Brussels, 28 May 1997 (RFE/RL) - The European Union (EU) Commissioner responsible for relations with Eastern Europe and the CIS, Hans van den Broek, visits Bratislava tomorrow to discuss the status of Slovakia's preparations for EU membership.
Our Brussels correspondent reports van den Broek's discussions will also focus on the European Commission's own preparations for issuing opinions on each of the candidates for membership -- opinions it intends to issue in mid-July.
A Commission statement today says van den Broek meets President Michal Kovac, Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, top leaders of Parliament, business representatives and leaders of various political parties, including those representing ethnic Hungarians.
Officials in Brussels maintain their position that no decisions have been made as to the suitability of any of the ten candidate countries from Eastern Europe. But, unofficially, it is no secret that Slovakia stands to get poor marks on progress toward the ideal of pluralistic democracy. And, that in the eyes of the Commission, this poor score is likely to more than offset the good performance of Slovakia's economy.
President Kovac yesterday said the failure of last weekend's referendum on Slovakia's NATO membership has ruined the country's chances of early entry into both NATO and the EU.
The referendum, seen in international circles as a test of democracy in Slovakia, was widely boycotted and officially declared void. A member of the Central Referendum Committee denounced the ballot papers distributed by the Interior Ministry as a "massive swindle." Kovac led the boycott against the ballot, after a question about presidential elections was struck off by Meciar's Interior Minister a day before the vote.
Today's European Commission statement says the EU is deeply concerned about the failed referendum, and that van den Broek will include in his consultations ways in which the stability of democratic institutions can be strengthened.
The Commission statement also recalls the sustained support Brussels has given to the transition process in Slovakia, and for the country's preparations for EU membership. This includes more than $250 million to support transition-related programs.
The statement concludes by noting that Slovakia is eligible for an additional $250 million between now and 1999, in addition to support from the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.