Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

EU officials concerned about lack of debate on EU in Slovakia

CTK Daily News - 28 April 2003

BRATISLAVA, April 28 (CTK) - European Parliament rapporteur for Slovakia Jan Marinus Wiersma today praised Slovakia for its progress in the preparation for EU membership at a two-day meeting of the Slovakia-EU parliamentary committee which began in Bratislava today.

"When I became the rapporteur for Slovakia in 1997 I was considered a crazy man, but Slovakia will enter the European Union together with its neighbours," Dutch MEP Wiersma said.

""We have proceeded far, but the real test will only come in May 2004," Wiersma said, alluding to the date of the EU's planned enlargement to include ten new members, including Slovakia.

"MEPs, who today were assured by all Slovak parties, including, for instance, chairman of the Slovak Communists Jozef Sevc and deputy head of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) of their pro-European orientation, voiced concern about the absence of any debate on the EU.

"It is not healthy for democracy if no voices against entry to the EU are raised in Parliament, British MEP Charles Tannock said, adding that he welcomed Slovakia in the European family but considered it sad that he failed to register any debate on the EU in Slovakia. He said there would certainly be more Euro-sceptical voices in Slovakia if Slovaks had known more about the EU.

"Slovak Deputy Premier Pal Csaky admitted that the greatest risk on the path towards the EU was whether at least 50 percent of Slovak eligible voters and one take part in the May 16-17 referendum on the EU, as the law orders.

"He nevertheless made assurances that entry to the EU was an "absolute priority" not only for the Slovak government but also for each citizen and "everything would end well."

"After all, there also 13 million crowns which are in the game as the difference between the contribution which Slovakia will place to the EU common coffers in the first year of its membership, and the money that it could get from the EU funds, he said.

"Other MEPs, including representatives of Greece, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, Efstatios Danas, and main negotiator for Slovakia for the European Commission Dirk Meganck, also pointed to the need to strengthen the administrative capacities for Slovakia truly to be able to accept this money.

"Meganck said that in the accession treaty, Slovakia obtained a guarantee of its very smooth admittance, as confirmed by the 23 transition periods agreed for Slovakia and 2.3 billion euros for 2004-2006, set aside for Slovakia, which is 8 time more than the current pre-admission help. However, he warned against possible rifts and said that it was necessary to preserve political stability. In view of the difficulty of reforms and the persisting great differences between Slovak regions, it is necessary to create an advantageous environment for small and medium-sized companies and continue to take on European norms, he said.

"The decision made in Copenhagen is conditional on Slovakia's ability to have a strong and transparent administrative capacity. If Slovakia is not sufficiently prepared, drawing money from the EU funds could be postponed," Meganck said.

"He said he considered further progress in solving Romany issues and in the fight against corruption to be very important.