Slovak Prime Minister welcomes NATO's invitation for Slovakia to join

Mikulas Dzurinda

One of the most significant results of the NATO summit held last week in Prague was NATO's invitation for seven countries in Central and Eastern Europe to join the alliance in 2004. One of them is Slovakia, formerly part of Czechoslovakia, together with the Czech Republic, which became a NATO member three years ago. In an exclusive interview for Radio Prague, David Vaughan asked the Slovak Prime Minister, Mikulas Dzurinda what impact Slovakia's membership in NATO would have on Czech-Slovak relations?

"I think that the relations between Czechs and Slovaks are now very, very nice, maybe they have never been better than now. But on the other hand it is good not only for Slovak-Czech relations but also for the stability in the region of Central Europe when Slovakia will be in. If you look at the map you can see that maybe we had a very simple choice: either to build a Schengen border on 1500 kilometres, or these borders will not be necessary, and we will build the Schengen border only with Ukraine. So there are many, many reasons why it's good for the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, for the whole region, if Slovakia is included."

At the summit there's been talk of greater specialisation, greater regional cooperation. Could you foresee a situation for example that Czechs and Slovaks and maybe Poles could be defending their air-space together?

"This question is broadly and widely discussed just now. I spoke with my Minister of Defence and the Chief of our military forces, and this question will be solved very, very quickly. Each army has its own advantages and its own experience, our soldiers are trained, for instance, in higher mountains , maybe this type of army will be very useful and needed. It is a question of a few weeks or months, but Slovakia will be ready and will be able to contribute in this new situation."

And also with tense relations between NATO and Belarus and Ukraine, do you think you could play a significant role as a neighbour?

"We want a lot. We want a lot especially towards Ukraine, which is our direct neighbour. Each country should have the right to be invited, but only in one case: if this country is able to fulfill all the conditions which it's necessary to fulfill if it wants to be invited. We are ready to offer our experience, we are ready for closer cooperation because it is also our own interest if Ukraine is a fully democratic state."

Photo gallery: Prague NATO Summit