President of Slovakia

Speech made to the Assembly

Wednesday, 5 October 1994

President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, your excellencies, parliamentarians of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and ladies and gentlemen. I could speak in a foreign language but, out of respect for the Slovak Secretariat, as today is an historic day here in Strasbourg, I consider that it would be best to speak in the Slovak language.

I consider it a great honour to have the opportunity to address today the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. I wish to extend to you, Mr President, gratitude for your supportive and encouraging words during your visit to Slovakia in January this year. At the same time, I wish to use this opportunity to express the support of the Slovak Republic for Daniel Tarschys, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, when implementing and strengthening the principles and objectives of the Council of Europe, and contributing decisively to the development of democratic institutions and to the protection of human rights.

The establishment of the Slovak Republic is an example of democratic changes in international relations that we have witnessed in the period after the cold war ended. The birth of an independent Slovak Republic is the expression of the ancient desires of the Slovak nation to become a sovereign state.

The independent Slovak Republic is continuing on the road that it took in November 1989. We are building a democratic state of law, rooted in a free pluralistic society. We are continuing our economic transformation for the fourth year, the objective of which is the achievement of a market economy with clear predominance of private ownership. After temporary difficulties that were reflected in a decline in our gross domestic product, in production in nearly all sectors of economy, an increase in inflation and a deficit on the state budget, and an increase in unemployment, certain positive aspects have started to make headway in our economic development. Slovakia, even after the split of Czechoslovakia in January 1993, in spite of a less advantageous starting position compared with the Czech Republic, has maintained the necessary macro-economic stability and the main principles of transformation.

This year, the development has so far augmented positive trends. We have recorded growth in our gross domestic product and a low inflation rate comparable even with stable market economies. The recovery in our state finance and currency has progressed further and foreign exchange reserves have increased. The first indications of recovery in industrial production have been manifested, too, and exports are increasing.

Hand-in-hand with efforts to introduce macroeconomic stability, we have worked intensively on creating the legislative and institutional conditions of a market economy and changes of structure of owners. We are aware that there still is a lot of work to be done, but in spite of that we can state that the essential legal and institutional pillars of a market economy have been put in place in Slovakia. The diversified structure of ownership has been dynamically developing, due not only to privatisation of existing state-owned properties but to establishment of new private entrepreneurial entities. The non-state sector today represents 40% of the generated gross domestic product, and its proportion, no doubt, will continue to increase. The second wave of privatisation, the preparatory stage of which is being concluded, will also contribute to that. We wish to use a combination of different privatisation forms, such as the voucher method, direct sale to domestic and foreign investors and sale of stock through the capital market. It is our ambition to link the process of privatisation with financial, technical and economic restructuring of the state sector of companies and the banking sector, and to help the microeconomy to adapt itself to changed conditions. We are working intensively on preparation of such a programme. We appreciate the assistance of the World Bank, of experts of the G-24 countries and of the European Union in preparation of the project, and we hope to be supported by them also in its implementation.

In the past few years, we have witnessed quickly changing relations in the world policy. Contemporaneity is stigmatised by dynamic changes caused by the growing multipolarity of international relations. Last year, many such events took place, moving the international community forward to fulfilment of ideals shared by the Council of Europe, development of peaceful co-existence of nations and strengthening of mutual co-operation. On the other hand, other events took place that did not fill us with optimism.

Slovakia wishes to contribute, too, so that the formation of new relations is based on respect of international law and principles of the democratic co-existence of nations. This is in line with the principles of our foreign policy, which flow from the basic values of Slovak society. This belief is characterised by respect for democracy and for human rights, and by the creation of an economic environment based on free market principles. The guarantees of democracy and the protection of human rights are constitutional guarantees. In a country where the Constitutional Court is functional, no higher guarantees exist.

It is obvious that the Slovak Republic, as a small country in a geopolitically sensitive region of central Europe, must have a clearly demarcated foreign policy. The Slovak Republic links its activities to European integration processes and strives to belong among stable, democratic and prosperous countries. Accession to the European Union and active participation in creating an efficient model of European security is also a priority of Slovak foreign policy. Our foreign political activities are thus unequivocally directed at the creation of preconditions that will enable Slovakia to achieve fully fledged membership of the European Union as soon as possible. The essential starting point for us was the signing of the Europe Agreement, establishing an association between the Slovak Republic and the European Union.

