| SECOND SLOVAKIA ROUNDTABLE |
More than three years after the Slovak Republic achieved independence onJanuary 1st, 1993, its political landscape is still marked by an intensivedebate among the Slovak majority and between the Slovak majority and theHungarian minority of six hundred thousand people. This debate involvesdifferences over the steps toward democratization and a free market, entryinto European institutions and NATO, and the relationships between the twoethnic groups themselves.
The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) is sponsoring a series of roundtablediscussions as part of an effort to help the political leaders of the Slovakand Hungarian communities explain and clarify their positions to each otherand to sympathetic outsiders. The aim is to find some common ground thatcould lead to a reduction of the interethnic tensions. The first meeting inthe series took place in Washington, D.C., in June 1995, and is summarizedin the PER report Slovakia Roundtable in the United States. The secondmeeting is the subject of this report. It was co-sponsored with the SlovakNational Council, (parliament), and took place in Slovakia, at CastaPapiernicka, near Bratislava, from May 9 to 11, 1996. This was shortly afterthe Slovak government had ratified a treaty between Slovakia and Hungary(the treaty had been ratified by Hungary a year earlier)--a circumstancethat provided a starting point for the discussions.
This report was skillfully prepared by Samuel Abraham and Peter Priadka ofPER's Bratislava office, from a verbatim transcript of the discussions. Itcaptures both the tone and the details of the emotions and frustrationsarising from the differences in perception and vocabulary that separateSlovak and ethnic Hungarian leaders, as well as the faint glimmer of hopefor their resolution.
The majority of the participants at the meeting were Slovaks and ethnicHungarians who play leading roles in the politics of Slovakia (see the noteon terminology below). However, another important aspect of the meeting wasthe participation of a substantial number of senior figures from the mostimportant European organizations and from the United States. (A list of theparticipants can be found at the end of this report.) Although they attendedin their individual capacities, the presence of high-level officials fromthe European Union, the Council of Europe, and the Organization forCooperation and Security in Europe, and from the White House, the Departmentof State, and the Department of Defense testified both to their strongsupport for Slovakia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic community and tothe fears that tensions within Slovakia about interethnic rivalries andrelated issues (including problems in relations between Slovakia andHungary) could impede Slovakia's entry into major internationalinstitutions. At the same time, the European and U.S. participants wereemphatic in stating that Slovakia is not being singled out for negativeattention and that the criteria being applied to it are neither more norless onerous than those faced by other countries seeking membership. At therequest of the participants, PER plans to continue its sponsorship of thesediscussions.
We wish to record our gratitude to the Slovak National Council for itsgenerous cooperation and hospitality in making arrangements for thismeeting, and in particular to Dusan Slobodnik, chairman of the ForeignRelations Committee of the National Council. Special financial support forthis series of meetings is being provided by grants to PER by the PewCharitable Trusts. Additional funding has been received from the CarnegieCorporation of New York, which provides PER's core funding, and from theStarr Foundation. None of them, of course, is responsible for the contentsof this report.
The report was edited by Robert A. Feldmesser, PER's senior editor. Thesummary and the note on terminology were prepared by Aleksey Grigor'ev, ofthe PER Princeton staff. Although we believe that the report faithfullyreflects the conference proceedings, none of the participants has had anopportunity to review it, and PER is solely responsible for its contents.
Allen H. Kassof, President
Princeton, New Jersey
A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY
In order to encourage participants to speak frankly, it was agreed that noremarks would be attributed to individuals in this report. However, makingsense of the viewpoints expressed in the discussions necessitates some formof identification of the participants.
"Participant from the governing coalition" refers to a member of one of thetwo principal parliamentary parties that make up that coalition: theMovement for a Democratic Slovakia and the Slovak National Party. (There wasno participant from the Association of Workers of Slovakia, the smallest ofthe three coalition parties.)
"Participant from the Hungarian coalition" refers to a member of one of thethree parties making up that coalition in the National Council: theHungarian Christian Democratic Movement, Coexistence, and the HungarianCivic Party.
"Participant from the opposition" refers to a member of one of theparliamentary opposition parties other than those in the Hungariancoalition: the Party of the Democratic Left, the Christian DemocraticMovement, and the Democratic Union of Slovakia. (There were no participantsfrom three other opposition parties: the Social-Democratic Party ofSlovakia, the Movement of Peasants, and the Green Party of Slovakia.)
International participants are identified as coming from Western Europe orthe United States.
Because of the subject matter of this report, it should be understood thatthe word "Hungarian" usually refers to ethnic Hungarians who live inSlovakia and to their political, cultural, and educational bodies. Thecontext will make clear when that is not the case (as, for example, in thephrase "Hungarian-Slovak treaty").
Following introductory words from PER's president, participants from thegoverning coalition expressed the opinion that the problems in Slovakia'sforeign policy are attributable to the opposition politicians and thepresident of the republic, who, they claim, misrepresent Slovakia to foreignaudiences. These participants maintained that, despite complicationsinherent in the process of transition, Slovakia has managed to build ademocratic parliamentary society, has achieved a standard of human rightscomparable to that of Western Europe, and is successfully building goodrelations with its neighbors. As for prospective membership in NATO and theEU, the coalition's view is that Slovakia is being judged according to a setof criteria that differ from those applied to other new candidates. (Thiswas denied by several international participants, who held that the criteriaare the same for everyone.) It was noted that one party in the governingcoalition openly opposes Slovakia's entry into these structures.Participants from the governing coalition also proposed that the question ofSlovakia's entry into NATO and the EU should be decided by referendum.
Participants from the opposition parties, both Slovak and Hungarian,expressed the belief that nothing regarding the style of governing and theimplementation of democracy has changed in Slovakia since PER's firstSlovakia roundtable in June 1995. They claimed that the policies of thegoverning coalition and its struggle for power damage Slovakia domesticallyand also damage Slovakia's image abroad. Opposition participants assertedthat the government failed to follow democratic principles in the regulationof the secret service, in procedures of privatization, and in state-mediarelations. They pointed out that no clear government program existsconcerning Slovakia's integration into European and Euro-Atlanticinstitutions. Slovakia, in their view, should be firmly committed tobecoming a full member of the EU and NATO. Conversely, they declared, itwould be a grave error if, because of Slovakia's problems, the EU and NATOwere to defer its full membership.
In this first part of the discussion, the line was drawn between thegoverning coalition and the opposition, irrespective of ethnic affiliation.However, during the discussion of ethnic issues, the Slovak parties tendedto group together on one side and the Hungarian parties on the other. PER'spresident urged the participants to desist from accusations andcounter-accusations on interethnic issues and move to a consideration ofspecifics, even if minor ones, about which at least some common ground mightbe found. In response, participants from the Hungarian coalition set forthsix proposals: restoration of the 1994 level of government subsidies tominority cultures, and giving minority representatives power of control overthese subsidies; prevention of forcible centralization of the educationalsystem and promotion of greater autonomy for minority-language schools;restoration of government financial support for the Hungarian musicalensemble "Young Hearts"; permission to establish a private Hungarianbusiness academy with Hungarian as the language of instruction; passage of alaw on the protection of minority languages; and passage of constitutionalprovisions concerning minorities and minority law.
Participants from the governing coalition suggested that they would bewilling to engage in a dialogue on all of these points; indeed, they heldout the prospect that the first four could conceivably be dealt with in thenear future. In turn, they proposed that the representatives of theHungarian minority should issue declarations in support of the constitutionof the Slovak Republic, the Framework Agreement of the Council of Europe onthe Protection of Minorities, and the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, which isbased on individual rights for minorities; declare loyalty to the SlovakRepublic; reject both ethnic separatism and autonomist claims; and supportbilingual education for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia.
Foreign participants were critical of calls for loyalty oaths, but notedthat the Hungarians would be wise to take into account the perceptions ofsome Slovaks that had given rise to such requests.
Little agreement was found at the meeting about interethnic problems.However, the participants did agree that it would be useful to continue astructured dialogue in some form, and they requested PER to continue itssponsorship of the roundtable discussions.
On September 6-8, 1996, PER conducted a third Slovakia roundtable, in LeMont Pelerin, Switzerland. At that meeting, ten members of the Slovakparliament, representing the ruling coalition and the opposition parties(including the three ethnic Hungarian parties), signed a joint declarationaffirming their loyalty to Slovakia, as individuals and as representativesof their respective political parties; recommending that the government andparliament of Slovakia begin without delay to draft a bill on the use ofminority languages for official business; recommending that a dialogue becontinued concerning the protection of rights of members of ethnicminorities in the Slovak Republic; supporting Slovakia's efforts to joininternational organizations; agreeing to continue, in good faith, theendeavor to establish amicable relations among the people of Slovakia;calling on all political entities in the National Council of the SlovakRepublic to support these recommendations.
The full text of the joint declaration, in Slovak and English, is availablefrom the Project on Ethnic Relations.
PER's president, Allen Kassof, welcomed the participants and introducedthem. The international participants, he explained, came prepared to listenand to help clarify problems, but not to judge or to offer solutions. Headded that international representatives were also present at the firstroundtable on Slovakia, held last year, in Washington, D.C., and that theirpresence at this roundtable was a reflection of their goodwill towardSlovakia. He pointed out that, although interethnic relations in Slovakiawere to be the subject of discussion during the next two days, that countrywas not at all an exceptional case. Indeed, it is very hard to find anycountry that could serve as a universal model for the resolution ofinterethnic issues. He urged all participants to set aside everydaypolitical differences during these two days, in order to achieveconstructive results.
