EU a milestone in a shared history

THE SPLIT of the former Czechoslovakia did not weaken the relationship between its successors. On the contrary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have matured and grown self-confident in regard to their shared goals.
Almost 11 years after the peaceful separation, both countries once again became a part of one political and economic entity. Their accession this year into the European Union is an important milestone in Czech and Slovak collective histories.

THE SPLIT of the former Czechoslovakia did not weaken the relationship between its successors. On the contrary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have matured and grown self-confident in regard to their shared goals.

Almost 11 years after the peaceful separation, both countries once again became a part of one political and economic entity. Their accession this year into the European Union is an important milestone in Czech and Slovak collective histories.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry told The Slovak Spectator that the road towards unification between the two nations in one form or another was inevitable.

"The Czech Republic and Slovakia have found their way to each other, even though the way was not always simple. But the cultural, historical, and mental familiarity of our nations has predestined them for close and open cooperation in European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

"Years of independence have taught us that safety depends on the strength of the commonwealth where we live. And this strength is based on good relations with our neighbours. Today, we can see that the separation of Czechoslovakia has benefited us both. Our relations have matured. Slovaks and Czechs are closer to each other than any time before," the ministry claimed.

Many bilateral agreements exist between Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In fact, the treaty on "good neighbours, friendly relationships, and cooperation" was signed right after the Czech Republic and Slovakia were established as separate unions in 1993.

In 2004, officials from both countries signed a new treaty. Entitled "the political memorandum of governments of the Slovak and Czech Republics in relation to both countries acceding to the EU," the agreement adds a new dimension to Czech - Slovak relations within the context of the European Union.

"It is typical for Czechs and Slovaks to have cooperation in all fields and all levels, from working platforms to political issues. Membership in the European Union will allow this cooperation to deepen, and create opportunities for the development of new relationships," the ministry told The Spectator.

According to the foreign ministry, the way Czechs and Slovaks see eye-to-eye is embedded in tradition.

"We have the same or very close opinions on many issues, such as EU financial policy, how to enhance the EU, etc," the ministry explained.

Close cooperation can be seen at all levels, from the parliament to non-governmental organisations to civic associations.

For example, top officials continue to create bilateral agreements. And the prime ministers from both countries still meet regularly in spring and autumn to evaluate the quality of their relationship.

Moreover, it is the rule rather than the exception that Slovak students apply for admission to Czech universities. Thanks to a similar language and a shared history, the two nation's educational systems mirror each other. Admission exams in the Czech Republic closely resemble those in Slovakia.

Adding to the cross cultural exchange is the working opportunities that the Czech Republic offers young people from Slovakia, where unemployment figures are much higher.

It is perhaps difficult to say what would have been the better option: keep Czechoslovakia a unified nation or split it into two separate states.

Whatever side of the argument you are on, it is clear that the Czechs and Slovaks have overcome their differences and created a new base for their ongoing relationship.

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