International contacts of the Slovak Republic are, naturally, more extensive and many-sided. We are interested in securing the best possible relations with neighbouring countries, based on high-quality agreements to facilitate mutually beneficial multilateral co-operation. I can state with satisfaction that we have succeeded in fulfilling this objective recently, thereby contributing to the stability of the whole region. Continuing closer relations with west European countries and a strengthening of our economic, political and security position have positively contributed to the fulfilment of this objective.

On a global level, the priority for the Slovak Republic, being a part of the European region, is the maintenance of strong transatlantic links. We cannot undervalue the development of contacts and cooperation with our eastern neighbours – the Russian Federation and other countries of the Community of Independent States – as well as with more distant regions of the world.

The aims and objectives that we have set ourselves are demanding and preconditioned by sufficient support from the general public and consensus of the most important entities of our political spectrum. Nevertheless, I can state with satisfaction that with respect to the principal issues of orientation of foreign policy of the Slovak Republic, there prevails broad civic and political agreement in Slovakia. That transmits a positive signal abroad, and foreign countries can count on Slovakia as a reliable and trustworthy partner in the future.

When the young Slovak Republic became a member of the Council of Europe, it acquired rights to contribute actively to solving political events in Europe and to participating in the creation of documents of the Council of Europe. It also acquired obligations arising from the accession to the Council of Europe and from intergovernmental and interparliamentary co-operation. Membership of the Council of Europe is, for us, not only an encouragement but also an obligation of permanent standing.

The Council of Europe stated on the occasion of our acceptance that the Slovak Republic is regarded as being able and willing to respect and accept principles of the state of law and to guarantee human rights and fundamental freedoms for all individuals under its jurisdiction. That constitutes a significant motivating role.

The willingness of the Slovak Republic to preserve the continuity of obligations in European conventions, specifically conventions in respect of human rights, was demonstrated also by the fact that the Slovak Republic, immediately after its establishment, applied to become a successor to these conventions of the Council of Europe, the contractual party of which had been the former Federal Republic.

When the Slovak Republic was accepted for membership of the Council of Europe, we approve a one-sided obligation to implement specific recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly on the Council of Europe concerning our relations with national minorities living within the Slovak Republic. The Slovak Republic considers it important to ensure the rights of national minorities and to generate conditions for their fully-fledged development, pursuant to the constitution of the Slovak Republic and to international agreements covering the rights of citizens belonging to national minorities. It is our objective to ensure and develop the harmonious co-existence of all citizens of the Slovak Republic. I am pleased to use this opportunity to inform the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, of our fulfilment of the obligations on the Slovak Republic which we accepted at the time that we became a member country of the Council of Europe.

Legislation was adopted to bestow upon each individual belonging to a national minority the right to use his or her own surname and name in his or her mother tongue, and to have them recorded in the registry in the language of that minority.

The right of individuals belonging to a national minority – Hungarian, German, Ruthenian – to indicate in their language local names, signs and inscriptions and other information in areas where more than 20% of the population is made up of members of that minority, pursuant to the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, was also enshrined by the Act of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on Designation of Settlements in the Language of National Minorities.

The Slovak Republic, as a multi-ethnic state built on the civil principle, is not inclined to collective perception of rights of individuals belonging to national minorities, but it advocates individual rights, as only the freedom of an individual can be the guarantee of a free state. We are, first and foremost, interested in further development of individual rights, and endurance of full deployment of the national identity of each citizen of the Slovak Republic, regardless of his ethnic origin, religion, and the like. The rule of law of the Slovak Republic creates preconditions to make it possible to become politically committed, and to make the best of possibilities offered in culture and education.

I wish to state in this connection that, when solving the new territorial and administrative division of the country, the civil principle is applied. We proceed first from the historically shaped facts with respect to regions, taking into consideration specific geographic, cultural, economic and social aspects, enabling close co-operation of citizens, regardless of their nationalities. It is our aim to create economically efficient territorial units, within the framework of which we wish to support the spirit of co-operation and co-existence, and support rights enabling each individual’s self-realisation. Application of the criteria outlined in the draft of the concept of organisation of local and regional administration was evaluated positively by experts of the Council of Europe, according to the view that the ethnic principle should not be a decisive criterion in forming second tier self-governing regions. I have mentioned this issue, as it follows the recommendations of the Council of Europe.