All majorities have a special responsibility for their minorities, Kassofcontinued. This responsibility stems not only from international norms butalso from the fact that minorities are integral parts of a rich and diverseEuropean culture, which deserves protection. The fear on the part ofminorities that they may lose their cultural identity is a real fear, evenif the expression of this fear is not always adequate or moderate. Hence,majorities must listen carefully to what minorities are saying. On the otherhand, minorities have a specific responsibility as well, although it is of adifferent kind. They must realize that majorities may have fears of theirown, however exaggerated those fears may appear to be. Such a mutualacknowledgment is of particular importance in a new state, which is still inthe process of securing its own identity and territorial integrity.
Finally, PER's president cautioned that both minorities and majoritiesshould be very careful about the vocabulary they use. They need to take intoaccount the interests of their common country. No progress could be madewithout some basic consensus about the kinds of problems that Slovakia facestoday. He appealed to the participants to use this opportunity not merely toassert their claims and counterclaims but also to work toward solutions thatwould benefit the whole of Slovakia.
INTERNATIONAL AND REGIONAL CONTEXTS
To begin the discussion, a participant from the governing coalitionexpressed his hopes for a rational discussion, one without emotion, in whichthe only "force" that was used was the force of argument. He went on to saythat evidence would be provided in support of the governing coalition'sclaim that the status of national minorities in Slovakia exceedsinternational norms and that Slovakia is among the five most developedEuropean countries in terms of the implementation of minority rights.
Another participant from the governing coalition observed that a number ofprocesses are occurring in Slovakia simultaneously: the creation of thebasic institutions of the state; the political transformation from atotalitarian to a pluralistic system; an economic transformation; a changeof mentality among the people; and a search for Slovakia's identity. Theseprocesses, he noted, do not involve only positive aspects, and given theircomplexity, Slovakia has not had enough time to cope with them. On the otherhand, foreign countries also need more time to understand what is going onhere. He added that the establishment of a state is a task requiring severalgenerations, and in that perspective, the Slovak Republic is still veryyoung.
Despite all these complexities, this participant continued, Slovakia issuccessfully building good relations with its neighbors. Slovakia hasachieved a standard of human rights that is comparable to Europe's. Heacknowledged, however, that Slovakia could pursue a more active effort tobetter explain its situation; such an initiative should not be left toothers. But Slovakia expects full respect for its positions from othercountries, even in cases where disagreement arises.
Another participant from the governing coalition tried to explain Slovakia'sactions regarding two issues: the alleged attempt to expel the deputies ofone political party from the National Council, or parliament, and the Law onthe State Language. He argued that the first of these problems arose fromthe opposition politicians' misinterpretation of the situation; nobody inthe parliament ever spoke about the expulsion of the deputies. The problemof the language law, meanwhile, has been resolved by the ratification ofthis law by a constitutional majority. He expressed regret that Westernauthorities had failed to listen to both sides of the case.
A participant from the opposition took issue with this version of the firstissue. He maintained that, in an effort to have the deputies of one partydisqualified, the governing coalition had used its parliamentary majority toestablish a special investigative commission. He pointed out that somegovernment representatives have admitted that this was an attempt to deprivesome opposition deputies of their mandates, which would then be transferredto other political parties. Moreover, the special commission was declaredunconstitutional by the Constitutional Court, and the police haveestablished, beyond any doubt, that this political party had fulfilled allthe legal conditions required for entering parliament--in particular, thatit had obtained the number of signatures required for registration. Heclaimed that the minister of the interior was in violation of the law,because he did not submit the police report to the deputies. In addition, helisted several other matters of concern: the continued absence ofproportional representation in the parliament; the lack of objective controlof the privatization process; and the governing coalition's monopoly of theparliamentary organ that controls the secret service. This last fact meansthat the prime minister is able to misuse the secret service. And there areother disputes as well: the rivalry between the president and the primeminister; control over Slovak television; and repeated delays in submittinga bill on the use of minority languages. On the other hand, he noted, thecriminal code has been amended.
A participant from the governing coalition spoke about the diplomatic notesfrom the European Union (EU) and the European Parliament criticizing certainundemocratic practices in Slovakia. She pointed out that the politicalculture is being created not only by politicians from the governingcoalition but also by opposition politicians. In any case, she asserted, thecontroversial issues were resolved at a session of a joint committee of theEuropean Parliament and the National Council. She suggested that many issuesare being politicized even though they have nothing to do with politics butare, rather, part of a struggle for power. In this respect, she rejectedallegations made in the note from the EU that certain actions have beenundertaken against the president of the republic that do not correspond withthe constitution. She argued that the Slovak Republic has not undertaken anyunconstitutional steps against the president. The "picture of Slovakia"abroad is created by opposition politicians as well.
A participant from the opposition pointed out that the discussion hadstarted out in a fashion typical of Slovakia--with claims and counterclaims.According to this participant, the diplomatic notes were not well understoodin Slovakia. The government did not respond officially, despite its promiseto do so. He said that he understood these notes to be an expression offears about the future prospects for the democratic development of Slovakia.Slovakia will keep its position in the movement toward European and Atlanticintegration when the country respects those values which are now onlyverbally asserted. He also said that it is impossible to limit politicalpower in Slovakia and to democratically regulate the secret service,privatization, and relations between the state and the media. Promises bythe government to improve in these areas have not yet been fulfilled.Nothing in the style of governing and the implementation of democracy inSlovakia has changed since November 1995. There is still a conflict betweenthe governing coalition and the president, and the kidnapping of his son hasnot been properly investigated. In order to have a full accounting of theseissues, the cooperation of the governing coalition is essential. Finally, hemaintained, it is necessary that the governing coalition take steps toensure that democracy is understood not as the tyranny of the majority butas a polity in which the rights of all citizens, including minorities, arerespected.
A West European participant mentioned one example of a negative foreignattitude toward Slovakia: A foreign guest had claimed, in a speech to thecongress of a Slovak political party, that the present Slovak prime ministeris the biggest obstacle to full membership for Slovakia in the EU. Heasserted that this claim is untrue and does not represent the opinion of theEuropean Parliament.
He also tried to provide answers to the question, "What needs to be done tomaintain Slovakia's movement toward European and Atlantic integration?"Slovakia is sufficiently developed in terms of its economy, he noted.However, the first condition for EU enlargement, as set down in theCopenhagen Declaration of the Council of Europe, is a functioning democraticsystem, and that is where questions remain. Great attention will be paid tothis issue in the near future. The EU will have much more time to deal withit after the end of its own intergovernmental conference. Finally, hestressed that it is necessary for Slovakia to continue to pursue apro-European policy.
A participant from the governing coalition emphasized the importance of thegeopolitical position of Slovakia. She argued that not only is it in theinterest of Slovakia to enter Western structures but it is also in theinterest of these structures that Slovakia become a member. She added thatfull membership of Slovakia in these structures will have to be confirmed bya referendum. She cautioned that the EU and NATO should proceed verycarefully, for Slovakia has the right to decide its own fate. She claimedthat Slovakia is being evaluated according to a set of criteria differentfrom those applied to other European countries. Regarding the diplomaticnotes, she declared that they were poorly received by the majority of theinhabitants of Slovakia, because Hungary, where the Slovak nationality hasbeen destroyed, nevertheless seems to be regarded as a model of democraticaccommodation to minorities. Yet Slovakia--which, she claimed, is one of themost democratic countries regarding the treatment of minorities--isconstantly being criticized. Slovakia, she reiterated, should be judged bythe same criteria as other states are.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that the delegates of hiscoalition came to discuss their concerns rationally. It is necessary, hesaid, to change the style of governmental politics, to amend shortcomings,and to behave as trustworthy partners. He expressed certain doubts regardingthe statements of the representatives of the governing coalition and theMinistry of Foreign Affairs. He did not think the "mistakes" that the Slovakgovernment is being criticized for are accidental ones. Rather, they areproducts of the system, and he feared that Slovakia is now further away fromEU norms than it was a year and a half ago. He urged the member states ofNATO and the EU to resist the current trend of Slovak diplomacy. As far asSlovakia's future direction is concerned, he said, the Hungarian coalitionsees no alternative to European and Atlantic integration; this is in theinterest of the entire democratic world, of every state in this region, andof the Slovak Republic, as well as of Hungarians living in Slovakia. Hedeclared that both the EU and NATO would be making a great mistake if theywere to defer full membership of any state in the region on the grounds ofpoor performance in foreign or minority policies. The Hungarian coalitionregards such deferment to be a risky policy option.
A participant from the opposition declared that there is no such thing as aglobal anti-Slovak plot, nor is there any such plot against other countries.In terms of its size and population, Slovakia is neither smaller nor morevulnerable to its neighbors than many West European states. He also said hewas confident that Western politicians remained committed to making Slovakiaa full member of the EU and NATO. The diplomatic notes were, in his view, alegitimate expression of concern by Western democracies. The EU has theright to insist that any state seeking to enter the "family" of these statesmust be prepared to accept its rules and norms. If the coalition claims thatthe notes were the result of opposition propaganda, then it is thecoalition's job to make that case to EU representatives. His understandingof the notes is that they were a natural confrontation between the politicalculture and practice of a functioning democracy, on the one hand, and anewly established democracy, on the other, and thus were part of the processof change that Slovakia is undergoing.
