TO BORROW a phrase from John F. Kennedy, a responsible foreign policy asks not only what the world can do for you, but also what you can do for the world. Robert Fico's 'show me the money' policy is a flop because it is all about the former, and doesn't spare a thought for the latter.
In 2004 - the year Slovakia was admitted to NATO and the EU - the Dzurinda government identified areas in which the country could give something back to the international community. Ukraine and the West Balkans were chosen as places where Bratislava could help transition and mediate contacts with Brussels, not least because like these countries, Slovakia had also stumbled (1994 to 1998) on its path towards liberal democracy.
The Orange Revolution of 2004 in Ukraine gave the country an early opportunity to follow words with deeds, especially in cooperation with the NGO sector. Following the victory of Viktor Yushchenko in repeat presidential elections, Dzurinda told this newspaper: "Today we are going to pay even closer attention to Ukraine than yesterday... Slovakia will offer Ukraine all of its experiences gained from reform."
Slovakia's engagement in the region was recognized on April 3 by US State Department official Mark Pekala, who said that it was providing "global leadership" in places like Afghanistan and the West Balkans. Countries like Slovakia, he said, "understand the importance of throwing off tyranny, of doing what's right for people in the construction of democracy and free enterprise".
Under Fico, however, Ukraine has fallen off the foreign policy map. The government promised in its program to "thoroughly strengthen the economic dimensions of diplomacy" and to "activate relations with Russia", but did not mention Ukraine. The same deafening silence has been heard during the recent struggle between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yanukovych. Poland's former president, Alexander Kwasniewski traveled to Kiev to help negotiate a solution, as did a Lithuanian delegation and European Parliament members - but no sign of Slovakia.
Given that Ukraine only accounts for about one percent of Slovak imports and exports, it is understandable that it is being neglected by an economic-based foreign policy. But given that foreign policy also has other dimensions, it is a pity that the Fico government is letting the international credit that Slovakia accumulated for its leadership in helping Ukraine integrate with the West all go to waste as Kiev once again seethes with unrest.
Unless, of course, Fico is more in tune with the pro-Russian and anti-reform Yanukovych, in which case Slovakia's official silence makes perfect sense.
By Tom Nicholson
16. Apr 2007 at 0:00