The Slovak Republic welcomed the decision of the Vienna Summit of the Council of Europe to enter into the process of qualitatively new orientation of the international legal codification of rights of individuals belonging to national minorities in the form of the elaboration of the framework convention on national minorities. We believe that the work connected with this convention could be concluded in the near future. As the work is being elaborated by the Council of Europe, and as it will also be supported by member countries, it will represent a pan-European standard.

Our perception of this standard is, on the one hand, that it will be binding for the countries that accede to it, and, on the other, that it will be a concrete indicator for the national minorities of the possible and acceptable extent of protection of national minorities by European countries. I have intentionally mentioned that facet because, with respect to the relations between the state and the minority – or several minorities, as the case may be – a certain equilibrium has to be preserved which should be respected by the framework convention. Any impairment of this equilibrium – whether by non-observance of the rights of individuals belonging to a national minority on the part of the state or by exaggerated and ever-increasing demands by the national minority – could lead, particularly in the case of smaller countries, to political destabilisation.

I assume that if the state has the obligation adequately and within the framework of its social and economic possibilities, to ensure the protection and development of the identity of national minorities, the state has the right to anticipate that members of the national minority will be loyal to the state. Only mutual confidence can be the best guarantee for developing and enriching the life of the national minority. Each national minority living in the territory of the Slovak Republic can significantly enrich the cultural heritage of our society. Generously guaranteed rights, but, most of all, the high level of awareness of the existence of individual minorities in Slovakia, offer good preconditions for our country to become an example of a modern European multiethnic society.

The Slovak Republic has become the contractual party to a number of important conventions of the Council of Europe, and the Government of the Slovak Republic follows with great attention the application and implementation of the legal provisions and practical consequences resulting from the respective conventions.

The Slovak Republic has manifested its efforts for ensuring a full respect for human rights by the ratification of Protocol No. 11 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Our republic has ratified this protocol as the second member state of the Council of Europe. By this act, it has expressed its support for and consent to the reform machinery for human rights protection.

We have established the bureau of the agent representing the Slovak Republic in proceedings before the European Commission or the European Court of Human Rights. At present, the issue of selection of corresponding human rights is being resolved to ensure application of the provisions of the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and co-operation with the relevant committee of the Council of Europe dealing with the prevention of torture.

The central activity of the instruments of international law is examination of the accession of the Slovak Republic to other conventions of the Council of Europe and ensuring the gradual harmonisation of legal measures with international legal standards. We are continuing to prepare the ratification of the European Social Charter, we are examining possibilities of the Slovak Republic’s accession to the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, the European Charter on Local Self-Government, the European Framework Convention on Cross-Border Co-operation, and others.

A variety of activities and the joint solution of problems of European co-operation within the framework of the Council of Europe enable the Slovak Republic not only to participate in the preparation of international documents and conventions but offers extensive possibilities by means of their experts to participate in structured European multilateral co-operation.

We appreciate the assistance project that is extended to the countries of central and eastern Europe. The generous financial funding enables meetings of experts to be held on the premises of the Council of Europe and individual member countries to participate in the mutual exchange of opinions on the solution of legal issues of mutual interest on culture, the protection of cultural heritage, media policy, social issues, health care, the education system, training and youth, environmental protection, and local and regional bodies. These meetings are being organised in the form of seminars, conferences, and visits by Council of Europe experts to individual departments of the Slovak Republic.

The Slovak Republic appreciates the possibility of participation in Council of Europe activities. Our state authorities welcome the assistance of Council of Europe experts in the interests of solving our legislative problems at a European legal level, and we expect that to lead to the strengthening of our democratic institutions.

