I understood the "...There is a knock-on in SK, where nationalist claims on behalf of Slovak national minorities abroad ...destroy the regional relations and underpin authoritarian government..." so, that national minorities are again involved in policy, similarly as it happened many times in the past, and so one can expect the repetition of past results in near future also. This word "on behalf" was often used by dictatorial governments as support for their doubtful legitimacy and I am not surprised if it is used again by similar type of government in that region. But I do not believe that the present Slovak government is nationalistic on behalf of Slovak national minorities abroad, in spite of the fact that among members of Slovak national minorities abroad some of them are nationalists, and possibly sympathize with the present Slovak government, but they are not in position to give legitimacy to this government. So, I think the sources of present Slovak nationalism and authoritarianism are much more in recent developments in Slovakia itself than in Slovak national minorities abroad. If the above cited statement would be accepted uncritically than the same would be valid also for Hungarian and Romanian governments, also for reason that among Hungarian and Romanian national minorities abroad there are also people who are nationalistic oriented and who sympathize with developments in their "mother countries", but the fact is that these governments are considered today as less nationalistic and less authoritarian and less unpleasant for "intergovernmental" relations in that region than the present Slovak government. So, the source which gives legitimacy to present Slovak government is in Slovakia, not among the Slovak national minorities abroad. And I'll try to explain now why I think so.
The national minorities in that region are products of national states or indirectly the products of "one nation, one territory, one government" ideology. And the nationalism is a by-product of this ideology and is usually understood as a loyalty relation of one member of nation to his/her nation as group what in practice means a loyalty relation to other members of the same group and also as a loyalty to the government of own nation as institution. In another words, this loyalty is a binding or integrating factor of one national group or some kind of 'border' to another group. This is all understandable but the problems are coming when this loyalty is to be manifested in practice, and in that region the traditional way of expressing loyalty to own nation was the expression of disloyalty to other nation. And there were devised special techniques for this purpose, transmitted from one generation to other as a part of cultural heritage. So, the greatest nationalists were those who expressed greatest suspect, distrustfulness, faithfulness, not to say animosity either to members of other national group or to the government and the leading personalities of other nation. This problem was complicated by the fact that the territory was spontaneously inhabited by the members of different nations in the past so that it was not possible to create pure ethnical states on compact territory with the consequences that the very presence of national minorities on the territory of one nation became automatically an additional source of nationalism. As reaction on this way of expressing of nationalism there arose a new type of nationalism inside these groups of "others", manifested as tendency for "independence from domination of majority" but interpreted as "destructive, disintegrative," etc. just by those whom the presence of these "aliens on our territory" was most suspect, but this time the source of fear was not the presence of these aliens on "our" territory but much more the fact that with separation or expel of "others" there would be lost a piece of territory. As one can see, there are more types of nationalisms which came out from this "living together" of more nations in immediate proximity to each other, but basically they were all manifestations of competition for territory and the best known mean how this competition of different nations for territory was exemplified was the war. If the present relations between governments in that region are considered in this context, then it is clear that there exist enough "material" for every government to be nationalistic and authoritarian, but this doesn't mean in any case that this "material" is a solely cause which determines nationalism and authoritarianism of one government because there are examples when this "material" was used as source of co-operation between governments, as some kind of "bridge" between nations as it was described by communists for ex. when the relations between governments were good, but in practice functioned only from time to time. Experience from the standpoint of common members of national minorities shows that when the relations between two national governments are tensed there will be more members of national minorities which will be considered as disloyal how from the side of offices of majority so by the members of majority nation, independently of the fact that the attitudes of members of national minority haven't changed basically. In crisis the loyalty criterions are more sever, and the checks of loyalty are more often. The question is why is this "material" used by present Slovak government just now, and why are the reactions of others so emphatically. To come to some answer one must analyse the present Slovak political scene.
In the recent developments there were more "nationalisms" in Slovakia, so I would try to make them more transparent and so easier understandable.
At first there was the nationalism of SNS with sources in ex-Slovak state and some independence ideas from the period before that state became reality (but I am not sure whether there is a direct link between the two, because the state was created under external pressure). They started to press the question of independence just after changes in 1989 with the term as soon as possible, and without searching for coalition partner but supporting the idea by some legal trickery according which the independent SK state never extinguished legally, all what prevented this state to function was illegal. According their ideology hungarian national minority in Slovakia is enemy of Slovak state, democracy is jewish invention to create confusion in Christendom, slovak liberals are Hungarian, Carnogursky is freemason , Gypsies (and possible Jews also) belong to gas chambers and similar "truths", but in spite of these their "credos" their practical policy is more pragmatic and so possible all will remain with the slogan "Slovaks aboard". They are also promoters of co-operation with Slovaks living abroad, having influence in Matica Slovenska.
The second was the nationalism of KDH which have seen Slovakia in some future European constellation as independent state or nation, somewhere around the turn of the century, with profound preparation for this event. Their national ideology is most near to democracy but they had some objections against some exaggerated and boastful statements of leaders of hungarian national minority in south of the country . Considering they are mostly Catholics, they haven't had some special program for co-operation with Slovak national minorities living in neighbour countries, which are mainly evangelists(protestants). They are also known that they have good ideas but not even the best tactics for their accomplishment. According my estimation one such bad tactic was the postponement of Slovak independence for ten years, what made easier HZDS to come ahead.
