Chancellors seek Slovak reforms

May 15, 1998

Chancellors of six Slovak universities and colleges have joined Catholic bishops in a call for political reforms and the defence of civil liberties in the run-up to this autumn's elections.

The appeals were issued on the eve of the national conference of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), the major party in the ruling coalition.

Nine bishops - excluding the country's two senior prelates, Cardinal Jan Korec and Archbishop Jan Sokol - attacked undemocratic practices. Their charges were immediately denounced as unjustified by Vladimir Meciar, the prime minister and leader of the HZDS.

It was at this point that the university chancellors endorsed the bishops' view of the situation in the country in view, they said, of their responsibility for the fate of all young people - not only students - in the country, and appealed to the centuries-long tradition of free thought within Europe's university community.

Mr Meciar has spoken in terms of democracy created by the fusion of all of the country's existing political parties into a larger "political entity".

The chancellors identified several features that are already embodied or implicit in the Slovak constitution and international conventions to which it subscribes - unconditional respect for decisions of the constitutional court, democratic elections in keeping with international law, accountability before the law of all who commit crimes, and objective journalism rather than "manipulation of public opinion" by the state-run media.

One measure stands out as needing change in the present constitution - the direct election of the president by popular vote.

The six chancellors represent the cream of higher education in Slovakia: the Comenius University, the Economic University of Bratislava, the Bratislava Colleges of Music and Arts, Trnava University and the Slovak Technical University.

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