US embassy cable - 04BRATISLAVA86

Slovakia Political Roundup January 11-22, 2004

Identifier: 04BRATISLAVA86
Wikileaks: View 04BRATISLAVA86 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Bratislava
Created: 2004-01-26 14:28:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PGOV PREL PINR LO TERRORISM PARLIAMENT
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS  BRATISLAVA 000086 
 
SIPDIS 
 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, LO, TERRORISM, PARLIAMENT 
SUBJECT: Slovakia Political Roundup January 11-22, 2004 
 
 
1. Sensitive but unclassified.  Please protect accordingly. 
 
Anti-corruption Laws Watered Down, Then Withdrawn 
--------------------------------------------- ---- 
 
2. (U) Parliament returned January 20 to an ambitious 
agenda.  The Conflict-of-Interest law, an important part of 
the Ministry of Justice's anti-corruption legislation 
proposals, was watered down significantly before it reached 
a vote.  The law would have set out guidelines for 
transparency and property disclosure for public officials 
from the national government down to municipalities.  The 
most critical change was an increased quorum (three-fifths 
rather than a simple majority) needed to sanction a fellow 
MP.  With the changes, however, the law would be virtually 
unenforceable.  Rather than leave the impractical 
legislation to a vote in the third reading, Justice Minister 
Lipsic withdrew it. 
 
3. (U) Similarly, the Origin-of-Property Law passed by a 
wide margin in the second reading.  But this was only after 
MPs eliminated the provision that would have required a 
suspect to prove in court that he obtained a disputed 
property legally.  The original legislation was aimed at 
giving prosecutors authority to investigate when a public 
official obtained or built property that is worth far more 
than he/she could reasonably be expected to afford on a 
government salary.  As with the conflict of interest law, 
with the provision eliminated, the law would be toothless. 
KDH and Smer MPs voted against the new version of the law, 
but most others voted for it. 
 
4. (SBU) Comment: The watering-down of these important laws 
before passing them on the second reading points to a 
continuing lack of political will to truly fight corruption. 
It is interesting to note in the voting record on the 
property law that some MPs who benefited significantly from 
privatization of industry, such as Vladimir Meciar and 
Viliam Sobona of HZDS, were not present for this vote. 
 
WWII Criminal Arrested in Germany 
--------------------------------- 
 
5. (U) German police arrested Slovak war criminal Ladislav 
Niznansky, who was a member of the Edelweiss unit under the 
Nazi state.  He is accused of burning two villages, Ostry 
Grun and Klak, during World War II and the homicide of 146 
people.  If convicted, Niznansky will be sentenced to life 
in prison.  Niznansky is now a German citizen. 
 
Coalition Now a Minority, But Initiatives Still Pass 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
6. (U) Governing coalition initiatives continued to pass, 
despite the ongoing dispute between SDKU and Ivan Simko's 
Free Forum.  The Free Forum deputies and other independents 
joined the coalition to pass a pension law.  In addition, 
parliament approved agreements with the Vatican and with 11 
of the registered religions in Slovakia regarding religious 
education.  Beginning in the first grade, students will be 
required to take either a class in their religion or ethics. 
However, there would need to be at least 12 students for a 
class to be taught in any given religion.  Teachers of 
registered religions are paid by the state.  ANO deputies, 
who object to the expansion of religious influence in the 
government and schools, voted against the agreement, as did 
opposition Smer and Communist MPs.  Members of the other 
three coalition parties, all HZDS deputies, independent MPs, 
and members of the breakaway Free Forum and People's Union 
parties voted in favor. 
 
Opposition Leaders Meet but Can't Agree 
--------------------------------------- 
 
7. (U) Opposition party leaders held a strategy meeting but 
could not agree on deposing the government.  Neither HZDS 
Chairman Vladimir Meciar nor Smer Chairman Robert Fico would 
want to work together in a new government.  Vojtech Tkac, 
chair of People's Union, called a second meeting, still 
hoping for a no-confidence vote, but opposition parties 
again could not agree.  Ivan Simko's Free Forum might 
support no-confidence votes on individual ministers, but not 
to recall the government, according to comments he made in 
the press. 
 
Two Deputy Speaker Seats Vacant 
------------------------------- 
 
8. (U) Of four total deputy speaker posts in Parliament, 
only two are now occupied, by Bela Bugar of SMK and Viliam 
Veteska of HZDS.  Zuzana Martinakova of Free Forum resigned 
her post, and Pavol Rusko's seat, left empty when he became 
 
Minister of Economy, was never filled, as Lubomir Lintner's 
candidacy failed twice. 
 
Presidential Election Pre-Campaigns Continue 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
9. (U) Ivan Gasparovic has 21,900 signatures on a petition 
backing his presidential candidacy, more than the 15,000 
required.  A petition for President Rudolf Schuster's 
candidacy was also submitted but reports indicated there was 
a technical problem: Schuster had not included a signed 
statement agreeing to be a candidate.  His spokesman, Jan 
Fule, announced Schuster would run for re-election, but 
Schuster said the next day that he had not yet decided.  He 
has not clarified his intentions since, and has until 
January 29 to file. 
 
10. (U) Independent presidential candidate (and former 
Ambassador to the United States) Martin Butora held a pre- 
campaign event called "Slovakia Through the Eyes of Martin 
Butora."  The standing-room-only audience of about 200 
included many prominent intellectuals and NGO leaders as 
well as Smer MP Robert Kalinak.  Butora outlined ten areas 
for improvement in Slovakia in a speech called "Crisis is an 
Opportunity for Growth," including citizens' growing 
distrust in government, wide disparities between different 
regions of Slovakia, and excessive influence of special- 
interest groups.  He also addressed issues of European 
integration and transatlantic relations with a somewhat 
critical eye.  The speech lasted about an hour and was 
followed by thoughtful, lengthy questions and answers. 
 
Ruling Coalition Rift in Trencin Mirrors National Scene 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
11. (SBU) The ruling coalition in Trencin (Slovakia's 10th 
largest city) has broken up over disagreements about 
candidates for mayor, to replace former mayor and SDKU 
regional chair Juraj Liska, who became defense minister late 
last year.  A coalition of KDH, ANO, Democratic Party (DS) 
and SDKU won 22 of 25 council seats as well as the mayoral 
seat in December 2002 local elections.  Last October, the 
coalition had agreed to nominate Branislav Celler of DS, 
whom KDH opposes due to his controversial personality and 
business interests.  KDH will support its own candidate, 
possibly acting mayor Jan Kratky.  Comment: During a recent 
visit to Trencin, poloffs noted evident strain between KDH 
and ANO representatives, who would barely speak at lunch 
together.  If the coalition cannot come together to support 
a candidate, HZDS could regain control of the mayor's seat. 
 
Schuster Visits Egypt to Forge New Ties 
--------------------------------------- 
 
12. (U) President Schuster took a three-day trip to Egypt. 
He hoped to develop stronger relations and new economic ties 
between the two countries as well as cooperation in 
international organizations, such as support for Slovakia as 
a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2006 
and 2007.  He met with Egyptian President Muhammad Hosni 
Mubarak, Egyptian Prime Minister Atef Ebeid, and Ahmed Fathy 
Sorour, the president of the Egyptian People's Assembly. 
 
THAYER 
 
 
NNNN 

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