| SLOVAKIA ROUNDTABLE IN THE UNITED STATES |
June 13-14, 1995
Upon the breakup of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia emerged as a newly independentcountry seeking its own place in Central Europe. Attempts to define itspriorities and interests and to assess its capabilities have occupiedpolicymakers, parliamentarians, and academics during the last several years.Few issues have gained more attention than integration into the West. Thesometimes divisive debate of this issue has been inextricably interwovenwith discussions of domestic problems, particularly interethnic relationsand democratic procedures.
Meanwhile, the nations of the West have been looking for reassurance thatdisagreements within Slovakia will not become obstacles to Slovakia's goodrelations with its neighbors. The disaster in the Balkans demonstrates thatdomestic instability can create regional security problems that draw inother members of the international community.
Concern over these issues prompted the Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) toconvene a meeting on June 13 and 14, 1995, in Washington, D.C., ofrepresentatives from the ruling coalition parties, the opposition parties,and the Hungarian parties in Slovakia. The parties represented were theHungarian Christian Democratic Movement; the Party of the Democratic Left;the Hungarian Civic Party; Coexistence (a Hungarian party); the DemocraticUnion; the Slovak Workers' Association; the Christian Democratic Movement;the Slovak National Party; and the Social Democratic Party. Alsoparticipating or observing were representatives of the Slovak government,the president's office, and several private institutions in Slovakia, andpolicymakers from the U.S. White House, the Department of State, theDepartment of Defense, and Congress. (A list of participants and observersis appended to this report.)
The meeting provided an opportunity for leaders of political life inSlovakia to inform American colleagues about current developments inSlovakia and their implications for regional security. In turn, they werebriefed by U.S. government officials about U.S. policy toward the region,including the question of potential NATO membership.
SLOVAKIA AND THE WEST
PER's director welcomed and introduced the participants. He pointed out thatthe attention the roundtable was receiving in Washington was evidence of thegreat interest in and sympathy for Slovakia in the United States. He alsoreminded participants of the dual purposes of the meeting: on the one hand,to provide Americans with better information about current developments inSlovakia, especially the matter of interethnic relations; and on the other,to enable the participants from Slovakia to better assess the positions ofAmerican policymakers and opinion leaders concerning their country.
As the discussion got under way, it became clear that most of theparticipants from across the Slovak political spectrum agreed thatintegration into European and international economic, political, andsecurity institutions would be in Slovakia's interest. This support forintegration forms the basis for their agreement about Slovakia's role in theworld. The political divisions arose not over the value of integration, butover the pace at which integration should occur, the form it should take,and the relationships between integration and the process ofdemocratization.
A participant from the governing coalition, while confirming his party'ssupport for Slovakia's integration into European and international economicand security structures, pointed out that Slovakia had, in one modelproposed in the U.S. Senate, almost been excluded from the plannedintegration of the Visegrad group. He warned that this would be an unwisestep, given Slovakia's strategic position in Central Europe.
Another participant disagreed with the notion of Slovakia's importancewithin the Visegrad group or in Central Europe. He argued that the Visegradgroup was no longer operative, its demise having been accelerated by thedissolution of Czechoslovakia and the current state of Czech-Slovakrelations. However, the disintegration of the Visegrad group may turn out tobe beneficial for Slovakia, by putting the country in a better position toconfront its problems.
One of the leaders of the Hungarian parties commented that, although thereis a consensus in Slovakia about the goal of integration, more attentionneeds to be paid to the steps that would bring Slovakia into an institutionlike NATO. Some people in Slovakia feel that the government is not takingthe measures that would help Slovakia realize such a goal.
Some members of the ruling coalition did express hesitancy aboutintegration. One of them, for example, felt that more time was needed toconduct a thorough public discussion of the pros and cons of integration. Heargued that more analysis was needed to gain public support so that it couldwin approval in a referendum. This was not to cast doubt on Slovakia'sorientation, he added, but to emphasize the need for the public to beadequately prepared for integration, or else its actual consequences mightcome as a shock.
