Enlargement favoured but not at any price

His­tor­i­cal­ly, Slo­va­kia has been a strong sup­port­er of enlarge­ment, though in recent years the country’s posi­tion has become more nuanced. Most con­sis­tent­ly, Slovakia’s politi­cians have sup­port­ed Croatia’s bid to enter the Euro­pean Union. Short­ly after Slovakia’s acces­sion to the EU, the coun­try was unhap­py with the ini­tial Council’s deci­sion to post­pone the open­ing of acces­sion talks with Croa­t­ia beyond March 2004. The then Prime Min­is­ter Mikuláš Dzurin­da was a vocal advo­cate and one of the dri­ving forces of Croatia’s swift incor­po­ra­tion into the Union. Slovakia’s diplo­ma­cy thus con­tin­ued to push for a re-exam­i­na­tion of the Council’s deci­sion and was hap­py to wel­come the com­pro­mise solu­tion where­by both Croa­t­ia and Turkey offi­cial­ly began their respec­tive acces­sion talks on 3 Octo­ber (or the ear­ly hours of 4 Octo­ber) 2005. In the after­math of the launch of offi­cial talks with the two coun­tries, Prime Min­is­ter Dzurin­da stat­ed dur­ing his press con­fer­ence that Slo­va­kia would offer Croa­t­ia coop­er­a­tion in nego­ti­a­tions on the var­i­ous chap­ters of the acquis. At the same time, the Prime Min­is­ter said that Slo­va­kia would try to see both Ukraine and Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro enter the same path of Euro­pean inte­gra­tion.11Sloven­ská Tlačová Agen­tu­ra (SITA): Ano Turecku a Chor­vatsku posil­ni bezpec­nost v Europe, 4 Octo­ber 2005.

Today, Slo­va­kia is still in favour of enlarge­ment, but not at any price and not to all flanks of Europe. Turkey has always been a spe­cif­ic case, as Slovakia’s for­mer For­eign Min­is­ter Eduard Kukan high­light­ed by say­ing that the nego­ti­a­tions with Ankara “will be demand­ing and very, very long.”22Tlačová agen­túra Slovenskej repub­liky (TASR): SR pre­sadzu­je roko­va­nia s Chor­vatskom este dnes, turec­ka del­e­ga­cia na ces­te, 3 Octo­ber 2005. But even apart from Turkey, sup­port for enlarge­ment has some­what waned. On an offi­cial vis­it to Ger­many on 3 Novem­ber 2005, the then Slo­vak Prime Min­is­ter Miku­las Dzurin­da stat­ed rather sur­pris­ing­ly that the absorp­tion capac­i­ty of the Euro­pean Union had its lim­its and that the EU need­ed a “pause” in its fur­ther enlarge­ment.33SITA: Dzurin­da: EU pore­bu­je pri rozsirovani pauzu, 3 Novem­ber 2005. The gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Robert Fico (2006–2010) con­tin­ued to sup­port Croatia’s acces­sion process as well as the ambi­tions to join the EU artic­u­lat­ed by oth­er West­ern Balkan coun­tries. It also had a more open atti­tude to Turkey’s dif­fi­cult acces­sion process and endorsed the appli­ca­tion of Ice­land. Real­is­ti­cal­ly, Slovakia’s politi­cians expect Croa­t­ia to join the EU in the near future. They also hope for advance­ments in the acces­sion process of oth­er coun­tries in the West­ern Balka­ns, espe­cial­ly Ser­bia and Mon­tene­gro, and are keen on sta­ble devel­op­ments in Bosnia and Herze­gov­ina and in Mace­do­nia. Slo­va­kia has the least inten­sive bilat­er­al rela­tions with Alba­nia and, more­over, it is among the EU mem­ber states that do not recog­nise the inde­pen­dent state of Kosovo.

