A trade mission involving representatives from over 16 Irish businesses was in Bratislava February 25-27 to study business opportunities, with the mission leader saying he expected the first tangible results of Irish-Slovak business cooperation to arrive in 18 months.
"This is a big trade delegation, and many of its members are taking their first steps into Slovakia," said Declan Ryan, director of central Europe for Enterprise Ireland, the organiser of the visit. "We see great potential for Irish and Slovak companies to do business together."
Irish exports to Slovakia last year were 50.8 million euros, up almost 20 per cent from the year before; 15.8 million euros flowed the other way in goods and services.
Irish business activity in Slovakia has also not been extensive to date, although it includes firms like PPI Adhesives and eTel Slovensko.
But Ireland last year opened an embassy in Bratislava, and ambassador Tom Lyons says his country is looking to build on the 1.6 billion euros of investments it already has in central Europe.
"The opening of a resident embassy is a signal of the importance the government attaches to closer economic and trade relations with Slovakia," he said at an official dinner February 26.
Eamonn O'Reilly of TDI, a trade development institution, said Ireland and Slovakia had much more in common than mutual business opportunities.
"We're both small countries with colonial pasts. Our people have had to find their own way in the world," he said.
O'Reilly added he was trying to help Slovak firms focus more on customer satisfaction than "organising production around their own needs, as often still happens."
Emmett McAuley of electronis supplier Convex, said he had met with "great interest" from Slovak vets in a hand-held human blood glucose tester that can be used to identify diabetes in animals.
"We'll have to anaylse these reactions, but we could see the results of our mission here in two or three months," he said.
Few Slovak firms attending the dinner would comment on the state of their negotiations with the Irish, but as the delegation moved on to the Dubliner Irish pub in downtown Bratislava, talk flowed more freely.
"I came here to sell, but we've now decided to buy," said one Irish businessman who was deep in conversation with two Slovak suppliers.
4. Mar 2002 at 0:00 | Tom Nicholson