that Schuster would be able to continue with his presidential duties. This latest operation was necessitated by the two emergency procedures carried out on the President in Slovakia in June, when he was treated for a perforated colon.
The resulting row over the alleged mishandling of the President's treatment by Slovak doctors rumbles on. Prior to this week's surgery, Schuster hosted an opera gala, featuring leading Slovak artists, to thank doctors at the Innsbruck University Clinic for saving his life, and to raise money for Austrian medical charities.
And in other news...
- On Tuesday 3 October, the governor of the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS), Marian Jusko, said the bank was prepared to intervene in order to shore up the slipping value of the Slovak crown. The crown fell by 17.1 per cent against the US dollar last month. In September, the bank stepped in to support the crown by buying up 45m euros. Jusko claims the currency's weakness does not reflect the country's fundamentally sound macroeconomic performance.
- Premier Dzurinda's talent for small talk were tested to the full at a two-hour lunch with the visiting Princess Sayako of Japan on Thursday 5 October. Where the Japanese royal family are concerned, all talk of politics is off the menu, instead, the conversation covered culture, the Olympics, the High Tatras mountains and the forthcoming Expo-exhibition in Japan. Anyone for beach volleyball and a bowl of steaming bryndzové halušky?
Robin Sheeran, 6 October 2000
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TASR (Press Agency, Slovak Republic)
SITA (Slovak News Agency)
ČTK (Czech News Agency)