Referendum on elections
The long-awaited referendum on early elections was held on Saturday 11 November, the result was announced after CER went to press. The referendum went ahead after a final appeal to the Constitutional Court by 30 coalition MPs who claimed the referendum was unconstitutional.
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The decision was welcomed by Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) leader, Vladimír Mečiar, who said his party appreciated that the court "did not surrender to the pressure and attempts to mar the forthcoming referendum."
Speaking before the vote, Mr Mečiar said there were three good reasons for the average Slovak to back the call for early elections: "his wallet, soaring prices and the number of unemployed in his own family." The former premier also said he was prepared to give up his leadership of the HZDS after an election if the party's potential coalition partners demanded it.
The HZDS consistently scores the highest poll ratings among Slovakia's parties, but other parties have shown a marked unwillingness to co-operate with the party if Mečiar remains at the helm.
Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda, who has called on the electorate to ignore the referendum, received the unofficial backing of the Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schüssel and Hungarian Premier Viktor Orbán at a meeting between the three leaders in Bojnice, central Slovakia on Friday 10 November.
Messrs Schüssel and Orbán both commented on the Dzurinda government's achievements in speeding Slovakia's preparations to join the EU.
EC Regular Report
The European Commissioner for EU Enlargement has said he is very satisfied with Slovakia's progress outlined in the European Commission's latest Regular Report (see review of the EC Progress Report 2000 on Slovakia in CER). Günter Verheugen was speaking in Brussels on Wednesday 8 November after the presentation of reports on all the candidate countries.
He praised Slovakia's "strong programme of economic and social reforms," and did not rule out the possibility that the country could be among those able to close entry talks in the course of 2002.
The EC's ambassador to Slovakia, Walter Rochel, said the Report was positive overall, with a number of critical remarks aimed at shortcomings. He emphasised the fact that, for the first time, Slovakia was described as "a functioning market economy," and underlined the Report's finding that the state budget proposal for 2001 constitutes a threat to the progress made in macroeconomic stability.
The Report was welcomed by Premier Dzurinda, who said he was "very satisfied," although he had to admit that warnings about the stability of the coalition government were justified. President Rudolf Schuster said it was a good signal for Slovak citizens who wanted to see Slovakia become an EU member soon. Slovakia's chief negotiator with the EU, Ján Figel, said the Report gave Slovakia a "C," and he was hoping for an "A" next year.
And in other news...
- The credit rating agency, Standard and Poors, has increased Slovakia's rating from stable to positive. The agency said the country's rating could increase to investment grade within one to three years. The announcement, which followed a similar move by the other leading credit rating agency Moody's, resulted in a firming of the Slovak crown by over 1.6 per cent in the course of two days. The National Bank of Slovakia said it was standing by, and would take action to prevent the currency getting out of line with economic fundamentals.
- Move over Clinton and Blair, Slovakia's economic transformation has been singled out by a top French economist as a prime example of the gradualist approach known as the "third way." Writing in Le Monde, Jerome Sgard of the Centre for Forecasting Studies and International Information in Paris said: "Slovakia has perhaps found a third way between the liberalism of Poland and Hungary, and uncontrolled developments in Romania, Bulgaria and Russia."
- Defence Minister Pavol Kanis says he has increased his personal security following threats to his life. Mr Kanis informed Markíza TV viewers that an unnamed arms dealer had threatened to kill him and the Finance Minister, Brigita Schmoegnerová. A government official confirmed that Mrs Schmoegnerová had been placed under increased security for a five week period from the end of August to the beginning of October.
Death threats notwithstanding, Mrs Schmoegnerová says she intends to stand for the leadership of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ). The 52-year-old Finance Minister revealed her ambition during a television broadcast. The current SDĽ chairman, Jozef Migaš, held on to his job this year, despite criticism of his voting against Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda in vote of confidence.
US Steel will take over the operation of the Eastern Slovak Ironworks (VSŽ) on 17 November. The announcement was made by the President of US Steel Košice, John Goodish, after a meeting with Premier Dzurinda in Košice on Monday 6 November.
Robin Sheeran, 10 November 2000
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TASR (Press Agency, Slovak Republic)
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Today's updated headlines from Slovakia and the Czech Republic