Official Czech and Slovak ties grow closer

On Tuesday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and several members of his Cabinet paid an official visit to the Slovak capital, Bratislava, to hold talks with their counterparts. These talks highlighted the fact that relations between the neighboring states are currently riding high. Linda Mastalir takes a look at the latest developments in Czech-Slovak relations:

State visits between the Czech Republic and Slovakia are becoming a frequent occurrence nowadays, with relations between the former halves of Czechoslovakia blossoming. On Tuesday, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and several members of the Czech Cabinet were in Bratislava for an official state visit, and were received by Slovak Premier Mikulas Dzurinda.

In recent years, the most serious conflict between the two states has been settling the issue of property disputes left over from the split of Czechoslovakia, commonly called the Velvet Divorce. With this issue now largely settled, the new goal is to ease border-crossing checks between the two countries, for the "comfort" of citizens on both sides.

On the international front, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan stressed that the Czech Republic is willing to continue supporting Slovakia in its bid to enter NATO. "We have good reason to believe that the next NATO summit in 2002 will take place in Prague, and of course we will insist that Slovakia be mentioned as one of the first countries that should enter the alliance," said Kavan. The Foreign Minister continued, pointing out that "Even if there were no good Czech-Slovak relations, a glance at a map would show that Slovakia's membership in NATO is absolutely necessary." Minister Kavan assured the press that the Czech Republic has an interest in seeing Slovakia enter the European Union together with the Czech Republic, or at the very least, shortly afterwards.

Kavan and his Slovak counterpart, Eduard Kukan, agreed on the value of joint cultural projects between the two nations, and in the arena of foreign affairs, they see eye to eye on the difficult question of the Balkans. For example, they both favor building a democratic, multi-ethnic society in Kosovo, while maintaining the present borders of Yugoslavia.