Having just left the Warsaw Pact, why do we want to join anotherorganization? asked another participant. What would be the harm if Slovakiaremained independent? What are the costs of membership in the European Union(E.U.) or in NATO? In Austria, businessmen involved in iron casting havestated that the only contribution of that country's membership in the E.U.thus far has been higher costs in many aspects of production.
The need for careful analysis was also stressed by another participant.Integration should proceed only after a thorough examination of theconsequences of both membership and nonmembership. It should be recognizedthat integration would be a slow process and that it should occur only whenboth the West and Slovakia are ready and willing. Those conditions may notarise in this decade.
The same participant questioned whether integration had to be anall-or-nothing matter. He suggested that the term "Western institutions" wasbeing used too loosely in the discussion, without adequately distinguishingbetween European and international institutions or between economic andpolitical and security institutions. For example, Norway is a member of NATObut not of the E.U. And the situation is made even more complicated by thefact that the E.U. is trying to build its own security structure. A memberof the ruling coalition disagreed, arguing that it is difficult to become amember of only selected Western institutions.
Surveys show that public support for NATO membership increased between 1992and 1994, said another participant. Roughly half the public supportsSlovakia's membership in the E.U., a proportion similar to that in the CzechRepublic. A poll taken in January 1995 found that expectations of benefitsfrom E.U. membership exceeded predicted negative consequences, although aconsiderable number of people were undecided on the issue. The main factoraffecting this evaluation was whether people believed that E.U. membershipwould improve the economic situation.
Participants generally agreed that Slovakia has been moving toward democracysince becoming independent. Between 1990 and 1992, the foundations were laidfor the country's transformation into a democratic society. Appropriatelegislation was adopted, including a Charter of Human Rights, which becamean integral part of Slovakia's constitution. Although the oppositionbelieves that there have been shortcomings, such as its exclusion from thesupervision of security structures, its lack of influence over the publicradio and television systems, and its lack of participation in theprivatization process, the opposition representatives nevetheless agreedthat Slovakia is still proceeding toward democracy.
Nearly all participants also agreed that the bilateral treaty recentlysigned between Slovakia and Hungary was an important sign of Slovakia'sintentions. It should become a basis for stability in the future, because itachieved two important goals: stabilization of the borders and establishmentof extensive provisions for securing minority rights. However, a dissentingopinion was voiced by a participant from the ruling coalition, who statedthat his party believes that the treaty allows Hungary to interfere inSlovakia's internal affairs but does not afford Slovakia the converse right.He argued that this takes on significance in view of the continueddisappearance of minorities in Hungary.
Many members of the opposition, including representatives of the Hungarianparties, declared that the process of Slovakia's integration into Westerninstitutions had already commenced: It has signed the nuclearnonproliferation treaty and has initiated cooperation with various Europeanand international institutions. The underlying questions, though, arewhether Slovakia shares Western values and whether it is prepared to defendthem. A member of one of Slovakia's Hungarian parties asserted that not onlydoes Slovakia share the same values, but the country belongs in the West andhas already adjusted itself to the West in many ways. On the other hand,these values are not shared in the East. Thus, the significance ofmembership in NATO and other Western organizations is precisely that theyare the upholders of these shared values. For this reason, NATO is notpurely a military organization, nor is it concerned only with a Russianthreat. It is essential to understand this, because the main threattoSlovakia is not of a military nature.
Another participant asked whether Slovakia has any alternative to NATOmembership, and he answered in the negative. What should be discussed, then,is the kind of NATO Slovakia wants to enter. It should be made clear to thepublic that Slovakia would not be joining the NATO of the 1950s but a NATOthat is being redefined to fit the 1990s. It is time that the West acceptedits responsibility, too, added a member of the opposition. It must decidewhich countries belong to the West and deal with the implications for thosethat will be excluded from Western institutions.
