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Slovakia: New Prime Minister Takes Office

Bratislava, 30 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - Slovakia's new coalition government was sworn in today along with Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda. Dzurinda, who replaces Vladimir Meciar, heads a four-party coalition government which won a majority in last month's general elections. He said today that he hoped his government would bring stability to Slovakia and improve the economy. He also promised to work hard to "catch up with the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary" in their bid for EU membership.

Both the EU and NATO excluded Slovakia from fast-track accession talks due to concerns over Meciar's respect for democratic principles.

A spokeswoman for the EU said the commission welcomed the appointment of a new government and congratulated it on its determination to press ahead with the process of European integration.

Among the four partners in the new government is a party representing Slovakia's ethnic Hungarians -- the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) -- which observers say could help reduce tensions between Budapest and Bratislava as well as within Slovakia itself.

Slovakia's new Interior Minister Ladislav Pittner vowed to fight organized crime. He said the police are involved in organized crime at every level and this needed to be changed.

Pittner also said that he intends to reopen the controversial case of the kidnapping of former President Michal Kovac's son. Michal Kovac, Jr. was kidnapped in mysterious circumstances in 1995. The opposition claimed that the operation was instigated by the Slovak Information Service (SIS) in order to defame the senior Kovac -- an opponent of Meciar. Pittner said that if investigations point to the involvement of former SIS head Ivan Lexa in the abduction, then Pittner will challenge Lexa's immunity from prosecution which he received when he took over Meciar's parliamentary seat yesterday.