Slovak president wants Russia to join EU

PRESIDENT Ivan Gašparovič told Russian leader Vladimir Putin yesterday that Slovakia would like to see Russia one day become part of the European Union.

PRESIDENT Ivan Gašparovič told Russian leader Vladimir Putin yesterday that Slovakia would like to see Russia one day become part of the European Union.

Following recent calls by Slovak government officials for better relations with Russia, Gašparovič told Putin that "European Union representatives already realize" that Russia will eventually join the EU, "even though that won't happen tomorrow or even next year".

The two leaders reported that work had already begun on securing a new agreement on energy supplies from Russia to Slovakia to take the place of the current deal, which expires in 2008.

Putin said Russia would like to participate in the modernization of Slovakia's nuclear power facilities, and to improve military cooperation.

The Russian side also conceded that the 49 percent stake in the Transpetrol pipeline firm that Slovakia sold to the Russian Yukos firm in 2002 could be returned to the Slovak state, although talks also continue on whether another Russian entity will secure the stake.

Gašparovič said that "President Putin confirmed all of our demands for the future".

Former Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan said he feared Slovakia's foreign policy was changing from a Western orientation towards closer ties with Russia. "We have seen various statements by the prime minister and the foreign minister to the effect that we should be more active in our relationship towards Russia," he said. "They should probably explain what they mean by better relations."

However, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ján Škoda denied that Slovak foreign policy was changing. "According to the Robert Fico government, foreign policy should become more economic in nature," he said.

"But it will be built on everything positive that has been achieved, including in relations with Russia."


- Tom Nicholson

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