The discussion then turned to the disagreements among the coalition partiesabout integration and the bilateral treaty. A member of the ruling coalitionargued that although the governing parties may have divergent viewsregarding these issues, the coalition remains firm, because its constituentsare in agreement about 95 percent of the time. Ultimately, the people shoulddecide and all should accept the majority's opinion. A member of theopposition said that a disagreement within the governing coalition aboutNATO membership is not a minor matter; in fact, it shows that there is noconsensus about Slovakia's foreign policy. He also stated that issues suchas paying for the cost of membership need to be part of an ongoing publicdialogue if there is to be a referendum on the question.Differences in views about foreign policy are hardly unique to Slovakia,pointed out a representative of the government. In the United Kingdom, thereis a wide range of opinions among political parties, government leaders, andother policymakers about whether it should join the E.U. What is important,rather, is that Slovakia's foreign policy is unambiguously committed toNATO, as demonstrated by Slovakia's participation in the Partnership forPeace program.
SLOVAKIA'S RELATIONSHIP WITH RUSSIA
PER's director opened the discussion of this topic by stating that, althoughattitudes about Slovakia's integration into Western institutions seemed tobe clear, there are many questions about Slovakia's policy toward Russia.
Participants were in agreement that some kind of relationship with Russiahad to be maintained, because of Slovakia's dependence on Russia's rawmaterials and the likely adverse consequences of a feeling of isolation inRussia. This relationship had to include increased cooperation andcommunication, while leaving no doubt about Slovakia's orientation towardthe West.
Several members of the opposition stated that, while Slovakia's relationshipwith Russia was being studied, some arrangement needs to be made betweenRussia and NATO. The bipolar perception of the world is a thing of the past.What is needed is a pan-European security mechanism in which Russia wouldplay some part. Furthermore, Slovakia cannot formulate its relationship toRussia without simultaneously determining its relationship to NATO. In otherwords, the two must be developed concurrently.
Slovakia's current relationship with Russia is complicated, stated anotherparticipant. Although Slovakia is dependent on raw materials imported fromRussia, the output from them goes westward. The structure of Slovakia'seconomy has already been reoriented toward the West (which now includes theCzech Republic). Meanwhile, political instability lies to Slovakia's east.The values shared by the political elites in the East are not identical tothose of political elites in the West. It is clear that integration intoWestern institutions will be linked to compliance with democraticprinciples. Slovakia needs to decide which values it wants: those of theEast or those of the West.
Several members of the ruling coalition pointed out that Slovakia isinextricably connected to Russia culturally, historically, and economically.Good relations should be maintained, but Slovakia is not gearing itself,politically or militarily, toward Russia.
Another participant stressed that NATO membership should not be seen as aguarantee against a possible Russian threat. NATO's role is not to protectcountries from external threats but to prevent conflicts between membercountries. Russia has "big country" ambitions, which predate the currentsituation and are likely to continue into the future. A united Europe willalso have its own "big power" aspirations, which could not accommodatesimilar aspirations on the part of any of its members. Therefore, it is notrealistic to include Russia in NATO or other European security structures,though some kind of relationship will have to be defined.
A participant from a Hungarian party agreed with the assessment that Russiais interested in a "big power" role in international affairs and that thepolitical tradition of Russia will prevent its integration with the West.Russia's interests are not in line with those of Central Europe whereintegration is concerned. He added that within Slovakia, there is a degreeof orientation toward Russia among political leaders and the public, butthat this was more of an emotional bond, based upon historical and culturallinks, rather than a rational one based on national interests.
THE AMERICAN PERSPECTIVE
As part of the stated purpose of the meeting, participants from Slovakiawere provided with an opportunity to hear from U.S. officials. Ahigh-ranking official of the Department of Defense commented that defenserelations are good between the U.S. and Slovakia, but the U.S. is concernedthat any expansion not weaken NATO. Therefore, there is a need to proceed ata steady, but not rapid, pace. The Defense Department will be even morecautious than other branches of the U.S. government, and it wants a thoroughstudy of what NATO expansion will do and what it will look like beforeconsidering potential members and a timetable. What is clear is that newmembers must be at peace both internally and with their neighbors, andcivilian leadership must be honored.
