The fool wonders, the wise man asks. - Benjamin Disraeli
RFE/RL NEWSLINE

RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 192, Part II, 5 October 1998


___________________________________________________________
RFE/RL NEWSLINE Vol 2, No. 192, Part II, 5 October 1998

A daily report of developments in Eastern and Southeastern
Europe, Russia, the Caucasus and Central Asia prepared by the
staff of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

This is Part II, a compilation of news concerning Central,
Eastern, and Southeastern Europe.  Part I covers Russia,
Transcaucasia and Central Asia and is distributed
simultaneously as a second document.  Back issues of RFE/RL
NewsLine and the OMRI Daily Digest are online at RFE/RL's Web
site: http://www.rferl.org/newsline

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Headlines, Part II

* LATVIANS VOTE IN FAVOR OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENTS

* BELGRADE REMAINS DEFIANT

* RIFT GROWS BETWEEN SERBIA, MONTENEGRO

End Note: SLOVAKIA'S POST-ELECTION CHALLENGE
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REGIONAL AFFAIRS

LATVIANS VOTE IN FAVOR OF CITIZENSHIP AMENDMENTS... In a
referendum on 3 October, some 53 percent of the Latvian
electorate voted in favor of amendments to the citizenship
law passed earlier this year, according to preliminary
results released the next day. Almost 45 percent of the
electorate voted against, while turnout was just below 70
percent. The "yes" vote means there are no longer any
obstacles to the signing into law of the amendments, which
remove the so-called naturalization windows, grant
citizenship to all children born after independence if their
parents so require it, and provide for simpler language tests
for older residents. Commenting on the result, OSCE High
Commissioner on National Minorities Max van der Stoel said
that "the people of Latvia have taken a very important step
towards solving inter-ethnic problems and promoting the
process of integration," Reuters reported. JC

...ELECT NEW PARLIAMENT. Also on 3 October, Latvians went to
the polls to elect a new parliament. According to preliminary
results, the People's Party of former Prime Minister Andris
Skele came first with 20.79 percent of the vote, followed by
Latvia's Way with 18.50 percent, RFE/RL's Riga bureau
reported the next day. The National Harmony Party, which
brings together former communists and independence activists,
finished a surprising third, with 14.44 percent, ahead of the
Fatherland and Freedom party of incumbent Prime Minister
Guntars Krasts (13.80 percent). Only two other parties passed
the 5 percent hurdle to gain entry to the new parliament: the
Social Democratic Alliance (12.95 percent) and the New Party
(7.46 percent). Turnout was estimated at 72.67 percent. JC

FIRST RUSSIAN RESPONSES TO LATVIAN REFERENDUM VOTE. Russian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vladimir Rakhmanin told ITAR-TASS
on 5 October that Moscow "positively appraises" the results
of the referendum on the citizenship law amendments. He noted
that the Latvian people have given a "clear signal" to the
newly elected parliament and the future government that they
link the long-term interests of their country with "inter-
ethnic harmony, integration of society, and observance of
human rights." He added that it is only this way that Latvia
can "gain international prestige and normalize relations with
Russia." Communist Party leader Gennadii Zyuganov, in an
interview with Ekho Moskvy the previous day, also welcomed
the referendum result, commenting that for Latvia, "it is
better to have Russia as a friendly neighbor than to violate
the rights of our compatriots." JC

EAST-CENTRAL EUROPE

YUSHCHENKO SAYS UKRAINE'S ECONOMIC SITUATION IMPROVING.
Ukrainian National Bank Chairman Viktor Yushchenko says the
country's economic situation has improved in recent days and
that the hryvnya has stabilized within the exchange band of
2.5-3.5 to $1, AP reported on 3 October. "The key thing is
that we have managed to separate ourselves from the Russian
economic crisis and its negative influence," he said. The
hryvnya exchange rate stood at 3.41 to $1 on 2 October.
President Leonid Kuchma met with top economic officials the
same day to discuss ways of stabilizing the hryvnya,
Ukrainian Television reported. Participants in the meeting
failed to reach agreement on how to achieve that goal. Many
analysts believe the present hryvnya exchange rate is
artificially maintained by regulations forcing exporters to
sell much of their foreign currency earnings to the state and
by restrictions on foreign currency purchases. JM

