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Slovakia: EU Commissioner Praises New Government

Brussels, 6 November 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The European Union's Foreign Affairs Commissioner, Hans van den Broek, welcomed the emergence of Slovakia's new government today.

Van den Broek, speaking in Brussels after meeting newly-elected Slovak Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda, said there was now a "window of opportunity" which could allow the country to start fast-track talks on EU membership. But Van den Broek did not indicate when this could happen.

Van den Broek said the EU had "very high expectations" of the Dzurinda government but he also expressed confidence that it would move quickly to fulfill those expectations.

In March, the EU began fast-track membership talks with Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus. Slovakia and other countries were left in a second group conducting less intensive preparatory discussions.

Yesterday, Dzurinda met NATO Secretary General Javier Solana.

It was the Slovak prime minister's first official trip abroad since taking office. Dzurinda has emphasized Bratislava's desire to end a period of strained relations with both NATO and the EU.

Meanwhile, Czech President Vaclav Havel, speaking on the eve of a private visit to Slovakia, said he considers the recent change in government in Bratislava to be extremely important.

Havel told RFE/RL's correspondent yesterday that Slovakia's recent parliamentary elections, which led to the ouster of long-time Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, should end the country's isolation in Central Europe.

Havel said the country's citizens had demonstrated the Slovak nation to be free and self-confident by voting in a new democratically-oriented coalition.

Havel, who arrives in the Slovak capital tomorrow at the invitation of a private non-governmental organization (NGO), said he looked forward to renewed and close cooperation between Czechs and Slovaks at all levels. The two countries, once part of Czechoslovakia, separated in 1993.