Czech and Slovak foreign ministers say differences on Ukraine will not sour special relationship

Juraj Blanár and Jan Lipavský

Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský on Monday met for talks with his newly-appointed Slovak counterpart Juraj Blanár from the ruling SMER party, which has indicated a U-turn in the country’s support for Ukraine. The meeting was viewed as an indicator of how far the change-of-guard in Slovakia could cool relations between the neighbor states and the Visegrad Group. 

Robert Fico | Photo: Filip Jandourek,  Czech Radio

The meeting of foreign ministers was the first top-level contact between the Czech centre-right Fiala administration and the cabinet of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico who earlier announced he intended to halt military aid to Ukraine and said that he was not going to support any sanctions against Russia that would hurt his country.

Many predicted a cooling in relations between the two neighbours, who spent over 70 years in a common state before going their separate ways 30 years ago. However, after Monday’s talks, the foreign ministers went out of their way to smooth any rough edges, saying that despite differences of opinion on certain issues, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have exceptionally close ties and would continue to cooperate closely in areas where they have common interests, such as pushing for a viable European migration pact. Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said he was happy with the outcome of the talks.

“The fact that we have different foreign policy stands on some matters is nothing unusual. We respect each other’s right to mold an independent foreign policy and as diplomats it is our task to find common ground, common interests and build on them. In our meeting we outlined areas in which we want to cooperate and for my part I can say that the atmosphere was constructive and cordial.”

Clarifying his government’s stance on Ukraine, the Slovak foreign minister said his country had condemned the Russian aggression in Ukraine as a violation of international law, but it did not believe there was a military solution to the conflict. He said Slovakia was ready to support any peace proposal that would result in a cease-fire.

“We are ready to support any peace initiative tabled –whether it comes from President Zelensky, Brazil or China. Every such proposal deserves attention. Fueling this military conflict will not bring a solution. It is better to freeze the conflict, stop the bloodshed and sit down to the negotiating table.”

Juraj Blanár | Photo: Zuzana Jarolímková,

This stand is in sharp contrast with the position of Czechia which has stressed the need to support Ukraine, militarily and otherwise, until a victory which would secure the country’s territorial integrity, Crimea included.

While Mr. Blanar reaffirmed Slovakia’s intention to cut state military aid to Ukraine, he said the Slovak government would not block supplies of weapons and ammunition from private manufacturers.

The Slovak foreign minister said that despite divisions among the Visegrad Group member states on this issue, he hoped that the alliance encompassing Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary would remain active.

Foreign Minister Lipavsky, said Prague was waiting for the new Polish administration before calling a meeting.

“We will call a V4 meeting the moment we have a representative set up. There are many topics that we need to debate – people-to-people contacts in the region, cultural exchange, business and infrastructure. We need to talk about illegal migration which is a pressing problem for us all and I think that we also need to talk about Ukraine.”

run audio