A historic occasion was offered to the Council of Europe to contribute to the consolidation of democracy and support reform processes in central and eastern European countries by removing the bipolar separation of Europe. At present, no reasons exist for an artificial division of the continent, and the idea of the unification of Europe is becoming a necessity not only from political but from economic and social points of view. In that respect, the Slovak Republic considers that one of the most important tasks of the Council of Europe is the extension of its membership, while the procedure of accepting candidates should correspond with criteria based on Council of Europe principles and objectives. In this sense, we are willing to contribute to and support the fulfilment of justified efforts by countries that are candidates for membership.

Allow me, in my conclusion, to express our acknowledgement of the support that the Slovak Republic has received from the Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly in the process of deep transformation involving all sectors of political and social life.

The Slovak Republic, as one of thirty-two member states, perceives the Council of Europe as a many-sided international organisation, the members of which are united by the protection of human rights and the development of joint ideals and principles, the strengthening of pluralist democracy and the solution of problems of mutual interest. It greatly appreciates the irreplaceable role that the Council plays in the unification of Europe by means of intergovernmental and inter-parliamentary co-operation.

Although the Slovak Republic has existed as an independent country for less than two years, it must, while undergoing the transformation characteristic of the former communist countries, implement a considerable amount of work in the building and good functioning of its state institutions. But we are determined to accomplish both those tasks so that our country will be a respectful and reliable member of the big family of European countries.

I am delighted to have the honour to declare, on the occasion of this gathering, the Slovak Republic’s awareness that we are a part of this European heritage.

Thank you for your attention.


Thank you, Mr President. We all followed your speech with great attention. We have great expectations of the commitments that your country has made and we are satisfied and happy that it will ratify some of the Council of Europe’s essential documents in a short time.

A number of members of the Assembly have expressed the wish to put questions to you. I remind them that their questions are limited to thirty seconds. Each time that the President responds, colleagues will have an opportunity to put a supplementary question, again without making a long speech. Mr Szymariski will put the first question to the President.


The transformation of a state’s economy from a centralised to a market system always involves essential changes in ownership. A calculated development of the private sector takes place to ensure its decisive position in the national economy. I know that the Slovak Government has proclaimed that, to accelerate privatisation, it will adopt measures so that, by the end of the second stage of coupon privatisation, more than half of all the property now owned by the state will become privately owned. How is that stage of privatisation being carried out in the Slovak Republic?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

replied that the first wave of privatisation had produced a private sector whose share of GDP was 40% this year. The preparation of the second wave was under way. It was forecast that in the first half of the next year this share would increase to 60%. Further waves of privatisation would be required. The Slovak Republic was committed to privatisation of all state-owned companies, with some exceptions, and the development of supporting legal and financial frameworks.

Mr TROJAN (Czech Republic)

Two years ago our former common state of Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech and Slovak Republics. The separation was made very peacefully and without any major difficulties. However, we must admit that both new countries had to face some negative consequences. I have in mind mainly the impact on the economic position of both countries. What is your opinion, Mr Kovac, on the level of economic cooperation between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as well as with other central and eastern European countries? What developments do you envisage in that area?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

said that after the split there had been a decrease in the mutual trade balance between the two republics. There had also been major changes in some sectors through the introduction of new currencies. The situation had since then become more stable, although some fluctuations remained even within the existing customs union.

Relations with the Czech Republic were still a priority. The Slovak Republic wished to remain in the customs union and develop economic relations. It was hoped that the republics would reach the same level of co-operation as obtained before the division.

Relations with the other countries of central and eastern Europe were also important. It had been agreed among the Visegrad Four that, while they would not strive for greater institutionalised cooperation beyond that in free trade, there was room for beneficial informal co-operation in a number of areas.

Mr MARUFLU (Turkey)

On behalf of the Turkish delegation I thank you, Mr Kovac, for your clear and thorough statement. Over a period of three or four years we have witnessed a great turning point in European history, with the countries of central and eastern Europe successfully transforming their regimes to the system that obtains in all democratic countries. We have also been pleased and encouraged by the fact that, through a smooth process, the young Slovak Republic has found, and efficiently strengthened, her place in our common European house. What are your expectations from the European organisations concerning the transformation of central and eastern Europe into an area of peace and security?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

said that the efforts of western European and Council of Europe countries to help central and eastern Europe were greatly appreciated. There was, however, more to be done. In particular, Slovakia needed more help in the harmonisation of legislation. Slovakia often adopted laws for which parallels already existed elsewhere in Europe. Slovakia’s own legal experts were unaware of such parallels and foreign expertise would be invaluable.

