x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Slovakia to reopen UAE embassy soon

Slovak foreign affairs minister says 2004 closure was 'mistake'

ABU DHABI // Slovakia is opening a new embassy in the capital to establish economic, political and security ties with the UAE.

The economy of the Eastern European country has been growing in recent years and its minister of foreign and European affairs believes now is the time to develop its partnership with UAE after closing its Abu Dhabi embassy in 2004.

"We closed our embassy in 2004 due to austerity measures and a lack of budget," said Peter Burian.

"This was a mistake, I believe, as we realised the important role of the UAE and its economy in the regional and global stage."

Mr Burian arrived on a state visit this week with Slovakia's minister of economy, Pavol Pavlis, the minister of finance, Vazil Hudak, and the soon-to-be Slovak ambassador, Dusan Horniak.

They have been in talks with Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, and business leaders.

"We will be opening the embassy later this year and we will be opening along with an investment promotions office to focus on generating business between the two countries," Mr Burian said.

He added that discussions are under way to introduce an open-skies agreement between the UAE and Slovakia.

"We are talking to officials now and we are open to the option of using Bratislava [Slovakia's capital] as a hub for UAE airlines in Europe," Mr Burian said.

He said he had invited Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs, to visit Slovakia.

"This year, we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of our first diplomatic relations, so we would like our host Sheikh Abdullah to visit Slovakia and meet our officials," he said.

Slovakia has been supporting the EU Schengen visa waiver proposal for Emiratis.

Mr Burian said the new EU Embassy, which is due to open in the UAE this year, would help to speed up the process.

"We are supporting the proposal and there is no reason why it should not be granted," he said.

"The EU will open a mission in Abu Dhabi which will enormously help communication between the two sides."

Slovakia's trade with the UAE is only US$100 million (Dh367.3m) a year.

"Our main export are motor cars like the Audi Q7 that are produced in Slovakia, and its only a one-way trade. We want to open the doors for two-way trade," said Mr Burian.

He said the idea of developing security partnerships was also discussed at this week's meetings.

"We have discussed these issues with the Ministry (of Foreign Affairs) and we are proposing cooperation between our police and militaries," Mr Burian said.

He said that the UAE Armed Forces were operating in two conflict zones that the Slovakian forces operated in - Kosovo and Afghanistan.

"We also have centres of excellence on weapons of mass destruction, explosion threats and combat training facilities."