The third was the "nationalism" of HZDS. Their national ideology practically do not exist because they are utilitarian. Their main goal was to gain power and they were so much nationalists how much nationalism could contributed to their goal and to benefits coupled with the achievement of this goal. Their program was completely adapted to the feelings of the broad public which was coloured by the fear from democracy and market economy, fear from Hungarian which will occupy south SK, etc., that is fear from changes. These public attitudes were implanted by the previous regime when some democratic experiments of communists in neighbour countries failed in late 80-ies. When somebody fears changes that means one feel that could loss some benefits from the present state and this benefit in this national question was the Slovak republic in frame of CS federation, created on behalf of Soviets after 1968 as a "consolidation" tactic with the aim to weaken the influence of the Prague and so to eliminate the influence of "Prague's Spring" also. So, Dubcek and his friends automatically became "unitarists" and "Czechs". CS federation was the master work of "consolidators" and an example of way how the national questions were solved in the frame of communist ideology. After the changes in 1989 there was a good time to think about alternatives. There were only two: Either unitarian state or independent states. There were only two slovak political parties, the SNS and KDH and one independent person who considered the independent slovak state could be the right decision for the future, although with different explanations. There was no one group which promoted unitarian state, neither among Slovaks nor among Czechs. That means all others were for status quo but with different opinions about its practical accomplishing. Meciar's slogans from 1992 "We will bring the SK question to end", "We will not allow Czechs" and similar were all tactical moves to eliminate opposition from the play-ground and had double meaning: "We will ask from CZ maximum because the wrongest what could happen is the status quo but the Czechs will be guilty for tensed relations, from what we can gain something". He never mentioned explicitly independent Slovakia. The Czechs looked through the blackmailing, they were convinced they helped Slovaks already too much, and let Slovaks go and so Slovakia became independent state. Today Mr. Meciar and his HZDS are trying to book this "success" on their account., completely in accord with the rules of utilitarianism "goal justify the means". So, their nationalism is a pure calculation: Once they will use the attitudes of public to hungarian national minority when this is good to demonize opposition, another time Meciar will award high posts in his cabinet to some members of hungarian national minority when this is good to gain the sympathies of this group and their votes. And when some neutral observer would try to determine what is the difference between such a policy of this government and the policy of previous communist governments one wouldn't find any difference. And in this context one should evaluate also the policy of present Slovak government to Slovak national minorities abroad: ".....if we will have some benefits from this card we will play on it, if not, we will drop it .....". Nothing new, the communists made the same.
The independent proposal was based on ideas which came as reactions on some practical problems of living together in that region with taking in account possible future developments in Europe and it was a trial to apply democratic thinking in solution of national problems. This proposal suggested independence "just now" by means of referendum despite the fact that pools showed that 50% of questioned were for keeping the federation but the opinions were formed mainly under the influence of KDH, HZDS and czech media. This proposal suggested also tighter relations between national minorities and their "main " countries but this proposal hadn't found any support and remained only as idea for private discussions.
So, as conclusion I would say that the sources of present Slovak nationalistic government are mainly of domestic origin and that if this nationalism radiate in direction of outside this is thanks of influence of SNS on Matica Slovenska. And what's the type of this nationalism I think it is neither dominative-aggressive nor independence promoting or defensive but much more tactical and calculative and could be stopped only by common actions of opposition and public, and this at best on such a way that there will be stated clearly and directly what is behind the tactical moves of leading coalition and that they, in this their utilitarian and materialistic calculations are using false yardsticks to measure costs and benefits. And this could be the answer on question posed in previous paragraph, that the SK government is playing on the card of national minorities because it expects some benefits from this, but these expectations are based on false estimations of costs. So the cause is in mistake made by Slovak government.
Now several words about the effects of regional relations or relations between the governors of national states on national minorities in that region. The greatest negative effect came from the creation of national states in that region in 1918 all others are only derived effects. National minorities were cut of their cultural background what endangered their identity. All clergy and all teachers used to come from "up". On "down" existed only elementary schools. The new national governments didn't show any interest to support the replacement of this cultural source by domestically educated peoples. They started the process of dismissing the national minorities with the result of sharp shrunk of these groups in most countries of this region, with vanishing urban communities. There remained mostly only the village communities with their traditional culture. And what remained was used by these governments as a mean in political negotiations. So for ex. during the previous communistic regime in Yugoslavia almost all national minorities were involved in ideological conflict between Tito's regime and his counterparts in that region, this conflict having not too much common with the everyday problems of most of national minorities in that region. The result was that for ex. the Slovak national minority found itself in disadvantageous position in comparison to Hungarian and Romanian national minority for reason that the relations between Yugoslav and CS leadership were extremely cool and other two got some privileges because the relations between Tito and Kadar respective. Causescu were more friendly. The ally relations between Meciar and Iliesku from recent times were not intended to bring about some basic improvement in position of SK national minority in Romania but much more to support each other and improve each others position in relation to their competitors and improve each others image in public. They became ally because their policies were very similar, both of them were some kind of democracy inhibitors, not democracy promoters and in this alliance they felt themselves more stronger in their struggle against their opponents. Slovak national minority in Romania was used to improve the image of Mr.Meciar and for this service was rewarded with several old tracks from Slovak army reserves and to bring votes to Mr. Iliesku and the reward could be something less discrimination. And similar with the alliance between Mr. Meciar and Mr. Milosevic, the only difference being in reward from Mr. Meciar, this time this was a school building financed by Slovak government. And what happened when the relations between the governments became extremely conflict, as it was the case at the end of 30-ies? The present international legality created national minorities in that region but their fate is much more dependent on the relations between leading personalities in the region. The relations between leaders are determined by their personalities and their ideologies. The crash comes when the combination of leading personalities in the region is inadequate, creating an extreme competitive relations. The very existence of national minorities in that region is a good reason or good "material" how for constructive relations so for destructive relations between national states. For what they will be used depends on the type of the game played by leaders. The games could be more competitive taking the form of some kind of war or more co-operative when they resemble to some co-operation of different groups in problem solving situation. The history of that region shows that when the relations between national states were good the benefits for national minorities were not great, a school building or a village theatre but when the relations were bad the losses ranged from an above usual discrimination to genocide.
