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Populist Politics Slows Slovakia's Integration Into Europe

(Washington, DC--April 30, 2001) Reformist governments in Slovakia during the past decade have fallen victim to populist demands and not succeeded in being re-elected, two Slovak parliamentarians told an RFE/RL briefing last week. That pattern, they said, has slowed both economic reform and Bratislava's efforts to join NATO and the EU.

Peter Weiss, chairman of the Slovak parliament's foreign relations committee, noted that "no reform government had been in power twice" because the painful, but necessary, policies it implemented made it unpopular. But, he emphasized, "for the future of the country's children, we have to bear the cost of transition because the expectations of the people are very high."

Frantisek Sebej, chairman of the parliament's Committee on European Integration, said that under the "non-democratic policies" of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and his party in the mid-1990s, Slovakia had "disqualified itself" from the first round of NATO enlargement and prevented the start of membership negotiations with the European Union.

Despite these years of setbacks, Sebej said that Slovakia was "now on track" and making steady progress in achieving membership in both institutions. And both lawmakers agreed that the process of enlarging the European Union was helping to form a European political identity which would help to balance the "centrifugal forces" in Europe.

The two added they support the EU's creation of a rapid reaction force, but stressed that NATO enlargement remains an essential component to ensuring security for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. They said that "all the governing parties and major opposition parties in Slovakia" supported NATO enlargment and saw it as "the only way to achieve security for Slovakia."