Fico: Slovakia and Belarus Could Act as Bridges for Each Other

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and his counterpart from Belarus Andrei Kobyakov

Bratislava, April 27 (TASR) – Slovakia views Belarus as an important partner within the Eastern Partnership, and so it’s no surprise that Bratislava recently promoted the lifting of sanctions against Minsk, said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico after talks with his counterpart from Belarus Andrei Kobyakov in Bratislava on Thursday.

“Our countries are close to each other mentally, linguistically and culturally, and there are no unresolved issues between us,” said Fico, adding that the talks proved this.

“Neither Belarus, nor Slovakia are large countries, and they carry no clout in global affairs. This is why we aim to concentrate fully on economic collaboration while showing the utmost respect for each other and desisting from meddling in each other’s internal affairs,” said Fico.

Fico went on to note the specific features of the two countries. Whereas Slovakia is a member of the EU, uses the euro and is included in the Schengen area, Belarus is part of the Euroasian zone and has no customs or tax barriers vis-a-vis Russia, said Fico. “Just as Slovakia can be a bridge to Europe, Belarus can be a great bridge to Eurasia,” he added.

The bilateral trade turnover of €160 million in 2016 is no grounds for satisfaction, however, said Fico. As a result, both prime ministers should work towards stepping up ties between the business sectors of the two countries.

That said, much progress has been made since Fico visited Belarus last November. Closer relations have been established in the pharmaceuticals industry, particularly in the production of unique cancer medicines, as well as in energy, waste processing and livestock production

Fico also briefed journalists on future ties between Slovak engineering company MSM and Belarusian firm BelOMO, which focuses on research, development, production and upgrades of optical equipment.

“An agreement has been made to the effect that MSM will effectively operate in Belarus, and they’re also looking to set up a joint venture in Slovakia where all experience garnered by BelOMO would be used towards the research, development, manufacturing and upgrades of this kind of equipment,” said Fico.

Kobyakov said that his visit is a natural instalment in the dialogue established by Fico’s visit to Minsk last November. Belarus considers Slovakia to be a strategic partner and is committed to mutual cooperation, he added.

Slovakia could be a source of positive experience for Belarus in the automotive industry, as new opportunities are opening up to Belarus in this sphere, said the Belarusian official. Nuclear energy is another field where closer ties could be established, according to Kobyakov, who is set to visit the nuclear power plant in Mochovce (Nitra region) on Friday. Belarus is building its own plant of this kind.

Fico and Kobyakov also signed an inter-governmental agreement on collaboration in science and technology.