The man under fire over the clean-up operation following the Prestige tanker disaster off the coast of Galicia will soon be heading for the Balearics to stand as candidate for the Partido Popular in the local elections next June. Jaume Matas, the present minister for the environment and Chairman of the Party in the Balearics, has been criticised for not doing enough to avert the ecological disaster which is now taking place. The Spanish media have questions his tactics and have claimed that the minister could have done a lot more in the days leading up to the sinking. The Prestige affair will probably be his last major task before he stands down and starts campaigning in the Balearics. Matas has so far not said if he will be standing for the post of the Balearic President but political sources say it is just a question of time. The criticisms made against Matas will certainly not help his bid for the Balearic Presidency. Worst still were the allegations made against him over vote rigging at the last local elections. The claims, which were later proved to be false, have naturally hampered Matas. The claims were also exploited by the socialist party both here, where they govern and in Madrid where they are the official opposition. The next three months are going to prove crucial for Matas both at a national and local level. At the moment he is the spotlight nationwide and soon it will be the same in the Balearics. The Partido Popular hierachy already know that he lost the last Balearic elections to the five party coalition. In other words he has to prove his worth.

Jason Moore

NATO past and future

Not everything that happened at the Prague NATO meeting this week was palatable but, unquestionably, it was an historic occasion and should be remembered as such. The fact that it took place in Prague with Vaclav Havel as host symbolised its significance. More than any other Eastern European leader, except perhaps the now–forgotten Lech Walesa of Poland, Havel kept alive by personal example the spirit of independence during dark years of Soviet Union oppression. During those years few can have believed that a day would come – and come quite quickly – when seven states that were once beholden to Moscow would be accepted into membership of NATO. And, further, that this development would actually be welcomed, not just reluctantly accepted, by today's rulers in Moscow. NATO has thus increased its membership from 19 to 26 nations and made redundant its original purpose of holding the Soviet Union at bay in Europe. The acceptance of Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia into membership is primarily for political reasons rather than military ones. Just as potential new members of the European Union have to adhere to certain democratic, financial and humanitarian principles before they can be considered, so applicants to NATO have to guarantee that they provide democratic and human rights across a wide spectrum of society. However, such advantages of expansion, although valuable, do not answer the difficult questions that arise about the future role of NATO as a military organisation. Fundamental reform to face new tasks is now necessary.