STRENGTHENING THE POSITION OF THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC IN THE EUROPEAN UNION AND THE WORLD

The membership of the Slovak Republic in the Euro-Atlantic and European structures is the main determinant of its international position in that it provides adequate opportunities to influence, in line with Slovakia’s interests, those international decisions and processes which have an immediate impact on the quality of life of our citizens.

The European Union is the main context which influences everyday life and developments in Slovakia. The anchorage of Slovakia in the European Union enables our citizens to feel safe politically, economically and socially.
The Government, as a government of certainties for citizens, shall actively support and further all efforts aimed at ensuring a permanently sustainable development of Europe based on balanced growth, price and monetary stability, and a highly competitive social and environmental market economy. The objective is to improve the quality of life for citizens through high employment, social development, corresponding standards of environmental protection, and strong support of scientific and technological progress.

The main guarantee of security for the Slovak Republic stems from its membership in the North Atlantic Alliance (NATO). Maintenance of strong trans-Atlantic links remains in Slovakia’s vital interest.

The Government will contribute towards the success and proper functioning of both groupings, the EU and NATO, for they truly underpin Slovakia’s international position.

In defining its tasks in the foreign policy area, the Government also takes into account the key development trends and challenges of the 21st century.

The Government will therefore pursue its foreign policy against the backdrop of the following priorities:
- Trustworthy and respected Slovakia in Europe;
- NATO, a stable and reliable partner and the guarantor of Slovakia’s security;
- Development of bilateral relations with the EU and NATO members; specifically arranged and equipollent
  relations between Slovakia and its neighbours;
- Support of the enlargement of the area of stability, democracy and partnership, with particular emphasis on the
  Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership;
- Support of economic interests, investment, innovation and energy security;
- Responsible approach towards tackling global challenges using the potential of international organisations;
- Assistance to and protection of Slovak citizens abroad;
- Respect for and strengthening of international law and international institutions, including effective
  enforceability of international law as a key instrument for the protection of state sovereignty.
 

Main lines of Slovakia’s foreign policy and relations with the EU

The European Union represents the primary context for the pursuit of Slovakia’s key interests. In 2014, the Slovak Republic will mark the 10th anniversary of its EU membership. The Government will analyse experiences gained so far and set priorities for Slovakia’s future activities in the EU. It will base its considerations on the fact that, upon accession to the Schengen area, adoption of the single European currency and termination of the transitional periods for the free movement of workers, Slovakia has attained the maximum degree of integration.
The Government will support decision-making processes based on the common approach of Member States and EU institutions in taking decisions on the rules for the functioning of the EU. The Government will pay particular attention to the horizontal and multi-annual strategic EU issues which have a direct impact on the implementation of critical tasks in the area of public finance, economy, regional and social development, security and foreign policy of the Slovak Republic. It will focus, among other things, on the preparation of the Multiannual Financial Framework 2014–2020, implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy, stabilisation of the financial environment and the euro, on ways to support further deepening of the single market, on the development of strategies aimed at enhancing energy security, as well as on EU external relations within the context of Slovakia’s foreign-policy priorities.

The Government will be a responsible and constructive partner within the eurozone. In view of the debt problems in the eurozone, the Government considers enhanced coordination of fiscal policies essential.
In tune with its clearly pro-European stance, the Government will take steps leading to the swift ratification of the three new treaty instruments: Treaty establishing the European Stability Mechanism, Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union, and amendment of Article 136 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Based on a thorough analysis experience gained hitherto from Slovakia’s membership in the EU, the Government will reassess the implementation of policies and instruments for social and regional cohesion and improve the conditions for the effective uptake of EU funds as an important tool for economic, regional and infrastructural development. The Government will strive to include all beneficiaries of support from the structural and cohesion funds in a discussion on the development of policies in this area.