The same official went on to say that prospective members of NATO currentlycan demonstrate their good faith by participating in the Partnership forPeace (PFP) program, which focuses on a country's capacities in humanitarianrelief, search and rescue operations, and peacekeeping. Participatingcountries are asked to share information with each other, as is done inNATO, since the goal is the same: to create transparency. It is alsoimportant that expansion not be seen as anti-Russian. Now that Russia itselfhas entered the PFP program, there is hope for greater cooperation on theseissues.
Within the U.S., there still needs to be a serious dialogue about NATOexpansion, and decisions must be made about whether and where the U.S. iswilling to risk its soldiers, whether to extend nuclear deterrence to newmembers, and whether to give financial assistance to new installations incountries such as Slovakia. Yet this is only the beginning of the debate,for the Pentagon will favor those countries best fulfilling the conditionsof the PFP program; the State Department will favor those countries thathave good relations with their neighbors, strong civil structures, and anabsence of domestic problems; and Congress will ask how much will it cost.It may take years before the West is truly ready to deal with the expansionquestion. The U.S. is not even convinced that Slovak politicians are willingto accept NATO soldiers on their soil.
In a separate briefing, an official of the National Security Council alsodiscussed the redefinition of NATO as a security organization of thedemocratic community. He explained that NATO is more than a militaryalliance; it also represents the underpinnings of the global democraticcommunity. Central Europe, now independent of Russia, should be given anopportunity to join NATO if desired, but the countries of the region must dotheir part to make this possible.He also emphasized that NATO is not anti-Russian and should not be viewed asa military alliance directed against other countries. The choice is notbetween NATO and Russia. The enlargement of NATO is an effort to build aEuropean-wide system that will develop a strong relationship with Russia.This should be part of a general strengthening of internationalinstitutions, which include not only NATO but also the PFP and theOrganization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The enlargement of NATO will occur on a case-by-case basis. No one wants anew boundary drawn east of Hungary. The question is not about whichcountries will be the first to be admitted, but about which will be in thesecond and third tiers. The West has no plans to exclude any country, but itis likely that some countries will in effect exclude themselves by the paththey pursue.
There are two questions Slovakia will have to ask itself. Is it willing tocontribute to a common defense? And is it prepared to be a full member ofthe democratic community? The indications thus far are positive but notdecisive. That is why the U.S. is so interested in Slovakia's relations withits neighbors. The belief is not that treaties will solve all the problems,but that they provide a sound basis, because they demonstrate politicalwill.
Equally important is the fact that the U.S. views the ethnic issue no longeras only a human-rights issue but also as a security issue, added an officialfrom the U.S. Department of State. Bosnia has confirmed this point of view.U.S. interest in ethnic issues does not mean partisan support for everyminority cause, issue, or group, however. Officially, the U.S. believes notin group rights but rather in individual rights.
These officials agreed that, ultimately, the resolution of internalproblems, including ethnic conflicts, is a practical matter. If a governmenthas to show more tolerance than that demonstrated by other European nations,so be it. The U.S. is concerned that governments avoid political foolishnessand the exacerbation of problems by retracting previously grantedrights--e.g., revoking the use of already existing bilingual signs. Slovaksmust ask: What is in Slovakia's best interest? How will the country bestprosper?
As part of the discussion of democratization, the participants consideredsome of the internal obstacles that create political divisions in Slovakia.
Participants from the opposition parties voiced their concern thatSlovakia's transition to democracy could be threatened by the rise of anauthoritarian government and an intensification of nationalism. Specificcharges included "political cleansing" in the public administration, themisuse of power by the police, the persecution of the Democratic Union,partisan investigations in the parliament, and the lack of oppositioninfluence in the privatization process and over the systems of televisionand radio.
Participants from the ruling coalition parties rejected these charges,arguing that there was freedom of the media, though admittedly less so inthe spheres of television and radio. They also insisted that the civilservice and public administration were free of political influence, exceptfor a small stratum of top positions, as was the case in most countries.Regarding a claim by the opposition that the parliament's vote of noconfidence in the president was unconstitutional, the participantsquestioned why some members of the opposition nevertheless took part in thevote. Furthermore, they declared that the vote resulted from the monitoringby Slovakia's secret service of the movements and activities of twoimportant constitutionally elected officials.
