Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

MEP Says EU, NATO, and US Should Stop Meddling in Slovak Election

Slovak News Agency TASR - 31st July 2002

The EU, NATO, and US should stop meddling in Slovakia's internal affairs and telling its citizens who they should or should not vote for in the general election in September. That is the view of Charles Tannock, a British Conservative MEP and member of the Joint Slovak-EU Parliamentary Committee, speaking to SLOVAKIA in Brussels on Wednesday.

Slovakia, he said, should be assessed exclusively by how far it meets criteria and what concrete steps its new government takes, not according to which people and parties its government includes.

"I have said many times that it is not appropriate for the EU to interfere in such sensitive issues," said Tannock. "Otherwise, a situation may arise such as that with Austria when Mr Joerg Haider joined the government. The current stance will not work and could be embarrassing for the EU. It could even lead Slovaks to vote in protest for candidates who the EU objects to," he warned.

While the EU has not directly said which parties and politicians are unacceptable, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Guenter Verheugen has several times warned against the return of "old powers". That is widely seen as a reference to former premier Vladimir Meciar, whose opposition HZDS party leads polls but probably lacks the coalition potential needed to return to power.

Under Meciar, Slovakia was frozen out of NATO and EU accession processes, with Western countries accusing the premier of corruption and undermining democracy. On Tuesday, the European Commission Director General for Enlargement Eneko Landaburu said he hoped "pro-European and democratic powers" win the Slovak election.

NATO and US officials have been more forthright, saying that if Meciar returns, Slovakia will almost certainly miss out again on an invitation to join the alliance. NATO is due to meet in Prague in November to confirm which NATO candidates will be offered membership.

"I think it is incorrect for the US to say that if a certain party is in the new government, it will thwart Slovakia's bid to join NATO. America and my party (the Conservative Party) are friends and allies, but when they are doing something in a bad way, I have to criticise," Tannock said.

"If the new government and premier come with a package of measures that meet the (EU) Copenhagen criteria, respect democracy, and human rights, and uphold a functioning market economy, then that is what Slovakia should be judged by," Tannock stressed. "If any ministers of state officials broke laws in the past, it is for Slovak justice to investigate and punish the offenders."

Tannock praised Slovakia for its progress in the EU accession talks, and said he believed it would join the EU in the first wave of enlargement planned for 2004. In his view, the accession talks can overcome remaining obstacles and be completed before the Copenhagen summit in December.

"I hope there will be no delay," he added.
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