Vol 2, No 9
6 March 2000
C E N T R A L E U R O P E A N N E W S:
News Review for Slovakia
News highlights and analysis from Slovakia
since 25 February 2000
The leader of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), former Premier Vladimír Mečiar, said on Monday that they already had the 350,000 signatures required by law to bring about a referendum calling for early elections. The HZDS hopes to exploit the current unpopularity of the government, and squabbling among the coalition parties, to bring about elections before the scheduled date of 2002. Opinion polls suggest the majority of voters do not, at present, support the idea of early elections.
The row over a plaque commemorating wartime leader, Jozef Tiso, in the northern town of Žilina continued, with the TASR news agency reporting that prosecutions were being prepared. The Slovak General Prosecutor is said to have alleged that more than ten offences related to the crime of supporting fascism have been committed. Widespread condemnation, both national and international, followed the decision by Žilina's town council to erect the memorial plaque on the town's Catholic House, where Tiso declared the short-lived independent Slovak State in March 1939. Tiso led a Nazi puppet regime, and has been accused of collaborating in the deportation of tens of thousands of Slovak Jews to concentration camps.
Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda launched a war against corruption, with the introduction of the National Anti-Corruption Programme. There will follow a forty day period of debate to raise public awareness of the problem of corruption. The Programme aims to cut unnecessary red tape, which is thought to encourage the payment of bribes to public officials, including doctors and teachers.
An opposition agreement has been signed by the HZDS and the Slovak National Party (SNS). HZDS Chairman Vladimír Mečiar and SNS Chairwoman Anna Malíková signed the agreement at a ceremony in the town of Povážská Bystrica on Thursday. The two parties, who were coalition partners in the previous government, are pledged to work together at local and national level until the next parliamentary elections. One major policy difference remains between them, the HZDS support Slovakia's entry into NATO and the SNS oppose it.
A court in Munich has halted all proceedings against Michal Kováč Jr, son of the former President, Michal Kováč. The German authorities had accused Kováč Jr of fraud valued at USD 2.3m, in the so-called "Technopol Case". In August 1995 he was kidnapped and driven across the border to the Austrian town of Hainburg. Kováč Jr was arrested, but the Austrian courts refused to extradite him. It is widely believed that the kidnapping was the work of Slovak Intelligence (SIS) whose chief, Ivan Lexa, was a close ally of the then Premier, Vladimír Mečiar. A long-running feud between Mečiar and Kováč Sr dominated the Slovak political scene in the mid-90s.
The government is to raise the issue of Britain's visa requirement for Slovaks when British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, visits Slovakia on Monday 6th March. The British government introduced the visa requirement in 1998 in response to a growing number of Slovak Roma seeking asylum in the UK. ČTK reports the Slovak Foreign Ministry as being confident that the visa requirement can be lifted this year. Meanwhile, the government is still undecided about proposals to introduce visas for citizens of Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
Robin Sheeran, 3 March 2000
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