- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Success in Slovakia
Slovak Ambassador Martin Butora is a happy diplomat these days because Slovak voters chose a pro-Western government in last month's elections and rejected a political party tied to an authoritarian past.
Not only is Mr. Butora pleased with the results of the Sept. 20-21 elections, but leaders throughout Europe and the United States also are relieved they will not have to make good on threats to shut Slovakia out of NATO and the European Union if Vladimir Meciar had returned to power.
"We were confident he would not form a government," Mr. Butora told Embassy Row at a recent lunch at the Monocle.
Ronald Weiser, the U.S. ambassador to Slovakia, Nicholas Burns, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, and NATO Secretary-General George Robertson were among those who warned Slovak voters against supporting Mr. Meciar, who was seen as an authoritarian, anti-NATO leader when he served as prime minister in the 1990s.
Even before the campaign began, Mr. Burns said in June that a Meciar-led government would be "a fundamental obstacle to Slovakia's accession to NATO." Now Slovakia is expected to be invited to join the Western alliance at the NATO summit next month in the Czech capital, Prague.
Slovakia has formed a four-party center-right coalition government led by the current pro-Western prime minister, Mikulas Dzurinda. Mr. Meciar's party received 19.5 percent of the vote, a sharp decline from the 27 percent in the last election. Although his party still received more votes than any of the other 24 parties in the election, Mr. Meciar could not find a coalition partner.
Mr. Butora said the election showed Slovak voters have matured and broken out of the isolation in which Mr. Meciar left them. He also noted that several reform-minded Eastern European governments have been defeated, while Slovaks re-elected one.
"There are not many examples where a reform government is re-elected with the same prime minister and the same parties," he said. "Usually they pay a price for their reforms."
Mr. Butora said the U.S. and NATO warnings against Mr. Meciar "did not prove to be counterproductive."
He said there "was discussion about it and debate about it." But Slovaks saw the warnings as expressions of concern from allies.
"This was a normal expression of worries of our friends," he said. "They were treating us honestly."
The expected expansion of NATO and the European Union to include the three Baltic nations Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia and four Eastern European countries Bulgaria, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia "will complete a circle" by bringing former Soviet-bloc nations into the West.
It's good for Europe, and it's good for the United States," he added. "In order to deal with the new challenge [of international terrorism], it's good to have the mission completed in one part of the world."
A leading political analyst at Belgium's University of Antwerp is even more enthusiastic about Slovakia's future.
The Slovak government is the "most pro-market and pro-Western coalition in East-Central Europe," said Cas Muddle, writing in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's East European Perspectives.
"So it does indeed look as if the ugly duckling of East-Central Europe has become a beautiful swan," he said.

Sisulu's new post
South African Ambassador Sheila Sisulu has been appointed as one of two deputy executive directors of the Rome-based World Food Program.
"Mrs. Sisulu will be a strong addition to the WFP team in the fight against world hunger," said James Morris, chief of the U.N. agency, as he announced her appointment this week.
"She is well known for her work with the unemployed, disenfranchised youth and has been an advocate for their cause, lobbying governments to assist in bettering their situation.
"Her passion and insight on issues related to young people will be a great asset as WFP continues to target its war on the world's most vulnerable, especially women and children."
Mrs. Sisulu, ambassador here since 1999, is the first woman to fill the position. She is expected to take up her new assignment in February.
The other deputy executive director is Jean-Jacques Graisse of Belgium.

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