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Slovakia: EU Questions Quality of Bratislava's Democracy

Brussels, 26 June 1997 (RFE/RL) - After her meeting in Brussels yesterday with European Union (EU) Commissioner Hans van den Broek, Slovakia's Foreign Minister Zdenka Kramplova said she is confident Bratislava will be invited to open membership negotiations among the first group of countries. But van den Broek reserved his position, saying that, while a number of measures are being taken in Bratislava, he would like to see further progress in the quality of democracy.

Van den Broek is the EU's Commissioner responsible for relations with Eastern Europe and the CIS.

Kramplova said her talks had focused on the conclusion of the EU's Inter-Governmental Conference, and the EU's recent Amsterdam summit. Then, she said, she wished to emphasize that for Slovakia it is very important that the pre-accession negotiations should start next year. She stressed her confidence that Slovakia will be invited to start talks, among the first group of countries.

Kramplova said Slovakia's Government is taking all necessary steps "to calm down" the political situation in Slovakia, and is looking for solutions acceptable to everyone. There is still enough time, she said, through negotiations with all political parties, to send to Brussels what she called "the positive signal."

Asked for his comment, van den Broek said a number of measures are being taken with respect to opposition representation in Slovakia's Parliament. But, he said he would like to see further progress. There could be no misunderstanding about the political criteria laid down. In particular, he mentioned the need for stability of institutions, and guarantees for human rights, including rights of minorities.

Van den Broek's remarks did nothing to change the impression in Brussels that the EU tends to consider Slovakia as fulfilling many of the economic for opening membership negotiations next year - but, that the EU still has doubts about what van den Broek called the quality of democracy in Slovakia. He did say the EU Commission intends to continue to work with Slovakia to make further improvements.

On a separate but related issue, van den Broek said he has raised the question of a Slovak history book, which has been published with the help of EU aid money. The book has been harshly criticized for its portrayal of the pro-Nazi, war-time Slovak regime. Van den Broek said he told Kramplova that the book "should disappear from the shelves, as soon as possible."

Slovakia's Education Ministry today rejected criticism of the book, which denies persecution of Slovak Jews during the War. The book was published by the Ministry of Education with EU funds and has been approved for distribution in schools. But critics say the book's author attempts to justify the deportation of almost 70,000 Slovak Jews to Nazi death camps by the nominally-independent wartime Slovak government. The author also writes that conditions in Slovakia's Nazi-supervised labor camps were "close to the normal living conditions" of the Slovak population.