HAVING achieved its integration priorities in terms of joining the EU and NATO, Slovakia has firmly anchored itself in the system of international relations. The accomplishment both crowns its independence as a state and marks the end of its post-communist transformation.
The issue of Slovak foreign policy is now at the forefront. The extent to which Slovakia will play along with the EU in its attempt to create a supranational entity in the areas of foreign and security policy remains to be seen. After all, in its ten-year mid-term foreign policy strategy approved in 2004, Slovakia resolved to maintain a strategic partnership with the United States.
Since EU accession, Slovakia has already faced numerous foreign policy dilemmas. They include difficult choices surrounding NATO unification; the autonomous European defence system; the draft European Constitution; deploying Slovak armed forces in foreign military operations despite disapproval from some EU partners; the Common Foreign and Security Policy; and the European Security and Defence Policy.
Slovakia is not new to facing tough choices. In 2003, when EU accession was still in question, it decided to join the US and reject the Bilateral Immunity Agreement (Article 98) that would have helped establish an International Criminal Court. But it sided with the EU against the US in 2004 by voting in favour of the UN resolution that designated the Israeli security barrier illegal.
The dilemma of the country's position also resulted in the oscillation of its support for Poland during the creation of the draft European Constitution. Slovakia had declared it would back Warsaw's defence of the viability of the Nice Treaty, but in doing so, reneged on an informal agreement made with Germany's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder.
The Slovak Foreign Ministry resolved the conflict by issuing a statement that read, "The Slovak Republic always supports Poland but at the same time understands the German and French positions".
Integration into the EU has strengthened the role of the Foreign Ministry in Slovakia, even though the Foreign Ministry's position on the EU is far from clear.
In 2004, Slovakia was in a better position to support the US and its allies in the Iraqi crisis. While NATO and the EU remain deeply divided on the issue, Slovakia acted in line with other Central and Eastern European states.
Also, after resolutions taken by the United Nations Security Council, Slovakia is officially operating on the premise that its participation in the military action in Iraq is fully in line with the UN mandate. The Slovak government can insist that its military engineering unit in Iraq has an unlimited duration mandate.
Without the abovementioned UN Security Council resolutions on the legitimization of the military action in Iraq, however, Slovakia's commitments towards its strategic partner, the US, would have been severely tested.
Now a member of the EU and NATO, Slovakia has a much easier position when it comes to third countries. For example, Slovakia can keep Serbia and Montenegro as a priority in terms of providing official development assistance, thus acting in line with its own priorities and at the same time following the EU's order. Slovakia has also become a participant in regular dialogues with Ukraine and Russia.
It can be expected that in 2005, Slovak foreign policy will focus on the complicated transatlantic discourse regarding the European Constitution. And after the recent events in Ukraine, Slovakia will probably become one of the top supporters in the stabilization of Ukraine.
Ivo Samson is a senior researcher with the Research Centre of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association.
10. Jan 2005 at 0:00 | Ivo Samson