Live Webcast: Slovakia and the New European Union
Former US Ambassador to Slovakia, Theodore Russell, introduced the foreign minister, citing the amazing progress Slovakia has made in the last ten years. Slovakia under the authoritarian control of Vladimir Meciar was an importer of foreign aid that helped to stabilize the country and lead to the ouster of Meciar. Today, Slovakia has become an exporter of aid, as it has helped put neighboring countries on the path toward democracy and stability.
Eduard Kukan began by expressing his contentment about Slovakia's accession to the European Union (EU). Under Meciar, Slovakia had been lagging far behind its neighbors both politically and economically. In his opinion, the lowest point of Slovakia's international reputation came in 1997 NATO enlargement talks when Slovakia was not even mentioned—which was much worse than being praised or criticized! Despite these setbacks, the Slovak government managed to catch up with the other Visegrad countries and enter the EU with them in 2004.
As new member states, the post communist countries have been deemed by some to be a ‘Trojan horse' for liberal economic policy and as strong supporters of the American foreign policy agenda. Kukan explained that this criticism from other EU member states had put countries such as Slovakia in the very difficult position of having to choose between two good friends. Although they did not want to do this, they made their decisions based on Slovak values and principles, not merely acting as one or another country's pawn.
This choice, in essence, represents the greatest achievement for Slovakia: that it now sits at a table as an equal partner of the other EU member states. As an equal partner, it will no longer be invisible to the international community, but an active participant on the international stage. EU enlargement has also had an impact on the Slovak economy, which is now one of the fastest growing in Europe. This outcome proves that although the economic and political reforms required by EU enlargement were painful and unpopular, it is now clear that all the euroskeptics were wrong. This experience puts Slovakia an excellent position to convince its neighbors in Ukraine and the Balkans to follow the same path.
In terms of it being a "Trojan horse" for US interests, Kukan asserted that Slovakia's interests are in seeing an effective trans-Atlantic partnership work. To that end, Slovakia and other postcommunist EU member states have been in favor of improving the partnership between the US and Europe in the political and security sphere, since he believes that it is the best way forward for everyone concerned.