Past Slovakian PM hopes to close R&D agreement with Israel

He said he would welcome Israeli investments in Slovakian highways, railways and tourism; "We can offer tourists spas, skiing, and Jewish community."

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
March 13, 2011 23:33
2 minute read.
Robert Fico, former Slovakian PM

Robert Fico Slovakia 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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Slovakian opposition leader Robert Fico met with President Shimon Peres at Beit Hanassi on Sunday, in an effort to advance a research and development agreement between their countries when Peres visits Slovakia later this year.

Fico advanced ties with Israel when he was prime minister from 2006 to 2010. He said he came to Jerusalem because it was important to him to continue those ties even though he is no longer in power.

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In a one-day visit, he met with Peres, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin and Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee head Shaul Mofaz, and visited Yad Vashem.

“When I was prime minister, we put energy into good relations between Israel and Slovakia,” Fico said. “So as the leader of the opposition, I have a natural interest to continue with the relations and I appreciate that I could meet today with Peres.”

Slovakia has about 5.5 million people one of the highest economic growth rates out of the 27 countries in the European Union. Fico said he wanted to cooperate with Israel, because he sees the Jewish state as a leader in innovation. He said he would welcome Israeli investments in Slovakian highways, railways and tourism.

“We don’t have a sea, but we can offer Israeli tourists our spas, skiing, and a Jewish community that is very active,” he said.

In their meeting, Peres offered to boost exchange programs for university students in the two countries. Fico strongly condemned Friday’s terrorist attack in Itamar.



Fico spoke with pride about his success in initiating an annual Holocaust remembrance day in his country. Slovakian teachers were sent to visit Yad Vashem. The country is setting up a Holocaust education center on the site of a work camp from which Jews were transported to concentration camps.

Slovakia has a history of supporting Israel in sensitive issues in the United Nations and the European Union. It voted in the UN against the Goldstone Report and abstained on a resolution condemning Israel’s response to the Gaza flotilla.

“Politicians can only make recommendations for another country if they understand its national interests,” Fico said. “Slovakia is a small country that doesn’t compare to the military or economic power of Israel. It’s hard for us to recommend to you what to do about issues going on here. Slovakia is not able to solve the problems you have in your country. We don’t want to interfere with other countries. A small country like us has to concentrate on cooperation with countries that cooperate with us.”

Fico was joined on the visit by Olga Algayerova, former state secretary of his country’s Foreign Ministry and currently shadow foreign affairs minister.

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