PER's associate director opened a discussion of interethnic relations inSlovakia by reminding the group that the conflicts between Hungarians andSlovaks in Slovakia are mainly between political leaders, rather than at thecommunity level. These conflicts stem partly from the fact that Slovakia isa young country. In any case, the Slovak majority must realize that peacefulinterethnic relations are beneficial to both minority and majoritypopulations. Unfortunately, there is on each side a lack of understanding ofthe positions of the other side. To the majority population, the concerns ofthe minority are just one of many problems facing the new country. But tothe Hungarian minority, its own collective identity is at stake and minorityissues therefore should have high priority. Not surprisingly, the tensionsbetween Hungary and Slovakia have also affected the question of minorityrights. The resolution of these problems is a process that will take timeand the concerted effort of all sides.
There are three areas of controversy between the Hungarian parties and thegovernment: education, culture, and language. These areas are involved inrecent government programs and actions, such as budgetary cuts in theMinistry of Culture, alternative education programs, and a proposed law onthe official state language. These actions are adversely affecting Hungarianinterests, claimed the Hungarian participants.
According to the representatives of the Hungarian parties, Slovakia lacksopportunities for dialogue. Current legislation obliges members of thecabinet to receive members of parliament for the discussion of any matter,but in practice this does not happen. Likewise, the constitution states thatminorities are entitled to participate in decision-making on affairs thatconcern them, yet there is no legislation to implement this right. When thegovernment was developing its proposals on bilingual education and budgetrestructuring, the minorities were not consulted.
How minorities are to be involved in the decision-making process has yet tobe decided, said a member of the opposition. The president has held threeroundtable discussions of the minority problem, but there has been nopractical progress. What is needed is legislation to carry out what is inthe constitution. The Framework Convention on Minorities makes rightssubject to loyalty, and the Hungarian community has expressed onlyconditional loyalty so far.
The Hungarian minority should be regarded as a constituent element ofSlovakia, and it would be detrimental to Slovakia if it is left out of thedecision-making process, added another participant. Consensual mechanisms indecision-making need to be observed, so that political decisions involverepresentatives of the Hungarian community or at least take their views intoaccount.
According to a Hungarian participant, access by minorities, especially tothe Ministry of Culture, has been restricted at the same time that funds forsupporting minority cultures have been cut or have been used by the Ministryof Culture to subsidize the publication of inserts targeted at ethnicminorities in several progovernment Slovak periodicals.
All citizens in Slovakia have the right to participate in all aspects ofpolitical and civic life, countered a participant from the ruling coalition.In regard to the recent budget cuts for minority cultures, the Hungariancommunity ignores the fact that the budget cuts are affecting the entireculture and indeed are occurring throughout the economy. They also fail tonote that the funds earmarked for culture were designed to be in addition tothe rights guaranteed to each individual citizen.
A member of the opposition suggested that the publication of supplements inprogovernment newspapers means that they are not being read by thosesupposedly targeted. He argued that it would be more helpful to spend fundsto present government opinions in minority publications.
Instead of promoting progress in the area of minority rights, recentdevelopments are threatening gains already made, said a Hungarianparticipant. In the alternative or bilingual education program now beingproposed, the government is trying to restrict the teaching of certainsubjects to Slovak teachers, even in Hungarian schools. It is also proposingbonuses for teachers in Slovak schools in ethnically mixed regions and thereallocation of funds to Slovak nursery schools and kindergartens to makethem more attractive.
The government claims that these proposals arise out of its concern thatHungarians will otherwise have difficulties in mastering the Slovaklanguage, which would contribute to a kind of economic segregation withinthe country. (The Hungarian minority is concentrated in southern Slovakia.)However, kindergarten is already conducted in the Slovak language, and thelanguage is taught at both primary and secondary levels inHungarian-language schools. It is in the Hungarian minority's interest tolearn Slovak. In fact, 98 percent of Hungarians speak and understand Slovak,and 94 percent can communicate in Slovak at an advanced level. Nevertheless,said some participants, the system of education should be expanded toinclude a Hungarian-language university, financed from taxes, to trainteachers, priests, and intellectuals.
