SLOVAK Foreign Affairs Minister Miroslav Lajčák met with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington on May 7 in their first official meeting since Lajčák took up his post. They discussed cooperation between the US and Slovakia in economic areas and possibilities of intensifying it as well the current economic crisis and joint steps in ameliorating its impacts, the SITA newswire reported.
Both agreed that countries and governments of central and eastern Europe (CEE) should together, as well as individually, do their utmost to prevent expressions of racial and ethnic hatred that may arise as a result of the economic crisis, SITA wrote.
Clinton expressed concern that the situation of minorities, especially the Roma minority, might worsen due to the economic crisis in CEE countries. According to Lajčák, she was speaking about recent incidents in Hungary, extremist groups in the Czech Republic and also about the case of police brutality to Roma youths in Košice in Slovakia, the Sme daily wrote.
“This case has shown that incidents can happen,” Sme quoted Lajčák as saying after the meeting. “We do not have a systemic problem; some of our neighbouring countries have openly admitted that they do have such problem, but I agreed that there is a need for Slovakia to discuss it.”
The Slovak Foreign Minister and the US Secretary of State want to continue dialogue on regional and bilateral programs of cooperation in this area and to exchange experiences on ways and tools for strengthening cooperation in society, SITA wrote.
Apart from mutual Slovak-US relations, the government representatives also spoke about several other current international issues with a stress on developments in the Western Balkans and Afghanistan and relations with the Russian Federation, where Lajčák welcomed the changed perspectives as they have been presented by the administration of US President Barack Obama.
Lajčák praised the foreign policy of the new US administration which is putting more emphasis on a dialogue and partnership with the EU.
Clinton and Lajčák also discussed the project called Eastern Partnership which was launched in Prague on the same day. They agreed that the process should not be abused with any political games.
“Neither should it be used for the delivery of messages to Brussels or Moscow from these countries,” Lajčák said, adding that the project should help these six eastern European countries to develop more closely to the values of the EU. The project seeks to enhance economic, energy and political ties between the EU 27 and six post-Soviet republics, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine, the ČTK newswire wrote.
Earlier on May 7, Lajčák took the floor as a guest at a discussion forum sponsored by the German Marshall Fund think-tank and addressed the audience on the current situation in the Western Balkans. The Slovak foreign minister evaluated the cooperation between the EU and the US and their mutual interaction in stabilising and supporting the region’s countries in fulfilling their ambitions of integration into the EU and NATO.