Cablegate: Slovakia Political Roundup October 28, 2004

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


Slovak NGOs Coach Iraqis on Building Civil Society
--------------------------------------------- -----

1. (U) The Pontis Foundation will bring an Iraqi delegation
consisting of politicians, NGO workers, and diplomats to
Slovakia for a brief introduction to the Slovak government
and press. The Bratislava-based International Republican
Institute (IRI) and the Pontis Foundation presented their
experiences and reflections September 24 after an eight-day
trip to Baghdad. Pontis employees described their trip to
Baghdad to meet project implementers and to consult new
political parties and civil society organizations. They
discussed security challenges but focused on the
psychological hurdles to creating a free society similar to
those Slovakia had to overcome. Most interlocutors knew
Slovakia's recent history and said the Slovaks understood
their situation and provided relevant recommendations. The
Iraqis were concerned that donor money was too focused on
elections, giving rise to many new NGOs focused solely on
upcoming elections without any long-term focus.

Parliament Approves Further Reform Agenda Laws
--------------------------------------------- --

2. (U) Parliament approved four laws providing for
substantial fiscal decentralization. The legislation allows
municipalities and regional self-governments to retain
approximately 15 percent of the centrally collected income
tax and collect some local taxes.

3. (U) Parliament approved six laws introducing market
principles into the Slovak health care system. Health
reform focuses on privatization of health care service
providers and health insurance companies, patients'
participation in their own treatment, and preventative
medicine (septel).

4. (SBU) Parliament abolished the "tripartite law" requiring
the government to consult with employers' associations and
labor unions on issues affecting the workforce. Now the
"tripartite" system will function only as an advisory body
for the government. The de facto result was to downgrade
the formal status and influence of the Confederation of
Labor Unions (KOZ), which increasingly focused on political
activism rather than labor issues and had cooperated closely
with the political party SMER.

5. (U) Parliament opened another twelve-month window for
churches to seek restitution of land and real estate. Many
churches could not process restitution claims in the twelve-
month period previously allowed in 1993.

6. (SBU) President Gasparovic vetoed all twelve reform laws.
Three coalition MPs (Eva Cerna, ANO; Jozef Banas, SDKU; and
Gyorgy Juhasz, SMK) told poloffs October 19 that
Gasparovic's veto was a populist move that parliament would
certainly overturn. Parliament overturned eleven vetoes,
excluding the law on property restitution. The excluded law
had a "technical error" where a critical paragraph was
excluded when parliament sent the law to the president.
Previous presidents would informally send legislation back
for correction; Gasparovic's veto delays the legislation for
six months until it can be re-submitted as a new bill.
Pursuing the controversial legislation this session would be
highly questionable constitutionally and therefore would
almost certainly fail.

Polish-Czech-Slovak Brigade Will Disband

7. (SBU) Vladimir Jakabcin, Director General, Defense Policy
and International Relations, MOD voiced regret to emboffs
October 27 that the Slovak MOD has decided to disband the
multinational brigade. The brigade began as a Vishegrad-4
initiative intended to promote multinational military
cooperation shortly after Poland, Hungary, and the Czech
Republic joined NATO. Hungary opted out. Jakabcin, former
Slovak DCM to Poland who worked the creation of this
brigade, noted Polish dissatisfaction with the Slovak
decision. He highlighted the value of the multinational
command leadership and management experience. The unit is
too small and static to meet NATO standards. Jakabcin said
reforming the brigade to form an EU Battlegroup or NRF unit
would be too expensive.

Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) Merges with Smer
--------------------------------------------- ------

8. (SBU) Tibor Kruzlik, former adviser to SDL Chairman Jozef
Migas, told political specialist SDL's merger with Smer is a
done deal. SDL could not find a new, charismatic leader to

drive the party on a national scale. SDL's large number of
mayors, municipal deputies, and regional politicians as well
as physical party infrastructure will fold into Smer. SDL
may receive seats in parliament in return. Smer may gain
SDL's membership in international party organizations such
as the Socialist International. The merger may stabilize
Smer's support from the political left. On the other hand,
it may open the party to further rifts between SMER's
centrist, business-interested sect and SDL's leftists.

9. (SBU) Smer will likely open its ranks to Social Democrats
(SDSS) members, although the parties will not merge. SDSS
party infighting prevented it from effectively negotiating
for a future on the political scene within SMER.



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