RIGA - Latvia and Slovakia share the same strategic interests: for the European Union (EU) to be a strong, respected player on the world stage, and as members of the eurozone, it is important for the euro to remain a strong and stable currency, the Foreign Minister of Slovakia Miroslav Lajcak told LETA in an interview.
He noted that both countries also share the same views on strategic policies, such as cohesion policy, agricultural policy and the Eastern Partnership initiative.
“We have just discussed the next multi-annual budget, and the positions of Latvia and Slovakia are the same - we are in the friends of cohesion camp. We are fighting for a healthy cohesion policy that will allow us to move closer to the most advanced countries in Western Europe,” said Lajcak.
He added that at the same time Latvia and Slovakia are among the countries that believe in a free market, "therefore we are against artificial barriers that hinder an open and free market."
“The differences in our policies are largely dictated by our geographical locations, as our trade is primarily in Central Europe and Germany, while yours is in the Baltic States, Scandinavia and the United Kingdom. While we are more sensitive to developments in the Western Balkans, we are also sensitive to developments in our eastern partners,” said the Slovak Foreign Minister.
“In fact, I can only imagine one issue where our positions are different, which are mandatory refugee quotas, which we immediately rejected, but Latvia accepted. We are like-minded countries on all the main issues, and if our views are different somewhere, there is an ideological reason for this, which is due to a special circumstance of history or geographical location,'' he said.
There is no specific discussion in Slovakia about the participation of Slovak soldiers in the NATO multinational force in Latvia, he added.
“Nobody doubts that our security is based on the NATO shield, and being a member of NATO also requires us too to contribute to our common security. We can have heated discussions on various issues, but whenever we ask for a mandate to send our forces on NATO missions, it gets overwhelming support beyond party positions - our parliament has 150 MPs, but this support usually ranges between 120 and 140 votes," he emphasized.
Concerning the Eastern Partnership initiative, Lajcak said that Ukraine was Slovakia's top priority during its presidency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last year.
“We are among those countries that are following the developments in the Eastern Partnership countries very closely, and we are well aware of what is happening in Belarus, Moldova and other countries. We contribute to the EU's policies and strategies towards these countries, which also affirms that we have joined the EU not only to participate, but also to provide our experience and assistance. This is a good way for Slovakia and Latvia to contribute to the work of the EU,” he stressed.
Speaking about the trade balance between Latvia and Slovakia, the minister said that it is relatively good.
''We have a turnover of almost EUR 200 million a year, which has been a stable level for several years,'' he added.
Lajcak sees the potential for further growth in tourism, especially as Slovak ski resorts are very popular with Latvians. “Last year about 10,000 people from Latvia visited. So your people know our country, and our people know your people. This creates new bridges,” said the Slovak foreign minister.
As reported, Lajcak was in Latvia this past Friday where he met with top state officials and the Adazi military base, where he met with Slovak troops deployed to Latvia as part of the NATO battle group.