REFERENDUM ON CONFIDENCE IN LUKASHENKA DEEMED UNNECESSARY.
Belarusian Chamber of Representatives speaker Anatol
Malafeyeu says he sees no need to hold a referendum on
confidence in President Alyaksandr Lukashenka, Interfax
reported on 2 October. The Belarusian Popular Patriotic Union
had proposed such a vote at its constituent congress in Minsk
last month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 September 1998).
Malafeyeu told Interfax that Belarusians expressed their
attitude toward the president and his policies in the
November 1996 referendum. Central Electoral Commission
Chairwoman Lidziya Yarmoshyna told "Sovetskaya Belorussiya"
on 1 October that the referendum proposal is "juridical
nonsense" since the Belarusian Constitution does not envisage
plebiscites on issues such as confidence in politicians. JM

ENVOY SAYS MINSK MUST OBSERVE INTERNATIONAL ACCORDS IN
HOUSING ROW. Peter Kolb, German charge d'affaires in Belarus,
has said Belarus must observe international agreements before
it can solve its dispute over housing foreign diplomats in
the Drazdy residential compound, near Minsk, Reuters reported
on 2 October. "Problems of housing or safety in the Drazdy
conflict are secondary. The departure of ambassadors had
political causes and their return also requires a political
dimension," Kolb said. He added that all EU states have a
single approach toward the eviction of ambassadors and demand
that Belarus observe the Vienna Convention on diplomatic
relations. JM

ESTONIAN CENTRAL BANK INTERVENES IN COMMERCIAL BANKING
SECTOR... The Estonian Central Bank on 2 October said it will
temporarily acquire a majority stake in Forekspank and the
Estonian Investment Bank, which announced a merger at the
beginning of last month but have experienced difficulties in
carrying out that plan, ETA reported. The Central Bank will
invest a total of 255 million kroons. Central Bank President
Helo Meigas said the bank took that decision because although
Forekspank lacked the capital to push through the merger, its
assets exceed its liabilities. JC

...INCURRING WRATH OF ESTONIA'S 'ONLY RUSSIAN-SPEAKING BANK.'
Also on 2 October, the Central Bank announced it is launching
bankruptcy proceedings against EVEA Pank, the country's
oldest commercial bank. A Central Bank official said that
EVEA Pank's balance sheet indicated that it was not possible
to continue banking activities and that the Central Bank was
seeking to prevent the loss of further money. Analysts said
that one of the likely reasons for EVEA Pank's difficulties
is the "close connection" of many of its clients with the
Russian market. EVEA Pank Board Chairman Boris Shpungin,
however, has accused the Central Bank of persecuting the
country's only "Russian-speaking bank" for "subjective
reasons," ETA reported. EVEA Pank claims to have reached an
agreement with an unidentified U.S. investor willing to put
up some 60 million kroons to meet the bank's short-term
obligations. JC

POLISH LEFT-WING TRADE UNION STAGES 'BLACK MARCH.' Some 800
people wearing black armbands took part in a "black march of
social dialogue" organized in Warsaw on 2 October by the
left-wing National Trade Union Alliance (OPZZ), PAP reported.
The union presented Labor Minister Longin Komolowski with a
book containing the OPZZ's complaints against Premier Jerzy
Buzek's government. "We told the minister that the government
is consciously breaking the law on trade unions,
International Labor Organization regulations, and the
principle of social dialogue laid down in the constitution,"
OPZZ Deputy Chairman Ryszard Lepik commented. Komolowski
responded that the government is holding a number of
consultations at both the central and regional levels. JM

KRZAKLEWSKI SAYS LOCAL ELECTIONS 'TRUE DECOMMUNIZATION' OF
POLAND. Solidarity leader Marian Krzaklewski has said the 11
October local elections will be the "true decommunization" of
Poland, Polish Radio reported on 4 October. Krzaklewski added
that Buzek's government has already scored signigicant
success by implementing local government reform and
transferring power to the people. Simultaneously he warned
against the "forces of the old system," which, he said, are
"still embedded within the administrative system and other
structures." Meanwhile, President Aleksander Kwasniewski has
criticized the government for its failure to submit a law
defining how local authorities are to be financed.
Kwasniewski said he is concerned that under government
proposals, local authorities would be able to determine only
some 5 percent of their budgets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2
October 1998). JM

CZECH, POLISH MINISTERS CALL FOR EARLY NATO ACCESSION. The
Czech and Polish foreign and defense ministers agreed at a
meeting in the northern Czech town of Liberec on 2 October to
push for the soonest possible date for joining NATO, ITAR-
TASS reported. Polish Foreign Minister Bronislaw Geremek and
his Czech counterpart, Jan Kavan, said they believe their
countries will join the defense alliance in early 1999. Czech
Defense Minister Vladimir Vethy agreed with his Polish
counterpart, Janusz Onyszkiewicz, that Prague and Warsaw will
intensify military cooperation. PB