Another participant from the opposition agreed with the opinion expressedearlier that the current conflicts were the outgrowth of a struggle forpower. The present governing coalition knows very well that it is possibleto retain and increase its power only as long as it pursues its presentpolicies, regardless of the internal and foreign opposition they mayprovoke. Such steps are well accepted by a part of the Slovak electorate butare viewed negatively by the EU. For this reason, Slovakia is not in thesame position as other countries are in terms of its eligibility for earlyand full EU membership. Postponement of membership is justified by suchpolicies as the amendment to the criminal code, the law on foundations,bills supporting the Matica Slovenska, efforts to undermine universityautonomy, and the steps taken against the Hungarian minority. Ultimately, hebelieved, the governing coalition will no longer be able to ignore theconnection between the strengthening of its internal power and the loss ofrespect for Slovakia abroad. It is this connection, he added, that is thegreatest problem of Slovakia's current governing coalition. Some citizens ofSlovakia, he concluded, question whether the governing coalition has anyreal interest in entering Western structures.
A participant from the governing coalition said that the note from theEuropean Parliament was a typical example of the lack of fair play. It wassent without prior consultation with the other side and just before thearrival of members of the joint committee of the European Parliament and theNational Council. The real purpose of these notes, he asserted, was to servethe interests of foreign investors seeking to participate in Slovakia'sprivatization process--which is an internal matter of the Slovak Republic.He added, however, that foreign investors are welcome in Slovakia if theyseek to build new enterprises that will strengthen market competition.Finally, he mentioned that almost all the Slovak deputies in the Slovakparliament voted for the ratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, whilenot a single Hungarian-speaking deputy voted either for the treaty or forthe Council of Europe's Framework Agreement on the Protection of NationalMinorities.
Another participant, not from the governing coalition, said that theopposition agrees with the declared aims of the governing coalitionregarding Slovakia's policy toward Western multilateral institutions.Nevertheless, he maintained, Slovakia is different from Poland, the CzechRepublic, and Hungary. In these countries, the governing parties, as well asmost of the parties represented in their parliaments, support the goal offull EU and NATO membership for their countries. They differ only about thetimetable. In Slovakia, however, one of the parties in the governingcoalition openly opposes Slovakia's entry into those structures. Hearingsuch statements from the coalition politicians, Western leaders are right toask what the real position of Slovakia is.
Members of the governing coalition, he continued, often say that thecoalition is not undertaking any unconstitutional steps, that theconstitutional framework has not been broken, and that constitutional rulesremain in effect. Nevertheless, the West has criticized the coalition's"majoritarian" understanding of democracy, which is at variance withinternationally accepted democratic norms and practices. In order toovercome this discrepancy, certain measures are necessary--for example,allowing opposition deputies to participate in the parliamentary body thatsupervises the activity of the secret service. It is also necessary, heconcluded, to consider the consequences and suitability of Westernapproaches to Slovakia in order that Western diplomacy not becounterproductive with respect to the basic goal of helping to reestablishdemocracy in Central and Eastern Europe.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition expressed the desire of his groupthat the Slovak-Hungarian treaty be ratified in the same form as it wassigned--i.e., without any amendments. However, this proposal did not gainthe necessary support of the parliament, and, given that fact, the Hungariancoalition deputies abstained from voting.
A participant from the governing coalition agreed with the notion thatdemocracy is a historical process that, in its current phase, is focused onthe implementation and observance of human-rights practices and norms.Western Europe has evolved new norms, which are different from those whichwere the standard during earlier periods of development. During the lastfifty years, however, Slovakia has gone through an entirely differentprocess of development; rather than evolving over time, Western norms arebeing implemented all at once. As far as minority rights are concerned,Slovakia fulfills these norms; indeed, it provides its minorities withprotections that are well above the European standard. He also asserted thatWestern authorities judge Slovakia without being informed about Slovakreality. He illustrated this assertion by citing the case of the GabcikovoDam: Slovakia was criticized because it had fulfilled the agreement, whileits partner, which actually broke the agreement, received internationalapproval. And as in the case of the notes, he said, Slovakia often has nothad a chance to explain itself on controversial issues.
A West European participant mentioned that, although Slovakia became a fullmember of the Council of Europe some time ago, the achievement of thisstatus is not necessarily permanent. The council has established a system ofmonitoring to observe the maintenance of its standards, and Slovakia'sperformance is being evaluated by the same criteria as that of any othermember of the council. The main goal of this monitoring is to remind memberstates of the principles upon which full membership in the Council of Europedepends. There are separate procedures for monitoring political issues, theimplementation of the European Human Rights Convention, and so on. Hestressed that human rights and democracy are not simply internal matters ofmember states. On the other hand, this monitoring is aimed not only atidentifying shortcomings but also at providing constructive assistance.Criticism from the West is like criticism given and received "within thefamily," rather than an arrogant assertion that "we know better what to do."He acknowledged that defensiveness is a natural response to criticism, butfor positive results to be achieved, it is necessary to explain andpersuade, patiently and rationally. In this respect, he noted that Westerninstitutions have their own channels through which they can regularlycommunicate with member governments.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that in many areas,including supervision of the secret service, privatization, the publicmedia, and minority issues, Slovakia's policies are damaging the country'sreputation abroad. He also pointed out several other problems with thegoverning coalition's foreign-policy activities: the speculation on the partof coalition members about the option of neutrality, their questioning ofthe usefulness of full NATO membership, and their frequent admonishments ofWestern politicians for "forgetting about Slovakia." He added that newdevelopments in Slovak-Russian relations--such as the strengthening ofenergy dependence on Russia, the 1993 agreement on military cooperation, andthe close working relationship between the Slovak and Russian secretservices--are also matters of concern. He insisted that Slovakia is in factmoving toward the East, despite the declarations of its representatives tothe contrary, whereas it is necessary to strengthen contacts with WestEuropean countries instead.
A West European participant stressed that formal declarations of full EUmembership are not sufficient to ensure that all the principles of the EUare being upheld. While the control mechanisms of the EU may sometimes beregarded as interference in a state's internal affairs, any country thatseeks full membership in the EU must accept the obligations that fullmembership entails. If Slovakia should eventually decline EU membership, theWest must be prepared to accept the consequences. But it is also necessaryto realize that membership in the EU involves certain limitations on statesovereignty.
A Slovak participant said that the citizens of Slovakia are wary of allforms of international "unions" because of the experience of previousdecades. Although the necessity of Slovakia's full membership in Westerninstitutions is often declared, it is seldom explained. The most importantthing that the politicians can do for the people in this respect is toprovide them with concrete information about the advantages anddisadvantages that membership in Western structures will have for Slovakia.Without being reasonably informed, citizens will be confused, and the issueswill not be resolved by calling a vote.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition stressed that he could notimagine a Europe where minorities did not have a right of veto on mattersconcerning their interests and identity. Regarding Slovakia's membership inWestern structures, Slovak society should consider first whether Hungariansare to be included as full citizens of Slovakia. He agreed that Slovakia isa new state, which is in the process of establishing a parliamentary systemand adapting to the norms of the EU, but he raised the question of whethermajoritarian behavior toward minorities could be regarded as the norm of theEU. He also expressed concern over the failure of the Slovak constitution toaccord a right of veto to Slovakia's minorities.
A participant from the governing coalition asserted that only a few Europeancountries allow a minority veto, and there are several EU states in whichthe existence of minorities is not acknowledged at all. Regarding hiscoalition's policy toward Russia, he rejected the accusation of "energydependence." He argued that the agreement with Russia on financing nuclearenergy was signed only after the European Bank for Reconstruction andDevelopment had denied Slovakia's application for credits. More generally,he pointed out that while we do not always understand the problems ofWestern countries, nobody ever challenges their democratic character.Regarding opposition to Slovakia's entry into Western institutions on thepart of some members of the governing coalition, he stressed that it is bothright and natural to ask what costs and benefits for Slovakia suchmembership entails. Another question is what alternatives Slovakia will havein the event that the country is not accepted by NATO. He stressed that itwould be very bad if Slovakia has no alternatives.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that, from the opposition'sperspective, there was not a struggle for power in Slovakia but a strugglefor democracy. The question is not "Who has the power?" but "How is powerbeing implemented?" Meetings of people from different parts of the politicalspectrum are very rare. The main problem is that there are very differentunderstandings of democracy and a lack of dialogue between the governingcoalition and the opposition. As far as Slovakia's foreign policy isconcerned, the main disputes are among members of the governing coalition;the opposition has a united foreign-policy platform.
Another participant from the opposition asserted that the governingcoalition seeks to divide people into "pro-Slovak" and "anti-Slovak"categories. The majority should realize that it came to power democraticallyand that democratic rule requires a tolerant attitude, both toward those whowon only a minority of votes in the elections and toward those who are ofdifferent ethnic origins. The kind of dialogue that could help to overcomethese barriers is absent in Slovakia. His political party, he said, isprepared for dialogue, but such dialogue must be initiated by the strongerpartner--i.e., by the present governing coalition.
Another participant from the opposition pointed out that there is anestablished set of conditions for entering the EU, which includes acompatible level of economic development and a compatible legal system.Achieving these two criteria is not very difficult compared to meeting theremaining three conditions, which concern democracy, human rights, andminority rights. There are three positions regarding Slovakia's relationswith the EU: neutrality; opposition (stressing the negative consequences ofmembership); and positive acceptance of membership. According to its owndeclarations, the governing coalition has adopted the positive attitude, andit should therefore consistently emphasize the positive aspects of EUmembership for Slovakia.
A participant from the governing coalition maintained that Slovakia doeshave a genuine interest in entering both the EU and NATO. He also claimedthat the opposition's allegations of an alliance between Slovakia and Russiawere unfounded, adding that such allegations were examples of efforts beingmade to tarnish Slovakia's image in the West. He emphasized that therepresentatives of the EU have been informed by his coalition about the realstate of Hungarian minority rights in the Slovak Republic and that thisissue should therefore not be a barrier to Slovakia's membership in the EU.He supported the statement made by others that the standard of minorityrights in Slovakia is very high.
