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Cablegate: Ambassador Obsitnik's Courtesy Call On Former

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TAGS: LO PO PREL PGOV
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR OBSITNIK'S COURTESY CALL ON FORMER
PRIME MINISTER DZURINDA


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charges were "absolute rubbish," adding that he would welcome
any inquiries into the deal. He said that Fico has raised
the issue in retaliation for his move to launch a
no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister in December.
(Comment: Fico recently characterized the privatization the
"largest theft in Slovak history" and said the government
plans to make the SPP inquiry a top priority. End comment.)
For his part, Dzurinda told the Ambassador he intends to
mount another no-confidence vote in the next session of
Parliament. I "am preparing my party and my country for a
tough fight in two years," Dzurinda added. Noting the
polemical nature of some of the recent exchanges between the
government and the opposition -- and the media's portrayal of
the rivalry between Dzurinda and Fico -- Ambassador asked
about personalizing what are serious and substantive policy
disputes. Dzurinda acknowledged that personalizing the
dispute had not been very effective and noted that while he
would play a leading role, he would not be the only face of
the opposition in the months ahead. (Comment: There is
significant disgruntlement among SDKU members that Dzurinda
is not allowing effective politicians within the party due
influence over party tactics and strategy. End comment.)

Fico's Foreign Policy: "Not Normal"
==================================

5.(C) Dzurinda was sharply critical of PM Fico's statements
with respect to U.S. engagement in Iraq, on Missile Defense
and regarding Cuba. "Is this normal?" he asked repeatedly.
Regarding U.S. missile defense plans, which he characterized
as a "benefit" for Slovakia, Dzurinda shared his surprise at
the position taken by the new Polish government. Dzurinda
praised Tusk as a "very good man," but added that he lacked
experience. Dzurinda said he planned to see Tusk during his
January 18 visit to Bratislava and would urge him to take a
more positive -- less transactional -- approach to his
discussions with the U.S. Dzurinda opined that DefMin
Sikorsky was the main force behind the current approach,
calling him "too clever," but also suggested that Tusk felt
the need to show (perhaps a bit naively) that he could manage
the "Russia issue." In the end, Dzurinda said, he was fairly
confident the Poles would come around. He would remind Tusk,
he said, of the importance of partnership with the U.S.
(Note: in an separate encounter on January 17, former FM and
current SDKU MP Eduard Kukan suggested to DCM that Dzurinda
seems to have begun to accept the outcome on Kosovo,
including that the GOS will likely join its EU partners in
recognizing an independent Kosovo within the next several
months. Kukan implied that Dzurinda would take a more
measured approach to the issue than he had last year.)


6. (C) Comment and conclusion. Although Dzurinda's ratings
are down, he remains as feisty as ever. There is no question
that Dzurinda sincerely believes that the U.S. should be
Slovakia's pre-eminent partner. At the same time, drawing
parallels between Fico and Meciar, and trumpeting the role of
the U.S. Ambassador, he suggested that Ambassador Obsitnik
use his bully pulpit to speak out against the government (and
implicitly for him). He has become more realistic about the
current political context. Reflecting again on the challenges
the opposition faces, Dzurinda grabbed a pen and paper and
sketched out the coalition that could have been, had he won
in 2006: SDKU, the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), the
Christian Democrats (KDH) and Meciar's HZDS. Dzurinda
asserted that this was a viable group (we are not so sure)
that would have been much better for the country than the
current coalition, but added that such an arrangement was no
longer possible given Fico's popularity. After more than 18
months out of office, it appears that Dzurinda may have
finally let go his hopes for a near-term return to government
via some sort grand coalition. If that it is the case, he
might begin to be a more effective opposition leader. On the
other hand, he is unwilling or unable to hear the message --
sent loudly by the polls and echoed by at least some of his
advisors -- that, at least for now, tactics such as
no-confidence votes lower his credibility and that of the
opposition -- not the Prime Minister's.
OBSITNIK

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