Mr KILIÇ (Turkey)

Do you, Mr Kovac, think that the successes of the regional co-operation initiatives will contribute to the process of integration of central and eastern countries into the new European structures?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

said that central and east European representatives had met that summer. Co-operation could solve common economic and social problems.

Mr LAANOJA (Estonia)

At the United Nations conference in Cairo last month the representatives of Slovakia strongly supported the well-known standpoints of the Holy See on the use of contraception and the liberalisation of abortion. Do you foresee any changes in the official opinion of the Slovak Republic in the direction of tolerance or flexibility on this important and sensitive issue of individual rights, and especially the rights of women?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

said that the delegate had reflected the stand-point of the Slovak Government. The Slovak Government’s policy was influenced by the fact that the majority of the Slovak population belonged to either the Roman or Greek Catholic Churches.

Mr Kovac continued by saying that he did not exclude the possibility that governments could differ from the standpoint.

Mr SPACEK (Czech Republic)

Political life in Slovakia this year has been affected by confrontation, and the general elections did not result in a clear victory for any party. I realise that you are in the middle of important and difficult negotiations concerning the formation of the Slovak Government. Do you envisage the possibility of forming a broad coalition government in order to overcome past tensions?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

acknowledged that the elections had not given a clear mandate to any single political party and that there was a need for a broad coalition. He thought that such a coalition would, however, continue with the policies that he had described in his address.


Mr Spacek, do you wish to ask a supplementary question?


I do not wish to ask a question, but on behalf of the Czech delegation may I wish you, Mr President, and your country, all the best in the future.


We all join the Czech Siamese twin delegation in those very important sentiments. Mr Jaskiernia will ask the next question.


What is your view on the future security structure? Should it be based on the CSCE process or on the Nato structure, and can you say something about your attitude towards the Partnership for Peace?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

replied by saying that the Slovak security policy was no different from that of the Czech Republic, Poland or Hungary. All four countries had declared an interest in acceding to Nato and this was not preconditioned by their possible accession to the European Union. He thought that Slovakia would accede to Nato before it acceded to the European Union. Slovakia had already joined the Partnership for Peace and would be submitting its documents relating to this matter to Nato in the next few days.


Has Slovakia been invited to be part of Operation Haiti, and what is your attitude towards that operation?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

after consulting with his foreign minister Mr Kovac confirmed that Slovakia had accepted the offer but said that details were still being finalised.

Mr BRUGGER (Italy) (translation)

Mr President, as a member of an ethnic minority – I come from South Tyrol – I have listened with interest to your remarks concerning your national minorities. My question is, do you not believe that everywhere an ethnic minority constitutes the majority in its ancestral home territory only far-reaching autonomy is able to some extent to solve the problem of this minority?

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

replied that he thought that in this context it was essential to extend and deepen individual rights and not collective rights. In some parts of the Slovak Republic the majority population was, in fact, Hungarian or Ruthenian. However, Slovakian people also lived in these areas. Mr Kovâc said that by increasing the powers of self-governing bodies in these regions it was possible to fulfil the guarantee of protecting minority rights.

Mr BRUGGER (translation)

Mr President, you can see from the example of South Tyrol in particular that it is possible to protect a minority – although perhaps not totally – by giving it territorial autonomy and nevertheless not treating the representatives of the majority population any worse. I am therefore of the opinion that when people speak of the protection of an ethnic group or collective protection for a minority there is somewhat too little protection of the individual and his rights.

Mr Kováč, President of Slovakia (interpretation)

replied that there was a danger of destabilisation in the protection of minority groups.


I thank you warmly, Mr President, for your speech and for your replies to questions. Your closing answers are very important to us. You will find that signing and ratifying the local autonomy charter will provide solutions to the problems that you indicated. Sometimes, not much regard is paid to that essential document, but it is one of the Council of Europe’s fundamental charters, together with the human rights convention and the social charter.

Thank you, Mr President, for your inspiring comments. We shall long remember your presence at this Assembly. We understand better now the Slovakian position and the significant contribution that Slovakia can make to the work and activities of the Council of Europe.