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Books on Slovakia
Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)
The CEE Social Democrats unite against the US
An event of great significance has happened. Central and East European (CEE)
Social Democrats have combined to reject US missile shield plans for Europe.
They agreed this in mid-September in Bratislava.
The Social Democratic parties of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland,
Slovakia and Slovenia have rejected the US plans to position parts of its
missile shield in Europe in a common statement. "We are concerned about the
decision to deploy the system and are at one with the large majority of our
populations in rejecting it," the statement, drafted by Austrian and German
Social Democrats, reads. "A decision to station the missiles must not be
taken unilaterally or bilaterally, since this is a major issue affecting the
security of all of Europe."
In January, the United States asked the Czech Republic and Poland to station an
X-band radar and 10 interceptor missiles respectively for its missile shield
that the US says is designed to protect against so called rogue states such as
Iran. The countries entered into bilateral talks despite the project's lukewarm
reception across Europe and Russia's outright hostility to it.
The Central European Social Democratic politicians agreed in their statement
that the deployment "has sparked tensions between the US and Russia"
and "there is a threat of a new arms race."
They also demanded that a debate on the project be held at European Union level.
"It is not possible that we sidetrack ... the idea of common European
security," said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. "And it will be
very bad if Europe is divided on this issue as it had been in Iraq's case."
However, Hungarian Socialists, also present at the regional Social Democratic
gathering, refrained from signing the statement. The party's Deputy Chairman,
Hungarian Defence Minister Imre Szekeres, said that Europe must defend itself
from threats. "If we do it in NATO or individual members of the alliance
decide on cooperating in this area we recognize their right to do so," he
Central Europe's Social Democratic politicians introduced their common position
at a press conference during their two-day Prague gathering, where they have
also pondered the future of the welfare state and European energy policy.
The meeting has been seen as a breakthrough for Slovak Prime Minister Robert
Fico, a leader of the leftist Smer party. He has been largely ignored by
European socialists after forming a ruling coalition with parties led by two
rogues of post-communist Slovak politics - former authoritarian premier Vladimir
Meciar and nationalist Jan Slota.
Neither of them were given a post in the cabinet though and Fico has so far kept
them under a tight rein.
"I am very pleased by the great progress and stable politics carried out by
our Slovak friends," said German SPD leader Kurt Beck. "Their politics
stand with the highest European level financially, economically and
"I hope any 'punishment' meted out to our party will now end," Fico
told CT24 news channel on September 13th.
Whatever he is thought of abroad, at home Fico's party is popular. The governing
Party Direction - Third Way (Smer) remains the most popular political
organization in Slovakia. According to a poll by MVK. 39.7 per cent of
respondents would vote for Smer in the next parliamentary election.
The Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) is second with 15.5 per cent,
followed by the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) with 10.7 per cent, the
Slovak National Party (SNS) with 10.5 per cent, the Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia (HZDS) with 7.8 per cent, and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH)
with 6.9 per cent.
Parties require at least six per cent of the vote to earn seats under the
country's proportional representation system. The Slovak Communist Party (KSS)
and the Green Party (SZ) fall below this threshold.
Slovak voters renewed their legislative branch in June 2006. Final results
placed Smer-led by Robert Fico-as the top party in the European country with 50
seats. In July, Fico officially took over as prime minister, in a coalition
encompassing Smer, the SNS and the HZDS.
In late July, interior ministers from 14 European Union (EU) countries agreed
that it will be possible to lift border controls by the end of August. New
members of the EU-such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland-are preparing
to implement the Schengen Information System (SIS), which allows them to remove
systematic border controls at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008. Slovak
interior minister Robert Kalinak discussed the situation, saying, "As the
timetable within the implementation of SIS is still valid, there is no reason to
postpone the deadline for the new system."