A step closer to NATO
Slovakia has taken an important step closer to membership of NATO, according to Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan and Defence Minster Jozef Stank. The pair were full of optimism following their meeting in Brussels on Friday 20 April with representatives of the 19 NATO member states.
Slovakia's application for membership received a positive evaluation at the meeting, which means the Government can approach next year's NATO meeting in Prague with an increased hope that it will receive the go-ahead for membership. "If Slovakia continues in this fashion and it does not make any mistakes," said Kukan, "then we should not have any fears that our journey to NATO will not be successful."
The two ministers said the emphasis of the two-hour meeting was on the need for Slovakia's armed forces to change, to become smaller, more modern, flexible and well-trained. Earlier in the week NATO Secretary-General George Robertson praised Slovakia's preparations for membership, but warned that there was still much work to be done. He said he could not guarantee to any of the nine countries seeking membership that they would be successful.
Malíková marries Belousov
The leader of the Slovak National Party (SNS), Anna Malíková, married her Russian businessman fiancé, Alexandr Belousov on Tuesday 17 April. The ceremony took place in the city of Ivano, 300km from Moscow in an Orthodox church which the groom had refurbished at his own expense.
Malíková's relationship with Belousov has been the subject of intense media interest in Slovakia, and was used by her enemies within the SNS in an attempt to undermine her leadership. He has been the subject of an Interpol arrest warrant issued by Russian military prosecutors, although he now claims to have cleared the matter up.
Speaking two days after the wedding, Malíková assured Slovak reporters that she was not about to become overly concerned with matters Russian. "Slovakia has enough of it's own problems," she commented, "I am a Slovak politician and I shall concern myself with tackling Slovak problems."
Investigation into honorary consulates
The Government ordered an immediate investigation into honorary consulates in Slovakia after it was revealed that a Bratislava businessman had been masquerading as the representative of the Cameroonian government. Eduard Jahchan had been operating the consulate for three years. On 18 April, the Cameroonian Ambassador to Moscow confirmed that Jahchan was operating a scam.
His offer to serve as honorary consul had been turned down by the Cameroon government, but Jahchan went ahead and registered with the Slovak Foreign Ministry.
Mikloš joins SDKÚ
Deputy Premier and Minister for the Economy Ivan Mikloš has joined Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda's Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ). Dzurinda formed the party to fight the 2002 elections and, so far, it has met with mixed success in attracting popular support in the opinion polls.
The SDKÚ exists in shadow form at the moment. Most of its senior figures hold their seats in government thanks to their membership of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK), an untidy collection of left and right-wing parties which is prone to squabbling. Mikloš is seen as a real talent, and coaxing him into the SDKÚ is a major success for Dzurinda. Mikloš is currently a member of the Slovak Democratic Party (SDS).
Policy of no tolerance to drugs
The Government has declared a policy of no tolerance to drugs. It follows a call from the independent MP and Smer party leader Róbert Fico to legalise the use of cannabis.
Deputy Premier and Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Pál Csáky said the Government would not be reconsidering its policy towards possession of small quantities of soft drugs for personal use. He said the Government intended to adopt stricter policies towards the use of legal drugs, such as alcohol and tobacco.
And in other news...
- Democratic Party (DS) MP Peter Zajac has resigned his seat in Parliament. Zajac cited disputes within his party and his disappointment at the Government's lack of success as the reasons for his quitting. There has been speculation that the real reason is his opposition to the new leader of the DS, Ludovít Kaník. 55-year-old Zajac will not be left twiddling his thumbs, his other job as Director of the Slovak Literature Institute at the Slovak Academy of Sciences should keep him busy.
- From 30 April all Slovak police officers will have to wear an identification badge on their uniform. The order was given to Ján Pipta the Chief of the Police Corps by Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner. It is hoped that the presence of name tags will help cut corruption in the police force.
- The bus carrying the 1.FC Košice football team was stoned by hooligans as the players arrived in Trnava for a match in the Slovak Superliga on Sunday 15 April. Four players suffered minor wounds and another, Martin Hlousek, was hit on the head with a stone. His head was bandaged and he was unable to take part in the game. The bus was ambushed by 20 to 30 youths, some of them wearing masks, who attacked it with baseball bats, beer bottles and stones. Thirteen people were later arrested.
Robin Sheeran, 20 April 2001
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TASR (Slovak Press Agency)
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