Czechs, Slovaks Work to Ensure A Peaceful Split
CZECHOSLOVAKIA'S `VELVET DIVORCE'
PRAGUE — THE Czechs and Slovaks have managed to settle their divorce with remarkable speed and in a businesslike manner. In just three months they have worked out the terms for the split of Czechoslovakia, which will take place Jan. 1.
"We learned something from Yugoslavia," says Jiri Schneider, spokesman for Vaclav Klaus, prime minister and chief negotiator for the Czech Republic. "We learned that postponing solving the problem is most dangerous."
Negotiators were spared much work because the Czech and Slovak republics, which comprise Czechoslovakia, already had their own parliaments and ministries, and much of the negotiating was delegated to these ministries. Another time-saver was the good neighbor treaty between the two republics. It was cribbed from existing treaties between Prague and other countries.
It is inevitable that mistakes were made and are hidden in the details, diplomats here conclude. "There are going to be squabbles after Jan. 1," one Western diplomat in Prague says, "but people don't think there's going to be a big to-do." Generally, observers praise the agreements, as do both sides in the "velvet divorce."
"I'm very satisfied, not only with the result but with the way it was worked out," says Augustin Huska, vice-president of the Slovak Parliament and vice-chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia. This is the party of Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, the champion of Slovak sovereignty who, along with Czech Prime Minister Klaus, worked out the general terms of the split.
One of the most difficult issues was dividing federal property, because so much of it is in the federal capital of Prague, located in the Czech Republic.
Two guidelines were eventually set: Immovable property, such as buildings, will belong to the republic in which it is located; moveable property - down to office furniture - will be split on a 2-to-1 ratio, reflecting the fact that about twice as many people live in the Czech Republic as in Slovakia.
With the military being the greatest exception, no compensation will be paid to the other side for the loss of immovable property. This leaves the Czechs ahead. They gain clear title to the majestic Prague Castle, for instance, while happily leaving the Gabcikovo Dam - the subject of a high-pitched dispute with Hungary - to the Slovaks.
Property abroad will be worked out on the 2-to-1 ratio. The Czech Republic, for instance, might retain the embassy and ambassador's residence in a foreign capital, while the Slovaks would inherit the cultural center. About 20 embassies will be sold, mostly in Asia, Africa, and South America, and the proceeds divided.
Observers had expected the military to be another extremely tough negotiating point. (Army breakup, below.) The bulk of military infrastructure, including headquarters and airfields, are in the Czech lands. Meanwhile, the 2-to-1 ratio does not apply very well to people - especially to the many Slovak officers who like being based in the Czech Republic and insist on staying there.
But surprisingly, Mr. Schneider remarks, dividing the military "was more simple than we imagined." Most of the military hardware, as well as the infantry, has already been re-deployed along the 2-to-1 ratio.
Compensation is being paid for the loss of property, and Slovak officers may join the Czech Army if they take on Czech citizenship.
Meanwhile, because of the interconnected Czech and Slovak economies, the two republics have agreed on a customs union allowing the free movement of goods and labor across their new international border.
They also have agreed to maintain a common currency for at least six months. The six-month period is essential to allow Slovakia time to establish a central bank and print its own currency. But not all economists think the deal will last.
"There's discussion about how long this [currency] agreement will survive: one hour, one week, or one month," says Oldrich Dedek, deputy director of the Institute of Economics at the State Bank of Czechoslovakia.
Either country can leave the common currency if certain conditions occur. These include substantial capital flight from one republic to the other; a republic budget deficit greater than 10 percent of budget income; and deadlock in the interim monetary committee governing the common currency.
Any of these things could happen, Mr. Dedek says, especially because Slovakia, the poorer of the two republics, will be incurring great expenditures at the start of independence.