Former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar this week published his memoirs in an attempt to set the record straight -- and perhaps regain the political limelight. RFE/RL correspondent Jolyon Naegele reports.
Prague, 27 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Slovakia's populist and nationalist ex-Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar describes his nearly 400-page memoir published this week, "The Slovak Taboo," as his "second entry into the history of modern Slovak politics."
At a book presentation ceremony yesterday in Limbach -- near Bratislava -- Meciar told a few invited guests that the book is not a defense of his controversial policies and actions.
Nevertheless, the collection of essays and interviews (helped along by two co-authors) does contain Meciar's version of the mysterious -- and still unsolved -- 1995 abduction of the son of Slovakia's president at the time, Michal Kovac. It also has Meciar's accounts of disputed privatization schemes implemented while he was in office.
Meciar told reporters yesterday: "Only those who have been indicted have to defend themselves -- I don't fall into this category." He also said he doesn't want to defend himself, let alone involve himself in a petty personal squabble, which would be, he said, "senseless" and a "waste of time."
Rather, Meciar says his book tries to present a "more truthful picture of the past and present." That involves, he says, a search for a way for Slovakia to become a nation and state with a different position than it currently holds.
Slovakia has long suffered from an inferiority complex in regard to its neighbors -- particularly the Czech Republic -- measuring most of its accomplishments and failures against those close to it. Meciar, its first prime minister, describes Slovakia at the time it gained independence -- in January 1993 -- as "an ailing nation in a sick country [suffering] from insufficient development and from immaturity."
Meciar says that while negotiating what is known as the "velvet divorce" of the common state of Czechs and Slovaks he was nevertheless prepared for the possibility of a conflict erupting. But he praises his Czech counterpart in the 1992 divorce proceedings -- Czech Prime Minister Vaclav Klaus -- as a "fair guy" who was a "hard and tough negotiating partner."
In the end, Meciar says the Slovaks "overcame the barrier and were promoted to a higher level -- that of an independent state." In Meciar's words, "We lost Prague, and all the cities of Europe opened themselves up to us as partners."
"The Slovak Taboo" also presents Meciar's views on a number of non-political issues, including marriage, divorce, parenting, and household chores.
Meciar remains a force to be reckoned with in Slovak politics. He currently ranks third among the country's most popular politicians, ahead of President Rudolf Schuster. While in office, Meciar angered the West by his close cooperation with Russia, Belarus, and Turkmenistan as well as by his undemocratic practices. As a result, Slovakia lost its chance of joining NATO in the first wave of expansion and spoiled its relations with the European Union.
Since Meciar was voted out of office two years ago, Slovakia under his successor Mikulas Dzurinda has rapidly regained its candidacy for membership in NATO and the EU.
But this week Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder -- on the first visit by a German head of government to Slovakia since independence -- made abundantly clear in Bratislava that any return to rule by Meciar would spell the end of Slovakia's chances of joining the EU.
"This entry of Slovakia's into the EU can only be realized as the policy of Prime Minister Dzurinda and his coalition."
Any other policy, Schroeder concluded, "would only throw Slovakia right back to where it was."