Now several words about the sources of authoritarian thinking in Slovakia.
At first there is the SNS with its ideology that the authoritarianism is a part of Slovak cultural tradition and that an authoritarian government best fits to such cultural environment. This their ideology has sources in some very ancient religious laws or in religion interpreted in very traditional way. How much is their statement about Slovak cultural tradition right is a matter of discussion and I think it is a rough generalization. There exist evidence that almost all European cultural movements found their place in Slovak cultural tradition also and so, the authoritarian thinking is possible only the one of them but not the solely and the whole. But in 1992 they were more pragmatists and accepted democracy under the slogan "so much democracy how much is necessary for replacement of communism otherwise so little as possible". And with this slogan they often run into contradictions. When their leader Miskovsky in "Novi Cas" newspaper gave interview arguing their orientation is liberalism, other author in their party newspaper recommended the constitution from 1939 as model for constitution of future slovak state. But one is good with them, their attitudes are much less clear.
The second source of authoritarianism is the HZDS. This movement found its base mainly in a social group which became an upper class of a two class society during the so-called consolidation process, which gain some privileges and which feared it will loss these privileges if the democratization process will start very sharply, so expressing the lack of self trust that the changes could be surmounted and lack of flexibility to adapt new behaviour necessary for these changes. They needed a man which will show democracy to outside but who will accomplish it as less as possible. And they have found such a man in Meciar who have never been KSC member but who have been, with great probability, trustee of STB, otherwise a man with strong need to be leader and to be personality in public, but without a specific political ideology. He came to power with the aim to "hold place", to prevent democrats to gain power. When somebody is coming with such an aim then his political program must be a great mish-mash of unclear ideological terms with multifold meaning and what he would say in rally will differ for one place to another and from one time to another. All was adapted to the prejudices of broad public about democracy and market economy and on phobias created on these prejudices, implanted by the ex-communist propaganda (crime, amoral, social disintegration, poverty, etc.). This was the easiest way to gain votes. The KDH and other smaller groups with their pro democracy and pro reform slogans were without chance in this public. The public sensed that some changes are necessary but it was so discouraged that it lost self confidence that such changes are accomplishable with own potentialities. This public have seen only losses from changes but with Meciar this public became sure that the changes will not be radical and so losses minimal. And these attitudes of Mr. Meciar to democracy, naturally based on commitments to this public which brought him up, became manifest when he publicly protected the members of ex-Ludova Militia (the organization which accomplished the ideological and class cleansing after 1948) which were positively lustrated and later when he gave asylum to some Czech members of STB which became wanted in Czechs and so enabled them to escape the justice. And these his attitudes to democracy are coming to manifestation more and more today through his expressions about democratic opposition and through his actions. When the goal was power then the present methods are the best way to achieve this goal. But this is not democracy.
The third source of authoritarian thinking is the Ligue of Slovak workers whose roots are tracing back to some Yugoslav or China type communism combined with some extreme catholicism and whose social base is the lower class from the consolidation period. Their attitudes to democracy are clear, they simple do wish it and they do not hide their colours. They came to help HZDS in "holding place" because they do not trust to existing social democratic parties probably for reason that these are democratic oriented.
What kind of conclusion can be driven from this? The HZDS's authoritarianism is a "calculative" type authoritarianism which helps it to keep power. The other two are ideologically based. Their sources are of domestic origin. It is true that some Slovak national minorities' organization abroad (for ex. Matica Slovenska in Yugoslavia) share the same ideology as SNS and Ligue of workers and one cannot argue this being exclusively under the influence of Matica Slovenska in Bratislava (whose representatives several years ago stated "we are folkists and communists"). These cultural patterns existed in those communities abroad also before when the contacts with the SNS and MS in BA were not so intensive, but it true also that these organization abroad were not the main contributors to Slovak authoritarianism today.
Now about the mutual relations between nationalism and authoritarian thinking I'll start with explanation of terms. Nationalism is usually understood as an attitudes in relation between nations, under the assumption that they are nations, independent in their decisions, without some upper level which would give orders for behaviour. Authoritarianism is one of more types of relations between leaders and followers in one organized group. The relations between nations could be good or bad, when good, it is said that the attitudes of members one nation to the members of other nations are democratic, when bad, these attitudes are called nationalism. When in one organization the followers have a relatively great freedom in decision making, the organization is called democratic, in opposite case it is authoritarian. These two types of human relations can influence each other in such a way that when the relations between nations are wrong the leaders prefer authoritarian internal organization because, it is supposed that this type of organization is stronger integrative and strong integrity is said that it is the best way which would allow one nation to fend off external invaders. So nationalism and authoritarianism are going hand by hand - in wars. In peace times democracy is sufficient in both relations.
