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Hjelm-Wallen: Economic and political criteria are equally important

Slovak Deputy Prime Minister for Integration Pavol Hamžik paid a brief working visit to Sweden on May 17 and met the Swedish Vice-Premier for European Union affairs, Lena Hjelm-Wallen.

During their talks, Hjelm-Wallen stressed the need to confirm democratic changes in Slovakia in presidential elections. She welcomed developments in the Slovak Republic after last fall's parliamentary elections, but reminded Hamžik that meeting the EU's economic criteria for integration will be considered as important as meeting political criteria when it comes to deciding whether or not to re-admit Slovakia to the group of front-running countries for integration.

Adopting European Union legislation and securing its implementation, Hamžik agreed, would be a key focus of the Slovak government's policy. Hamžik mentioned the example of the prepared law on public procurement, which will require the building of an Institute for Public Procurement. The EU will contribute over 2 million euro from Phare funds to help the Institute.

Hjelm-Wallen added that the Slovak government should try to maintain citizens' support for Slovakia's integration into the EU, which now stands at about 67%. She also said that, based on the Swedish experience, support for the EU can drop even though membership has demonstrable economic advantages. For this reason, she said, Sweden maintains close ties with other Scandinavian countries that have not joined the EU (Norway and Iceland), but are signatories to the Schengen Agreement. Stockholm, she said, sees the importance of regional cooperation and, therefore, supports the revival of the activities of the Visegrad Group in central Europe.

In Stockholm, Hamžik also held a special meeting with representatives of telecom firm Ericsson, which wants to expand its presence in Slovakia by creating another 250 jobs.

Hamžik said that the Slovak and Swedish Chambers of Commerce and Industry are preparing a conference for investors to be held in September.

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