The negotiations on the new EU’s Financial Perspective for 2014–2020 pose a challenge in terms of making the most effective use of the added value which the EU represents on the global scene. In negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MAF), the Government will focus on those objectives that facilitate convergence and regional development in the EU, and on support to the cohesion policy. The Government will pay particular attention to removing historical imbalances and modernising the Common Agricultural Policy. At the same time, the Government will press for the highest possible added value and effectiveness of expenditures from the EU budget and focus on achieving an optimum budgetary position for Slovakia.

In the implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Government will focus attention, in the context of the MAF negotiations, on achieving a high level of employment and social protection, minimising social exclusion, providing high-quality schooling and vocational training, ensuring proper healthcare, and supporting science, research and innovation.

In the area of sectoral policies, the Government will pay primary attention to the development of EU legislative frameworks for energy, transport infrastructure, internal market development, environmental protection, and measures designed to mitigate climate change, as well as to the development of EU trade policy vis-à-vis third countries.

The Government will actively participate in the process of creating the EU Common Foreign and Security Policy, mainly in the areas of specific interest to Slovakia: the Western Balkans, the European Neighbourhood Policy and the Eastern Partnership, support to democracy and transformation, energy security, service to citizens, and crisis management. The Government will support EU enlargement with those countries that meet the criteria for accession. Slovakia will actively contribute to this process by sharing its experience from the transformation and integration processes.

One of the specific tasks for the Government in the upcoming term of office is to prepare Slovakia for its EU presidency in the second half of 2016, which the Government perceives in the context of promoting Slovakia, strengthening its position within the EU, and ensuring its broader participation in the formation of key EU policies. To this end, the Government will focus on the thematic, budgetary, personnel, logistical and organisational preparations for the presidency.

The Government will be actively communicating topical EU themes to the Slovak public in order to bring the EU closer to citizens and deepen their understanding of the integration processes following the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty. The Government is interested in promoting a broader discussion within Slovakia on the important issues of EU policies. The Government will seek to ensure a broader participation of citizens in the decision-making processes at the EU level, incorporate EU themes and topics into the curricula at schools, and support the training, preparation and secondment of Slovak nationals to EU institutions.

In order to foster a uniform and consistent European policy, the Government will continue to emphasise the need to strengthen the national coordination of processes in the development and implementation of EU strategies and policies, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic in the lead. For this purpose, the Government will streamline the national mechanism of “infringement proceedings” for non-compliance with EU Treaties. Strengthening the EU agenda across all ministries, including by wider participation of Slovak nationals in the work of EU institutions, remains a long-term priority.

In order to ensure continuity and rally a broad political support across party lines behind the strategic policies of the EU, and in line with the Lisbon Treaty which strengthened the role of the European Parliament and of national parliaments in the decision-making processes, the Government will closely coordinate its activities with the National Council of the Slovak Republic and relevant ministries, and cooperate with the European Parliament. The Government will ensure the dignified course of election to the European Parliament in 2014.

The Government will encourage effective participation of social partners in the preparation of EU legislation and in discussions on key EU policy papers and strategies. The Government will seek to support the activities of various business, professional, regional and other associations from Slovakia in Brussels.
 
Strengthening the security of the Slovak Republic

The Slovak Republic, as a reliable partner and ally, will actively use its membership in the EU and NATO to strengthen peace and stability in Europe and the world and prevent crises and security threats, including by active participation in peacekeeping missions.

In light of the interests and commitments of the Slovak Republic in the area of security and the need to further strengthen the trans-Atlantic link, the United States and other NATO members represent Slovakia’s main allies and guarantors of security.

In the context of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Government will focus on:
-           active participation in the transformation process of the Alliance;
-           more effective use of NATO’s resources and capabilities;
-           strengthening of joint defence commitments;
-           development of strategic concepts with particular focus on the ability of the Alliance to respond to asymmetric threats and the cyber security issue;
-           advancement of a deeper partnership and cooperation between the EU and NATO in the area of crisis management.

The Government will support the inclusion of Slovakia in multi-national projects within the Smart Defence framework.

The Government will actively advocate NATO’s open door policy as a means to broaden the area of security and stability.
 