The minority community's claims contain a number of serious distortions,argued a member of the ruling coalition. For example, knowledge of theSlovak language in Hungarian communities is closer to the 50-percent than tothe 90-percent level.
Children and teachers need to be able to communicate with each other, said amember of the opposition. Experts have pointed to the lower performance ofRomani children, yet in some communities Romani children are taught inSlovak from the beginning, even when they do not have a command of theSlovak language. Perhaps in Hungarian communities, children could haveteachers of Hungarian origin teaching in the Slovak language until perhapsthe fifth grade, by which time the students will have an adequate command ofthe Slovak language.
Another participant from an opposition party mentioned that a recent statestudy indicated that teachers of Hungarian origin are aging and need to bereplaced. That idea was challenged by a member of the ruling coalition, whoargued that there was no need to train more teachers of Hungarian origin towork in minority schools. He asserted that there are plenty of teachers ofHungarian origin already teaching in Slovak-language schools, and they couldtransfer to Hungarian schools if there was a shortage. What was reallyneeded was an effort to bring more teachers of Slovak origin to teach inmixed areas. Slovaks residing in ethnically mixed areas are living in aminority situation, and in these areas, Slovak cultural activities should besupported. Slovak schools should be established in towns without anyschools, and instruction in the Slovak language should be given by teachersof Slovak origin, even in the Hungarian schools. Such support is crucial inview of the fact that Slovaks living in Hungary are being "Magyarized."
Also an issue for the Hungarian participants was the proposed law on anofficial state language, which they claimed threatened their right toregister their names and surnames in their own language. In addition, theyquestioned why Hungarian could not be permitted as a second officiallanguage in the 416 communities in Slovakia where Hungarians make up morethan half of the population.
A member of the ruling coalition pointed out that this law is a normal pieceof legislation. Its goal is to rectify shortcomings in existing regulationsand to make them consistent with the constitution of the Slovak Republic andwith international legal standards. The same type of legislation is seen inother countries. In France, the French language has been declared to be thecultural heritage of all its people and to be respected in all walks oflife.
These issues must be addressed in a democratic manner, said severalHungarian participants. The government must recognize that Slovakia is amultinational state. Too many attempts are being made to portray theHungarian minority and the opposition parties as the "enemy." Violenceagainst Hungarians has broken out for the first time in thirty years, as inthe case of the teenagers who were assaulted for speaking in Hungarian aftera soccer match.
The conditions for minorities prior to 1989 were not so bad, said a memberof the ruling coalition. There were Hungarian-language schools and largeallocations from the state budget for Hungarian-language publications; therewere representatives of the Hungarian community in the parliament and inCommunist Party bodies, and Hungarians even headed a couple of theministries. After the revolution, leaders of the Hungarian community losttheir opportunity to influence events by setting up their own parties basedupon the ethnic principle.
In 1990, there were very few people in Slovakia who were well versed ininternational law as it pertains to the protection of minority rights. Onlysince 1992 have such experts emerged and begun formulating a minoritypolicy. The requirements of the Hungarian minority were reviewed, and toinsure their rights, legal provisions were drawn up, one of which was adraft bill on minorities. It was then that much of the miscommunicationarose.
A participant from the opposition pointed out the similarities betweenCzech-Slovak relations in Czechoslovakia and current Slovak-Hungarianrelations in Slovakia. There were two problems that contributed to thebreakup of Czechoslovakia. First, the Czechs were operating on the "civicprinciple"; Slovaks said they agreed with this approach but that they alsohad specific Slovak needs. Second, Czechs and Slovaks lacked a common visionof the future. Both of these problems can now be seen in Slovakia. Slovakiais building a state based upon civic principles; the Hungarians agree forthe most part but insist that there are also specific issues that have to beaddressed for the Hungarian community. Slovaks and Hungarians are talking ontwo different levels and do not understand each other.