A Slovak participant declared that Slovakia's domestic policy issues shouldbe resolved domestically and that Western institutions should be careful notto present themselves as if they were members of an exclusive and superiorclub. On the contrary, European agencies should be very sensitive in theirapproach to countries that lack the benefits of a long period of democraticdevelopment. Before offering solutions to these countries' problems,European authorities should become better informed. One reason that Europeaninstitutions are perceived as repressive by many Slovaks is that they lackaccurate information about those institutions. What is needed is a moreactive and open discussion of both the positive and the negative aspects ofintegration. In order to overcome negative opinions, he said, it isimportant to make a clear distinction between a partial and voluntarylimitation of sovereignty, as is required by EU integration, and theforceful and complete suppression of sovereignty, such as occurred inCzechoslovakia in 1968.
A participant with a particular interest in the history of Slovak-Hungarianrelations expressed his view of the ratification of the Slovak-Hungariantreaty. He explained that there were two viewpoints regarding the treaty,one multilateral and the other bilateral. The young Slovak Republic has aninherent interest in normalizing Slovak-Hungarian relations, since the twostates have a common border, reciprocal minorities, and common problems. Hecautioned against expecting both too much and too little of theSlovak-Hungarian treaty. Relations between the two countries are complex andwill take some time to work out. In this process, he said, creating anatmosphere of confidence is of utmost importance. The treaty's successrequires the political commitment of both sides, as well as mutualtolerance. He suggested, however, that the Hungarian government had its owninterpretation of the treaty's provisions for minority rights. The Hungariangovernment's effort to promote its interpretation threatens to create newproblems because of its practice of intervening in the internal affairs ofneighboring states. As an example, he mentioned the recent Slovak Law on theState Language, which the Hungarian side had sought to block by any meanspossible.
A participant from the opposition suggested that the key to understandingthe differences between the governing coalition and the opposition lies intheir competing conceptions of Slovakia. The coalition begins from theassumptions that the Slovak Republic is in the process of transition andthat the special circumstances of transition require laws that are notcommon in democratic Europe--for example, the recent amendment to thecriminal code. The opposition presumes that Slovakia is already a democraticcountry with democratic experience gained during the first CzechoslovakRepublic and during the struggle for democracy under Communism. Accordingly,the laws being passed now are not temporary but will determine the characterof the country for decades to come. That is why the opposition demands thatall current laws be fully democratic in character.
Another participant mentioned a specific article of the Slovak-Hungariantreaty concerning equality for minorities. In his view, the Hungarianminority in Slovakia should insist upon having the same rights as the Slovakminority in Hungary--in other words, reciprocity. He cited as exemplary thereciprocal agreement between the Federal Republic of Germany and Denmark.However, he continued, Hungary's leaders have a different attitude, as wasshown by the Hungarian president's rejection of the reciprocity principle asfar back as 1990. He maintained that it is well known that minority rightsin Slovakia and Hungary are not equal at all, a fact confirmed by manyofficial visitors from abroad. According to this participant, this is whythe representatives of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia are stronglyagainst the reciprocity principle; they fear it will further weaken theirrights in Slovakia.
Another participant mentioned the statement by the prime minister ofSlovakia that the nations of the former "Visegrad four" group were notcoordinating their actions concerning prospective EU membership. It seemedto him that Slovakia was seeking to exploit the myth that Slovakia is theunwanted child and is being unjustly criticized. This myth, he said, isaccepted by a part of Slovak public opinion. He added, however, that eventhe opposition exaggerates the importance of the geopolitical position ofSlovakia in Europe. In his view, the most visible difference betweenSlovakia and the other members of the Visegrad group is illustrated by thefact that, after the split of Czechoslovakia, the big issue in the CzechRepublic has been about "the Czechs in Europe," while in Slovakia it hasbeen about "the Slovaks in Slovakia."
A participant from the United States said that the U.S. government iscommitted to the process of integrating new democracies into Westerninstitutions. This integration is political, social, and economic in nature,rather than military or strategic. The U.S. government does not see anydirect military threat to Europe. The enlargement of NATO is beingundertaken in order to provide a security framework for an integrated Europeand is not intended as a threat to any country. The role played by NATOafter World War II in integrating the former fascist countries into a commonsecurity system can also be played now for the postsocialist newdemocracies. He noted that there is general agreement that Slovakia belongsto Europe--indeed, that it has been in the center of Europe for centuries.
During a visit to Slovakia last year, this participant continued, the U.S.secretary of defense pointed to several basic conditions that had to be metprior to membership in NATO: democracy, transformation to a market economy,good relations with neighboring countries, and a defense policy compatiblewith the policy of NATO. The participant went on to say that the main roleof NATO is no longer military but rather the defense and enforcement of thecommon values of its members. It is now clear to everyone that a return toCommunism is impossible. However, the emergence of a certain type of CentralEuropean "peronism," based on nationalism, remains a real possibility. Eachcountry in this region faces similar problems, although to differentdegrees. He insisted that the United States is "pro-Slovak," in the sensethat it supports the integration efforts of Slovakia and the establishmentof good relations with its neighboring countries. On the issue ofSlovak-Russian relations, he expressed the belief that Russia viewsinternational relations through pre-1989 or even nineteenth-century lenses,which focus on maintaining a balance between "them" and "us." Accordingly,many Russians think that any enlargement of NATO inevitably poses a threatto Russia. He rejects this logic. In his view, the enlargement of Westerninstitutions is in Russia's own interest, because Russia is now a potentialpartner in European and Atlantic integrations. In any case, the UnitedStates does not want Russia or any country of the region to be isolated.
Another participant from the United States said that the integration ofCentral and Eastern Europe into Western structures ought not be considered arace in which there will be winners and losers. Eventually, all countrieswill be winners in this "race," though some will be winners sooner thanothers. He regards the establishment of the Partnership for Peace program tobe a very important step on the way to full integration. Associatemembership in the EU plays the same role. He said that each country has theright to determine its own contribution to the creation of a new Europe. Nosmall countries will be excluded by larger ones.
A West European participant added that Slovakia is not isolated and is amember of a number of international organizations.
PER's president opened this part of the discussion by acknowledging thatethnic relations are the source of a number of conflicts and controversies,but he expressed the hope that participants would not dwell on complaintsand accusations. He said that he was aware that the different parties willnot give up their principles, yet he believed that it was nonethelesspossible to achieve a certain amount of progress. He pointed out that, onthe one hand, there is a real fear of the possibility of the disintegrationof Slovakia and there are legitimate objections to the policies of Budapest.On the other hand, there is an equally legitimate fear of the erosion ofminority rights, the decline of minority culture, and the creation of agroup of second-class citizens.
He went on to say that, in his view, the statements of politicians are oftenexaggerated, and so the threats to Slovakia are not as great as they aresometimes presented by politicians. International organizations cannotresolve these problems unless a consensus is reached in Slovakia. Heappealed to both sides to express their demands and claims openly and topropose possible solutions. They should also consider and discuss what theyare willing to give up and what compromises they would make in order toachieve gains for everybody. He also pointed out that all the inhabitants ofSlovakia are in the same boat and should think of themselves in that way.Finally, he appealed to the representatives of the Hungarian minority to bemore candid in expressing their views of the problems they face and thefears they have.
PER's executive director added that, in view of the war in Bosnia, theethnic issue cannot be regarded as only a human-rights issue. It is also asecurity issue, which can destabilize a country and even an entire region.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition brought up the negativeconsequences of some recently passed Slovak laws, particularly the Law onthe State Language and the Law on Regional Division and Administration. Thefirst of these replaced a law that had allowed the use of minority languagesin administrative proceedings in places where the minority constituted morethan 20 percent of the population. This law had been consistent with theSlovak constitution. Under the new law, the use of minority languages inadministrative proceedings is no longer allowed.
Another participant maintained that it is necessary to create thefoundations of a civil society simultaneously with the establishment of thefoundations of a new state. The first task is to integrate society, and thestate language is one important integrative element. The language situationmust be brought to the level of the developed countries of the world.Members of the Hungarian minority may view this as a form of discrimination,but after a generation, they will be able to appreciate the results of theseregulations. The state language is valid over the entire territory of thestate, which is why minority languages cannot be used in administrativeproceedings. However, the language law is a matter of political prestige forsome representatives of the Hungarian intelligentsia, and so they continueto dispute it.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition mentioned several examples of theeffects of the Law on the State Language. Hungarian-language descriptionsare being removed from the previously bilingual signs in a museum in thesouthern part of Slovakia; and, according to the regulations issued by theMinistry of Culture, the use of minority languages in civil weddingceremonies is no longer to be permitted. Minority languages can be used onlyin cultural activities that accompany the wedding.
Another participant from the Hungarian coalition focused on what he viewedas the psychological dimension of the problem. He argued that the coalitionis demanding the resolution of real problems encountered by Slovak citizenswho are of Hungarian background. There are six hundred thousand citizens inthe Slovak Republic who declare themselves to be of Hungarian nationalorigin. The majority of Slovaks see this as a threat. In fact, he said, itis not a threat at all, as these people are also citizens of Slovakia whoare seeking only guarantees for their cultural development. He stressed thatthey want these guarantees in the form of a constitutional law that wouldprotect their identity and their social and cultural development. Hungariansare afraid that the present governing coalition is bent on coerciveassimilation, and they regard the present situation as worse than that whichprevailed under Communism. The Slovak majority wants a homogeneous state,and the government interprets this to mean that the assimilation of theHungarian minority is a necessity.
