Central Europe Review The International OSI Policy Fellowships (IPF) program
Vol 2, No 26
3 July 2000
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News from Slovakia
All the important news
since 25 June 2000

Robin Sheeran

Slovak President fighting for life

Slovakia's Head of State, President Rudolf Schuster, has been fighting for his life following two emergency operations; one for a a perforated colon, the other for a massive infection in his abdomen. He also underwent a tracheotomy to aid his breathing, before progressive failure of his vital organs set in. Schuster should have been celebrating his first year in office as Slovakia's first elected President. Instead, he was shuttled between hospitals in Bratislava, before being flown to Innsbruck in Austria on Wednesday 28 June for specialist treatment.

The President's condition was said to have stabilised on Friday 30 June. He is not yet out of danger, but it is thought to be unlikely that he has suffered any brain damage. Schuster is being treated by the same Austrian team that treated the Czech President, Václav Havel when he suffered a perforated intestine in 1998.

The President's illness has left politicians in something of a quandary. The Slovak constitution lays down the pocedure for the transfer of presidential powers in the event of death or resignation, but not in the event of illness. Rudolf Schuster has been unconscious for some days and is being kept alive on a respirator.

On Friday 30 June, Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda and Parliamentary Speaker Jozef Migaš agreed to make a decision on the transfer of powers on Monday 3 July. A number of important pieces of legislation, including new laws regulating the banking sector, urgently require the approval of the President. Following the transfer of powers, Dzurinda would become acting President, but many of the presidential powers, including the right to recall the Premier and to approve legislation return to Parliament, in the person of the Speaker.


Effects of Schuster's illness

The Slovak media have been busy calling for the head of the Health Minister, Tibor Šagát. There has been fierce criticism of the treatment of President Schuster, and in particular his transfer from the Interior Ministry's hospital to the National Oncological Institute, and on to a third hospital before his eventual transfer to Innsbruck. Schuster's son told journalists that the family was considering suing doctors who treated his father in Bratislava.

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The question on everyone's lips: if the President himself can expect only shambolic medical treatment, what hope is there for ordinary Slovak citizens? The country's medical profession had been coming under increased criticism even before the President's illness, mainly concerning the well-documented practice of doctors demanding cash payments from patients. If Šagát loses his post it could leave the way open for the cabinet reshuffle which Jozef Migaš's Party of the Democratic Left (SDĽ) has been campaigning for in recent months.

According to Reuters, Schuster's illness has had an effect on the financial markets. "Although Schuster's post is largely ceremonial, financial markets are concerned that, should the President die, Mečiar may use the opportunity to make a political comeback," the news agency said on Friday 30 June. Vladimír Mečiar, Chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), and former Premier, has made it clear that his aim is to regain the premiership.

A decision by Mečiar to run for the presidency might make it easier for the HZDS to find coalition partners after a general election, as the former Premier is not trusted by most of the other parties. However, Mečiar accepted the post of shadow Premier on Saturday 24 June with the words: "It is my duty to participate in the election and win it."


Other news

The long-running French crusade to protect Europe from American cultural imperialism has proved to be a roadblock in Slovakia's progress to membership of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The Government thought they had OECD membership in the bag, following the recent withdrawal of US objections. However, the OECD postponed its invitation to Slovakia on Friday 23 June, following a rift between the US and Europe over audio-visual services. Premier Dzurinda has said he hopes to meet with his French counterpart, Lionel Jospin, in a attempt to heal the rift.

A Bratislava court has stopped criminal proceedings against Gustav Krajci, who served as Interior Minister during the previous government, led by Vladimír Mečiar. The HZDS deputy had been charged with abuse of public office, forging of official documents, and frustrating the preparation and course of elections. The charges relate to the 1997 referendums on NATO membership and direct presidential elections. Voters turned up at the polling booths to discover that the question relating to presidential elections had not been printed on the ballot paper. The Bratislava prosecutor has appealed against the court's decision.

Robin Sheeran, 1 July 2000

Moving on:


TASR (Press Agency, Slovak Republic)
SITA (Slovak News Agency)
ČTK (Czech News Agency)
Slovak Spectator


Wolfgang Deckers
Twin Souls,
Two Realities

Fatmir Zajmi
Defending NATO

Mel Huang
Done Deal

Focus: Cities
Wojtek Kość
After the Reform

Sam Vaknin
Time in a Bottle

Gusztáv Kosztolányi
More Than Salami

Brian J Požun
Second to One

and Analysis:

Oliver Craske
of the East

Židas Daskalovski
A New Kosovo

Jan Čulík
Mafioso Capitalism

Sam Vaknin
The Political Economy of
Post-Soviet Russia

Diane Strickland
Traveling Angels

Culture Calendar:


Mixed Nuts