While British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson joked during a press conference in Bratislava, at a meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and State Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry Ivan Korčok, they also discussed serious issues.
“I’m here as a messenger,” said Johnson, who visited Slovakia during his short tour around the eastern European countries, where he conveyed the speech of British PM Theresa May from Florence, as quoted by the Denník N daily.
Position of EU citizens important
May tried to offer to Europeans certain concessions to make progress with Brexit talks. The fourth round started on September 25. After the third round, EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said that no significant progress had been made in any crucial area.
Johnson pointed to three main topics of May’s speech, with the most important one being the status of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. Currently, some 95,000 Slovaks are living in the country, Denník N wrote.
Johnson also said that the UK will contribute €20 million to the EU coffers until 2020 and that his country is interested in contributing to Europe’s protection and security, including the fight against extremism, the daily reported.
No harm to Slovaks
Slovak citizens living and working in the UK will suffer no harm after Brexit, Fico said after meeting with Johnson.
“Boris Johnson came in a positive mood and assured us that the Slovak citizens living in Britain won’t be harmed in any way in the future, which is the most important message for us,” said Fico, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that his government will protect the interests of Slovaks studying and working in the UK.
The UK is an important business partner for Slovakia, Fico stressed.
“Not to mention the massive investment of Jaguar Land Rover that will bear fruit in the near future,” he added, as quoted by TASR, stressing the need to set new relations between the EU and the UK that will be beneficial for Slovakia.
Johnson appreciates contributions of Slovaks
The rights of Slovaks were also the chief topic discussed by Johnson and Korčok. The two politicians also talked about bilateral relations, security in Europe and the Western Balkans.
The Brexit negotiations are now entering a decisive phase, Korčok stressed.
“It’s like in any divorce that is painful, uncomfortable and costs a lot,” Korčok told the press, as quoted by TASR. “It’s up to both sides [EU and UK] to handle this process in an organised way.”
For Slovakia, the most important issues are still those related to citizens’ rights and financial compensation, as well as complex legal issues, the state secretary said. He hopes for early debates on future relations between the EU and the UK.
Johnson reassured Korčok that Britain will do its best to ensure that the rights of Slovaks living and working in the UK are respected.
“We very much appreciate the contribution of Slovak citizens to our society,” Johnson said, as quoted by TASR. “There are 95,000 of them, and we like and appreciate them.”
The UK will continue to meet its legitimate obligations, such as combating terrorism, in the so-called interim period, Johnson added.
The two also highlighted economic cooperation between the two countries. Johnson stressed that business between the UK and Slovakia is on the rise and that Brexit will not affect the investments regarding the Jaguar plant in Slovakia.
Johnson stressed that although the UK is leaving the EU, it is not leaving Europe.
“And we won’t abandon the partnership with Slovakia either,” said Johnson, as quoted by TASR.