A participant from the governing coalition sought to describe thecomposition of the territory of Slovakia where most Hungarians live. Shepointed out that, besides the half-million citizens who claim Hungariannationality and those Roma (Gypsies) who declare themselves to beHungarians, almost one million ethnic Slovaks live in that area. There arepurely Hungarian villages, purely Slovak villages, and a number ofethnically mixed villages. She said that her main concern is the problems ofthe Slovak minority in this territory. She expressed a strong belief thatthey should be represented through self-governing bodies and that thereought to be Slovak schools, a Slovak press, and Slovak-language broadcastson local radio stations. She added that, ever since the government had takenan interest in the situation of Slovaks who live in the southern part ofSlovakia, many protests had arisen, coming almost exclusively from politicalparties of the Hungarian minority rather than from Hungarian civicassociations. She also argued that the Law on the State Language does notdeal with the use of minority languages in administrative proceedings. Shenoted that Slovakia will soon ratify the European Charter on Regional andMinority Languages, claiming that all the necessary conditions are currentlybeing met by Slovakia. She rejected as untrue the assertion that there is alegal vacuum in Slovakia regarding the use of minority languages. She saidthere are thirteen laws and thirty-five ministerial decrees that make theuse of minority languages possible. The Law on the State Language prohibitsonly the exclusive use of the Hungarian language in the south of Slovakia,as had been the case prior to the passage of the law.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition contended that the main problemis that the "20-percent clause" of the previous language law has beeneliminated and that there is now no legal norm regulating the use ofminority languages in administrative proceedings. Those norms and decreesthat have been passed deal only marginally with this issue, by regulatingspecific uses of minority languages--for example, in the courts. He pointedout that there are four hundred villages in Slovakia that have Hungarianmajorities. Some of these villages have no school, some have only Slovakschools, and some have only Hungarian schools. It is very hard to estimatethe number of pupils attending schools in which the language of instructionis other than their mother tongue.
A participant from the governing coalition insisted that some city andvillage councils deliberately violate the requirement of the Law on theState Language that they conduct their sessions in the state language. Insome villages where 30 percent or more of the citizens are of Hungariannationality, the majority of the council deputies are of Hungariannationality. As for the effects of the law on weddings, he asserted thatonly the documents, not the actual ceremonies, must be in the Slovaklanguage, a procedure that, he claimed, is advantageous for those Hungariancouples who later move out of southern Slovakia.
One participant from the Hungarian minority said that, in his view, thefears of the Hungarian coalition concerning the language law are irrational.The minister of the interior and a number of representatives of thegoverning coalition have stated that the law does not deal with minoritylanguages at all. Where controversial regulations have appeared, they havenot been central directives but have been the work of subordinate or localofficials. The problem is that the officials of central bodies have failedto ensure the proper implementation of the law, and so subordinates in theregions are acting on their own. They probably are unaware of the existenceof the thirteen relevant norms and concentrate only on the Law on the StateLanguage.
A participant from the governing coalition explained that a law on minoritylanguages is currently being drafted. He pointed out that the Hungariancoalition had drawn up its own bill on minority languages, which includes a"10-percent clause" for the use of minority languages in administrativeproceedings. He also pointed out that a "25-percent clause" is in effect inAustria. The law under preparation by the governing coalition plans toreintroduce the "20-percent clause." However, he is convinced that even nowit is possible to conduct local administration in Hungarian in virtuallyevery ethnically mixed village, regardless of the size of the Hungarianminority. In any case, the absence of an appropriate law is only temporary,and meanwhile, constitutional guarantees of the use of minority languagesremain in effect. The law will be enacted shortly. He challenged the earlierclaim regarding the use of Hungarian in museums and stated that Hungariansigns have been removed only from the general expositions. Those expositionsthat are related to Hungarian minority culture will continue to haveHungarian signs.
A participant from an organization of the Slovak intelligentsia argued thatevery citizen of Slovakia ought to be able to speak and to write in thestate language. He contended that the present situation is the result ofseventy-five years of linguistically segregated education in Czechoslovakia.The Hungarian-language "ghetto" in the southern part of Slovakia must beabolished. On the other hand, he said, the Slovaks in Hungary have beenassimilated to such a degree that only a few among them can still speak andwrite the Slovak language.
A participant from the opposition stated that there have been twosignificant developments since PER held its last Slovak roundtable, in June1995. First, the Slovak-Hungarian treaty that guarantees the full range ofindividual rights for the Hungarian minority has been ratified. Second, andinconsistently, the Law on the State Language has been passed, therebycreating a legal vacuum concerning the use of minority languages inadministrative proceedings. The government promised that a law on minoritylanguages would be passed soon, but there are two camps within the governingcoalition. One does support passage of such a law, while the other arguesthat the accession of Slovakia to the European Charter on Regional andMinority Languages is sufficient. He asserted that the current legal vacuumcreates room for differing interpretations. Officials at the ministriescontinue to make decisions that are at variance with the interstate treaty.
A participant from the governing coalition said that certain basic conceptsshould have been explained at the start of the discussion. The "protectionof national minorities" is defined in the relevant international documentsas the protection of each person in all aspects of his or her identity, andit calls for guarantees against discrimination. However, this phrase doesnot mean the promotion of ethnic separatism or self-exclusion or thecreation of ethnic ghettos. The Framework Agreement of the Council of Europeon the Protection of National Minorities also provides for the integrationof minorities into the larger society. The problem of how to achieve aviable balance probably will not be resolved as long as political partiesbased on the ethnic principle are dominant.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition maintained that these problemsarise from the fact that minorities are now being deprived of establishedrights. City and village councils, she stated, did not intend to exclude theSlovak language from all administrative proceedings. They simply acted inaccordance with the constitutional norm that permits the use of minoritylanguages in such proceedings. They also wanted to place the use of theHungarian language on an equal footing with the use of the Slovak language.She also said that, in her view, the so-called "10-percent clause" in theHungarian coalition's bill on minority languages was not designed withHungarians in mind, because there were only about twenty villages withbetween 10 and 20 percent of Hungarians. Rather, she claimed, the clause wasdesigned mainly for Ruthenians. What is being overlooked, she said, is thatthe present government is acting in accordance with another constitutionalnorm, the one that defines the Slovak Republic as a national state. Thepreamble of the Law on the State Language declares that the Slovak languageis a manifestation of the sovereignty of the state. In her opinion, thismeans that any person who does not speak Slovak in effect violates thesovereignty of the state.
Another participant said that recent public-opinion polls had found thatmost Slovaks are convinced that the Hungarian minority already possessesguaranteed rights and protections for their cultural development, while mostHungarians are convinced of the opposite. Different perceptions of theminority policy of the government also exist. The present government isoften criticized for its privatization policy, but three-quarters of Slovaksviewed the minority policy of the government in late 1995 either in apositive light or ambivalently. However, three-quarters of ethnic Hungariansviewed it negatively. According to another opinion poll, taken in February1996, almost one-half of Hungarians living in Slovakia regarded ethnicterritorial autonomy approvingly, whereas 82 percent of Slovaks were againstit. This finding is probably related to another: that one-third of Slovaksbelieve that the hidden goal of Hungarians is to change the borders of thestate. Another one-third does not believe that, while the remainingone-third has no opinion on the issue. Actually, 92 percent of Hungarians inSlovakia are against separation. However, the opinions of the two groups arecloser regarding the Slovak-Hungarian treaty.
The following conclusions can be drawn, said this participant: First, theminority policy of the present government is being perceived positively by amajority of the population. Therefore, the government has a specificresponsibility in its approach to this problem. On the other hand, theHungarian side should define more precisely its position on the issue ofterritorial autonomy, since this is the issue of greatest anxiety for themajority of Slovaks. Finally, the similarity of attitudes toward theSlovak-Hungarian treaty shows that there is a possibility for consensus.
A participant from the governing coalition asserted that, according to boththe constitution of the Slovak Republic and international charters, a statehas two kinds of responsibility toward its minorities: first, to protectminorities, guarantee their rights, and create optimal conditions for thepreservation and development of their ethnic, cultural, and religiousidentity; and second, to create conditions for the integration of minoritiesinto the society of the state in which they live. The first of theseresponsibilities is being fulfilled by the Slovak state. Where problems haveappeared, the state has worked to solve them. The Slovak state hasencountered difficulties mainly with representatives of the Hungarianminority who see a threat of assimilation in the state's effort to integratethe Hungarian minority into Slovak society. These Hungarians are pursuing anethnocentric policy, one that would inevitably lead to ethnic isolation andthe creation of a ghetto, which should not be the aim of minority policy ina democratic state. The question is whether there is a real threat of theassimilation of Hungarians in Slovakia. Population statistics suggest thatthere is not. Since 1961, the number of Hungarians in Slovakia has steadilygrown. Slovakia is the only country in Europe where this is true. The birthrate of Hungarians is much lower than that of Slovaks, so this trend can beexplained only by the assimilation to Hungarian culture of non-Hungariannationalities in Slovakia.
