(Washington, DC -- October 21, 2003) The Slovak Republic's new ambassador in Washington, Rastislav Kacer, said that his country is ready to build on the success it has achieved since independence and carry out internal reforms without falling back to the economic and social systems of its authoritarian past. Ambassador Kacer, who spoke at a recent briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office, suggested that his country's political future depends on fostering independent institutions and cultivating international education, in order to get rid of the ingrained practices and attitudes left behind by decades of Communist indoctrination.
Kacer said that economic and social reforms undertaken this past year demonstrate just how close Slovakia now is to entering into the "community of the West." Slovakia has been invited to join both the NATO alliance and the European Union. Well-known international media, such as "Forbes" magazine and the German "Frangfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", according to Kacer, call Slovakia an "investor's paradise." The experience of Volkswagen is one example of how far Slovakia has come. The German automaker first established a presence in Slovakia with an assembly plant that used parts and equipment brought in from Germany. Today, Volkswagen vehicles are being assembled with 40 to 60 percent Slovak-made parts, and new models such as the Touareg SUV are even being designed in Slovakia, the Ambassador said.
Slovakia's current challenge, according to Ambassador Kacer, is to settle the process for internal political disputes to assure stable democratic governance. He called this process a "normal crystallization of politics" and said that there is no universal solution that would allow countries facing the transition from totalitarian rule to avoid this kind of political pain. Ambassador Kacer said that institutions such as non-governmental organizations and independent media are necessary to maintain the momentum of reform. He also spoke of the importance of both education abroad and international tourism to Slovakia as means to bring innovative, democratic ideas into the country.
Although Slovakia's process of normalization continues, Kacer stated that Slovakia is currently in a "risky phase," where its relationships with other countries, such as the U.S., may cause tensions with its neighbors in Europe. He said that supporting the U.S. on issues such as Iraq does not make Slovakia any "less European" than Germany or Belgium. In foreign policy, according to Ambassador Kacer, conflict should not occur over form; rather, discussion should be about the substance of policies. However, even these struggles over foreign policy are a "crystallization of transatlantic politics, a normal phase of European integration."
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