In Slovakia in 1992, two years (or so) after the end of Cold War in Europe and in the mid of the peace, these two agendas were coupled together by HZDS and its leader Meciar, with the effect that the alternatives for voters became intransparent and perplexed and so narrowing down the whole decision making to only two alternatives : The split democratic groups with their pro reformistic slogans on the one side and the personality of Mr.Meciar on the other. The double meaning slogans "We will bring the Slovak question to end" and "We won't give Czech" decided the elections, and Mr.Meciar won. Had the Czechs been more tolerant regarding Mr.Meciars quests (for ex. had Mr. Claus offered him a high post in CS federation), Slovakia would be part of C-S (or C and S) federation even today. But Slovakia became independent despite that according pools, 50% of Slovaks were for keeping federation (only 15%, or so, were explicitly for independent state, the rest was without opinion). Meciar used the approved tactic of war makers: "Paint a picture of enemy and all loyalists will be behind the flag". But who dared to be not loyal when he had the support of police and secret service. That time the enemies were Czechs, democrats, Jews, freemasons, hungarian, etc., today the enemies are hungarian, american journalists, domestic betrayers, etc. But I'm not sure whether the personal interests of Mr. Meciar expressed in this way were in accord with the interests of majority of Slovaks, despite that he got the great majority of votes. He never stated explicitly what was the meaning of those slogans in practice, he never stated clear alternatives, but he made just opposite, he mixed agendas and joined alternatives so creating informational confusion in the heads of voters, suggesting his personality as the only real alternative. This was not pre-election communication but manipulation.
In September 1992 (or so) Mr. Meciar promised "Slovakia will be democratic state". Today he calls democratic opposition "failed parties" and is promising them less then 5% votes, in practice this meaning a parliament without opposition (that means he considers Slovakia as a monolithic society today, or better as his private business firm). Today Mr. Meciar, when asked from his supporters why in some municipies (or districts, on local level) opposition has majority, he replays "...this will change in future and we will soon have all municipies (districts) under our control..." (if so he disregards the regional differences in cultural development and tries to enforce some regional dictatorship of his Central Slovak Region). Today Mr. Meciar when remembered that some his present statement contradict to what he argued in recent past or that some his promises were not kept, replays "whom is important what I said in the past..." (citing the famous british politician ...). But this Mr. Meciars travels around the whole continent and world, is accepted as trustful statement, is getting very prospective premises regarding support for Slovakia's status in Europe and his pools at home are excellent, the first democrat is far behind him in the pools, in some Slovak national minority communities abroad he is already legende. . But nobody bothers that these and many other short run tactics of the leading coalition are more and more in contradiction with the statements about Slovakia's long run orientation stated in the constitution. And Mr. Meciar argues "....there is very small difference between our democracy and that of our neighbours..." (but there were times when he argued that there is no difference between his "democracy" and the democracy of West Europe) when the combination of different pro authoritarian and pro nationalistic parties succeeded to be backed by 70-80% of public, the rest of 20% remaining to democratic movements - in comparison to Poland and Hungary where the democrats have firm support of about 50% of voters and in comparison to Czechs were dissidents succeeded to keep control over their "hard liners". Slovakia with political scene today resembles much more to some "socialistic pluralism" country then to "political pluralism", the idea which was in the past speculated by Yugoslav communists but never accomplished.
And what about the reality in SK today? Who gained and who lost with HZDS and Meciar? That part of public which supports him possible kept what it had before, but this was not too much. But they lost what faster democratic reforms could brought them and what such reforms brought to those who accepted them from the beginning, without hesitation. But one part of this slovak public gained also something in addition to what it had before, but this was obviously on the account of those who lost. In democracy, where the relations are more transparent it is the custom that those who "have" contribute to those who "have not" and the decisions about contributions are made by means of elections. The social class in Slovakia which came out from communism as "have" class was too greed to contribute to "have not" class, letting instead the full burden of reform costs to fall on the back of "have nots". This social class refused to share ownership on production means (and possible on consumption means also) with the class of ex-owners who were deprived for their ownership just by the decisions of this class. Mr.Meciar today offers citizenship to those Slovaks from abroad who earned their pensions in Western countries because he knows that in exchange for their pensions he need not to give them anything but fresh air. But Mr. Meciar is reluctant to give second citizenship to those Slovaks who were owners before they emigrated in order to keep them far from the role of owner and so keep as great as possible part of property for his supporters. These are not legal questions but much more moral ones but in democracy many decisions are made by taking in account moral considerations also. And taking in account all this it isn't surprise when one can hear Katharina Tothova, Gasparovic and others saying "young state is like a baby, it must be protected from ...". From whom? From democratic revolution? And the protectors to be EU community and NATO?