Meanwhile, Hungarians cannot say what their ultimate goal is, and no matterwhat is done, it appears never to be enough. The Slovaks are concerned thatthe Hungarians will forever be increasing their demands, ultimately leadingto secession. So again there is a question of whether Slovaks and Hungarianscan rally behind a common vision of coexistence.
In discussing how to build such a vision, participants disagreed (even amongthe opposition parties) as to whether Slovakia should rely on a model thatincorporates collective rights. One participant contended that territorialautonomy is not a viable option, and so the focus should instead be placedon individual rights. Another participant expressed the belief that thecivic principle that guides minority issues in the U.S. will not work inCentral Europe.
One participant argued that only individual rights will prevent reversediscrimination. He observed that there are two articles in the Slovakconstitution that guarantee rights to minorities: article 33, which refersto the rights of national minorities, and article 34, which states thatcitizens of ethnic groups are guaranteed the rights to undertakecomprehensive development, to receive information in their mother tongue,and to form ethnic associations and educational and cultural institutions.
A common glossary or language among Slovaks and Hungarians needs to bedeveloped, suggested another participant, and it should be one that doesaway with the notion of collective rights. The minority issue is notexclusively a matter of human rights; it is relevant to security issues aswell.
According to a member of the government, the reforms in Slovakia havealready introduced the notion of self-government into public administration.The central government cannot annul or reverse a decision taken by localauthorities. In areas where an ethnic minority predominates in localgovernment, this allows self-government to be exercised along ethnic lines.Hence, at the community level, there is real ethnic autonomy.
The discussion then turned to an examination of interparty relations as theybear upon minority questions. A U. S. congressional staff member askedwhether minority parties have policies regarding the majority, since theyare asking majority parties to have policies regarding the minorities. Shesuggested that there was no incentive for the majority parties to have suchpolicies. If a party is attacked from both sides--from the minorities fornot doing enough and from its own constituency for taking too strong astand--it will be discouraged from addressing the issue at all. Moreover,the problems facing Slovakia go beyond the minority issue, and so it becomesnecessary to address all the problems simultaneously.
A participant from a Hungarian party answered that the Hungarian parties dohave programs to deal with all the issues facing Slovakia. All the politicalparties should have minority programs, just as it is essential for them tohave positions concerning democratization and the rule of law. But therealso needs to be political will.
Some of the ruling coalition parties do have positions, consistent withinternational standards, concerning the protection of minority rights, addedanother participant. A problem arises in explaining such positions to votersin northern and central Slovakia, where there are relatively few Hungarians.These voters perceive the Hungarians as incessantly "demanding things."During the next electoral campaign, some parties may have to decide whetherthey will continue to support a minority program, since it appears to be aliability. This does not mean that they are not committed to a dialogue withthe minorities on the perceived problems.
Earlier, observed a participant representing the government, nointernational law existed as a prerequisite to such a dialogue. But in 1990,the Copenhagen document appeared, and then the UN Declaration of 1992. Thiswas followed in Slovakia by the Framework Convention on Minorities, whichwas codified in Slovakia's treaty with Hungary.
The problem of minorities will take decades to solve, according to arepresentative from the ruling coalition. A space for dialogue has beencreated within parliament and should be utilized. There is also opportunityfor dialogue in the Executive Council, in the National Minorities Council,and among experts.
This dialogue should be divided into two parts, urged a member of theHungarian community: the conceptual approach to the minority issue, and theminority policy of the current government. The threat of authoritarian ruleis a problem not just for minorities but for the opposition as well.Parliamentary committees are not the place for a dialogue. Neither is thenationalities council, where proposals are voted upon by members appointedby the government. In any case, the council is an advisory body without anyreal power.
Warning of the mutual distrust between the majority and the minorities,several participants suggested that intentions in legislative matters shouldbe clarified and strengthened, and perhaps legislation concerning minoritiesshould be enacted that would involve the minorities in its formulation.Another participant suggested the formation of a nongovernmental,nonparliamentary task force, with representatives from all elements ofpolitical life, to discuss these problems.
