Csáky survives vote of confidence
The Deputy Premier for Human and Minority Rights, Pál Csáky, has survived a vote of confidence in Parliament. Speaking after the vote on Friday 30 March, Csáky said the result had strengthened his position. The backers of the confidence motion in the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the Slovak National Party (SNS) had hoped to punish Csáky for taking part in a ceremony celebrating the life of János Esterházy organised by the Budapest parliament. Esterházy was an ethnic Hungarian politician in wartime Slovakia (see last week's CER) with a controversial reputation.
The confidence vote, which failed by 41 votes to 50, was the latest in a series of events which have highlighted tensions between Slovaks and Hungarians in recent weeks. In last week's Slovakia News Review we reported how insulting graffiti had appeared on buildings connected to the Hungarian community across Slovakia. This week saw anti-Slovak slogans daubed on the walls of the Slovak House of Culture in Bekescsaba, the centre of the Slovak ethnic minority in Hungary.
The annual meeting of Slovaks in Southern Slovakia (where most of the country's Hungarian minority lives) called on Parliament not to ratify the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages. The 500 delegates passed a resolution opposing the setting-up of a Hungarian-language teaching faculty at the University of Nitra, and another opposing the Party of the Hungarian Coalition's proposals for an administrative region in southern Slovakia. To their credit the gathering also condemned acts of vandalism against Hungarian statues and buildings.
MPs support NATO membership
Parliament has approved a national security strategy aimed at securing membership of NATO. The document elicited a surprising degree of unanimity among the various parties. Out of the 117 MPs present on Tuesday 27 March 102 voted in favour. The Slovak National Party (SNS) is the only major political grouping which remains opposed to NATO membership.
The Government hopes to be invited to join NATO at the alliance's summit in Prague next year. A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Boris Gandel, said the vote represented a signal to foreign countries that Slovakia's politicians can find common ground on such important matters.
SAPARD programme to help SlovakiaStructural Adjustment Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development
Slovakia has signed an agreement on the financing of agriculture and rural development projects under the EU's Structural Adjustment Programme for Agriculture and Rural Development (SAPARD). The aim of the programme is to give candidate countries experience in handling structural funds.
The agreement was signed by the EU Agriculture Commissioner, Franz Fischler, the Slovak Deputy Premier, Pavol Hamžík, and the Agriculture Minister, Pavol Koncoš. Once Slovakia has established a SAPARD agency it will be eligible for funding at an annual rate of EUR18m (approximately USD 16m). The money can be used to provide up to 75 per cent funding for investment in agricultural businesses, environmental protection and landscape planning.
Roma Congress elect leaders
Representatives of eight political parties and 133 NGO delegates gathered at the Congress of the Roma Nation in Poprad on Saturday 24 March to elect a Roma National Parliament. They also elected a Speaker, Ladislav Fizík, a Council, and a Roma Court.
Fizík said the priority for the Parliament was to ensure that as many people as possible registered their Roma nationality in the May census. He said he could not estimate the total number of Roma in Slovakia, but it was hoped that at least 250,000 people would declare themselves to be of Roma origin. The parliament is said to represent all 11 of Slovakia's Roma political parties. Founding a new, unified party to act as a voice for all Roma is another of Fizík's aims.
Cultural affairs finding questionable
The Minister of Culture, Milan Knažko, held talks with Jozef Markuš, the head of the patriotic cultural organisation, Matica Slovenská, in order to thrash out a long-running dispute over funding. Matica was to have received Sk19m (approximately USD 400,000) from the state coffers, but the Ministry of Culture has refused to pay up, saying it is unhappy with the vagueness of Matica's budget.
The present government has an uneasy relationship with Matica. Historically, the organisation played a central role in the propagation of Slovak culture. More recently, it has become a mouthpiece for virulent nationalism and anti-Hungarian sentiment.
Following the meeting on Monday 26 March Knažko agreed to release Sk13m (approximately USD 270,000) for cultural projects, with the remaining Sk6m (approximately USD 130,000) to be released once Matica has clarified its spending plans.
Well, if it was in Playboy it must be true!
In an interview for the Slovak edition of Playboy magazine former Premier Vladimír Mečiar claims he was offered political asylum in the USA following his arrest by police commandos in April last year. Police used explosives to blast their way into Mečiar's villa in the sleepy spa town Trenčianske Teplice after he repeatedly refused to report for questioning.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Bratislava issued a denial that any such offer of asylum had ever been made to Mečiar by the US government. The interview continues in true Playboy style with the leader of the opposition HZDS denying that he has a fondness for blonde women—claiming his advisors were all chosen by others, and just happened to be blondes. He also denies having an affair with one of those advisors, Blazena Martinková.
Residents of Komárno in southern Slovakia were awoken by an earth tremor shortly before one o'clock in the morning on Friday 30 March. The tremor, which measured three on the Richter scale, was reported by dozens of people. One of them said it felt like his house had been hit by a car, and the house shook for several seconds.
Robin Sheeran, 30 March 2001
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