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Gašparovič opens honorary Slovak consulate in Seattle

SLOVAK President Ivan Gašparovič Sunday opened a new Slovak honorary consulate in the American city of Seattle, Washington state, the TASR news wire reported.

The main goals of the consulate are to promote Slovakia in the US, support business cooperation, tourism and investments in Slovakia and to help Slovaks in emergency situations in the US.

There are now 12 honorary Slovak consulates in the US. The Seattle office’s new head, Rudolph Zigmund, will cover three American states – Washington, Oregon and California – in which there is a large Slovak community.

Zigmund estimates that there are from 40,000 to 60,000 Slovaks living in the new consulate's catchment area.

Gašparovič thinks that the honorary consulate is especially important for promoting Slovakia's image. "I wish Slovakia had honorary consulates in all countries. They don't cost the state budget anything, but they can bring it a lot of money," said Gašparovič.

The Seattle region is one of the most dynamically developing regions in terms of business. Many important companies have their headquarters there, including Boeing and Microsoft. "On Monday I'm going to meet Boeing representatives, and this is thanks to the honorary consulate," said Gašparovič.

The honorary consulate will also provide free legal aid to Slovak businessmen, or to Slovaks who find themselves in an emergency. The post of honorary consul is, as the name suggests, an honorary one, and therefore the Slovak foreign affairs ministry will chose people who are respectable members of the community where they live. Almost half of the honorary consuls in the US have Slovak roots. Rudolph Zigmund is originally from Žilina, and travels there regularly.

Zigmund believes that the main aim of a consul should be to assist Slovak businessmen. With this in mind, he wants to establish a joint database of American and Slovak companies in order to help them to find business partners.

Compiled by Magdalena MacLeod from press reports
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