Slovakia has been a strong supporter of Ukraine and Ukraine’s European aspirations
An exclusive interview with Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger for the Interfax-Ukraine news agency
Text: Nataliia Pushkaruk
– Please let us know your expectations regarding the visit to Ukraine and the main messages you would like to convey to the Ukrainian authorities and society. What intergovernmental agreements should be signed during your stay in Ukraine?
– I am happy to visit Kiev, the capital of our biggest neighbor. Clear position of the Slovak government – defined in the Manifesto of the Slovak government on support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, support for reforms. We are in favor of deepening mutual cooperation.
– Ukraine has already signed a declaration of support with several EU member states regarding its aspirations to join the EU. What does Slovakia think of Ukraine’s European aspirations and does it plan to sign such a declaration, to officially recognize Ukraine’s aspirations for European integration? What do you think about the likelihood of Ukraine joining the EU in the near future?
– Slovakia has been a strong supporter of Ukraine and its European aspirations of Ukraine. This is one of my main messages today in Kiev. And we are also talking about it in Brussels. The presidential offices of both countries are working on the declaration you mentioned. Ukraine’s aspirations for European integration have already been officially recognized on numerous occasions. For now, it is important to use all the provisions of the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine.
– How do you assess Ukraine’s progress towards the EU and NATO? How close is our country to joining these organizations? What government reforms have been successful and still need to be implemented in the near future?
– I am also here today to speak with Ukrainian interlocutors about the reforms. Indeed, the transformation and modernization of the country is a prerequisite for becoming a member of the EU and NATO. The reform process in Ukraine is continuing and Slovakia believes it will be sustainable and successful. Besides, the changes do not concern the EU and NATO, they must be introduced by the Ukrainians themselves to make Ukraine stronger, more resilient, for the benefit of all Ukrainians.
– Recently, Russia withdrew its weapons and military at the Ukrainian border. Despite the statements about the withdrawal, a large number of Russian troops, equipment remains near our border, as well as the threat of provocations by the Russian Federation. What EU help can Ukraine count on in the event of a Russian military attack on Ukraine? Does Slovakia support the imposition of sectoral sanctions against Russia?
– I am informed of the development of the situation on the Russian-Ukrainian border and Slovakia condemned the recent Russian military reinforcement. The EU is constantly working in support of Ukraine. The EU has a wide range of tools, including restrictive measures.
– Has Slovakia decided to participate in the Crimean platform? What do you think of this initiative and who will attend its inaugural summit in August from your country?
– Yes, Slovakia will participate in the inaugural summit of the Crimean platform. We will be represented by President Čaputová. The upper level of our representation gives an answer to your question.
– In your opinion, what can stop the completion of Nord Stream 2? Does Slovakia wish to maintain gas transit through Ukraine? In your opinion, how to maintain a certain amount of gas in transit through Ukraine in the event of its completion?
– As for the Nord Stream 2 project, it is not for Slovakia to decide. Slovakia has always been a reliable transit country for Russian gas to the West via the territory of Ukraine and we are really interested in maintaining this gas transit through Ukraine. We believe that the transit contract between Russia and Ukraine will be respected later.
– How do you assess the economic cooperation between Ukraine and Slovakia? What problems do Slovak investors face in Ukraine? What are Ukraine’s expectations regarding the protection of the rights, in particular, of Slovak investors?
– Economic cooperation does not reflect the potential. More work is needed. – There is a need to properly prepare the Joint Commission on Economic, Industrial and Scientific Cooperation and the Bilateral Business Forum in the autumn of 2021. Cooperation in the field of energy will take on greater importance and we must build on it. A friendly and transparent business environment is the basis for more Slovak (foreign) investments in Ukraine.
– Are all the technical questions in the framework of the agreement on the operation of the airport of Uzhhorod agreed and when to expect its resumption? How long is the agreement concluded?
– This is a very technical question. A bilateral agreement on the use of Slovak airspace by Uzhhorod airport will be in force from 5 June. There are still technical measures and procedures to be put in place and you simply cannot cut shortcuts. This is about security and established mechanisms in air transport, not politics. I was informed that the whole process would be completed in September.
– The Ukrainian government has announced that it is negotiating with neighboring countries on entry permits for citizens of our countries bilaterally, until the introduction of a single vaccination passport in the EU. Are Ukraine and Slovakia conducting such negotiations?
– We are very positive about the updated Commission recommendation (from 20 May) which makes it easier, under certain conditions, for travelers from third countries to enter the EU. We believe that with the progress of vaccination and mutual acceptance of vaccination certificates, the situation will improve
– Will Slovakia continue to receive wounded soldiers from Ukraine and children from the East for treatment?
– Since 2014, Slovakia has provided humanitarian and development aid to Ukraine worth around 9.5 million euros. An important part of it was linked to those negatively affected by the conflict in Donbass, including the organization of rehabilitations for the wounded and children. COVID19 has complicated the situation across the board. Once the pandemic is over, we can revisit this issue.