HAVEL PRAISES GERMAN REUNIFICATION ON ANNIVERSARY. Czech
President Vaclav Havel said in the German city Hannover on 3
October that Germany is a "laboratory of a uniting Europe,"
CTK reported. Havel, speaking as a special guest on the
eighth anniversary of German reunification, said that East
Germany was "born of the evil of the then divided Europe and
was preserved by this evil." He said its demise was "good for
the whole world." Meanwhile in Prague, Russian banker Alim
Karmov was sentenced to five years in jail for fraud in the
setting up of a pyramid scheme in the Czech Republic. Karmov,
who called himself a "Russian beast," apologized to
creditors. He is the first foreign financier to be sentenced
in the Czech Republic. PB

SLOVAK EX-COMMUNISTS DON'T WANT ETHNIC HUNGARIANS IN
COALITION. Jozef Migas, the chairman of the Party of the
Democratic Left (SDL), said on 2 October that his party
opposes forming a coalition government that would include the
Hungary Coalition Party (SMK), SITA reported. Migas said
after talks with SMK leaders that the "optimal solution"
would be to have a coalition consisting of the SDL, the
Slovak Democratic Coalition, and the Party of Civic
Understanding. Migas did not say why his party, the reformed
Communists, opposes the SMK, but he added that he has not
ruled out further talks with the ethnic Hungarian party.
Without the SMK, the coalition proposed by Migas would have
78 of the 150 seats in the parliament--short of the 90 votes
needed to make changes to the constitution. PB

RADIO TWIST NAMED MOST OBJECTIVE DURING SLOVAK ELECTIONS.
According to a survey conducted by two monitoring
organizations, Private Radio Twist was the most objective of
all television and radio stations in Slovakia before the 25-
26 September elections , CTK reported on 2 October. The
Helsinki Civic Assembly and the Association for the Support
for Local Democracy said that though Radio Twist showed
favoritism to the opposition Slovak Democratic Coalition, it
was in general the most objective. The survey concluded that
Slovak Television violated the principles of fairness the
most often, devoting 75 percent of its news programs to
Premier Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia
(HZDS). PB

HZDS RECONFIRMS MECIAR AS LEADER. Prime Minister Vladimir
Meciar will remain as head of the HZDS, TASR reported on 3
October. Ivan Gasparovic, a member of the HZDS leadership,
said after a party meeting in Krajne, northwest of
Bratislava, that the party will not make any personnel
changes. The HZDS finished ahead of all parties in last
week's elections, garnering 27 percent of the vote (see
"RFE/RL Newsline," 28 September 1998). Gasparovic said the
chairman of the board of East Slovak Steelworks, Jan Smerek,
will begin talks with all parties in an attempt to form a new
government, despite declarations from the major parties that
they will not form a coalition with the HZDS under any
circumstances. PB

SOCIALISTS WITHDRAW BUDAPEST MAYORAL CANDIDATE. The Budapest
branch of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP)
decided on 4 October to withdraw Bela Katona as the party's
Budapest mayoral candidate in the 18 October local elections.
By a vote of 110 to 50, the MSZP delegates also decided to
support incumbent Mayor Gabor Demszky of the Free Democrats,
thus favoring "the unity of democratic forces and preventing
a victory of the right wing." Demszky welcomed the decision ,
saying it greatly helps his chances of reelection. Janos
Latorcai, the Federation of Young Democrats and Democratic
Forum candidate, said that by withdrawing Katona , the MSZP
is openly acknowledging in advance its defeat in the local
elections. According to public opinion polls, Demszky has the
support of 65 percent of decided voters, followed by Latorcai
(27 percent). Katona was favored by only 6 percent of the
Budapest electorate. MSZ

SOUTHEASTERN EUROPE

BELGRADE REMAINS DEFIANT. The federal legislature is
scheduled to discuss Kosova in a special session on 5
October. The previous day, Yugoslav President Slobodan
Milosevic chaired a meeting of the Supreme Defense Council to
discuss possible NATO intervention against Yugoslav military
targets (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 October 1998). The council
then issued a statement that said "if we are attacked, we
shall defend the country by all available means." Besides
Milosevic, those present included Serbian President Milan
Milutinovic, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic, federal
Defense Minister Pavle Bulatovic, and General Momcilo
Perisic, who is chief of the General Staff. On 3 October,
that body placed air defense systems on a heightened state of
alert. PM

