NEW YORK (Jul. 16)
The prime minister of Slovakia, Vladimir Meciar, publicly condemned anti-Semitism in a meeting with World Jewish Congress leaders in Bratislava.
He also committed his newly formed government to adopt legislation in Parliament against racism and anti-Semitism and to provide for the protection of all minorities.
Following national elections last month in Czechoslovakia, the country appears headed for a breakup into two independent states. The impending independence of Slovakia has aroused Jewish concern in particular because of its only other experience with independence, when it operated as a Nazi puppet state during World War II.
The prime minister’s comments are notable, because Slovakia has experienced a burst of anti-Semitic expression since Czechoslovakia became free of the Soviet Union at the end of 1989.
Ivan Gasparovic, chairman of the parliament, who also met with the Jewish leaders, said that during his recent term as Czechoslovakia’s prosecutor general, he had encountered numerous manifestations of anti-Semitism. These included desecration of cemeteries and defamatory graffiti.
Meciar, who has been a leading advocate of independence, assured the Jewish leaders that the process of secession from Czechoslovakia would be peaceful.
He pledged that his public condemnation of anti-Semitism would be included in the charter of the new country’s constitution.
The WJC leaders — Leslie Keller, chairman of the WJC East European Commission, and Serge Cwajgenbaum, director of the WJC European branch — also met with the president of the Jewish community of Slovakia, Juraj Reich. The WJC estimates the Jewish population of Slovakia to be some 3,000.
Meciar, who plans to meet with Reich in the coming weeks, asked the WJC delegation to inform the Israeli government of Slovakia’s willingness to have an Israeli Embassy in Bratislava.