AS SOON as the President of the French Republic Nicolas Sarkozy met Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on October 2, 2007, he expressed his special favour towards everything that concerns central Europe and his belief that these countries, for so long torn away from western Europe, can bring a lot to the European Union.
Thus, his first words reflected unconditional support for Slovakia in its effort to join the Schengen zone and the eurozone. I think he was the only, or at least the first, top representative of a country or a government who publicly expressed himself on this issue.
Not a year had passed before France concluded an agreement on strategic partnership with Slovakia, and its force was multiplied by an action plan covering all spheres of possible cooperation: intensifying political dialogue within the EU, political-military partnership, defence and armaments, decentralised cooperation in the sphere of energy and the environment, economic cooperation and mutual help for public administration institutions, especially regarding the enlargement of the Schengen zone.
Since then, i.e. in barely two-and-a-half years, about 10 bilateral treaties in all these spheres have been signed. French companies employing about 30,000 people represent more than one- third of foreign investments in Slovakia: the 400 large and medium-sized French enterprises operating in Slovakia, that have kept coming here in spite of the crisis – and thanks to the euro (in March 2007, there were 355), make us realise that knowledge of French in the Slovak job market is a big advantage.
Among other prospects for the future, France has proposed that Slovakia becomes the leader for the first phase of the Allegro project to develop a fast neutron experimental reactor, which could help it to win a truly leading position in the nuclear engineering sector, and achieve crucial impacts like the production of hydrogen or the gasification of brown coal which is very abundant in Slovakia.
This project, which will connect neighbouring countries, the Czech Republic and, especially Hungary, provides the best answer to overcome the quarrels of the past, bridge borders and stride together into the future.
One last wish before the nearing vacation and holiday period: for many, France remains, like Slovakia, a country where there is still much to be explored and learned – a good idea for travelling or a recreational stay!
Henry Cuny is the French Ambassador to Slovakia
21. Jun 2010 at 0:00 | Henry Cuny