Slovakia. According to
COUNTRYAAH, Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda had great
difficulties in keeping the ruling five-party Alliance
Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK) united and in agreement.
When he failed in his efforts to form a single party of the
SDK, he announced in February that he had decided to form a
new party, the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU).
The new party was formally formed at the end of the year,
and Dzurinda was then elected leader. SDKU was intended to
be a tool for a government victory in 2002 and to complete
the country's integration into the EU and NATO. Slovakia
began negotiations with the EU on membership during the
year, and faced radical reforms including business and
President Rudolf Schuster underwent an operation during
the summer, which caused life-threatening complications: In
a coma, Schuster flew to Innsbruck, Austria for care. Since
the Constitution did not provide for measures with the head
of state in a coma, the prime minister became acting
president, which annoyed Schuster when he recovered. A
subsequent report found major shortcomings in Slovak
healthcare, and the Minister of Health resigned.
During the year, Slovakia received criticism from Amnesty
International, which accused the Slovak police of abusing
the Roma. The EU also criticized Slovakia for treating the
Roma. During the year, many Roma chose to seek asylum in
Western European countries.
Mečiar had support, especially among the rural poor and
the elderly, and he managed to gather enough signatures to
create a referendum demanding early elections. The vote was
held in November, but as only 20% of voters participated,
the result was invalid.
Unemployment figures in Slovakia were among the highest
in Europe and were around 20% during the year. Many jobs
disappeared when a large shipyard in Komárno was forced to
strike again. The shipyard could not deliver to its overseas
customers because bombed bridges in Serbia continued to
block the Danube River.