It seems that in that region some negative events are playing each other in hands, being cause of each other, so creating some vicious circle whose start is hard determinable and which seems to be unbreakable. To approve own nationalism or authoritarianism Mr. Meciar often quotes the examples of similar manifestations in Hungary for ex. Recently he reproached Hungary the appearance of complete hungarian government on the ceremony regarding anniversary of Horthy's death (or so) and proudly proclaimed "we won't allow similar manifestations regarding Tiso...", completely forgetting that his coalition partner is SNS. If these nations want to find some breakout from this vicious circle then it would be better to follow the democratic rules lied down in their basic documents. No one nation can erase some facts from its history, it can only interpret them but considering that democratic society consists of more groups it is clear that these facts will be interpreted by different groups in different way. In democracy it is the rule that the elected government has commitments only to that group from which it got its mandate and for policy which was elected on the basis of proposed political program for one election period and to that group, or more groups, which supported the present long run orientation of the nation lied down in constitution, under supposition that the short run tactics of the government are in accord with what was written down in constitution. All what is out of this frame in democracy is considered as private affair of that group which feels some sentiments to the celebrated event.
So in this case it was the hungarian government which gave "material" to Meciar to feel himself "firm in saddle", completely unnecessary, but the Hungarian's excuse for this act could be the presence of SNS in SK government. And there are more such or similar examples in that region. Meciar has fear from Hungary in NATO, Hungary has fear from Meciar's deals with Russians, Meciar intentionally plays on Russian card to cause Hungarians bad feelings or to blackmail NATO and EU "...if you do not allow me in ... I'll go to your enemy...", all games from children's' sand-pit paid by the money of tax-payers but presented as mental products of genial strategist. But what with history, all this already happened in that part of EU and in not so remote past but in this century. So, Slovakia's reason for NATO is Hungary, otherwise "we do not need NATO" and Mr. Meciar will urge NATO membership the most when the chances for this organization are the smallest and will run to Russians just when the chances are increasing. I think NATO is Mr.Meciar's nightmare, he desires it and he desires it not, because Slovakia's membership in NATO could mean gain for interests of Slovak nation but it could mean also losses for Mr.Meciar's ego interests, a completely depart from political scene for ex... So, according my estimations, Mr.Meciar is not able to decide about Slovakia's NATO membership and for this reason he needs referendum in this issue (but when he is now such a democrat in this question why was this principle not applied in the question of SK independence?). All what he can decide today is an endless play in vicious circle.
What could be the way out from this vicious circle? A good policy, if good policy is understood as right measure of common sense and an art of decision making. Mr.Meciar based his policy completely on common sense and so created a political chaos. So the right action now is some clearing a political scene, making it more transparent for voters, making clear who is who and what who wants. Such a transparent political scene would allow voters not only to decide but also to understand their social position and to bring in accord their personal desires, goals, ambitions and possibilities with the social position and possibilities.
According some information Mr.Meciar plans to join the social-democrats. If this means a step in direction of clearing a political scene one could estimate it as right step, under the supposition that HZDS will vanish from political scene. But what's Meciar's join to SD there are several objections. I think that the decision for political colour came too late and that the chosen colour is not adequate. The decisions about political colours are usually made in age when one is a student, equally how the decision is expressed, as acceptance of proposal or its refusal. In this age and in present circumstances the step could be interpreted as pure calculation. What's the chosen colour, the slovak social democrats are today known as "Dubcek's party" and are members of Socialist International. Dubcek was socialdemocrats already 1968 but Mr.Meciar is today leader of a movement supported mainly by those who came up in the so-called "consolidation" period, that is by those who removed Dubcek (willingly or not) 25 years ago. And 5 years ago in the role of public speaker on Dubcek's funeral he dared to say "...Dubcek's fate was that he was misunderstood by many...". Dubcek was understandable by everyone who wanted to understand him but what was wrong with the ceremony it was Meciar in the role of public speaker and in the role of prime minister, 3 years after the "velvet revolution". He didn't observed that his appearance in this role could associate Husak's in the same role. So the whole ceremony resembled too much to show ceremonies from communist era. There was really some misunderstanding, this being the misunderstanding of the history by Meciar himself .
And how to describe the behaviour of Meciar in early 90-ies? Many people knew already that time that he is not a democratic fair player and there were some signs which showed that his coming up was not the intention to promote democracy but to prevent democrats to gain power. I think the criterions about who is democrat in present SK are clear. Mr. Meciar has never been dissident, he was a loyal citizen of Husak's state. According some sources in the events of NOV 17. 1989 there were two types of demonstrators: People who demonstrated for democracy and for releasing Carnogursky and other Slovak dissidents from prison and those who demonstrated against the first group, Meciar being among them. The difference between the two group was that the pro democrats argued that many things could be better, the contra democrats argued that many things are good, so no radical changes are necessary. If Mr.Meciar won that time and if he today considers this his victory as a base for his power legitimacy then I'd say that those his 'victory' was in reality a coup d'etat, not a democratic victory. Meciar's ally from HZDS, Cupera, in his interview to one newspaper said that he discouraged his students who intended to demonstrate on November 17-th, telling them that "...these demonstrations were organized by Prague...", read "Prague's dissidents". Recently Mr. Meciar estimated the Czech and Slovak constitution from period 1989 to 1993, behind which were such personalities as Havel, Dubcek and others as undemocratic, so posing the start of present SK state in 1993, completely forgetting the base which allowed this state to became reality and so binding it for his name, not only the state but the democracy also. Without this first decision which was made in the events of NOV 17.1989, the second decision from SEPT 1992 would be impossible. And today he wants to join party which traces back to Dubcek's name! I think he has troubles not only with history but with something other also. Every democrat can say that he deprived democrats for power that time. The excuse cannot be in his more superior abilities over all democratic leaders because creating a political chaos is not even a proof for an excellent performance of a talented politician. It is true that he is popular, he knows to attract public but this is not sufficient for a successful politician. He is not a type of leading personality for democracy where all is based on negotiations between people who represent different interests and groups and on agreements and on keeping of these agreements, but he is much more a polit-agitator type of leader from communist times. The practice of his governing shows that he misunderstood democracy: Democracy is not a blackmailing but much more some kind of exchange between equal partners. And when he is so certain in his capabilities then why happened him that he was forced to change party so often (if he succeeds to join SD this will be already his third party) and why happened him that he was already two times under impeachment and succeeded in come-back only because the case was dealt unprofessionally. So, I think this is not only a question of ideology but also and much more question of capability for governing.