Another participant declared that some Hungarian minority representativesadvocate the right to "self-determination," which in fact means the right totheir own state. But this is an unrealistic political aspiration.Furthermore, the often-heard phrase "a peace dictated from Trianon" is anexpression of Hungarian revanchism. The representatives of the Hungarianminority accept neither the dominant status of the Slovak language nor thepossibility of the so-called "alternative education." The "South Tyroleanmodel" is based on this type of education and is often mentioned as a modelto be followed. It is necessary to put political pressure on Budapest and onpolitical leaders of the Hungarian minority to abandon the politicalphilosophy of collective rights based on the ethnic principle. Theassistance of international institutions in shaping the way in whichhistory, political science, and civic education are taught in Hungary isalso necessary.
A participant from the governing coalition observed that the chairman of oneof the political parties of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia recentlypledged to take steps toward the attainment of territorial autonomy forethnic Hungarians if the Slovak government rejected the "Komarno Appeal" of1994, which called for the creation of new regional divisions in southernSlovakia that would reflect the actual ethnic composition of the region.This statement, she said, is strong evidence of freedom of speech inSlovakia. On the other hand, statements of this kind do not contribute tothe preservation of a peaceful atmosphere in southern Slovakia. Instead,they arouse fears among the Slovak population, who still remember thenegative experiences of the past. She also spoke about the alleged legalvacuum created by the passage of the Law on the State Language. Slovakia hasratified a great number of international documents which, according to theSlovak constitution, take priority over Slovak laws. In addition, shementioned the fourteen laws of the Slovak Republic that guarantee minorityrights. One may wonder whether the problem is the protection of minoritiesor a search for more power by politicians from the Hungarian minority. Shealso pointed out that there are twelve other minorities in Slovakia; amongthem, the greatest attention should be paid to the Roma, who have the lowestsocial and cultural status.
A West European participant stressed the decisive role played by politiciansin a democratic society as the citizens' representatives. In this respect,he mentioned the statement by the former Hungarian prime minister that heconsidered himself to be the representative of fifteen million Hungarians.This, he said, is an example of a negative and irresponsible attitude. Headded that the present moment provides a historic opportunity for bothSlovakia and Hungary to build better relations, and it must not be wasted.Nevertheless, unless all political parties make a serious effort to overcometheir distrust, all of them will lose.
THE HUNGARIAN COALITION PROPOSALS
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that the coalition's claimsare few. Of six proposals that have been drawn up, two can be achieved rightnow and two others in a short time, although the last two have a prospectivecharacter. The biggest problem in Slovakia, he went on, is the lack of acoherent vision of the future. All of Slovakia's international, internal,and minority problems are owed to this shortcoming. He said that heconsiders himself to be a European, and as such he supports European andAtlantic integration. He sees Slovakia as a multiethnic and multiculturalsociety, in which Hungarians want to base their coexistence with Slovaks onthe principle of a multiethnic state. Because the governing coalition hasthe power, the Hungarian coalition must rely on principles and dialogue. Heproceeded to present the six proposals of the Hungarian coalition:
The participant stressed the willingness of the Hungarian coalition to enterinto dialogue with representatives of the governing coalition and of Slovaksociety generally. He added that he viewed the present roundtable as anopportunity for representatives of all parties to declare their politicalwill to pass such laws.
A participant from a Hungarian political party that is not a member of theHungarian coalition declared that his political movement was an outgrowth ofthe belief that the policy of the coalition was leading to distrust. He saidthat his party's view is that it is necessary to renew dialogue not onlywith the opposition but also with the governing coalition and especiallywith its leading party. He emphasized that his movement supports Slovakstatehood and demands that the state acknowledge Slovak citizens ofHungarian nationality as equal citizens of the state, entitled to all of therights guaranteed by the constitution and by international documents thathave been ratified by the Slovak Republic. He also noted that his movementdoes not support all aspects of the Law on the State Language, nor does itsupport the new regional districts of the Slovak Republic. According to thisparticipant, the main source of tension is the poor socioeconomic conditionsprevailing in the southern parts of Slovakia, where the unemployment rate ishigh, partly as a result of the decline in agricultural production in recentyears. He stressed the need for greater cooperation with the Slovakgovernment in order to bring about peaceful coexistence between Slovaks andHungarians in their common native land.
Responding to the proposals of the Hungarian coalition, a participant fromthe governing coalition said that financial support of minority cultures isa complex problem and is dependent upon the financial means at the disposalof the state, which have declined significantly in recent years. However, heacknowledged that it is possible to discuss changes in the distributionmechanism. As to the ensemble "Young Hearts," he agreed that it has theright to exist and suggested that it would be useful to take up the disputewith the minister of culture. According to this participant, the governmentis also willing to discuss the issue of the private business academy. Heexpressed his confidence that a law on minority languages would be passedshortly.
Another participant from the governing coalition asserted that the SlovakMinistry of Culture is trying to develop an optimal model of financingminority cultures in coordination with the Council of Europe and withcountries that have similar problems. The "Young Hearts" ensemble lost statesupport, he said, because it violated budgetary rules. The fact that theensemble has survived for more than forty years is proof that it can andwill continue to exist under different rules as well.
Participants from the opposition parties supported the first five proposalsof the Hungarian coalition. They contended that a number of stateinstitutions could have been abolished for violation of budgetary rules andthat the state has no right to determine how private money will be spent.Furthermore, they stated that the Law on the State Language violates theirrights as well. Although the constitution guarantees some rights, it offerslittle protection in practice because implementation laws have not yet beenpassed. Therefore, passage of a law on use of minority languages is anurgent priority. They did not support the sixth proposal, both becauseconstitutional amendments are legally and politically difficult to enact andbecause constitutional provisions concerning minorities are not necessary.What is essential is to strengthen the competencies of local self-governmentin the areas of education and culture over the whole territory of Slovakia.
A West European participant remarked that the language law has manyquestionable aspects. He appreciated that the Slovak Republic would like toaccede to the European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages, but,while the charter may provide a useful framework, it cannot replace adomestic law on minority languages. On the other hand, he said, theratification of the Slovak-Hungarian treaty was a step in the rightdirection. He emphasized that it is in the interest of all political partiesfor all citizens of Slovakia to feel that they have something in common.This goal requires joint discussions and an agreement on how to coexist inSlovakia.
GOVERNING COALITION PROPOSALS
A participant from the governing coalition said that ever since the SlovakRepublic was established, it has been presented as if it were a countrywhere the Hungarian minority has no rights, receives no money, and so on. Tocounter this image, Slovakia initiated a policy of "open diplomacy," inwhich a number of commissioners and fact-finding missions from abroad wereinvited to monitor the situation for themselves. The reports by the highcommissioner of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe andby the mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europeconfirmed that Slovakia was not violating any international norms. Indeed,Slovakia has paid a great deal of attention to the creation of legalprotections for its minorities. It has also participated in severalinternational forums on minority rights, including the Human Dimension ofthe OSCE, the U.N. Committee on Minorities, the Conference on Stability Pactsponsored by the EU, and the Council of Europe's Framework Agreement on theProtection of Minorities. Slovakia signed and ratified the frameworkagreement and has prepared a report on how the agreement is beingimplemented in Slovakia. Concrete facts are published in this document, suchas the numbers of schools and periodicals. This analysis has been submittedto Hungary, and now Slovakia is waiting for the Hungarian government toissue its analysis of the situation of Slovaks in Hungary. He maintainedthat the entire European community is satisfied, except for one minority. Hethen proceeded to introduce six Slovak proposals, analogous to thosepresented by the Hungarian coalition. These proposals called on theHungarian coalition to:
Finally, he commented on the proposals of the Hungarian coalition. Herejected the idea of a constitutional provision on minorities, which, heargued, would serve to single out one category of the citizens in terms ofrights. According to the constitution, all citizens have equal rights, andsuch a provision would only provoke conflicts in ethnically mixed regions.However, he added that he does support the passage of a law on minoritylanguages and considers this demand to be legitimate. Regarding the systemof financial aid to minority cultures, he said that the state is not legallyobliged by any international document to furnish such aid. Nevertheless,Slovakia is currently initiating a new system of financing for specificprojects. The Hungarian declaration of loyalty, he maintained, is only aformal statement, while a desire for ethnic separatism can be inferred fromconcrete actions. For example, if someone demands the election of a bishopon ethnic grounds, that is a form of ethnic separatism. If someone supportsautonomy "in principle," it is evidence of self-exclusion and of separatism.Central Europe is an ethnically mixed region. If anyone seeks to constructsocial or political relations on an ethnic principle, it could easily leadto tragedy. All citizens have equal rights and freedoms, but they haveobligations as well. The situation is abnormal when representatives of theHungarian community prefer to communicate with other states rather than withtheir own state. The Slovak state is willing to listen to them and isconfident that all problems can be resolved. The representatives of theHungarian minority must accept the existence of the Slovak Republic andbehave accordingly.
A participant from the Hungarian opposition said that he would declareloyalty to the state if he knew what such "loyalty" entailed. He complainedthat, unfortunately, the situation in Slovakia today is such that the mereexpression of political disagreement by a citizen of Hungarian nationalityis automatically interpreted as an act of disloyalty. Such behavior isindicative of the ethnic segregation which prevails today in Slovakpolitics.
A participant from the opposition who is a lawyer attempted to define thelegal content of a declaration of loyalty. In his view, such a declarationwould include the following declarations:
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that the deputies of thecoalition have already declared their loyalty to the constitution twice.Admittedly, they did not support the passage of the constitution inparliament; and, although they acknowledge the Framework Agreement andsupport the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, they declined to vote for the treatybecause they did not agree with the amendment that was included with it.They believe that this amendment would take away some of their rights, whichare otherwise guaranteed by the treaty. She suggested that the Slovakdemands for a loyalty declaration should be resolved together with Hungariandemands for legal guarantees for minorities. A law should be passed thatwould clearly define the rights and obligations of the state with respect tominorities as well as the rights and obligations of the minorities withrespect to the state. A declaration of loyalty would then be a naturalcorollary.