WEST DEBATES NEXT MOVE. In Luxembourg, EU foreign ministers
on 5 October began talks on further tightening economic
sanctions against Belgrade. In Brussels, NATO planners
awaited UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's report on whether
Milosevic has met Security Council demands regarding Kosova,
which Annan is scheduled to present later in the day. NATO is
prepared to act if Annan concludes that Milosevic has not met
the demands and authorizes the Atlantic alliance to launch
air strikes. In Washington, U.S. officials said that special
envoy Richard Holbrooke will soon meet with Milosevic in
Belgrade. In London, British Defense Secretary George
Robinson said on 4 October said that "what is clear is that
Milosevic now recognizes that [NATO] means business and
that's why he's moving with such speed at the moment." In
Paris, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook discussed Kosova
with his French counterpart, Hubert Vedrine. Earlier, Vedrine
had a telephone conversation about Kosova with U.S. Secretary
of State Madeleine Albright. PM

YELTSIN WARNS MILOSEVIC. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov
and Defense Minister Igor Sergeev delivered a message from
Russian President Boris Yeltsin to Milosevic on 4 October in
which the Russian leader urged his Yugoslav counterpart to
take immediate measures to end the crisis in Kosova or risk
facing NATO attacks. In Moscow, a Foreign Ministry spokesman
said that Russia opposes "any use of force, especially [if it
involves NATO] circumventing the UN Security Council,
something that can have grave consequences." He added that
"hostilities must be stopped [in Kosova], army and security
forces withdrawn to permanent locations, and urgent measures
taken to overcome the humanitarian crisis and secure the
return of refugees." In Prishtina, Kosovar sources reported
on 3 October that Serbian forces continued to shell villages
in the Gjakova area. PM

RIFT GROWS BETWEEN SERBIA, MONTENEGRO. In Podgorica,
President Djukanovic is slated to make a televised address on
5 October to explain his differences with Belgrade over
Kosova. His supporters will not attend the special session of
the federal legislature that same day, RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported on 3 October. The Belgrade authorities
rejected a key Montenegrin demand that opening a border
crossing between Montenegro and Croatia at Debeli Brijeg be
included on the agenda of the next round of Yugoslav-Croatian
talks, the daily "Pobjeda" wrote on 3 October. The previous
day, Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who is a loyal
Milosevic supporter and Djukanovic's arch-rival, sent his
wife and children to Bulgaria, "Pobjeda" reported. The pro-
Djukanovic paper added: "the man who did nothing to help
resolve [the crisis in Kosova] knows how to protect himself
and his family, leaving the people to bear the consequences
of the flawed policy" of Milosevic. PM

GREECE OPPOSES AIR STRIKES. Following a 3 October meeting in
Delphi, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis said that he and
Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov and Romanian President
Emil Constantinescu agreed that air strikes "are not the best
solution" for the Kosova problem. Simitis added that he made
the same point in telephone calls to French Prime Minister
Lionel Jospin, Italy's Romano Prodi, and German Chancellor-
designate Gerhard Schroeder. In Skopje the previous day,
President Kiro Gligorov and his Turkish counterpart, Suleyman
Demirel, agreed that the Kosova question should be resolved
through diplomacy and "within the frontiers of Yugoslavia."
Demirel added that his country would participate in any NATO
air strikes, although he said he hopes military intervention
will not be necessary. Gligorov stated that "the Macedonian
government will make a decision" if NATO asks for its
support. PM

ALBANIA WANTS MILOSEVIC INVESTIGATED FOR WAR CRIMES. Foreign
Minister Paskal Milo told the UN General Assembly on 2
October that the Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia should investigate Milosevic. Milo
accused the Yugoslav leader of ordering "the implementation
of...an ethnic cleansing policy against Albanians under the
pretext of combating... terrorism." Milo repeated Albania's
position that the international community should intervene
militarily in Kosova. He stressed that "the peaceful means
applied by the international community so far [have failed]."
He added that "we risk having another, wider conflict" if the
international community takes no action. Milo said that
Albania is "in favor of an immediate end of the conflict
and...negotiations between Belgrade and Prishtina,
with...international [mediation]." The minister added that a
solution should respect "the will of the Albanians for self-
determination and...international conventions [banning] the
change of borders through violence." FS

