Our goal is to make sure that this excellent level of political dialogue transfers into concrete actions and results
With close and intense contact between Serbia and Slovakia, relations can only be for the benefit of both countries. About the upcoming anniversary of the establishment of direct diplomatic relations, Kosovo and Metohija, Slovak companies and Slovak people in Serbia, we talked with H.E. Fedor Rosocha, the Slovakian Ambassador to Serbia.
Next year, Serbia and Slovakia will mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of direct diplomatic relations. Is there room for further improvement of traditionally good relations and if there is, what can be improved?
Bilateral political contacts between our two countries have always been very close and intense, not even the COVID-19 pandemic has prevented us from high-level political dialogue. Minister of Foreign and European Affairs Ivan Korčok paid a visit to Serbia in February last year, during which he delivered humanitarian assistance worth almost 100 000 €. In April, the State Secretary of the Foreign Ministry visited Belgrade and Vojvodina, where our national minority lives. September saw the visit of the Slovak Minister of Defence and the wide public had the opportunity to listen to joint concerts of the Military Music Band of Armed Forces of the Slovak Republic and the Republic of Serbia the concert during Days of Slovak Culture in Serbia. In October, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Richard Sulík met his counterpart in preparations of the Joint Commission for economic cooperation. Scientific cooperation is also not put aside – in March this year International Scientific Conference on Slovak – Serbian relations was held in the National Assembly under the auspices of the Speaker of the Parliament Mr. Dačić. From this mere enumeration, it is obvious, that our relations are stretching to all areas of common interest. Our goal is to make sure that this excellent level of political dialogue transfers into concrete actions and results.
Slovakia supports Serbia on its road to the EU membership but also respects its territorial integrity and sovereignty. Is Slovakia under pressure because of its official position regarding Kosovo and Metohija?
Slovakia is a long-term supporter of the enlargement policy and the accession process. The future EU membership of the Western Balkans countries is not only in the interest of the region but also of the EU. We see Serbia as a key country in terms of stability and security in the region – we expect a responsible approach that will contribute to peaceful development. The changed geopolitical situation is calling for further EU-enhanced engagement. Making concrete progress in the Dialogue on the normalisation of relations between Belgrade and Priština is of crucial importance in order to foster stability in Europe and to advance on their respective European paths. It is now more than ever important for both sides of the dialogue to invest efforts into finding a complex, legally binding agreement on mutual relations. In this sense, EUSR Miroslav Lajčák has our full support. Constructive dialogue and the agreement that will emerge from it is a stepping-stone for a shift in our relations, but also on the international stage.
During your term in the office, you said that you wanted to contribute as much as possible to boost economic cooperation between Serbia and Slovakia. How can this cooperation become even better?
The development of economic cooperation between Slovakia and Serbia remains on the top of our priority list. Serbia is the most important trade partner of Slovakia in the Western Balkans. With the disruption of the pandemic year 2020, our mutual trade has been growing steadily year by year. Despite the difficult economic situation, influenced by the conflict in Ukraine and COVID-19 pandemic, we have managed to rise our goal to the upper level. The Embassy is following trends and needs in both countries and due to that is trying to point the focus on important fields of mutual interest and to make a connection between relevant Slovak and Serbian partners.
“There is a huge potential between Serbia and Slovakia considering cooperation in technological development”
In order to make cooperation even better, we are continuously in touch with the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia and Slovakia and with relevant Ministries and state institutions of both countries as well. As an example of good coordination and cooperation, I would like to underline the organization of the 10th Joint commission for economic cooperation between Slovakia and Serbia, held in Bratislava in November 2021 co-chaired by Serbian and Slovak Ministers of Economy followed by the Business Forum with the participation of companies from both countries. The Joint commission covered more topics such as investments, energy, transport, development assistance, agriculture or environmental protection and I believe we will see tangible results in all these areas in the upcoming period.
Slovak investors have been showing more interest in investing in Serbia. Can we expect new investments or projects?
We are receiving letters of intent and information letters from Slovak companies on a daily basis. I have witnessed a significant increase in the interest of Slovak companies in investing in Serbia since I came and that interest is continuously rising. Serbia has proven that it has a stable market and production, and thus reliable partners and prospects for fruitful and long-lasting cooperation. We aim to achieve more thriving investments and to repeat successful stories of Slovak companies already invested in Serbia that set a good example for other interested companies. Several prospective potential investments have been set on our priority list at the moment and negotiations with local authorities have already begun, mostly in the domain of agriculture, environment and energy.
Talks on the development of new technologies are intensifying. How much potential is there in Serbia and Slovakia cooperating on technological development?
There is a huge potential between Serbia and Slovakia considering cooperation in technological development. It is not a new fact that we are living in the era of technology and the 4th industrial revolution, therefore every country looking for development and a brighter future is turning to innovations and technology. A good example, showing the importance of the topic, is the pandemic that we have faced. During the culmination of the pandemic, several patents of Slovak innovative companies have been launched to the foreign, worldwide markets. Development is reflected not only in the health industry but in many other sectors as well, e.g. software engineering, space industry, energy efficiency, environment, digitalization, blockchain, gaming industry etc.
“We are very proud of the Slovak national minority living here in Serbia”
The situation in Serbia is similar and we have recognized these trends as the path to potential cooperation between Slovakian and Serbian companies. We are continuously trying to connect not only start-ups and companies but academic society as well, which can lead to laying the foundation for future, long-term cooperation. We are also following the fast-growing trends considering blockchain technologies and crypto and we have recognized huge potential in this domain. Therefore, we are supporting the Serbian blockchain community and our Embassy was a partner in previously organized conferences. We were glad to host the conference of Initiative for development of digital property on our premises in April.
Are Slovakian companies interested in increasing energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources in Serbia?
Energy efficiency is one of the major topics these days. There is room for cooperation and exchange of experience in the field of design and implementation of public policies in the area of energy efficiency and renewable energy sources. Slovakia is ready to share its experience and practices in the use of innovative technologies, especially hydrogen. There are also Slovak companies with long-term experience interested in the reconstruction of coal-fired thermal power plants and their transformation into more environmentally friendly facilities, or in the construction of municipal waste incinerators or water treatment plants and some of them are already present in Serbia.
The Slovak people in Serbia nurture their culture and tradition. How can our two countries cooperate more in culture?
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 art. Together with the relevant Serbian authorities and the municipality of Kovačica, we are currently working intensively on the inscription in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List as soon as possible. We have very productive cooperation with many galleries and we always can count on their support. A great example is a partnership with the Gallery ´73 in Belgrade which regularly organizes Days of Slovak culture.
How, do you think, will the future relations between Serbia and Slovakia develop?
I believe that all the above-mentioned areas of cooperation, geographical proximity, similar language, common values and close interpersonal ties provide us with excellent basis to further enhance and intensifying our great relations for the benefit of both countries.