“We need to maintain Slavic unity with Russia” – Slovak president
Russia and Slovakia hope to boost economic ties, but it is not just business that unites the two countries, according to Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic, who spoke to RT on Bratislava's relations with Moscow.
RT: Russia and Slovakia have a firm foundation of good relations, but what connects the two countries now?
Ivan Gasparovic: No matter what problems we are trying to solve, we need to have good relations. Of course we have not always understood each other in everything. I think that today Slovakia sees Russia as a key partner in the area of economy, trade, and also in the public sphere.
I think that Slovakia, being an EU member, provides Russia with an opportunity to develop good relations in the framework of the European Union. Of course, we cannot say that Slovakia is a VIP member of the EU, but nevertheless it is part of the EU. And our good relations could contribute to better relations with this large union of states. The European Union, Europe could not do without Russia, because they need Russian oil and gas, energy. But Russia also needs Europe as a very important potential trade partner.
I would also like to add that President Medvedev’s visit to Slovakia helped to improve our relations. We signed some specific agreements in the area of the economy.
Russia and Slovakia have a special connection going back a long way – we can understand each other’s languages. I think that we need to maintain this Slavic unity, so that there is a multi-national Slavic union. There should be no barriers. On the contrary, there should be mutual support. We need to keep this historic legacy. Slovak writer Ján Kollár wrote in one of his poems that we need to bow down before the huge oak tree, the oak tree being a symbol of great Russia.
RT: During your meeting with President Medvedev in April, you backed Russia's idea of common European security. How do you see this plan?
IG: President Medvedev told me about this plan in a letter a long time ago, and I responded to that letter. Slovakia as a representative of the European Union sees this plan as a step towards creating one territory for cooperation in this area. I am convinced that Medvedev’s plan will find a response.
The summit in Kazakhstan discussed the same issue a few weeks ago. I see it as a chance to talk about security from a wider point of view. Russia cannot stay away from the European security issue, as well as global security.
RT: As an Eastern European country and a member of the European Union, what's your stance on the anti-missile defense system that the United States wants to install in the region?
IG: Slovakia responded to the preliminary proposal; it gave its answer. Slovakia saw it as relations between the Czech Republic and America, Poland and America, but we are members of one union, therefore we need to work out one proposal on this issue. Now Barack Obama is President of the United States, so the security policy has changed. I think it is a more up to date and acceptable way. Of course the US is welcome to become part of this system, and I think – and it is not just my personal opinion – that Russia should join this system too.
I would also like to mention that presidents Medvedev and Obama signed a new arms reduction treaty, and I think that this is the first step to Russia and the European Union having the same stance on this problem. I think we will have the same ideas about security, protection of our people. Why not look for a joint solution to the problem?
RT: Mr. President, this year Slovakia celebrates 65 years since its liberation from the Nazis. You and President Medvedev recently signed a declaration of remembrance to those who died. How important is this agreement for modern-day Slovakia?
IG: With this gesture Slovakia wants to thank all those who fought in the Soviet Army and came to liberate Slovakia. It proves that the history of relations between Russia and Slovakia is based on such help. The document signed by presidents had some ideas that would need to be revisited in the future. Today we see some Nazi ideas being resurrected. So with this declaration we would like to state that we are against it and we have to fight against it as we did back then.
RT: Today, 65 years after the end of World War Two, can we say that fascism in Europe was put down completely?
IG: I think no-one can be certain to maintain that. In each state there may emerge their own right-wing forces to take ideas from fascism. Therefore, what you and I are discussing is very important – it concerns a search of all possible ways to stop the implementation and development of these ideas, these philosophies, in future. I think cooperation between Europe and the Russian Federation is crucially important, and not only for Europe. Russia and NATO also should seek this common direction in order to resolve the issue. It is sure to be found in terms of what we mentioned in the very beginning – when Europe stops feeling Russophobia and Russia will get rid of its concept about Western Europe that used to exist before.
RT: What do you think about attempts in some Eastern European countries to equate fascism with Stalinism by remembering its victims on the same day? Is this an attempt to rewrite history?
IG: I don’t see any difference in killings – in various epochs and centuries, within this or that ideology. Killing is always killing. From the point of view expressed by the two presidents, it is about remembering those who fought for freedom, their freedom, the freedom of the Slovak people, of Europeans and for freedom all over the world. Our statement lays emphasis on remembering that. The difference is that a soldier dies in a battle and someone else loses his life for his political views.
RT: And how do you see the role of the Red Army in fighting fascism?
IG: Russia contributed most to the struggle against fascism in World War II. It is obvious that Europe needed, also like Russia, a different force. It is a joint merit that World War II, being so long, ended soon after the Second Front was opened. We should not forget about the people’s liberation movement in some countries against the German occupants, against Nazism, against fascism. I believe that the Slovak National Uprising played a big role in that. All that happened later, of course. The Soviet Army had been the main forces to crush the enemy.
RT: Now, let's talk about some other topic – energy. Slovakia says it is ready to invest in modernizing Ukraine's gas transport system. Previously, Kiev had problems managing natural gas transit to Europe. What results do you think this new investment will bring?
IG: Russian gas and oil are indispensable for Europe. So I think that upgrading the existing transport systems is necessary. Indeed, it so happened recently that Slovakia and some other countries fell into a crisis because of failing to implement certain agreements with countries transiting fuel from Russia, I mean Ukraine. At the moment a new relationship is being built between the Russian Federation and Ukraine. We are certain that in future, there will be no situations like this, both from the Russian and the Ukrainian side. Besides, the European Bank, the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will prosper financially as they will be turning new opportunities – renovating those pipelines – into reality.
RT: Moving away from politics and energy – as an ice hockey fan and someone who has dedicated so much time to the sport, can we expect the Slovakian team to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia?
IG: Ice hockey is a popular sport in our country, we are fond of it. And I am certain that Slovakia will take part in the forthcoming Olympic Games, and the audience will applaud them for good play.
RT: Mr. Gasparovic, thank you for your time.