Slovakia: bases beyond any control?

Status: 01/23/2022 3:04 p.m

Is it a normal treaty between two NATO partners – or a surrender of national sovereignty? Slovakia is arguing about a military agreement with the United States. In the end, will the Constitutional Court decide?

By Peter Lange, ARD Studio Prague

There has rarely been a protest like this in independent Slovakia: a demonstration of several hundred people in front of the US embassy in Bratislava. Those gathered here are protesting against the “Defence Cooperation Agreement” (DCA), a treaty between the two countries that is pending ratification. It is agreed that Slovakia will hand over two military airfields to the US armed forces, among other things.

Peter Long
ARD-Studio Prag

The government claims that the Sliac and Kuchnya bases will remain Slovak, criticizes historian Eduard Chmelar, but they will be given to the Americans “free of charge for a virtually unlimited period of time” – and US law applies on the bases.

Outside Slovak control?

Chmelar has therefore launched an appeal that has since been signed by numerous public figures. He wants the contract to be reviewed by the constitutional court. He also dislikes the fact that Slovakia “can practically not control planes and vehicles” that cross the border. And: “We will also have no control over the weapons and ammunition that are stored there.”

Chmelar criticizes that the possibility of nuclear weapons being stationed in the bases cannot be expressly ruled out. In general: This is a contract completely to the detriment of Slovakia. It looks like the government was just shown where to sign.

The admission of Slovakia and other states to NATO was completed in 2004 with a ceremony. But the alliance is not without controversy in the country.

Bild: picture-alliance / dpa/dpaweb

Government sees demagogues at work

Defense Minister Jaroslav Nagy counters the allegations and speaks of a “standard framework agreement” that 23 of 27 NATO member countries have already signed. Nagy negotiated the contract together with Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok; it is intended to bring Slovakia $100 million and reaffirm the country’s pro-Atlantic stance.

Korcok accuses the critics of disinformation and lies, calling them demagogues who have succeeded in one thing: “They gave society the feeling that American soldiers will come to the country because of this agreement.” But that is not the case.

Only: The Attorney General’s Office is also one of the critics of the contract. It has to examine ex officio whether the agreement corresponds to the Slovak constitution. And she too has more than 30 objections to the treaty because it violates the country’s sovereignty.

Foreign Minister Korcok is one of the fathers of the agreement with which he wants to strengthen his country’s ties to NATO.

Image: AFP

The regions are waiting for information

Criticism also comes from the cities near the two military airfields. Lenka Balkovicova, mayor of Zvolen, has memories of the time up to 1989 when Soviet troops were stationed in her home. She feels ignored by the government in Bratislava. At that time, the Soviet soldiers lived in their own settlement with shops and schools, and destroyed the streets with their military transports. Now they want to know in Zvolen what the government expects for the region.

The opposition in parliament around ex-Prime Minister Robert Fico and his Smer party now want to push through a referendum on the treaty. President Zuzana Caputova has another option: she can have the agreement reviewed by the constitutional court before she signs it. In Bratislava this is considered quite likely.

Slovakia: Dispute over military agreement with USA

Peter Lange, DLR Prague, January 20, 2022 12:51 p.m

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