This participant went on to say that the constitution of the Slovak Republicdefines the republic first as the "state of the Slovak nation," and only atthe end of the preamble does it refer to Slovakia as a "state of allcitizens," including citizens of non-Slovak nationality. She proposed thatthe constitution be amended to reflect the state-establishing role ofnational minorities as well. In her view, no one has yet declared that he orshe does not acknowledge the constitution and laws of the Slovak Republic,nor does any political party advocate separation from Slovakia. She believesthat the requirement that minorities pledge themselves to reject ethnicseparatism and the idea of autonomy is tantamount to asking minorities torelinquish their identity--yet the right to choose one's own identity is abasic human right, as is the right to develop one's own culture. By theinterpretation suggested earlier, virtually anything could be regarded asethnic separatism.
On the issue of autonomy, she said that in the absence of specificmechanisms, it is impossible to implement the rights guaranteed by theconstitution. For instance, the constitution guarantees a citizen's right toan education in his or her mother tongue, but the mechanism that would helpto implement this right simply does not exist. Indeed, only a few people atthe Ministry of Education even deal with minority education. Given thissituation, it is necessary that minorities have the right to define anddefend their collective interests and have the possibility of enforcingtheir rights. As to the issue of bilingual education, she noted that noHungarian representative has ever opposed the requirement of learning theSlovak language. On the other hand, all parents must have the freedom todecide what sort of education their children will have. This right isconstantly being undermined by the government generally and by the Ministryof Education particularly.
To require a declaration of loyalty from Slovak citizens of Hungariannationality but not from other Slovak citizens, she concluded, is a form ofethnic discrimination. Although Slovak citizens of Hungarian nationalityacknowledge the constitution and laws of the Slovak Republic and properlypay their taxes, they are still not considered "loyal." Yet bothinternational conventions and the Slovak Constitution guarantee the samerights and obligations to all citizens.
Concerning the amendment to the Slovak-Hungarian treaty, a participant fromthe governing coalition stated that it deals only with the Slovak Republic,prohibiting the government from allowing the implementation of collectiverights and autonomist claims. It is fully consistent with internationaldocuments, including the recent document of the Venice Commission. Theopposition of the Hungarian coalition to this amendment can only mean thatits members are unwilling to give up their demands for collective rights andterritorial autonomy. However, recent international documents forbid theresolution of disputes in favor of minorities in regions where minorities donot form a majority. The declaration of loyalty that has been referred to isbeing required from the representatives of the Hungarian minority becausethey, and only they, have advocated one common native land for allHungarians.
PER's president reiterated that universal definitions and resolutions aredifficult to achieve. It is up to the citizens of Slovakia to define theframework in which resolutions will be found. These resolutions will have tosatisfy the aspirations and concerns of the Slovak majority and theHungarian and other minorities. A very important element in achieving asuccessful resolution is that all parties make an effort to understand eachother. He expressed his appreciation that the Hungarian participants haddefined their demands and articulated concrete problems.
A West European participant pointed to the historical reconciliation of theFrench and German peoples and appealed for a similar reconciliation ofHungarians and Slovaks. He said that Communism had collapsed because theculture of fear, which had dominated this part of the world for so long, hadceased to exist. Unfortunately, he noted, the present discussion shows thatmany fears yet remain, including fears of national assimilation and fears ofterritorial autonomy and ethno-territorial separation. It is both necessaryand possible to overcome these fears. After all, hundreds of millions ofcitizens of the EU member states have managed to defeat them.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that all problems are aproduct of the current political climate. A satisfactory resolution ofminority issues can hardly be achieved in such an intolerant atmosphere asnow prevails in Slovakia.
An observer from Slovakia described a concrete solution aimed at theregional level, based on an ongoing foundation project. This projectconsisted of two parts. First, a public-opinion poll was conducted among1,650 respondents to find out what were the issues of greatest concern andwhat actions were needed to resolve them. Second, the results of the pollwere and are being applied through concrete measures for the promotion ofinterethnic cooperation. Seventeen psychiatrists and psychologists, bothSlovak and Hungarian, were selected on a competitive basis to participate ina specially designed year-long program. Currently, the program is beingexpanded to include mayors, clergymen, teachers, and students from thesouthern region of Slovakia. Altogether, forty people participated in thefirst round. The purpose of this training is to show people how to behaveeffectively and confidently yet not aggressively. The project will continueto expand, with about five hundred people participating over the next coupleof years. More training centers will be established. He added that a similarproject will be launched to improve relations between the Roma and otherethnic groups.
A participant from the governing coalition agreed that most ethnic problemsare of a political nature. International observers have confirmed that theconstitution of the Slovak Republic is a democratic one. It goes far towardproviding a significant measure of minority-rights protections. TheSlovak-Hungarian treaty should be understood as further evidence that theSlovak Republic is developing normal and functioning relations with Hungary.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition reasserted that his politicalparty supports the constitution despite having certain reservations, and hesupports such resolutions of minority issues as would be consistent with theconstitution. He also said that he respects the principles contained in theFramework Agreement. He pointed out that deputies from the Hungariancoalition support the Slovak-Hungarian treaty fully and do not demand anyamendments to it. Instead, his political party requires only that theprinciples contained in the treaty be effectively implemented. Regarding theloyalty issue, he said that all deputies already have taken an oath touphold the constitution and that this should be regarded as a sufficientexpression of loyalty. No other oath is necessary. He pointed out thatstatements by Hungarian minority representatives are often judgeddifferently from those of representatives of the governing coalition. On thequestion of ethnic separatism and autonomy, he maintained that thepreservation of national identity is not the same thing as ethnicseparatism; what the Hungarians want is merely to preserve and develop theiridentity. He also stated that they do not support bilingual education.
A participant from the governing coalition said she was confident that thefirst four proposals of the Hungarian coalition could be carried out, butthe remaining two will require further discussions. She appreciated theposition of the opposition, which, she felt, essentially supported theposition of the Slovak government. On the other hand, she said, she wasdisappointed with what she viewed as an unconstructive attitude on the partof the Hungarian participants.
A West European participant proposed, as a practical step, the appointmentof an independent ombudsman for national minorities.
A participant from the opposition stated that the first priority is toensure that all citizens have access to legal means for defending theirrights. He expressed concern that the proposed reform of electoral districtsmight result in a situation where not a single Hungarian minorityrepresentative could be elected to parliament. According to thisparticipant, the oath to uphold the constitution, which is required of alldeputies, is sufficient to ensure their loyalty to the Slovak Republic. Thedemand of the national majority that the minority should separately declaretheir loyalty reflects unfounded fears and a lack of trust.
This participant acknowledged that the claims to autonomy do arouse genuineanxiety. In his view, however, much of this anxiety is due to the fact thatthe term is poorly defined. Everybody has a different interpretation of what"autonomy" means. Therefore, it is essential that the term be clarified,especially when it is used in declarations by Hungarian coalitionpoliticians. He pointed out that the constitution of the Slovak Republicdoes not contain the word "autonomy," which means that the constitution doesnot sanction it. In any case, the issue of autonomy will always provoketensions, anxieties, and conflicts in Slovakia. He appealed to the delegatesfrom the Hungarian coalition to be explicit about what is intended by theirdemand for "educational and cultural autonomy."
A participant who is a Slovak living in Hungary emphasized the results ofthe different historical experiences in dealing with minority issues inHungary and in Czechoslovakia. After the Trianon Peace Conference of 1919, alarge Slovak community remained in Hungary, and many Hungarians stayed inCzechoslovakia. The Hungarian minority in Czechoslovakia had access toeducation in the Hungarian language, as well as to other political andcultural institutions. On the other hand, Hungary's approach to itsminorities was based on the concept of assimilation, so that the Slovaks didnot have their own schools or other cultural institutions. Consequently,there is now in Slovakia a large, self-conscious Hungarian minority, whilein Hungary there are only the dying remnants of a Slovak minority. Giventhis situation, he concluded, even the recent Hungarian law on nationalitieswill be of little help, since it is effective only for conscious minorities.
A representative of the governing coalition returned to the question ofamending the Slovak-Hungarian treaty. Slovakia, he said, is prepared toimplement and even enhance individual rights but will not recognizecollective rights. Slovakia will fulfill the treaty on the basis ofindividual rights, since it is the opinion of the Venice Commission that nointernational charter recognizes the legitimacy of collective rights.
A participant from the governing coalition said that the Ministry of Culturesupports minority cultural unions and periodicals, as well as anonperiodical press, although it gives preference to financing more concreteprojects. Regarding the dispute over the "Young Hearts" ensemble, he saidthat the ministry has not abolished the ensemble but has only changed thearrangement of its financing.
Another participant suggested that the tensions between Slovaks andHungarians are deeply rooted in historical prejudices. Nevertheless, therequirement that Hungarians separately declare their loyalty to the SlovakRepublic apparently has the support of both the coalition and theopposition. The loyalty issue, he said, might best be resolved through a"treaty" between the Slovak majority and the Hungarian minority--on themodel of the treaty between Slovakia and Hungary--although the atmosphere isnot yet ripe for such an action. What is required is patient dialogue.According to public-opinion polls, he continued, at least 50 percent ofSlovak citizens desire a more strict enforcement of Slovak nationalinterests vis-ˆ-vis the Hungarian minority. On the other hand, 91 percent ofthe Hungarians living in Slovakia prefer the route of patient dialogue withthe Slovak majority. Only 3 percent of Hungarians have irredentisttendencies, and so a verbal declaration of loyalty is neither necessary norhelpful. Even though the Slovak-Hungarian treaty has been signed andratified, relations between the two groups remain tense and uncertain.