Today is clear that Slovakia became illegible for EU community and NATO thanks its incompetent government. The expressions of Mr. Meciar and other HZDS members "we want in EU and we want NATO membership" are tactical moves without any value because he knows that with such a governing style Slovakia is too far from both of these organizations. They need the refusal from the side of these organizations to have argument for accomplishing of their really desire, to join Slovakia to Russia. "We wanted in EU but they refused us, so we were forced to look for another partner, because if our neighbours will be accepted, this will endanger our national interests...so for this our decision the guilty are EU community and NATO...". This could sound plausible for broad public but this is not a policy but a defensive behaviour. They in reality have fear from both of these organizations because if Slovakia will be accepted it must improve its governing performance and under these conditions the political scene would have to change profoundly and many present leading personalities would have to leave. But with their claiming on power today they sacrifice Slovakia's national interests for their personal interests. They expect they'll easier fulfil Russia's criterions. But who will accept them there? Russia's democrats or Russia's communists? What will Russia gain with such an unstable Slovakia and what could risk? So Slovakia with present government can end much more in some "blind street" and not on the spot promised by this government. If Mr.Meciar really wants to help Slovakia today then the best what he should do is to leave the politics. But I'm not sure that he is such a personality which knows the right time when social interests are to be put before personal interests.
So all remains on voters. But voters have no easy on so confused political scene. Until now democratic opposition was demoralized and not ever with good tactics. Now it has chance to state clear who is who and who is offering what and what are the really consequences of these alternatives and for which social group. Simply what is at stake with main alternatives. Political goals of democratic oriented parties sourced ever in motives , needs and values of concrete individuals and groups. I think most of Slovaks today want a good relations with all neighbour countries at all levels, a stabile domestic political scene which would enable them to make personal plans for future which would be accomplishable with greater certainty and in one environment of political freedom and more tangible effects in economic sphere what's employment, business and private life. The strategy for achievement of these goals is democracy and market economy and this long run strategy is already lied down in present constitution but sorry enough the political programs and the actions of leading coalition have disregarded this long run orientation so endangering not only the national interests but also the future development. If the political programs of democratic parties will be formulated in clear terms in every political agenda (national, political and economic) and if the opposition will find right words to encourage people that they can be better on with same potentialities but under more better conditions, I think the voters will grasp what is in stake with which political program.
EU community can help Slovakia if specifies clearly what are the rules inside the community and what are the advantages of members from this "being together". I think it would be a great mistake from the side of community and a great discouragement for democratic parties in Slovakia, not to say a gesture of injustice, if the talks about the Slovakia's membership in community would be carried on with present governing coalition. No one member of this coalition had in its political program the EU orientation. HZDS's EU orientation is pure calculation and is contradictory so it has no credibility, SNS's orientation in this question was unclear, they tried with neutrality but also with some "pan-slavism" what is some kind of divided EU, Ligue of SK workers completely opposes EU orientation. The political parties in SK with EU orientation were only KDH and some smaller democratic parties. It would be wise from the side of community to wait until the next elections in SK which will bring a more clear picture about SK's future orientations. If the present governing coalition succeed to keep majority in parliament this would possible mean Slovakia's depart from EU and some contract with Russia, similar as Belarus and possible new constitution, some copy of constitution from 1939 or possible the adapted constitution from consolidation period. If democratic opposition succeed to persuade the voters then Slovakia will have a stabile orientation because its long run and short run policy will trace back to democratic roots of NOV 17. 1989 and so EU community will have chance to negotiate about the Slovakia's membership in EU community with those whose idea this really was from the very beginning. If the leading coalition win and if it will change its mind and will apply to EU (what is not excluded because Mr.Meciar once told "we will knock at EU door also when they do not invite us") then EU must take in account some possible effects coming from acceptance of Slovakia under the government whose democratic orientation is doubtful. Acceptance of Slovakia under the existing government can undermine the principles on which this community is built. The present situation in SK is in no way a common power play between two rivals, known from the practice of all W EU nations. It is going about much basically, about democracy and non democracy and this is why it deserves more serious approach.
