Kiska to diplomatic corps: Slovakia´s foreign policy position is clear
On the occasion of the New Year 's meeting, president Andrej Kiska addressed the members of diplomatic corps accredited in the Slovak Republic:
„It has become a good tradition to welcome you at the beginning of the year to sum up the previous year and to look forward.
But before I start, let me wish you, your families and loved ones and your countries all the best for the year 2019. I wish for this year to be a time of more mutual understanding, tolerance and empathy towards each other.
This year's meeting is our last one at this occasion. As you know, I will not run for the second term. Today's meeting is a good opportunity to look back at the almost five years, but also to look forward to what I would wish for the Slovak republic in foreign policy.
Among many of my responsibilities, working with you, ambassadors and your leaders has always been inspiring. During the numerous meetings, either abroad or here in Slovakia, I met so many gifted people with vision and dedication. I have seen many great ideas how to serve our people better, to make our countries more successful and more prosperous. I wish to thank you and your leaders for all the support and friendship I have experienced in my office.
The previous year was supposed to be a year of many anniversaries in Slovakia. But it turned out to be a year scarred by deep sorrow and anger. The murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová forced us to ask, whether the values of freedom, democracy, justice or rule of law — values we like to speak about so often — are still valid in our country. And whether we are willing, if we are able to safeguard and defend them. My answer is, that we have not won the fight yet. But yes, we are able and willing, and we will do so. We entered this year as a stronger and more resilient society.
I wish that this year, the year of 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, 75th of the Slovak National Uprising and 15th anniversary of our EU and NATO membership — all so important milestones that formed our society — will be a year to commemorate in positive spirit.
Almost five years ago, I came to this office with a strong personal belief in values, which have guided me also in my foreign policy.
Let me speak about some of them.
How could we succeed without trusting each other? Our mutual trust is built on our experience, on the way we approach problems, on how we treat our friends or rivals.
Respect for international norms is one of the best examples to show we are worth of trust. To show the others can count on us. That we will play by the rules. My experience is very positive.
I found many friends among your leaders. Friends that keep the word and stand ready to help when needed. All the difficult decisions in the EU would not be possible without mutual respect and trust. Our collective defence in NATO is a trust itself.
All the global decisions we take at the UN will only work if we trust each other and believe in our will to make them reality.
Sadly, I also have to say that we still face the consequences when rules of peaceful coexistence and humanity are not respected and mutual trust is undermined.
I am disappointed to say that we have not been able to find a solution to the conflict in Ukraine. To make the dialogue and trust win over national egoism. I hope the Slovak Chairmanship of the OSCE will contribute in this regard.
I am also not happy we did not succeed in finding a way to tackle the spreading of hate, extremism, radicalism, but also disinformation and propaganda. Because they undermine our ability to build more trust and understanding. As a result, those who suffer most are people in need.
There are many challenges which none of our states can solve alone – terrorism, migration, climate change, or economic growth. We all need friends and partners.
If the last year was not easy for Slovakia, the last almost five years of my mandate were extremely challenging for the world.
I was elected right after the Annexation of Crimea and armed aggression in the east of Ukraine. We all witnessed the atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Yemen. Use of chemical weapons against civilians and individuals. Poverty and hunger still being the biggest challenge in many regions. Much of these might have not happened if we cooperated better. Instead, we saw too much of national egoism or simply lack of interest.
But I also witnessed joyful moments of reaching the Paris Agreement on Climate, so important for all the people living on this planet. I came personally to New York to sign this agreement, to show our will and dedication to fulfill it.
I was glad to see my country participating in preparation of the Global Compact for Migration. Although, the debate that followed turned into an irrational competition of populism in many countries. Sadly, including Slovakia.
I understand that migration is a sensitive and emotional for many. But any inaction, difficulties with implementation or simply non-delivering on the climate change is irreversibly harming our planet and killing the humankind. The price we will pay for the lack of our wisdom will be unbelievably high. As president Macron said: “There is no planet B”.
Here I will speak mostly about Europe, but it applies globally as well.
In the last year, we kept hearing those questioning and undermining our European project. Politicians blaming Brussels for their own failures, fears and uncertainties. But we’ve seen only a little of positive promotion of the EU in our countries.
Democracy is a never-ending process. It’s a contest of different opinions, policies and political strategies. In the end, any output is child of many trade-offs.
Why do we expect the EU to be different? It will always be an object of questions and doubts. But we have achieved so much in such a short time for the benefit of all EU citizens. Schengen, Eurozone,
Single market, enlargement. And there’s much more in the making: digital and shared economies, energy security, defence cooperation.
It is not easy for the people to absorb all the changes so fast.
So let's not blame them for feeling uncomfortable, having fears their freedoms are being taken away from them. This is why we need more empathy and mutual understanding. But most importantly, we need more active and responsible public defense of the EU. Especially, when the EP parliament elections are approaching.
No one will do it instead of us. In fact, there is a big debt of us politicians. Lack of, or irresponsible communication, undermining our very own stability. Some 30 years ago, when a leader spoke, he weighted every single word. Today, it has become very popular to scare with yet another catastrophe to hit on us. And how often do we learn it is not a catastrophe at all? Nobody cares if such predictions are true or not. But the harm that such rhetoric causes is far-reaching. And nobody held accountable.
After the referendum in the UK, how much did we hear about the end of the EU? About many others to follow? And today, there is hardly a word about it. Even the voices claiming the EU structure are unbelievably complicated have been silent in the light of the Brexit process.
In about five months, Slovakia will have a new president. I wish to see this office continue in the role of a guardian of our freedom and democracy. An advocate of respecting the rules and values, showing compassion, empathy, and understanding for people in need.
The new president will be very important in strengthening the foreign policy consensus. I hope he or she will be a person of strong values that we share with our friends and allies in the EU and NATO, willing and able to defend them.
Last year, you may have heard that the foreign policy consensus in Slovakia has been broken. Yes, there have been different opinions on several important issues. But let me make it clear: There shall be no doubt about where Slovakia belongs.
We are the EU and we are NATO. Voices calling to leave these organizations, or claiming that Slovakia should be a bridge or somewhere “in-between”, are wrong and do not represent
the reality. Well over 60% of Slovaks are in favour of the EU membership, and majority for NATO. Whatever words you may hear the deeds are what counts.
As you may know, there are still quite a few foreign policy activities in front of me. I will organize the “Bucharest 9” Summit in February in Slovakia. And I will pay as well several farewell visits — which will provide additional opportunities to meet some of you again. But to all of you I wish success and happiness in your careers and in your private life.“