At the same time, Slovakia’s politi­cians have been less enthu­si­as­tic about Ukraine’s EU aspi­ra­tions. Today, nobody in Slo­va­kia open­ly pon­ders Ukraine’s chances to join the EU. Although, to an impor­tant extent, this has more to do with the wast­ed domes­tic polit­i­cal oppor­tu­ni­ty offered by the Orange Rev­o­lu­tion to Ukraine, Slo­vak-Ukrain­ian rela­tions have also suf­fered from bilat­er­al con­flicts dur­ing the gas cri­sis of 2009 and over the state of the bor­der regime along the Schen­gen bor­der between Slo­va­kia and Ukraine. Thus, Slo­va­kia is a good case of a more nuanced atti­tude dur­ing the launch­ing of the East­ern Part­ner­ship Ini­tia­tive by Poland and Swe­den in June 2008 and the sub­se­quent elab­o­ra­tion of the East­ern Part­ner­ship by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in Decem­ber 2008. The expe­ri­ence with the gas cri­sis when Rus­sia stopped its deliv­er­ies of nat­ur­al gas due to a con­flict with Ukraine has made Slovakia’s diplo­ma­cy more luke­warm to Ukraine’s ambi­tions to ulti­mate­ly achieve both EU and NATO mem­ber­ship. Most Slo­vak gov­ern­ing politi­cians and the Slo­vak pub­lic blamed Ukraine for the cri­sis in deliv­er­ies of nat­ur­al gas.44SITA: Slová­ci dáva­jú krízu za vinu Ukra­jine, 8 Feb­ru­ary 2009. In a pub­lic radio dis­cus­sion, the polit­i­cal direc­tor gen­er­al of the For­eign Min­istry, Igor Slo­bod­ník, ques­tioned whether “the strate­gic cul­ture of this coun­try [Ukraine] has reached the state when it could be a reli­able and respon­si­ble ally in this moment in 2009 and the answer is unclear.”55See Slo­vak Radio: Sobot­né dialó­gy, 7 March 2009, avail­able at: http://www.slovakradio.sk/ (last access: 30 June 2010). While Slovakia’s offi­cial posi­tion vis-à-vis Ukraine has not changed and Slo­va­kia active­ly sup­ports Kiev’s ambi­tions to work more close­ly with the EU and NATO (for exam­ple, Slovakia’s embassy in Kiev serves as the con­tact point for NATO),66NATO: Allied Con­tact Points (01.01.2009–31.12.2010), 2 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.nato.int/structur/oip/all-co_p.pdf (last access: 30 June 2010). Slo­bod­ník under­lined that Slo­va­kia would be more crit­i­cal in its eval­u­a­tion of Ukraine’s abil­i­ty to digest Slovakia’s tech­ni­cal assis­tance. In short, Slo­va­kia is like­ly to be more demand­ing in rela­tion to Ukraine since Ukraine’s cred­i­bil­i­ty has suf­fered as a con­se­quence of the recent gas crisis.

With­in the frame­work of the East­ern Part­ner­ship, Slovakia’s diplo­ma­cy recent­ly showed its keen inter­est in engag­ing with Moldova’s pro-reform gov­ern­ment. For­eign Min­is­ter Miroslav Lajčák vis­it­ed Chişinău on 7 May 2010 and under­lined Slovakia’s sup­port for domes­tic changes in Moldo­va by announc­ing Slovakia’s con­tri­bu­tion to the mod­erni­sa­tion of Moldova’s TV sta­tion Tele Radio Moldo­va and by under­lin­ing broad­er oppor­tu­ni­ties for Slovakia’s bilat­er­al engage­ment through new projects of offi­cial devel­op­ment assis­tance.77Webnoviny.sk: Zo Slo­vak Aid sto­tisíc eur na mol­davskú televíz­iu, 7 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.webnoviny.sk/slovensko/zo-slovak-aid-stotisic-eur-na-moldavsk/130296-clanok.html (last access: 29 June 2010). Slo­va­kia does not have any vocal or spe­cif­ic pref­er­ences with respect to the Union for the Mediterranean.

    Footnotes

  • 1Sloven­ská Tlačová Agen­tu­ra (SITA): Ano Turecku a Chor­vatsku posil­ni bezpec­nost v Europe, 4 Octo­ber 2005.
  • 2Tlačová agen­túra Slovenskej repub­liky (TASR): SR pre­sadzu­je roko­va­nia s Chor­vatskom este dnes, turec­ka del­e­ga­cia na ces­te, 3 Octo­ber 2005.
  • 3SITA: Dzurin­da: EU pore­bu­je pri rozsirovani pauzu, 3 Novem­ber 2005.
  • 4SITA: Slová­ci dáva­jú krízu za vinu Ukra­jine, 8 Feb­ru­ary 2009.
  • 5See Slo­vak Radio: Sobot­né dialó­gy, 7 March 2009, avail­able at: http://www.slovakradio.sk/ (last access: 30 June 2010).
  • 6NATO: Allied Con­tact Points (01.01.2009–31.12.2010), 2 April 2010, avail­able at: http://www.nato.int/structur/oip/all-co_p.pdf (last access: 30 June 2010).
  • 7Webnoviny.sk: Zo Slo­vak Aid sto­tisíc eur na mol­davskú televíz­iu, 7 May 2010, avail­able at: http://www.webnoviny.sk/slovensko/zo-slovak-aid-stotisic-eur-na-moldavsk/130296-clanok.html (last access: 29 June 2010).

The reports focus on a report­ing peri­od from Decem­ber 2009 until May 2010. This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March and April 2010. Most of the 31 reports were deliv­ered in May 2010.

The EU-27 Watch No. 9 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained therein.