TIRANA SAYS BELGRADE TRYING TO DRAG ALBANIA INTO CONFLICT.
The Albanian Interior Ministry issued a statement on 3
October accusing Serbian forces of twice attacking a border
post in the village of Pogaj, in the northern Has Mountains,
the previous day. It said there were no casualties and only
slight damage but added that the attacks were "a continuation
of [previous] provocations made...by the Serbian military
machine, which [is] confronted with a probable NATO attack
[and] trying to involve Albania." FS

ALBANIAN PRIME MINISTER SWORN IN. Pandeli Majko became
Europe's youngest head of government on 2 October after
President Rexhep Meidani swore him in (see "RFE/RL Newsline,"
2 October 1998). The parliament is expected to approve
Majko's cabinet by 12 October. Among the few key changes,
Minister for European Integration Ilir Meta will become
deputy prime minister and fellow Socialist Petro Koci
interior minister. Majko told journalists on 2 October that
he will seek a dialogue with the opposition Democratic Party.
He added that his priorities are "a return to stability,
drafting a new constitution, and solving the Kosova problem."
FS

POPE BEATIFIES STEPINAC. Pope John Paul II said in Split on 4
October that he hopes that "the international
community...will not fail to provide timely help" for Kosova.
The previous day in Marija Bistrica, the pontiff beatified
Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac at a mass attended by some 350,000
persons, including representatives of the Jewish and Islamic
communities. The cardinal, who died under house arrest in
1960, is regarded by most Croats as a martyr for his country
and faith at the hands of the communists. His critics charge
that he did not do enough to rescue Serbs, Jews, and
opposition Croats from death at hands of the pro-Axis Ustasha
regime during World War II. The Vatican has rejected those
charges. The pope said in Marija Bistrica that Stepinac "sums
up the whole tragedy that befell the Croatian people and
Europe in the course of this century...[namely] fascism,
national socialism, and communism," adding that "we all know
the circumstances of his death." PM

ANTI-TERRORIST POLICE FOR MOSTAR. Spokesmen for the UN-
sponsored international police force said in Mostar on 4
October that a special anti-terrorist unit will soon go to
Croat-held areas of Herzegovina to investigate a recent
series of violent incidents against Muslims, who were
attempting to return to their former homes. One Muslim was
killed and three wounded in a grenade attack on 2 October,
and another Muslim's home was damaged in a similar assault
two days later. Valentin Coric, the local police chief,
resigned his post on 3 October. PM

ETHNIC HUNGARIANS TO REMAIN IN ROMANIAN GOVERNMENT. The
Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania (UDMR), decided on
3 October to remain in the ruling coalition, AP reported. The
decision was reached at the party's headquarters in the
Transylvanian city of Targu Mures. The party said it does not
want to be blamed for a failure of the economic reforms. The
UDMR had threatened to leave the coalition because the
government refused to establish a Hungarian-language
university. The government said last week it would set up a
German-Hungarian university, a move that has been criticized
by many Romanian politicians. PB

IMF TO RESUME NEGOTIATIONS WITH BUCHAREST. Romanian Prime
Minister Radu Vasile agreed with IMF Managing Director Michel
Camdessus on 3 October that negotiations on a standby loan
will resume later this month, an RFE/RL correspondent in
Bucharest reported. Vasile is in Washington for talks with
IMF and World Bank officials. Central Bank Governor Mugur
Isarescu and Finance Minister Traian Decebal Remes are
accompanying Vasile. The IMF froze a $530 million loan in May
because of dissatisfaction with the pace of Bucharest's
economic reforms. PB

BULGARIA, ROMANIA DISAGREE AGAIN OVER DANUBE BRIDGE. Bulgaria
and Romania have failed again to resolve a dispute over the
location of a bridge to be built across the Danube River,
Reuters reported on 4 October. Bulgarian President Petar
Stoyanov and his Romanian counterpart, Constantinescu,
discussed the issue at a meeting in the Greek city of Delphi
but failed to come to an agreement on its location. Stoyanov
said Bulgaria favors a location close to the Yugoslav border
so that in times of crisis it would offer the shortest route
available in circumventing Yugoslavia. The two did agree,
however, to set up a committee to examine various options for
the bridge. The meeting, hosted by Greek Prime Minister
Simitis, also focused on the prospects of Romanian and
Bulgarian membership in Western organizations and the fight
against crime and drug trafficking. PB

