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Slovakia/Hungary: Talks On Bi-lateral Treaty Appear Stalled

Bratislava, 17 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - It might be up to Foreign Ministers from Hungary and Slovakia to get back on track the deadlocked talks on setting up a committee for implementation of the basic, bi-lateral treaty.

The sides have not met in almost two months, but have been exchanging letters. The last meeting was held April 25th in Bratislava.

A Hungarian Foreign Ministry official (anonymous) tells RFE/RL that disagreement centers on Hungary's insistence on having ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia represented on a Minorities Committee.

Slovakia maintain this demand is unrealistic. "We don't want to be pressured," says the Director of the national minorities department of Slovakia's Foreign Ministry, Juraj Zervan.

Zervan says he sees no problem if Hungary wants to include ethnic Slovacs on the commission - but, he says Slovakia "will not allow" ethnic Hungarians to represent Slovakia.

A Hungarian Foreign Ministry official (anonymous) tells our correspondent that if Slovakia continues to refuse to allow ethnic Hungarians on the committee, the issue can only be decided by the Foreign Ministers of each countries. "That's when you have a breakthrough" he said. But, he also noted that no such meeting has been set.

There are about 540,000 ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, which has a population of 5.5 million.

Hungary says it only seeks from Slovakia the same basic position as achieved with other countries, where there are significant ethnic Hungarian populations. Budapest often cites Romania, which is home to more than 1.5 million ethnic Hungarians.

In addition, the appointment of a new Slovak Foreign Minister, Zdenka Kramplova last week, may also delay resolution of important issues. The previous minister, Pavol Hamzik, resigned in May after difference with the government over the failed NATO referendum.

Hungarian officials say they are corresponding with their Slovak counterparts, and awaiting a response.

But observers say Budapest and Bratislava continue to drift further apart, driven by misunderstandings and disputes.

The International Court in the Hague will rule this year on the Gabcikovo dam controversy. Hungary filed suit in 1992 against Slovakia, citing environmental concerns, when Slovakia diverted a section of the Danube River to build a hydro-electric power station.

But, observers consistently cite Slovakia's controversial language law as the main cause of Hungary's concern about relations between Budapest and Bratislava.