|08BRATISLAVA593||2008-12-19 14:04:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Bratislava|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BRATISLAVA 000593
1. (C) During a December 18 meeting with President
Gasparovic, Ambassador raised Slovak-Hungarian relations and
Slovak engagement in Afghanistan. Ambassador urged President
Gasparovic to sign the compromise "textbook" law, which calls
for the inclusion of both Hungarian and Slovak place names in
Hungarian-language textbooks. Gasparovic responded
immediately that he had vetoed the bill. Although Parliament
could pass the law when it reconvenes in January, Gasparovic
suggested that PM Fico and Smer might not be as supportive in
a second vote. Regarding Afghanistan, Gasparovic expressed
support for U.S.-Slovak cooperation in an Operational
Mentoring and Liason Team (OMLT) and for the potential
deployment of Slovak Mi-17 helos and crews to Afghanistan.
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
2. (SBU) Not unexpectedly, President Gasparovic decided to
veto the compromise law on textbooks which would have
restored the status quo, i.e., Hungarian place names would be
followed in school books by the Slovak word in parentheses.
This compromise approach had been put forward by
Parliamentary Speaker Paska at PM Fico's request. (Note: the
Hungarian Coalition Party had proposed Hungarian names only,
while SNS and HZDS wanted only Slovak geographical
designations.) Gasparovic resisted PM Fico's personal appeal
to sign the bill because he deems it to be "unconstitutional"
since it conflicts with the existing geodesy (map) law.
President Gasparovic didn't address what is likely to be the
main reason for his decision: signature would have
jeopardized the Slovak National Party's support for his 2009
3. (SBU) It is also apparent that Gasparovic's December 6
meeting with Hungarian President Solyom -- while positive in
some respects, e.g, the two have agreed to continue making
joint appearances at universities -- may have hardened his
views. Gasparovic reacted negatively to what he considered
Hungarian attempts to interfere in Slovak internal affairs.
Regardless of rank or Ministry, our GOS interlocutors resent
Hungarian "instructions" as to how Slovakia should treat its
minority populations. We anticipate that Parliament will
eventually approve the law, but that SNS and HZDS MPs will
file a complaint questioning it constitutionality, so the
issue is not likely to be resolved soon. Comment: Although
Gasparovic's decision is not surprising, it is unfortunate.
The compromise bill helped to quiet an issue that has caused
tensions within Slovakia and between Slovakia and Hungary.
Afghanistan: Open to Additional Contributions
4. (C) Ambassador also briefed President Gasparovic on the
recent successful visit to Bratislava of Deputy Assistant
Secretary of Defense Roger Zakheim, and, in particular, his
proposal that Slovak forces cooperate with an Indiana
National Guard unit in an OMLT. The cooperation would
include training, personnel and material support from the
U.S., but Slovakia would get credit for leading the OMLT.
Ambassador also relayed Zakheim's request that Slovakia
respond positively to SACEUR's call for additional lift
capacity in Afghanistan. Gasparovic reacted positively to
the suggestion that Slovak pilots would deploy with Mi-17
helos to support ISAF operations. (Comment: Following a
similarly positive response from the Slovak MOD, DATT is
working in DoD channels to flesh out a potential way forward
that could combine the two proposals.)