- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2000

Slovak past and future

Slovak Foreign Ministry official Jan Figel came to Washington to discuss his country's efforts to join NATO and the European Union, what diplomats call "integration into European institutions."
In a happy coincidence, he ended up integrating with his past.
Mr. Figel made contact with a long-lost cousin, a descendant of his great uncle who came to America in the 1920s. Mr. Figel had lost track of that branch of the family until he won a seat in parliament last year in an election that overturned the tyranny of former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.
A woman in New Jersey noticed his photo on the Slovak Web page and established that they were cousins. They corresponded via e-mail and finally talked by phone when he arrived in Washington.
"This third generation found its roots," he told Embassy Row yesterday. "It is symbolic that we can put this generation back together."
Mr. Figel, state secretary for European integration, believes the reunification of Slovak families, separated by wars and communism, is a symbol for the unification of East and West Europe.
"Europe will never be peaceful enough unless it is integrated," he said. "The only principle that works is shared principles and values… . We [Europeans] belong together. We must live together, sharing solidarity, the bigger with the smaller, the powerful helping the weaker."
The Slovak Republic aims to be ready to join the EU by Jan. 1, 2004, and is still hoping for an invitation to join NATO in a second round of expansion. NATO refused to consider Slovakia for membership under the Meciar regime. Now, Western leaders are praising the new government of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and promising an "open door" for new NATO members.
"We can be a strong, solid candidate for NATO. The three new members are our neighbors, and their interest is to have us in," Mr. Figel said, referring to Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
"I cannot imagine the open-door policy will stay only as a theory. We need the open door for crossing, not just looking at," he said.

Smart border crossings

When Canada's Martin Cauchon talks about developing a "smart border" with the United States, he is not referring to the intelligence of border guards.
Mr. Cauchon is talking about ideas like "CanPass," an electronic card that will allow easy access to the two countries for truckers and other frequent visitors who pose no security risk. He is talking about the use of technology to patrol for criminals and facilitate tourism and trade.
"We're living in a new era and must find new solutions" to the problems posed by the massive traffic across the world's longest undefended border, he said.
As minister for Canada's Ministry of National Revenue, Mr. Cauchon has responsibility for customs and borders. He was in Washington yesterday to discuss Canada's plans for customs reform.
Mr. Cauchon said he had "very good" meetings with State and Treasury department officials.
"What we heard is that they are pretty pleased with our vision," he said.
Mr. Cauchon is also trying to persuade several members of Congress to drop plans to increase border checks.
Canada argues that the move to have every visitor fill out lengthy customs forms will create monumental delays.
In his meetings with U.S. officials, Mr. Cauchon found no complaints about lax Canadian security only three months after the December arrest of an Algerian terrorist suspect caught trying to cross into the United States with 100 pounds of explosives.

Pakistan stop 'historic'

Pakistan Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi hailed the news that President Clinton intends to include her country on his visit this month to India and Bangladesh.
"The president's visit to our region could be truly historic if it leads to promotion of peace and security in South Asia and facilitates a just and durable settlement of the Kashmir dispute based on the wishes of the Kashmiri people," she said in a statement.
Mr. Clinton is expected to spend about four hours in Pakistan and meet the military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf. He will spend five days in India and one in Bangladesh.

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