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Slovak PM's party rejoins European socialists

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(PRAGUE) - Slovakia's left-wing ruling Smer-SD party rejoined the Party of European Socialists (PES) Tuesday after being banned for three years over its alliance with nationalists, a Smer-SD official said.

"It's a satisfaction and encouragement for us. This reintegration confirms we are on the right path," Smer-SD delegate Juraj Horvath told AFP after the PES readmitted the party at a congress in Prague.

The PES suspended Smer-SD's membership in October 2006 following general elections after which Smer-SD teamed up with the Slovak National Party (SNS), known for its fiery rhetoric against Roma and Hungarian minorities in Slovakia.

But it eased its stance after Slovak Prime Minister and Smer-SD chairman Robert Fico and SNS leader Jan Slota pledged in a letter last year to respect European values, human rights and all ethnic minorities.

Tuesday's decision drew protests from Hungary's MSZP party, which however could not beat the PES's 93-percent majority voting in favour of the readmission.

"Smer-SD has formed a coalition with a party which is xenophobic and extremist. That's unacceptable," Agnes Vadai from the MSZP told AFP at the congress.

Slovakia was ruled by Hungary for centuries and has only been an independent state since Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

Ties between Slovakia and Hungary, two ex-Soviet bloc neighbours who joined the European Union in 2004, have been particularly tense since the 2006 vote.

The fellow 2004 EU members have traded blows several times in the past year, peaking with Slovakia's decision to bar Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom from entering its territory in late August.

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