Bilateral relations and neighbourly cooperation

The Government will develop bilateral relations based on the principles of democracy, rule of law, universality, indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, equality, solidarity, international law, and the Charter of the United Nations.

The main line for the regional dimension of Slovakia’s foreign policy reflects the principles of good neighbourly relations based on partnership, equality of states and a dialogue with the Czech Republic, Republic of Poland, Republic of Austria, Hungary and Ukraine, focusing on the support of the economic and social dimensions, territorial cohesion and solidarity.

The Slovak Republic will continue to play an active role within the V4 grouping, focusing in particular on those common themes which the V4 countries can jointly advance in the EU context and on other relevant forums.

The Slovak Republic will foster a targeted, assertive and thematically clearly defined cooperation with all members of the EU and NATO. In contacts with these countries, Slovakia will be actively presenting its views with the objective of effectively contributing towards the formation of EU policy.

The Common Foreign and Security Policy provides a framework for both active and passive strengthening of Slovakia’s position in international relations. Slovakia will attach particular importance to developing bilateral cooperation with countries in the EU’s immediate neighbourhood – first and foremost with the countries of the Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership.

With a view to the economic and foreign-policy interest of the Slovak Republic, and taking into account objective possibilities, goals and needs, the Government will also develop bilateral cooperation with other partners in the international community. It will specifically focus on developing relations with the Russian Federation and other BRICS countries, the so-called emerging economies (China, India, Brazil, South Africa), with Turkey, Japan, South Korea and Australia, and also with the traditional partners in the Arab world, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other regions of the world.
 
Global politics and multilateral relations

The global developments of the 21st century are significantly changing the political, security and economic map of the world. These changes may also bring new opportunities to Slovakia. The Government will support the development of the international order based on multipolarism with the aim of strengthening the functioning of international institutions.

The Slovak Republic will make the best possible use of its membership in various international organisations, with particular emphasis on the UN, OSCE, CoE, OECD, WTO, FAO, ILO and others, to advance solutions based on the principles of international law and effective multilateralism. Along with other EU Member States, Slovakia will press for the strengthening of the mechanisms available to international organisations to tackle global threats and problems that jeopardise social-economic stability, peace and security.
The Government will:

-           pay particular attention in the UN context to the issues of democracy, rule of law, human rights and freedoms. The Government will oppose any manifestations of extremism, racism, intolerance, xenophobia, aggressive nationalism and anti-Semitism and pay increased attention to international cooperation in the fight against drugs, human trafficking and other forms of organised crime;

-      will actively support action taken by the international community in combating global security threats, such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, accumulation of conventional weapons, and international terrorism. The main instruments in this area include the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, NATO and the OSCE platform;

-           advocate active participation of the Slovak Republic in processes involving the control of disarmament, liquidation of chemical weapons, and control of exports and imports of conventional weapons and dual-use technologies;

-           make effective use of its membership in the OECD, which acts as a coordinator of economic and social-political cooperation among member states, as a mediator of new investments and an advocate of global trade liberalisation with the aim of fostering further economic development, reducing unemployment, and stabilising and developing international financial markets.

The list of the Government’s priorities furthermore includes:
-           Strengthened energy security. At all relevant forums, the Government will continue to accentuate the areas of Slovakia’s priority interest, in particular the security of energy supply (natural gas, oil) and press for the achievement of the diversification and innovation objectives;

-      Environmental protection and adoption of effective international measures aimed at reducing the pace and alleviating the consequences of climate change. Specifically in the national context, the Government will exert further effort to reduce the share of energy-intensive industrial production by shifting focus to the so-called “green economy” and protection of biodiversity;

-      Considerate approach towards human rights, including the rights of the persons belonging to national minorities. In this connection, the Government will support various activities aimed at preserving the culture, tradition and language of Slovaks living abroad. It will take the necessary systemic and organisational measures, use the potential of various organisations, including churches, and further the dialogue with partners abroad;

-      Development and humanitarian aid provided under international commitments taken in the light of the broad spectrum of global challenges which Slovakia, as a member of the donor community, faces. The Government will focus on enhancing the effectiveness, flexibility and transparency in the provision of the Official Development Assistance (ODA) in order to create synergies with the advancement of Slovakia’s economic activities. To this end, the Government will support the revision of the Act on Development Assistance.
 
