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Miroslav Lajčák: Do not Break the Strategic Compass of Slovakia

Miroslav Lajčák: Do not Break the Strategic Compass of Slovakia

13.2.2020 | Aktivity ministra | Aktivity štátnych tajomníkov

“This is one of my last speeches as the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic. I have devoted 9 years of my life to this mission. I would like to use this opportunity to share a couple of sincere and well-intended messages.” These were the words of the chief Slovak diplomat Miroslav Lajčák, with which he began his closing remarks at the conference “Foreign and European Policy of the Slovak Republic 2016-2020” which took place on Thursday, February 13, at the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

 

The event was organised by the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs of the Slovak Republic with the aim of taking stock of the foreign and European policy over the past four years now at the end of the term of office.  Members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the ministries, NGOs and the academic community were invited to attend the conference.

 

“Our foreign service is a stabilised and well-functioning system. Of course, this doesn’t mean that there is no room for improving, perfecting or strengthening it. I have no doubt that my successor will come with his own ideas about how the service should function. Some of these ideas can be heard as part of the running election campaign, and we can read them in the election programmes. This conference has been conceived intentionally as a technical one. With this conference, we did not wish to enter the polemics of the election campaign, and I have no intention of doing so now. Therefore, I am not going to comment on these individual proposals. However, I would like to formulate three basic challenges,” emphasized Miroslav Lajčák. 

 

In the first part of his speech, the chief Slovak diplomat underlined that during his mandate he has emphasized professionalism. “I have created a stable environment for the growth of employees. I tried to protect the ministry from external political influences and partisan shake-ups, which means that the Ministry now has a team of professionals with a high level of expertise and intellectual capacity,” he added. He also said that the effective functioning of the Ministry can be best demonstrated by the members of the diplomatic corps and our successful Slovak representation at high managerial-level posts of international organisations. “We have experienced a lot during these years – starting with the foundation of an independent state, its defence and establishment on the international scene, all the way to the membership in the EU and NATO. All of this has left its footprint, particularly a footprint of expertise on those who have gone through these processes. This all helped provide our service with skill and capabilities,” the minister added and said that it was this experience that has equipped the Ministry’s employees. “Despite all of this, I have heard various statements showing disrespect to the professional capacity of the Ministry,” the Minister noted and added that it is not just the walls of the building that define the Ministry but mainly its employees. As he further stated, it would be a strategic mistake to throw this potential away only to pursue one’s ambition to be something new, different and other. “Therefore, my first call for my successors is: do not make something political that has not been politicized. Do not transfer your political reservations to the employees of this Ministry. To the contrary, make use of the potential which rests with this Ministry and help it to thrive,” he accentuated.

 

“Do not repair what isn’t broken.” This is the second call of Minister Lajčák for his successor. As he stated, the new minister will surely bring in his or her own style. “I will understand if they come with innovative approaches and methods, and no doubt there are things that can be done differently, and even better. However, let’s not make changes for the sake of changes,“ he added and said that one of his efforts has been to integrate processes. According to Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia is too of a small country to further split its limited resources, since seeking forms of synergy is not a passing phrase but a necessity in Slovakia. “That is why we have included European affairs on the Ministry’s agenda – because seeking forms of synergy between our activities in the EU and on the global scene is natural and efficient. That is why we have created conditions for the coordination of European affairs at the Ministry, which had not been the case in the past. During the eight years since  “European Affairs” has been part of the name of the Ministry, I don’t recall anyone complaining about our performance regarding our activities concerning European matters. Despite this, I hear opinions that European matters should be withdrawn from this Ministry. I consider this to be unfounded and wrong. By the way, I hear critical remarks on the issue of the use of European funds. These, however, and this may be symptomatic, have not been coordinated from this building, ” the Minister added.

 

Miroslav Lajčák also focused on economic diplomacy and seeking forms of synergy between economic diplomacy and development aid. “Most recently, we have been seeking forms of synergy and matching of the activities of economic diplomacy and consular services when trying to attract qualified labour to Slovakia. Similarly, we have tried to make Slovakia’s presentation abroad uniform and define a new, single brand for our country – our national branding,“ he added.

 

“Don’t reinvent the wheel.” This is the third call of Minister Lajčák to his successor. “Almost 10 years of holding this office was marked by the years of uncertainty, crises, and the transformation of the world order. Despite all the problems, nobody has convinced me during those years that we could be more prosperous outside the EU, safer outside NATO or more successful in the world without clear rules and strong institutions,” said Miroslav Lajčák, pointing to the fact that in difficult times the Foreign Affairs Ministry could have been protected thanks to the Slovak strategic consensus. “Given this context, it surprised me even more that there were opinions which cast doubts on our strategic direction. And I don’t mean those which have come from abroad as part of the misinformation campaign. I was more surprised by those which have been coming from inside of our republic. I was surprised by them because they offered old recipes – that we already discussed and rejected back in the nineties. We turned these down after careful weighting of the pros and cons. We turned them down after having evaluated the Slovak strategic interests and options,“ added Miroslav Lajčák.

 

The minister emphasized that this was the process which shaped the Slovak consensus on foreign policy. As he further stated, he would not be glad to see it undermined and doubted. He also expressed his pleasure over the fact that, together with his colleagues, they succeeded in defending and keeping this foreign policy consensus for the upcoming political leadership of the service. “It may be more important than it might appear at the first sight. We are entering a period that will not be more stable than the previous one. It is important that Slovakia doesn’t lose time and energy by fruitless debates. [It is important] that we do not have „weak knees“ because of strategic uncertainty. Slovakia is strong because it firmly rests on its three pillars. Let us not undermine them,“ underscored Miroslav Lajčák. He further said that his third call to his successor is not to re-invent the wheel and not to break the strategic compass of Slovakia but, on the contrary, to strengthen the strategic anchorage of the foreign policy which has made it possible for Slovakia to become the most influential, most prosperous and most secure country in its history until now.

 

At the conference, also state secretaries of the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs gave their speeches. They focused on the evaluation of their agendas. František Ružička took part in the panel “EU – From the Post-Crisis Management to a Greener Future”. Lukáš Parízek was a keynote speaker on the panel “Slovakia’s interests in a turbulent world“. Afterwards the highest statutory representatives of the ministers delivered their remarks in the panel “How Slovakia did in foreign and European Policy in 2016-2020.“ The four-year term at the ministry of foreign affairs was also evaluated by the NGO sector and the academic community, namely by Pavol Demeš, Rastislav Káčer, Alexander Duleba, Zuzana Gabrižová and Oľga Gyárfásová. The invited guests actively participated in the discussions of the forum, particularly the members of the diplomatic corps and the representatives of the academic community.

 

 

Úvodný príhovor M. Lajčáka Diskusia s M. Lajčákom Príhovor F. Ružičku Záverečný príhovor M. Lajčáka