Looking Ahead to a Common Future in the European Family

As Serbia looks toward its future within the EU, it can draw on Slovakia´s experience and partnership to navigate the challenges and realize the shared vision of a united, stable, and prosperous future

H.E. Michal Pavúk
Ambassador of Slovakia to Serbia

H.E. Michal Pavúk, Ambassador of Slovakia to Serbia

Serbia is his first ambassadorial tenure, and he is delighted about it. H.E. Michal Pavúk, the new ambassador of Slovakia to Serbia came to Belgrade with a clear mandate and vision – to maintain excellent political relations, to foster bilateral political dialogue, and to support Serbia on its euro-integration path. It was our honour to speak with him and to wish him a warm welcome to our capital.

First, we would like to wish you a warm welcome to Serbia as the new Ambassador of Slovakia. Is this your first time visiting our country?

I am truly delighted to be posted to Serbia in my first ambassadorial tenure. Indeed, this is also my first time residing in Belgrade, although I have had the opportunity to visit Belgrade and Serbia on several occasions in the past, mostly for business-related engagements. Each visit has provided me with valuable insights into the rich cultural heritage and dynamic energy of Belgrade. My previous experience as a Slovak career diplomat has often brought me to the Western Balkans region, including Serbia, where I have engaged in various diplomatic endeavours aimed at fostering cooperation and understanding. Dealing with the Western Balkans and Serbia file from bilateral, European, and transatlantic perspectives allowed me to delve deeper into regional affairs and further enriched my perspective on the complexities of this region and its significance on the international stage. I dare to say that this experience provided me with a solid foundation upon which to build meaningful connections and collaborations during my tenure here in Belgrade.

Me and my family are excited to now call Belgrade our home and look forward to further deepening the longstanding ties between Slovakia and Serbia, while also exploring the cultural richness and warmth of this remarkable city and your country.

Last year Serbia and Slovakia celebrated 30 years of diplomatic relations. What was the key to maintaining good relations between these two countries?

Indeed, last year we celebrated 30 years of independence of the Slovak Republic and 30 years of diplomatic relations between Slovakia and Serbia. In honour of this diplomatic jubilee, mutual support, and closeness of the two nations, we introduced a commemorative postage stamp, issued by the Post of Serbia.

It’s important to acknowledge that our diplomatic relations have deeper roots. Both our countries have experience with living in multinational states. Throughout history, there have been enduring ties between our peoples, with notable figures such as Vuk Stefanović Karadžić, Serbian philologist and linguist, and Ľudovít Štúr, Slovak language reformer, who contributed to a sense of mutual understanding and friendship by fostering cultural and intellectual exchanges. There is also a special value bonding the two countries and their relations, namely the presence of the Slovak national minority in Serbia, counting almost 42,000 people, and a smaller, but not less important Serbian community in Slovakia.

Our nations share common values, including a commitment to democracy, human rights, multilateralism, and the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty

Moreover, our nations share common values, including a commitment to democracy, human rights, multilateralism based on respect for international law, and the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty. These shared principles provide a solid foundation for cooperation in various areas, from economic partnerships to cultural exchanges. Importantly, the absence of any significant unresolved issues between our countries has also contributed to the maintenance of good relations. This has allowed us to focus on building constructive dialogue and finding common ground in areas of mutual interest.

Looking ahead, we are committed to a common future for Slovakia and Serbia in the European family. Slovakia celebrating this year’s 20 years of EU membership serves as a testament to the enduring benefits and opportunities the integration can bring. As Serbia looks toward its future within the EU, it can draw on Slovakia´s experience and partnership to navigate the challenges and realize the shared vision of a united, stable, and prosperous future.

What do you consider to be the most important achievement of the bilateral cooperation between Serbia and Slovakia?

Not easy to single out one… Forging a strong partnership between our governments paved the way for strong economic relation relations. With some disruptions during the pandemic, our trade exchange is growing steadily, amounting to a record turnover of almost 1,2 bln. € in 2022.

We are very proud of the Slovak national minority living here in Serbia, who have preserved their language, traditions, and culture for centuries. An exceptional example of the connection of nations is the unique and world-famous Slovak naïve painting. In the autumn of last year, UNESCO accepted Serbia’s candidacy for the inscription of Slovak naïve art on the Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage and we are expecting a positive outcome by the end of the year.

I will invest my energy to enhance business cooperation and bring Slovak companies and investors to Serbia and more Serbian companies to Slovakia

I am convinced that 2024 will see the fruition of many planned initiatives, whether in the political field, such as long-awaited political consultations, visits at the highest political level, or in the economic field, holding of the 11th Meeting of Joint Slovak-Serbian Commission for Economic Cooperation accompanied by Business Forum gathering Slovak and Serbian companies. We are eager to announce the opening of a new Honorary Consulate of the Slovak Republic in Serbia with a seat in Bački Petrovac, which would constitute another strong anchor in our bilateral relations.

In which areas can Serbia and Slovakia deepen their already traditionally good bilateral relations? Given the traditionally good bilateral relations where do you see opportunities for its further advancement?