But it would be a good policy from the side of EU to take in account the effects of vicious circle which are so manifest in this region today and not to create reasons for some precedents which will give arguments to others to follow this precedence. It would be ideal to find some right combination of political personalities and governments in the whole region for one time period, but the chances for this are not promisive today. Emotions are coming before reason. And when differences are too great, the negotiations will troublesome. The aim of democratization process in East EU was to lessen the differences in Europe which were sources of tensions in the past and engaged governments in unproductive competition with each others, so sacrificing their internal developments to false external goals. Democratization of international relations should create circumstances for national governments to devote themselves much more to internal problems. With present quarrels this aim won't be achieved. If that part of Europe fails in this democratization process this would mean a step backward, and the first signs are already visible on the horizon. It is pity that in that part of Europe, with cultural tradition not very different from the rest of Europe, the present leading personalities cannot find enough internal forces to deal this problem by own selves but engaging themselves in unproductive manoeuvres in a false persuasion that they will gain something from this. Hungarian made a good tactical move when replaced their nationalists, but brought a communist government. In Poland conservatives were replaced by communists, as though this would be the whole choice. In CZ the contract between dissidents and communists is kept, but the latter being on the lurk in the bush and waiting the chance. This is a poor choice for the public.
Regarding Slovakia's NATO membership i would say that the leading coalition is using its known tactics to create
confusion. It offers common sense decision when political decision is necessary. Not so in 1992 when the decision about independent slovak state was decided by government instead on referendum. Decision about independent state is decision about personal identity of all members. One is Slovak or is not Slovak. To be Slovak is a part of individual's personality and who would decide against institutionalization of this part of personality if one is rational decision maker. But in 1992 Slovak folk had not had chance to express this feeling, as proudly as possible, because it was deprived for this decision by the man who put an equation sign between his name and slovak nation, forgetting completely the name of nation and so putting on his football T-shirt label "I love Meciar" when, according the present interpretation of history by this man, the right label had to be "I love independent Slovakia".
From the standpoint of common sense NATO is not necessary, taking in account the peace process which started just after the end of Cold War and the future developments in that part of Europe. Today many people, also among those who are much more used and skilful in political thinking than the Slovak folk have objections against NATO. But there are also some arguments which are playing in hand of those who propose this type of security solution for Europe. So this question, when expressed as common sense decision, could be decided with "yes" or "no", just so how are the questions defined on the referendum lists in Slovakia and how are the answers suggested, and both answers would be good because how they are posed, they are only value judgements and so decide able on democratic way. But politics is more than common sense, it is a wise way how to achieve some political goals and so far I know the stated goals are expressed as peaceful co-operation in region, not a confrontation. But what kind of policy is behind these common sense questions? If one peacefully convicted Slovak citizen will answer all three questions with "no" he would possible, just unintentionally, vote Slovakia's contract with Russia, a type of contract similar as it was recently signed between Belarus and Russia, and instead of NATO missiles there would appear Russian missiles on Slovak territory. And is this playing on Russian card by Slovak government today a trump? What will Russia gain with such an unstable partner which changes standpoints from one day to another? Will Russia risk its credibility as democratic state? So this card is a bluff and it is already looked through. But I am persuaded that many peaceful Slovaks do not want such a contract either. Then what is wrong with the NATO referendum questions? The referendum itself. This question is already decided with Slovakia's orientation to democracy and EU and is lied down in constitution. In this sense it is a political decision and should be made by government. If the present government cannot decide the question, that is if it cannot execute what is accepted in the constitution, than it should terminate. The present political situation in Slovakia is the result of governments incapability to govern in democratic way, and this is the source of instability for the region, not the sympathies or antipathies of Slovak national minorities abroad to this government. In the frame of democratic orientation there could be only two alternatives, both political: EU and NATO membership or Slovakias neutrality with separate contracts with every EU member and without NATO membership. Both are good although need not be made by the same government. But for this second alternative there is one remark: This alternative is good under the condition of stabile democracy in SK, otherwise no. And what if Slovak citizens respond all three questions with "yes"? Will SK automatically be accepted in AEU and NATO under this government and with such a gloomy political scene? Hardly. Then if Slovaks really wish their country as member of AEU community and NATO then should bother how to elect one really democratic government which will govern in accord with the principles lied down in the constitution. Present SK constitution has source in the constitution of C and S republic from period 1989 to 1992, which state was internationally recognized as democratic state. Without this constitution the present SK state would never became reality. In occasion of partition in SEPT. 1992, Mr.Meciar promised "Slovakia will be democratic state", stating correctly what was written down in the constitution of independent SK state. If he and his government today try to escape this commitment, then he must choose other procedure. Government who do not recognize the constitution must undertake steps to change the constitution, otherwise, trying to govern in conflict with constitution, exposes itself to risk of being removed, if reluctant to submit demise. If Mr. Meciar senses that he could win then he has only two alternatives for new constitution: Either the constitution of ex-SK state from 1939-1945 or the constitution of CSSR from 1968-1989. All other will be understood as deception. And the consequences of both alternatives he would have to explain to public.
