Slovakia. During the NATO bombing war against Yugoslavia
in the spring, Slovakia made its airspace available to
NATO's plan and allowed transit through ground transports of
troops and military equipment. According to
Countryaah official website, Slovakia believed that this
gave the country the right to NATO security guarantees and,
by extension, full membership in the defense organization.
In May, Rudolf Schuster was elected Slovakia's new
president. It was the first time President was elected by
universal suffrage. Schuster was the leader of the Citizens
Understanding Party (Strana občianskeho porozumenia, SOP), a
center party, at least of the four government parties. He
was the coalition's joint candidate and received 57.2% of
the vote in the second round, against 42.8% for the
controversial former Prime Minister Vladimir Mečiar.
To try to prevent the economic downturn and the fall of
the currency, the government decided during the summer on
budgetary tightening, a VAT increase and increased energy
and water prices. Mečiar called for demonstrations, and in
September about 40,000 people in Bratislava participated in
a union-organized protest against government policy and for
The difficult situation of the Roma in Slovakia came into
European focus during the year, when thousands of Slovak
Romans fled to a number of Western European countries,
including Finland. The Slovak government rejected their
information on persecution, but acknowledged that the Roma
live in difficult economic and social conditions.
Slovakia succeeded in reaching a settlement with the
Czech Republic in November on the financial transactions
since Czechoslovakia was dissolved in 1993. The Czech
Republic will return four and a half tonnes of gold to
Slovakia and in addition write off debts to the value of
approximately SEK 8 billion.
Slovakia promised during the year that the reactors in
the aging Bohunice nuclear power plant will be closed in
2006 and 2008. The EU had pushed for far earlier
decommissioning but still welcomed a decision to close.
In December, the EU decided that Slovakia should start
negotiations on membership in the Union in early 2000, a
long-awaited message for the government in Bratislava.