CONCLUSION AND NEXT STEPS
A participant from the opposition said that to require a declaration ofloyalty from only one group is unacceptable. However, he said, he hoped thatprogress could be made without convening a third roundtable, for it isnecessary to continue dialogue without help from abroad. He proposed theestablishment of a working group to address daily problems, to prepare thebasis for negotiations, and to otherwise assist in resolving interethnicdisputes.
A participant from the United States said that the U.S. government does nothave any definitive responses to the questions raised here. He agreed thatinternational conventions on human and minority rights do not endorseseparatism or ethnic autonomy, although such endorsement is possible in thefuture. Washington does not support territorial changes or the revisions ofborders as solutions to communal, ethnic, or national disputes. In thepresent case, the U.S. government's position is that the Hungarian communityin Slovakia is an integral part of Slovak society and that Hungarians haveas legitimate a claim in viewing Slovakia as their historic homeland as doesthe Slovak majority. The identity of this community should be preserved.
This participant stated the belief that current fears of disloyalty stemfrom the past, especially from what happened during World War II. But to usethe past as a weapon in the political struggles of the present is not aconstructive way to proceed. Typically, those who look to the past in thisway become prisoners of the past. If progress is to be made, history mustfirst be overcome. He was convinced that it was the desire of the U.S.government to support Slovakia's efforts to become an integral part of aunified Europe. Nevertheless, he cautioned, this will be possible only whenSlovakia has resolved these problems and when relations between the majorityand the minorities of Slovakia show signs of improvement.
Another participant from the United States observed that there are severalpossible models of the successful management of ethnic relations; countrieslike Belgium, Switzerland, and Canada have some lessons to offer. However,none of these countries provides a universal model that is suitable for alltimes or situations. Each country must work to find its own solutions, andthis requires that those concerned first develop the confidence tocommunicate their own needs and understand the needs of others. Discussionslike this one are a useful way to build such confidence.
Still another participant from the United States expressed the hope thatSlovakia would continue on the path of reform, which has already yieldedsignificant success. Regarding military and defense issues, Slovakia canlearn from the experiences of the United States and its Western allies, aswell as from its own recent participation in peacekeeping activities in theformer Yugoslavia. He also recalled Winston Churchill's statement at the endof World War II that one victory does not mean that all goals have beenachieved. It is not the beginning of the end but the end of the beginning.
PER's president observed that this roundtable had brought together animportant group of international "friends of Slovakia." This is a rareopportunity, and it should not be wasted. The proposal to establish aninformal working group that would continue the work of this conference ishighly welcome, and PER is prepared to support this activity. He noted thatthere are a number of models whose experience might contribute to thesuccess of this working group. While dialogue does not guarantee that thesituation will improve, the absence of dialogue can only make things worse.However, a constructive dialogue cannot be based on the repetition of claimsand demands. Rather, it must begin with those issues on which there isalready a degree of concord. Unlike a dispute, a real discussion seeks anoutcome in which all sides gain.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition said that the first priority isto create new rules of the game. Returning to the issue of rights, shemaintained that the distinction between individual rights implementedcollectively and collective rights is not so sharp. She advocated thecreation of mechanisms to help implement legal norms for individual rights,but stressed that there remain some rights that can be implemented onlycollectively. She maintained that international experience can be veryhelpful in this respect. In her view, even the Venice Commission hasacknowledged a number of different models by which individual and collectiverights can be balanced; the Framework Agreement is only a minimal standard.
A participant from the governing coalition emphasized the need for acontinuing dialogue. The provisions of the Framework Agreement and of theSlovak-Hungarian treaty can serve as the new "rules of the game." Thoseparliamentarians who supported these documents are looking to the future. Headded that, in his view, the question of loyalty is less a legal issue thanit is a moral and ethical one.
Another participant observed that communication between Slovak and Hungarianpolitical parties, as well as between the Slovak governing coalition and theSlovak opposition, is currently in a state of paralysis. Outside mediationis badly needed. In his view, the geopolitical stability of Slovakiarequires good Slovak-Hungarian relations, which in turn require improvedrelations between the Slovak majority and the Hungarian minority inSlovakia.
A participant from the Hungarian coalition remarked that most participantsbasically agreed with the first four of the coalition's demands. He proposedthat all Slovak political parties, including the Hungarian parties, agree toorganize a roundtable on the law on minority languages, in which expertsfrom the Council of Europe would also participate. On behalf of theHungarian coalition, he declared that the coalition is eager to participatein the work of the commissions that are implementing the Slovak-Hungariantreaty.
Another participant observed that both international documents and the legalfoundations of the Slovak state provide useful standards by which toevaluate and satisfy legitimate minority claims. Transparent and objectiverules respecting human and civil rights do exist. However, the rulesgoverning minority rights are less clear; the limits of minority rights mustbe better defined. In his view, the integrity and sovereignty of the stateand the rights of other citizens are two such limits. He also proposed thatmoney should be found to finance research on methods of preventing ethnicconflicts.
A participant from the governing coalition agreed that continued dialogue isnecessary. However unpleasant the idea may be for some, it is true thatrelations between Slovakia and Hungary will critically depend on howSlovakia approaches its Hungarian minority. In his view, the fact that theHungarian community has only six demands is evidence that minority problemsare being resolved. In fact, the most essential problems have already beensolved.
LIST OF PARTICIPANTS
Edith Bauer, Vice-Chairman, Coexistence
Lydia Becova, Director, Department of Schools with Ethnically MixedPopulations, Ministry of Education
Mojmir Benza, Ethnographer
Martin Butora, President, Slovak PEN Centre, and Member of the Council forEthnic Accord of the Project on Ethnic Relations
Jan Carnogursky, Chairman, Christian Democratic Movement
Rudolf Chmel, former Ambassador of Czechoslovakia to Hungary
Pal Csaky, Vice-Chairman, Hungarian Christian Democratic Party
Ladislav Deak, Historian
Viliam Fabry, Journalist
Jergus Ferko, Journalist, Slovenska Republika
Milan Ftacnik, Vice-Chairman, Party of the Democratic Left
Jan Gabor, General Director, Section for Foreign Nationals and Media,Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Eva Garajova, Member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic; Memberof the Finance, Budget, and Currency Committee
Laszlo Gyurovsky, Vice-Chairman, Hungarian Civic Party
Milan Knazko, Vice-Chairman, Democratic Union of Slovakia
Jan Langos, Chairman, Democratic Party
Zora Lazarova, Slovak Green Alternative, Head of Parliamentary Committee forEnvironmental Affairs
Frantisek Miklosko, Vice-Chairman, Christian Democratic Movement
Dusan Mikolaj, General Director, Section for Local Culture andNationalities, Ministry of Culture
Laszlo Nagy, President, Hungarian Civic Party
Miroslav Pacola, Member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic;Deputy Chairman of the Committee on the Economy, Privatization, and Commerce
Jan Podolak, Special Advisor, Office of the Prime Minister
Jozef Prokes, Member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic; DeputyChairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs
Dusan Slobodnik, Member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic;Chairman, Committee on Foreign Affairs
Laszlo Szigeti, Director, Kalligram Publishing House
Zlata Turcanova, Director, Department for Culture, Ministry of Culture
Viera Zacharova, Director, Section of Primary and Secondary Schools andEducational Organizations, Ministry of Culture
Peter Zajac, Chairman, Advisory Board of the Democratic Party; DeputyChairman, Standing Committee of the Civic Institute
Eva Zelenayova, Member of the National Council of the Slovak Republic;Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs
Milan Zemko, Director, Department of Domestic Policies, Office of thePresident
From European Institutions and the United States
Philip Blair, Deputy Director, Private Office of the Secretary General,Council of Europe
Stephen Del Rosso, Jr., Program Officer for Public Policy, The PewCharitable Trusts
Daniel Fried, Special Assistant to the President; Senior Director, EastCentral Europe, U.S. National Security Council
Audrey Glover, Director, Office for Democratic Institutions and HumanRights, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
Geoffrey Harris, Head of Secretariat, Joint Parliamentary Committee,European Parliament
Ralph R. Johnson, U.S. Ambassador to the Slovak Republic
Bruce A. Messelt, Country Director for Slovak Affairs, Office of the U.S.Secretary of Defense
Jonathan Rickert, Director, North-Central European Affairs, U.S. Departmentof State
Maria Blahova, Special Advisor, Department of Foreign Affairs of theNational Council of the Slovak Republic
Stanislav Bajanik, Secretary, Matica Slovenska
Gyorgy Gyimesi, Chairman, Hungarian Public Movement for Reconciliation andProsperity
Maria Hatalova, Director, Department of Foreign Affairs of the NationalCouncil of the Slovak Republic
Peter Huncik, Chairman, Sandor Marai Foundation
Klara Orgovanova, Program Director, Open Society Fund
Danica Sivakova, Special Advisor, Department of Informations and Analysis ofthe National Council of the Slovak Republic
Ondrej Srebala, Executive Director, Slovak National Center for Human Rights
Elena Zatkova, Director of Media Affairs of the National Council of theSlovak Republic
Project on Ethnic Relations
Allen H. Kassof, President
Livia B. Plaks, Executive Director
Samuel Abraham, Representative, Bratislava office
Ferenc Melykuti, Representative, Budapest office
Peter Priadka, Assistant, Bratislava office