In relation to referendum about the election of president I think the question is discussed too narrowly. According my opinion constitution is a document about the long run orientation of the country and is to be brought about by means of referendum just independently on parliamentary elections which are short run governing programs for one electoral period in the frame of long run orientation lied down in constitution. Considering that the present Slovak constitution was not brought in power in this way but on the way through parliamentary elections then what is to be corrected is the way how future constitutions and constitutional changes are to be brought about. So the right question which has to be decided on referendum should be formulated as "Do you want constitution and constitutional changes to be brought about by referendum or by revolution (street demonstrations, coup d'etat and similar)?". This formulation differs from the one on the the referendum lists only in form but not so much in content. The presidency independent on parliament can be explained by the role of president in democratic state. President performs not only the control function in the sense whether the actions of government are in accord with the constitution (so he/she is some kind of representative of constitution) just independently on the ego interests of political parties which are in competitive relation to each other, but is in the same time a speaker in the name of citizens as founders of the state, between two election periods and it would be best to be a common citizen, not in commitment to any political party. So, the president is much more committed to citizens and to constitution then to parliament. If Slovaks will decide presidential elections independently on parliamentary elections, they'll indirectly decide for referendum as the way of bringing about constitution and constitutional changes. If this is not so in Slovak constitution today then this was a mistake of those who proposed it and the present referendum should be regarded as correction of that mistake in constitution.
What can Slovak national minorities abroad contribute to regional relations? They cannot give legitimacy to the government of their "mother" state neither for nationalistic authoritarian nor for democratic governing. According the article Slovak national minorities abroad are nationalistic authoritarian oriented with some tendency to be loyal to their "mother" state and so automatically becoming disloyal to states to which they are paying tax. This is partially true in the sense that some members of these minorities have ideas about tighter relations of national minorities with their "states of ethnical origin" but these ideas are problem solution proposals which came as reactions on some unsolved problems, these problems being recognized also from the side of national states in which these minorities are living, and these ideas remained only ideas because they were not accepted by any organization of Slovak national minority for reason of fear that these ideas could be interpreted as disloyalty to the "tax collecting state". And the promoter of idea failed to pass the entrance barrier to local organization of Matica Slovenska and emigrated.
Besides this, the idea was not completely new, many people, also members of other national minority groups, came to such ideas just after 1918, but that time those people had easier, they succeeded to create organizations, but these organizations were not long living and their performance was very poor. All problems which were identified as problems that time, remained problems even today. Today some members of EU community, reproach national minorities in that region (not only Slovak but others also) disloyalty to their "tax collecting state", supporting this reproach by Helsinki Document (or Copenhagen), the part about national minorities, according which national minorities are committed to be loyal to their "tax collecting country", this being the condition for some rights. I agree completely with this interpretation of this document under one condition: If there is some annex to this document which will explain how these ideas functions in the practice, if this document will define the term 'loyalty', the institution which determines the loyalty of concrete persons and the methods which are to be used for this (until now the method was blackmailing) Considering such annex does not exist, so the whole Helsinki Document (or Copenhagen) is only an idea similar as that which arose in the heads of some members of national minorities. And in practice today all remained the same as it was before Helsinki and as it was after 1918. Hungarian government collected representatives of its all national minorities abroad to discuss the co-operation and the meeting ended with the signing of some proclamation which advised hungarian national minorities to be loyal to their "tax -collectors". All participants signed the document with exception of one, Andras Agoston, the representative of Voivodina Hungarians. So, all remained as before but the hungarian government got a trump card in game play with its counterparts. Despite the same status of all national minorities their problems are not same, this is coming from the size of the group, location of communities, etc. It is clear that greater group can be near self sufficient , the smaller group can solve some its problems only with co-operation with its mother country because for tax collector the solutions are very expensive. And what's the loyalty to their "mother country" (what is automatically understood as disloyalty to tax collector) Slovak national minorities are not on the top of the list, but somewhere on the bottom and the best evidence for this is that almost all their urban communities vanished, remaining only the villagers with their traditional culture.
I think that the right conclusion from all this is that the problem of national minorities has no democratic solution in the present international legal system.. For national minorities danger is coming how from unitarists so from nationalists. The first will scatter them and so dismiss them as group. The second will destroy them on the spot. For national minorities the reasonable policy is regionalism, the only organization which can keep them alive because it contains both, keeping of ethnical identity and contacts with broader environment and so is in accord with human rights. But regions are disliked how by nationalists so by unitarists. The problems are usually let to come to acute phase and thereafter solved by classical methods: Ethnical cleansing or exodus or war or ... But when somebody takes the problem seriously, possible because touched directly, and offers a new solution which would prevent national governments to use national minorities in their political game plays, then this solution is estimated as illegal, 'fascism', and similar. Then which solution is legal and democratic? The war? But isn't it so that the causes of "destroyed regional relations ", not to say wars, are the changes which were missed to be accomplished on right time? Were genocides in this region on behalf of national minorities or on behalf of national governments? The victims of genocides were those who grasped too late that the loyalty relations changed, so they were "caught on deal " in this loyalty game play in which they were involved without knowing that they were involved.
And when the theme is the relation between the Slovak national minorities abroad and their "mother country", why official Slovakia today stresses that it has to play on nationalism authoritarianism on "behalf " of its compatriots living in neighbouring countries .....' but is missing some examples of support, in one way or another, for democratization process which "mother-land" Slovakia got just from some members of these national minorities abroad, and which was used in those critical moments of the so called "velvet revolution", when some Slovak "revolutionaries", surprised by unexpected occasion and unprepared, seized it as opportunity on way to power. Mr. Meciar never explained how he got idea to "christen" his first organization, the VPN, just so.