* Slovakia, a former front-runner for NATO membership, will likely be excluded from NATO's first tranche because of its domestic political deficiencies.
* Three of Slovakia's five neighbors will likely be NATO members in two-to-three years.
* Despite Slovakia's national political problems, a number of positive elements which constitute a majority--the moderate political center, local/regional political leaders, entrepreneurs, the military, and university students--provide the key for Slovakia's future.
* NATO's post-Madrid Summit policy needs to direct its efforts to these groups and to make credible the "openness" of the enlargement process to keep Slovakia and others engaged.
Slovakia's Recent Past
Immediately after the revolutions of 1989-1990, Central Europeans announced their desire to "return to Europe." In policy terms this meant that Central Europeans wanted to join the European Union (EU) and NATO. NATO's initial response was to extend its "hand of friendship" at the London Summit in July 1990 and to establish the North Atlantic Cooperation Council (NACC) at the Rome Summit in November 1991.
As 1992 opened, not only did the former Soviet Union (and Yugoslavia) disintegrate, but after the June 1992 Czech and Slovak Federated Republic (CSFR) elections, Czech and Slovak leaders decided to conclude a "Velvet Divorce" on 1 January 1993. Despite the fact that the majority of Czechs and Slovaks in both regions opposed separation, no referendum was convened.
Since 1993, both CSFR successor states--the Czech Republic and Slovakia--have continued to pursue EU and NATO membership. After the January 1994 Brussels Summit announced Partnership For Peace (PFP), Slovakia became one of the more active of the 27 Partners in the program. In September 1995 Slovakia was briefed by NATO on The Study on NATO Enlargement. When the December 1995 North Atlantic Council (NAC) session invited those Partners interested in NATO membership to engage in enhanced 16+1 dialogues, Slovakia responded affirmatively--participating in three rounds of discussions during 1996--concluding that it wanted to join NATO.
At the end of 1996, 12 Partners declared their interest in seeking "immediate NATO membership." In addition to Slovakia, the group included Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic; Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia; Slovenia, Romania, Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and Albania. It is clear that in July 1997 NATO will extend invitations to less than half this number.
"Political Cover" For Slovakia's Failed Policy?
During 1993-1995 most observers considered Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia front-runners for NATO membership. But as a result of domestic politics that have gone sour, since 1995 Slovakia has increasingly and effectively excluded itself from active consideration in NATO's first enlargement tranche.
The political problems that have contributed to Slovakia's exclusion from active consideration have included open political warfare between Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar and President Michal Kovac (e.g., the kidnapping of the President's son and unexplained circumstances involving Slovak Intelligence Service complicity). Meciar's efforts to alter the Constitution to expand his authority and steps to weaken the rights of the Hungarian minority also illustrate serious problems. In sum, the major stumbling block to Slovakia's candidacy to NATO arises from questions about the most fundamental criterion--the shared democratic values of respect for the rule of law and minority rights. Slovakia's present ruling coalition (Movement for a Democratic Slovakia--HZDS headed by Meciar; Slovak National Party--SNS led by Jan Slota; and Association of
Slovak Workers--ASW led by Jan Luptak) has called for a national referendum on NATO enlargement on May 23-24, 1997 which asks the Slovak population three questions:
(1) Do you support NATO membership? …