Slovakia - Domestic policy

The Dzurinda government has emphasized the need to improve the legal system, revive the crumbling economy, normalize relations between the governing coalition and the parliamentary opposition, and end Slovakia's international isolation. This program was approved by the Parliament in December 1998 when the legislators passed a vote of confidence in the Dzurinda-led governing coalition.

Having learned from the mistakes of the Moravcik government, which was undermined from within by the remaining MDS members, a full-scale replacement of state and local administrators was one of the first steps taken by Dzurinda. The election law was found to be unconstitutional by the courts and changed. In a controversial decision, Dzurinda revoked the amnesty given by Meciar to the people implicated in the kidnapping of President Kovac's son in 1995. The National Assembly also repealed a language law, initiated by the Slovak National Uprising (SNP) under Meciar because it discriminated against minority languages. For the first time in a Slovak government, political parties representing Hungarian minorities were being given a voice. Dzurinda continues to work to weed out corruption within the level of local law enforcement. In a 2001 statement of priorities, he alluded to widespread misconduct that ranged from theft of crops and misuse of social assistance to acceptance of bribes and abuses of corporate power. He called these deeds a "contempt of the law" and promised that his administration would continue to fight for the elimination of corruption and the fair treatment of all.

The Dzurinda government introduced an austerity package as its first step in developing a new economic policy. In 2001, the development of small and medium-sized enterprises was listed as a long-term priority for the government. Programs initiated through this cause are expected to create more new jobs and strengthen the economy through the development of an information society, acceptance of legislation for industrial projects, promotion of international investment capital and a continuing effort toward privatization in selected branches of the economy. Other anticipated changes include new tax policies, a rollback of subsidies on energy and water, and an end to price regulations on some basic food items.

One of the primary tasks of the administration continues to be the reduction of a massive foreign debt, which increased from Sk 3.7 billion in 1993 to Sk12.5 billion in 1998. These measures are not popular, but their proponents argue that they are needed in order to improve an economy that has been devastated by the reckless policies of the Meciar government. The economy is beginning to show signs of improving under Dzurinda during his second term: the Finance Ministry reported in early 2003 that growth is expected to reach 3.5% in 2003 and 4.1% in 2004. Inflation is expected to fall from 8.5% in 2003 to 7.5% in 2004. Slovakia's credit among foreign investors is increasing. Unemployment, however, will fall only slightly, due to the continuing restructuring of industry.

In April 2003, allegations surfaced that health care providers in Slovakia may have forced or coerced Romany (Gypsy) women to undergo sterilizations. Nine U.S. congressmen urged an investigation into the claim raised by human rights groups that 110 Romany women may have been forcibly sterilized since 1989. Dzurinda assured the U.S. congressmen that the government was committed to carrying out a full investigation of the claims.

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