Participants agreed that this roundtable discussion had started a dialoguethat had been lacking in Slovakia and that must be continued upon returninghome. The meeting allowed participants to express their opinions andconcerns on a range of topics, while also demonstrating unanimous supportfor Slovakia's role as a newly emerging democracy.
In addition to the opportunity to brief American policymakers about recentdevelopments in Slovakia, the meeting provided a clearer understanding ofthe significance of integration with the West for the political parties ofSlovakia and the kinds of perceived threats facing the country. For themajority of the participants, integration represents a reunion with theWest, with which Slovakia shares a broad range of values. It is theprotection of these values that membership in NATO and other institutionswould achieve.
Nearly all the participants agreed that the bilateral treaty signed betweenSlovakia and Hungary and the Framework Convention on Minorities provided agood basis for a continued dialogue, one involving all the politicalparties.
Martin Butora, member of the Council for Ethnic Accord of the Project onEthnic Relations; vice-chair, Milan Simecka Foundation
Rudolf Chmel, former ambassador of Czechoslovakia to Hungary
Miroslav Ciz, expert on minorities for the Committee on PublicAdministration, Local Government, and Ethnic Minorities; member, Movementfor a Democratic Slovakia
Pal Csaky, vice-chair, Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement
Milan Ftacnik, vice-chair, Party of the Democratic Left
Laszlo Gyurovsky, vice-chair, Hungarian Civic Party
Stefan Harna, expert on the economy for the Coexistence Party
Milan Knazko, vice-chair, Democratic Union
Branislav Lichardus, ambassador to the United States
Jan Luptak, chair, Slovak Workers Association
Frantisek Miklosko, vice-chair, Christian Democratic Movement
Jan Orlovsky, third secretary, Embassy of the Slovak Republic in the U.S.
Peter Prochazka, deputy chair of the Human Rights and Minorities Department,Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Jozef Prokes, honorary chair, Slovak National Party
Jozef Rea, National Council of the Slovak Republic; chair, Committee onPublic Administration, Local Government, and Ethnic Minorities; Movement fora Democratic Slovakia
Dusan Slobodnik, chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the NationalCouncil of the Slovak Republic; Movement for a Democratic Slovakia
Miroslav Spejl, vice-chair, Social Democratic Party of Slovakia
Laszlo Szigeti, director, Kalligram Publishing House
Milan Zemko, advisor on domestic policy, Office of the President
Alexander Kasianov, interpreter
UNITED STATES: Participants and Observers
Frank Babetsk, regional analyst, Bureau of Intelligence and Research,Department of State
Harry G. Barnes, director, Conflict Resolution and Human Rights Program, TheCarter Center
John Berry, director for European policy, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Richard Driscoll, desk officer for the Slovak Republic, Department of State
Nancy Ely-Raphel, principal deputy assistant secretary for democracy andhuman rights, Department of State
Daniel Fried, special assistant to the president; senior director, EastCentral Europe, National Security Council/White House
Adrian J. Harmata, political analyst for the Slovak Republic, Office ofAnalysis for Europe and Canada, Bureau of Intelligence and Research,Department of State
Eric Jowett, program officer, Central and Eastern Europe, InternationalRepublican Institute
Bruce A. Messelt, country director for Slovak affairs, Office of theSecretary of Defense
Joseph Montville, director, Preventive Diplomacy Program, Center forStrategic and International Studies
Kevin Mulvey, associate director for government affairs, AmericanInternational Group, Inc.
Kate Schertz, Human Rights, Democracy, and Labor
Erika Schlager, counsel for international law of the Commission on Securityand Cooperation in Europe, U.S. Congress
Paul Simon, senator (Illinois); member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Terry R. Snell, director, North Central European Affairs, Department ofState
Sara Tindall, assistant program coordinator, Conflict Resolution and HumanRights Program, The Carter Center
Suzanne Wood, program officer, Preventing Deadly Conflict Program, CarnegieCorporation
PROJECT ON ETHNIC RELATIONS
Allen H. Kassof, director
Livia B. Plaks, associate director
Larry Watts, senior consultant, Bucharest office
Julie Burkley, program associate