BULGARIAN PRESIDENT ENDS VISIT TO HOLLAND. Petar Stoyanov
ended a three-day visit to the Netherlands on 3 October by
signing an economic cooperation agreement with Prime Minister
Wim Kok, ITAR-TASS reported. Stoyanov, who met with Queen
Beatrix, held talks with Kok and other officials to discuss
the strengthening of relations between The Hague and Sofia.
Stoyanov also visited the International War Crimes Tribunal
in The Hague. PB

END NOTE

SLOVAKIA'S POST-ELECTION CHALLENGE

by Christopher Walker

	On the face of it, the results of the recent German and
Slovak elections were somewhat similar. Voters in each
country decided to change long-standing governing coalitions.
In both cases, the countries' leaders, dominant figures on
their respective political landscapes, were voted out
following lengthy terms in power. However, that is where the
apparent similarity ends.
	The German election results reflect what can be best
described as a normal, cyclical flow in democratic electoral
politics. Germans voted for change with a small "c." In
contrast, Slovaks voted for a systemic change in their
country's political orientation. As a result, the incoming
governing coalition in Slovakia will have a challenge that is
wholly different from that of Gerhard Schroeder and his
expected Red-Green coalition in Germany. The Slovak challenge
will doubtless be significantly more difficult.
	As they prepare to take power, Mikulas Dzurinda and his
governing partners must not only put forward a set of
policies on education, the environment, health care, the
economy, and a host of other important issues. They must also
simultaneously attempt to restructure many of the country's
fragile institutions. That restructuring will include
overhauling the civil service system and state security
apparatus as well as reshaping the Slovak diplomatic corps
and judiciary. In addition, the privatization process must be
made more even-handed and transparent, and an environment in
which a balanced, independent media may flourish must be
created. That list is not exhaustive. At the very least, the
new government can be said to be facing a demanding agenda.
	The case of Slovak media illustrates the challenge
facing the new government. Unlike their counterparts in
mature democracies, independent media in Meciar's Slovakia
found themselves in a constant state of confrontation with
the regime. Meciar's extremist policies created a deep split
within Slovak society. One was either "with" Meciar's
Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and thus "with"
Slovakia or against both the leadership and the country. With
his astute political instincts, Meciar extracted the maximum
mileage out of pitting Slovaks against one another based on
his definition of what constituted a "good" or "bad" Slovak.
	This unyielding governing style forced much of
Slovakia's political discourse to extremes. For the media,
the dynamic was the same. The result was a polarized
environment that allowed for pro-government or opposition
media, but little in between. A key question now is whether
Slovak editors and reporters can shed their combat mentality
and allow the news media to perform its vital role in a more
balanced manner. The new government can set the tone for this
fresh and sorely needed environment.
	The need to reshape and reconcile Slovak society is no
less important in other key sectors, including the economy--
especially with regard to privatization. The opposition
forces preparing to take power have said they will seek to
prevent any further privatizations by the outgoing government
during the HZDS's final 30 days in power. This is one of a
number of important signals the new government can send to
both the international community and the Slovak population.
For foreign investors, it will demonstrate a commitment to
reestablishing the soundness of Slovakia's economy and
restoring integrity to the country's business culture. For
Slovaks, accustomed to cronyism and insider deals, it will
help revive a sense of fair play that has been missing for
most of the time since Slovakia split from the Czech Republic
at the beginning of 1993.
	A steadfast commitment to reform by the new government
could also bring about another important result: namely,
inspire the return to Slovakia of the many talented and
ambitious Slovaks who ventured abroad during the Meciar era.
Attracting back this valuable human capital would provide an
important boost to the country's economic and cultural
development and help the country stay the course with its
democratic reform program.
	Predictably, statements on the opposition victory from
the EU and the entire Western establishment have been
supportive. While the new Slovak government should have a
reasonably long honeymoon period with the West, this time
frame will not be infinite. The vast challenges confronting
the government may generate a great deal of pressure on the
four-party coalition. Should the economy sour in the
meantime, the task of implementing tough reform measures will
become even more difficult.
	In such a case, it may be tempting for the incoming
ruling coalition to blame Slovakia's ills on the policies and
actions of the HZDS. That strategy, however, would ultimately
have limited utility. Attacking the former leadership would
only perpetuate the culture of polemic in Slovak politics.
Moreover, the opposition will need to show it can govern ably
and bring about results in its own right.
	The challenges are substantial, but a demonstration of
mature and capable political leadership by the incoming
Slovak government can go a long way toward gaining back the
confidence of average Slovaks and putting Slovakia back on
the path to EU and NATO membership.

The author is manager of programs at the European Journalism
Network.

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