FOLLOWING the May 17 referendum on the country's entry into the European Union, Slovakia's membership is ever more imminent. Now the country's eight regions are sprouting liaison offices in Brussels - first from Bratislava one year ago and then Prešov. The latest on the list is the Košice region, which opened its office to the EU on October 7.
Together with Slovak ambassador to the EU Miroslav Adamiš, the chairman of the Košice self-governing region Rudolf Bauer welcomed European officials and a large delegation from Košice.
Accompanying typical music from the region and a healthy supply of Slovak Tokaj wine and traditional foods, Bauer stressed the importance of the European office for eastern Slovakia.
"We have to get straight into the lobbying network here in Brussels. There are so many concrete advantages for our region. After enlargement, we will be able to fully benefit from the European Union's structural funds. We should not miss this chance," Bauer said.
The region's capital, Košice, is Slovakia's second largest city, after Bratislava, and has a population of around 236,000. With the unemployment rate in the city hovering at around 22 percent, and growing much higher the closer one gets to the Ukrainian border, the district hopes to benefit greatly from EU aid. Like Prešov, the area also suffers from depopulation, as it is far away from the capital, Bratislava.
The region's president emphasized that the office would be looking hard for EU project partners.
"The office will function as a contact point between the Košice regional government and the EU. It will lobby in the European institutions for regional development and projects. The office will also help by making contacts with other regions and by finding information on what projects and funding possibilities are available," Bauer added.
When asked whether Košice is really ready for Europe, Bauer said "generally speaking, we are ready. The private sector is increasingly better informed. Civil servants could perhaps be more in the know. Normal citizens would certainly benefit from knowing more about what the European Union has to offer."
The Košice regional office in Brussels is located at 75 Michel Ange Avenue.
13. Oct 2003 at 0:00 | David Ferguson