31 May 2021

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger: Slovakia is staunch supporter of Ukraine and Ukraine’s European aspirations

Eduard Heger

Eduard Heger
Photo: Government of the Slovak Republic

Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger has given an interview to Interfax in which he speaks about Ukraine's Euro-Atlantic aspirations, possible new sectoral sanctions against Russia, construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, as well as Ukrainian reforms and Slovak-Ukrainian economic cooperation.

Question: Ukraine has already signed a declaration of support with several EU member states about its aspirations to join the EU. How does Slovakia feel about Ukraine's European aspirations and does it plan to sign such a declaration, to officially recognize Ukraine's European integration aspirations? What do you think about the probability of Ukraine's accession to the EU in the near future?

Answer: Slovakia has been a staunch supporter of Ukraine and Ukraine’s European aspirations. This is one of my main messages today in Kyiv. And we are vocal on that in Brussels as well. Presidential offices of both countries are working on the declaration you mentioned. Ukraine's European integration aspirations have already been officially recognized on many occasions. For now, it is important to use all the provisions the Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine offers.

Q.: How do you assess Ukraine's progress on the path to the EU and NATO? How close is our country to membership in these organizations? What government reforms have been successful, and which still need to be implemented in the near future?

A.: I am here today also to talk with Ukrainian interlocutors about the reforms [Heger visited Ukraine on May 28]. Indeed, transformation and modernization of the country is a prerequisite for becoming a member of the EU and NATO. The reform process in Ukraine is continuing and Slovakia believes it will be sustainable and successful. By the way, the changes are not about the EU and NATO, they need to be introduced for Ukrainians themselves to make Ukraine stronger, more resilient, to the benefit of all the Ukrainians.

Q.: Does Slovakia support the imposition of sectoral sanctions on Russia because of Russia's military buildup near the border with Ukraine?

A.: I am informed about the developments on the Russian-Ukrainian border and Slovakia condemned the recent Russian military buildup. EU is continuously working on the support for Ukraine. The EU has a wide scope of tools, restrictive measures being among them.

Q.: Has Slovakia decided to participate in the Crimean Platform? How do you feel about this initiative and who will take part in its inaugural summit in August from your country?

A.: Yes, Slovakia will participate in the inaugural Summit of the Crimean platform. We will be represented by President [Zuzana] Caputova. The top level of our representation gives an answer to your question.

Q.: In your opinion, what can stop the completion of Nord Stream 2? Is Slovakia interested in maintaining gas transit through Ukraine? In your opinion, how will it be possible to maintain a certain volume of gas transit through Ukraine in the event of its completion?

A.: As for the Nord Stream 2 project, it is not for Slovakia to decide. Slovakia has always been a reliable transit country for Russian gas to the West through the territory of Ukraine and we are definitely interested in keeping this gas transit through Ukraine. We believe the transit contract between Russia and Ukraine will be fulfilled further on.

Q.: How do you assess economic cooperation between Ukraine and Slovakia? What problems do Slovak investors face in Ukraine? What are Ukraine's expectations regarding the protection of the rights, in particular, of Slovak investors?

A.: Cooperation in the economy does not reflect its potential. More work is needed. There's a need for proper preparation of the Joint Commission on economic, industrial and scientific cooperation and bilateral business forum in autumn 2021. Cooperation in energy will have wider significance and we need to build on that. A friendly and transparent business environment is a basis for more Slovak (foreign) investments in Ukraine.

Q.: Are all technical issues within the framework of the agreement on the functioning of Uzhhorod Airport agreed and when can we expect its resumption? For how long is the agreement concluded?

A.: This is a very technical question. Bilateral agreement on the use of Slovak airspace by Uzhhorod Airport will be in force as of June 5. There are still some technical measures and procedures to be put in place and you simply cannot make shortcuts. It is about safety and established mechanisms in the air transportation, not about politics. I was informed that all the process will be finished in September.

Q.: The Ukrainian government has announced that it is negotiating with neighboring countries on entry permits for citizens of our countries at the bilateral level, until the introduction of a single vaccination passport in the EU. Are Ukraine and Slovakia conducting such negotiations?

A.: We are very positive about the updated recommendation of the Commission (from 20 May) that makes it, under certain conditions, easier for travelers from third countries to enter the EU. We believe that with the progress of the vaccination and mutual acceptance of vaccination certificates the situation will improve.

Q.: Will Slovakia continue to receive wounded soldiers from Ukraine and children from the East for treatment?

A.: Since 2014 Slovakia has provided humanitarian aid and development assistance to Ukraine worth around 9.5 million euro. A significant part of it was linked to the people negatively affected by the conflict in Donbas, including organizing rehabilitations for wounded people and children. Covid-19 complicated the situation in all areas. Once the pandemic is over, we can have a look at this issue again.