In enhancing the already strong ties between Slovakia and Serbia there are numerous avenues for further deepening of cooperation. Exceptional political relations, geographical proximity, linguistic similarities, shared values, and close interpersonal ties amplified by the presence of the Slovak national minority in the vast area of Vojvodina provide solid foundations. When it comes to foreign trade, and especially the investment activities of Slovak companies, Serbia is the most important partner of Slovakia in the Western Balkans. Our mutual trade turnover is increasing steadily, and we believe it has more potential. There are many untapped business opportunities in industries where we believe the Slovak Republic has something to offer to Serbia, including innovation, IT solutions, energy, food, agriculture, security and defense technologies, and transportation. The favorable geographical position of Serbia allows companies to think about spreading their activities further onto the markets of the Western Balkan region. Our companies are coming up with modern solutions in the field of waste management, processing, and utilization, renewable energies, and also in the construction of new and modernization of existing infrastructure. I believe that soon we will hear more about the projects of Slovak companies with a positive impact on the environment.

As a world-leading car producer with an annual production of over 1 mil. of vehicles, Slovakia currently suffers from an acute shortage of qualified labor force. Understanding certain challenges in the Serbian automotive industry and the ongoing restructuring of companies that operate in both our countries, we see room in for cooperation in the area/of sharing of the labor force.

As a steadfast supporter of the EU enlargement policy and Serbia´s accession ambitions, Slovakia has been engaged in several twinning projects aimed at and through this instrument supporting Serbia’s aspirations, sharing its unique pre-accession process and successful transformation. 

How do you see the future of our cooperation? Are there certain goals in mind that you would like to realize?

I came to Serbia with a clear mandate and vision – while maintaining excellent political relations I aim to foster bilateral political dialogue, and support Serbia on its eurointegration path in areas where Slovakia has had ample experience, especially in the fields of public administration and fiscal reform, green transition and adaptation to a climate change; help establish contacts and cooperation between our two countries’ academia and research institutions, and a range of other tasks, including the attention to the needs of the Slovak national minority in Serbia. I am eager to work both with Seria´s institutions and the representation of Slovaks in Serbia to enhance their position as a positive connection between the two countries.

Our economic exchange, although at a good level, still largely underperforms our political relations. As a matter of priority, I will invest my energy to enhance business cooperation and bring Slovak companies and investors to Serbia and more Serbian companies to Slovakia.

What would you say to the citizens of Serbia – why should they visit Slovakia?

Slovakia and Serbia share historical ties, especially due to their common past within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This shared experience fosters a sense of cultural understanding and curiosity about one another´s country. Also, Slovakia´s central location in Europe makes it easy to reach Serbia, whether by plane, train, or car. Its compact size also allows visitors to explore a wide range of attractions within a short time. 

On many occasions I am trying to explain to my interlocutors, that Slovakia do not have to be just a short stop on their trip.  First and foremost, I would emphasize the rich cultural heritage that Slovakia has to offer. From magnificent castles and historic towns to UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as the breathtaking Spiš Castle and the charming town of Banska Štiavnica, visitors will be immersed in centuries of history and tradition.

Furthermore, Slovakia boasts some of the most stunning natural scenery in Europe. From the towering peaks of the High Tatras to the picturesque valleys of the Slovak Paradise National Park, outdoor enthusiasts will find endless opportunities for hiking, skiing, and exploring the great outdoors.

Slovakia celebrating this year’s 20 years of EU membership serves as a testament to the enduring benefits and opportunities the integration can bring

Additionally, our cities offer a vibrant mix of old-world charm and modern amenities. Whether strolling through the cobblestone streets of Bratislava’s Old Town, enjoying the bustling nightlife of Košice, or experiencing the cultural and abundant festival scene, visitors will be captivated by Slovakia’s unique blend of tradition and innovation. Moreover, Slovakia is renowned for its warm hospitality and welcoming atmosphere. Visitors can look forward to indulging in delicious traditional cuisine, sampling world-class Slovak wines, and experiencing the warmth and friendliness of the Slovak people.

I would encourage the citizens of Serbia to visit Slovakia and discover for themselves the beauty, culture, and hospitality that our country has to offer. Whether you’re seeking adventure in the great outdoors, exploring centuries-old castles and towns, or simply enjoying the vibrant city life, Slovakia has something for everyone.

And how would you invite Slovak citizens to Serbia – what is it you like the most here, and what would you recommend to your compatriots?

According to my information, last year your country was the first in the world in terms of the growth of income from foreign tourists. Although we do not have exact data, I am convinced, that this also reflects the increasing interest of Slovaks to visit your country. 

Many Slovaks may know about Serbia through their relatives or friends dwelling in picturesque, Slovak-populated villages in Bačka, Banat, and Srem. However, they might not know much about the magnificent natural landscapes, medieval fortresses, or unique monasteries. Similarly to Slovakia, Serbia has also a thriving spa tourism. 

Being here for something more than two months, I am embarking on the adventure of getting to know your country better. Whenever my schedule allows, I try to plan at least one visit to a region outside of Belgrade. And, indeed, I take it as one of my missions to enhance tourist traffic between our two countries. 

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