President Klaus pays first state visit to Slovakia

President Klaus, photo: CTK

The newly-appointed Czech President Vaclav Klaus paid his first state visit on Tuesday - a one-day trip to Slovakia. President Klaus spent the day in talks with his Slovak counterpart Rudolf Schuster and other senior Slovak officials, talks which were overshadowed by the looming conflict in Iraq. Among the journalists who boarded the official plane to Bratislava on Tuesday was Radio Prague's Jaromir Marek.

President Klaus,  photo: CTK
"First of all I must emphasise that this was the President Klaus's first official visit abroad, and it's a kind of tradition that the Czech president visits Slovakia first. So this was the new Czech president's first official visit to Slovakia."

Mr Klaus's predecessor, President Havel, didn't enjoy huge popularity in Slovakia did he? He opposed the 1992 split of Czechoslovakia, whereas Mr Klaus oversaw that split. Is Mr Klaus more popular in Slovakia?

"I can't say if Vaclav Klaus is more or less popular than Vaclav Havel. It's not correct to assume that all of the Slovak public dislike Vaclav Havel. I think the reception given to Mr Klaus was the same as that given to Mr Havel. I went with President Havel when he paid his last official visit to Slovakia two months ago, and the amount of people waving etc was virtually the same. One difference was that President Klaus took a short walk through the centre of Bratislava, but without the extreme interest of the public."

And of course this trip must have been overshadowed by the crisis in Iraq.

"Yes, the Iraq crisis was the main topic of their discussions. Because there is a joint Czech-Slovak unit in Kuwait, and there are some slight technical problems. First because Slovakia, unlike the Czech Republic, is not part of NATO, and second there's a difference in the mandates of the two contingents. The Slovak Army has a slightly wider mandate from its parliament than the Czech Army, and the two presidents discussed how the unit should operate and how to resolve these issues during a war in Iraq - what these troops will be doing."