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Slovakia: Government Unusually Silent After EU Censure

Bratislava, 17 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Slovak government officials are staying mum so far on the European Commission's recommendation that Slovakia be left out of early EU membership talks.

Slovak government spokesman Ludmila Benkovicova said that government officials need to study documents obtained in Brussels before they can comment. She said they may speak out next week.

Such silence, unusual for the administration of Premier Vladimir Meciar, contrasts with the government's prompt attack on critics and especially Western countries who opposed its bid for NATO entry.

During a NATO summit in Madrid this month, Meciar and Foreign Affairs Minister Zdenka Kramplova protested that Slovakia was excluded only because "different standards" were applied. Earlier, Meciar charged that Russia and the United States secretly agreed to exclude Slovakia from NATO. U.S. Ambassador Ralph Johnson, based in Bratislava, said the United States opposed Slovakia because power there is overcentralized and the country is lamed by anti-democratic tendencies.

The European Commission, the EU's executive body, recommended this week that the EU hold accession talks with five East European countries, including the Slovaks' former federation partners in the Czech Republic, and with Cyprus. The commission declared in a statement that it wanted: "to make clear (Slovakia's need) to immediately undertake the necessary steps to be able to fully comply" with EU criteria."

The EU's ambassador to Slovakia, Georgios Zavvos, presented the report to a news conference in Bratislava. "No one wants to exclude Slovakia, but the opinion is based on objective criteria." Zavvos rejected allegations by Slovakia's ruling coalition that the EU was biased against Slovakia. He said: "I am not a fan of conspiracy theory."

The commission's report cited Slovak government disregard for the constitution and the rights of the opposition. It pointed to tensions between the administration and the president and the exclusion of the opposition from institutions such as the secret service and military intelligence. The report called, "worrying," Meciar administration use of police and the secret service. It also criticized the Meciar government for its treatment of the country's Hungarian minority.

Slovakia's opposition parties weren't as reticent as the administration in reacting to the report. They pounced on what they labeled international condemnation of Meciar.

Christian Democrat Party President Jan Carnogursky said, the commission's recommendation was "a result of Mr. Meciar's dictatorial and anti-democratic methods." Josef Migas, head of the Democratic Left, said the commission report reaffirmed the failure of the Meciar government's foreign policy.

Meciar also is embroiled in a showdown with Slovak President Michal Kovac. Kovac accused him of, in effect, scuttling chances for NATO entry. Kovac called on Meciar to resign. Yesterday, responding to the European Commission's critique, the opposition echoed the call for the premier's resignation.