Fiala Hails Close Czech-Slovak Relations After Meeting With Slovak PM Fico

Fiala said he appreciated the fact that Fico had paid his first visit in office to Prague. Credit: vlada.cz.

Prague, Nov 24 (CTK) – Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala met his Slovak counterpart Robert Fico in Prague today, in Fico’s first foreign trip since regaining power in elections in September. After the meeting, Fiala told journalists that the public rightly expects the Czech Republic and Slovakia to maintain close relations at the highest political level.

The two PMs discussed cooperation in energy, transport, security and defence. They also agreed to continue the tradition of joint government meetings. Their cabinets will meet in the Czech Republic this spring, they told reporters.

Fico (Smer-SD) said his first trip to the Czech Republic after his return to office was not just a courtesy visit, but that relations between the Czech Republic and Slovakia had to some extent become disrupted with time, as more than 30 years have passed since the split of the Czechoslovak federation, and there had not been time to revive them recently because of multiple crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fiala (ODS) said he appreciated the fact that Fico had paid his first visit in office to Prague.

With the exception of arms supplies to Ukraine, which Slovakia’s new government opposes, the two countries have similar positions, Fico stressed. “I do not see it as a contradiction on value issues, we are just saying that we do not believe in a military solution to the conflict in Ukraine,” Fico said.

Fico also invited Fiala to visit Slovakia.

Besides Fiala, Fico’s schedule includes meetings with President Petr Pavel and opposition leader/former PM Andrej Babis (ANO).

Fiala said the conversation between the prime ministers was open, and confirmed that both governments were intensely interested in cooperating on concrete issues, bringing common projects to completion, and coordinating their responses to common challenges.

At the meeting, the Czech and Slovak prime ministers discussed cooperation in the energy sector. According to Fiala, there is space for intensive cooperation in the European nuclear alliance, but also on energy routes that run through Czech and Slovak territory.

Cooperation will also continue in transport, according to the prime ministers. Fiala mentioned both countries’ interest in joining the European high-speed rail network, and being well connected to Europe and to each other.

In terms of defence and security cooperation, Fiala recalled that the Czech Republic had been participating in the protection of Slovak airspace for a year, a commitment it intends to keep until the end of 2024. The Czech Republic has also commanded a NATO battlegroup in Slovakia since spring 2023, where more than 450 Czech troops are deployed.

The countries will also develop their cooperation in the defence industry, jointly acquiring CV90 tracked combat vehicles, said Fiala.

The prime ministers also debated migration. Fiala said the matter was unpleasant in terms of bilateral relations, as it forced countries to resume temporary checks at their borders. The common migration and asylum policy in Europe is not working efficiently, he said, and it was therefore important for the two countries to be able to cooperate in this area.

“It is in our common interest not to have random border checks in the long term,” Fiala said, but this will depend on how effective the joint action of European countries will be in migration-related measures. He added that the Czech Republic is ready to seek rational pan-European solutions.

For his part, Fico insisted that Slovakia is fully committed to its EU and NATO membership, and wants to fulfil its international obligations, responding to concerns in some European capitals about a change of foreign policy orientation in Bratislava.

Fiala confirmed that he was ready to convene a meeting of V4 (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) prime ministers after the formation of the new Polish government. “It is not so that if the prime ministers do not meet, the V4 does not exist,” he said. Meetings at the level of ministers were held, and the presidents of the four countries met in Prague on Wednesday.

“It is beyond doubt that we have different views on some issues, concerning mainly the international political situation. But this does not mean that we cannot cooperate on a number of specific matters,” Fiala noted.

Fico said both the Czech Republic and Slovakia shared the same position on the possible removal of the veto right for EU member states in decision-making on some issues, which until now have required unanimous agreement.

Fiala said that primarily, the debate on possible reforms of EU decision-making processes should not be linked with the debate on EU enlargement. He said the Czech Republic does not support opening up the EU’s fundamental treaties, as this would not be beneficial in the current complex situation of interlocking crises.

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