BRATISLAVA (REUTER) - Parliament's rejection of a new penal code that was sharply criticised as undemocratic in the West will be welcomed as a sign that Slovakia is trying to integrate with Western structures, diplomats said. But they said it was only the first of several steps that Slovakia needed to take to show it is sincere in its efforts to conform to Western democratic standards. "This is sure to be viewed positively in NATO and European Union capitals," one Western diplomat told Reuters. "But this is only one piece in the entire mosaic and has not automatically opened the door to Western structures." Slovakia is keen to be among the first wave of new members of both the EU and the NATO. But Westerm diplomats have said its chances may be waning as concern grows over the pace of democratic reform. "There is a general political will in Slovakia to join NATO and the European Union, but there is still a deficit in democracy which must be overcome before this can happen," visiting German parliament speaker Rita Suessmuth said. She made no comment on the rejection of the law and said Germany wanted Slovakia to join Western organisations at the same time as the neighbouring Czech Republic. PM Vladimir Meciar and other coalition leaders reject the concerns expressed in the West, saying that Slovakia's democratic standards are equal to those of its post-communist neighbours. "Democracy in Slovakia is not lagging behimd our neighbours," Meciar said. "Slovakia is no problem child in Europe and there is no sense in trying artificially to make it one," he said. Apart from the penal code, the West has criticised failure by the ruling coalition to pass a law on minority languages and to allow the opposition adequate representation in key parliamentary committees as well as for its domination of public print and electronic media.