In Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and East Germany, I saw historic changes happening before my eyes. I vividly remember the optimism and excitement of Slovaks and their central European neighbours as they looked forward to building a free, democratic future for themselves after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now back in Slovakia as the head of the US Embassy, I have been amazed at Slovakia’s success in fulfilling that optimism and building a vibrant society and a dynamic economy.
One of my first priorities after arriving was to travel around the country so I could meet with the Slovak people firsthand. Last week I visited Lešť, where I was proud to see our countries’ strong military cooperation in action as over 100 troops from the Indiana National Guard joined their Slovak counterparts for the Slovak Shield training exercise. Events such as this and last month’s “Dragoon Crossing” strengthen our Alliance and provide our militaries with valuable opportunities to train together and learn about each other.
But Slovakia is more than an Ally; we also share a rich cultural relationship and an innovative economic partnership. In Košice, I met with AT&T and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) to discuss our countries’ extensive business ties and explore the potential for even greater economic cooperation. At the Eastcubator, I learned about Slovakia’s growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and its potential to drive future economic growth. And I discussed with Deputy Mayor Martin Petruško how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) will open export opportunities for Slovakia’s small and medium sized enterprises.
My most recent stop was in Banská Bystrica, where the 10th anniversary of the InfoUSA Center highlighted the strong people-to-people ties between our countries. The InfoUSA Center serves as an important platform to discuss the issues that affect Slovakia and the United States, as well as the world around us. Its EducationUSA advising centre is also a key resource for Slovaks interested in studying at US universities, and it serves as an important source of information about opportunities such as the Summer Work and Travel program, which brings thousands of Slovaks to the United States each year to explore and experience America.
The links forged between our two countries by hundreds of thousands of Slovaks who immigrated to the US beginning in the 19th century are still strong. The upcoming 100th anniversary of the Cleveland Agreement reminds us of that common history and of our close relationship now and into the future.
It is an honour to represent the United States among such friends, and I look forward to working with you over the next three years to continue building a common democratic, prosperous, and secure future.
By Liam Wasley, Chargé d'Affaires at the US Embassy in Slovakia