Economic diplomacy

Economic diplomacy will constitute one of the main pillars of the Government’s activities in the foreign policy area. The Government will pay primary attention to promoting Slovak exports and tourism, attracting inbound foreign investments, ensuring currency stability, bringing Slovak producers up to par with other producers on the EU internal market, and fostering energy security. The Government will adopt the systemic and organisational measures necessary to achieve the objectives in this area and will put in place institutional frameworks for better coordination of all ministries in achieving the economic diplomacy objectives. The Government will cooperate with all relevant stakeholders, in particular with the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Government will provide versatile and effective support to all Slovak businesses. As part of its pro-export policy, the Government will seek to tap the potential of the fastest -growing economies in terms of identifying new business opportunities and will align the priorities of the development assistance to fit this purpose. The Government will focus on enhancing the export-support capacities of Eximbanka.

The Government will engage business stakeholders in the planning, organisation and design of those parts of Slovakia’s foreign policy that are of direct relevance to them. Through the Trade Promotion Board, the Government will ensure better interconnection and interaction among all stakeholders in the area of economic diplomacy in putting through their commercial and economic interests abroad.

In order to support economic development, enhance competitiveness and create new jobs, the Government will seek to attract foreign direct investments, mainly in areas with higher added value. It will promote the development of scientific and technological cooperation with a direct impact on the development of Slovakia as a knowledge-based economy and, to this end, will also promote the system of education and training for highly qualified experts. The Government will follow up on innovation policy projects, already existing or under preparation, and will press for a more active involvement of the Slovak Republic in international transfers of modern technologies.

On the foreign policy front, the Government will strive to maintain the position of Slovakia as an important transit territory. Given its geographical location and economic potential, Slovakia stands a good chance of developing into an internationally important logistics hub. The Government will support the project of a broad-gauge railway from Košice to Bratislava and Vienna subject to its economic feasibility.

The Government will commission its relevant Deputy Prime Minister to take the necessary systemic and organisational measures aimed at ensuring uniform steering and management of the work of bilateral intergovernmental commissions. Adequate attention will also be paid to completing the system of a synchronised presentation of Slovakia abroad, with particular emphasis on ensuring maximum synergies between cultural values, economic interests and tourism promotion.
 
Service to Slovak citizens abroad

The Government will improve the system of defending the rights and interests and providing protection to the growing number of Slovak nationals who travel, live or work abroad, particularly through the provision of high-quality, effective and accessible consular services and assistance in various standard and crisis situations they may find themselves in. In those countries where Slovakia is not represented, the Government will cooperate with the missions of other EU Member States and with EU delegations on the ground. The Government will continue its discussions with other EU Member States on visa representation agreements.
 
Modern and professional foreign service
Since the foreign service must always be flexible and competent in tackling various foreign-policy challenges, the Government will accentuate the responsibility and redefine the competencies of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a body of central administration responsible for the implementation of a coordinated foreign and European policy of the Slovak Republic.

In pursuing its foreign policy objectives, the Government will cooperate with the academic and scientific community, educational establishments, non-governmental organisations and other relevant stakeholders.

Based on the experience gained so far, the Government will evaluate and provide for a stable, professional and economically efficient performance of the foreign service. It will adopt the necessary organisational, financial and personnel measures designed to enhance the effectiveness and transparency of the financial management of the service. The Government will revise the existing network of Slovak diplomatic missions aimed at strengthening the protection of the interests and rights of the Slovak Republic and its citizens. In close interaction with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of the Economy, the Government will pay significant attention to developing the economic dimension of diplomacy as an integral part of the coordinated foreign policy of the Slovak Republic.

The Government will strengthen the legislative and system framework for the activities of its foreign service by amending the Foreign Service Act in order to create prerequisites for enhancing the professionalism and expertise of the employees of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.
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