Election24: Pellegrini: President Should Always Protect National Interests

Election24: Pellegrini: President Should Always Protect National Interests
House Chair and presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, March 17 (TASR) - The president should always defend national interests at the international level, presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini has said in an interview for TASR. In his opinion, the concept of the president as a counterweight to the government implies a conflict of institutions, and the Slovak public doesn't want that. According to Pellegrini, Slovakia needs a president who cooperates with the government when it comes to good solutions, but who will always take the side of the people if the government betrays their trust. This interview with Pellegrini forms part of a series of interviews with candidates for the post of Slovak president.

-What do you view as the most important role of the Slovak president?

I think it is particularly important that a candidate for the president has a programme that will move Slovakia and people's lives forward. Slovakia needs calm, dignity and cooperation. It needs a president who is a president of the people and who will always defend national interests at the international level in the spirit of the 'Slovakia First' slogan, a president who cooperates with the government when it comes to good solutions for life but will always take the side of the people when the government betrays their trust. The Presidential Palace mustn't just be a place of constitutional procedures and representational formalities. There must be a president who cares about the development of the regions, the bolstering of national culture and establishments that have been a beacon for the nation in difficult times. At the same time, the Presidential Palace must be a place where a vision for our country is born for years to come. My vision is of a cohesive and united Slovakia that can succeed against the most advanced countries. A Slovakia where calm reigns and where every single individual can find a life of dignity.

-Which power of the president do you find to be the most important, and without which power could you imagine operating in the presidential post, or which one do you not plan to use?-

The president's powers create a system that enables the president to pursue the agenda and vision that he or she has been given a mandate to pursue by the electorate. Each one has its own meaning and creates the conditions for implementing my programme for calm, a dignified life for the people and the promotion of national interests in the international arena in line with the 'Slovakia First' slogan. I will never allow Slovakia to give up its veto in the EU. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I wouldn't allow Slovak troops to be sent to fight in Ukraine. At the same time, I want to use my powers to support every decision of the government that is aimed at developing a decent life for the people of Slovakia and helping the development of the regions, because there's only one Slovakia and it's our responsibility to build and develop it.

-Some political parties have spoken about the need for a change in the electoral system? Is this change needed? Would you sign off a change in the electoral system?-

During the [most recent general election] campaign, the Voice-SD party [of which Pellegrini is head - ed. note] spoke about changing the electoral system, stating that the regions should be given a stronger position. There are a number of talented regional politicians who could be given a chance in big parliamentary politics by changing the electoral competition. Discussions about this have only just begun and are more on a theoretical level. So there is nothing to sign yet.

-What is your attitude towards Slovakia's membership of NATO and the EU? We've been members of these organisations for 20 years.-

The EU and NATO create our common value, economic and security space in which we can develop freely and progress as a society. In a world in which borders are being redrawn by violence, membership of these organisations creates a guarantee of the territorial integrity of the Slovak Republic. Even if, within the EU, decisions are sometimes taken that aren't in line with Slovakia's national interests, we can assert our own interests if we are able to use our veto power responsibly.

-The president of the Slovak Republic also holds the post of commander of the armed forces. What is your stance on financing the army, its modernisation and strengthening, also in view of what's happening east of Slovakia's borders?-

The Slovak Republic must pursue a credible and predictable policy. In a dynamically changing world, it's important to fulfil our NATO-membership obligations. Building a modern armed force that is relevant to collective defence is a challenge for any responsible government and president. However, armaments must never come at the expense of the social status of the people.

-What is your opinion of aid to Ukraine? Do you support Ukraine's membership of the EU?-

Assistance to Ukraine must be humanitarian in nature. I'm opposed to the idea of Slovak soldiers being sent to Ukraine, and I would never approve of it. I would appreciate it if someone would come up with a concept for peace negotiations now. Even if accession negotiations with Ukraine were to be launched, it's difficult to say in what timeframe they would be concluded. Just look at the accession process in the Balkans.

-Should the president be a counterbalance to the government? Why?-

The president must be the president of the people. The concept of counterbalancing the government means, in other words, a conflict of institutions. And that isn't what the people of Slovakia want. That is why I offer calm, a dignified life for people and working for a proud Slovakia.

A total of 11 candidates are running for the presidential post in this year's election. They are: Andrej Danko, Patrik Dubovsky, Krisztian Forro, Stefan Harabin, Ivan Korcok, Marian Kotleba, Jan Kubis, Igor Matovic, Milan Nahlik, Peter Pellegrini and Robert Svec.

NOTE: TASR has asked all 11 presidential candidates for interviews.