At the beginning of his four-year mandate His Excellency, the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic in Canada, Mr. Andrej Droba promised that he would try to maintain friendly Canadian-Slovak relations and made it one of his priorities to reinforce them primarily on a ministerial level. In fact, it was over five years ago when the then Minister of Defense, Mr. Jaroslav Baška arrived in Canada on a state visit.
Mr. Droba has kept his word and at the beginning of March we welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Robert Kaliňák in the Canadian capital city. On the evening of Monday, March 2nd, on the occasion of Mr. Kaliňák's visit, the Slovak Embassy hosted a formal reception during which he had the opportunity to meet with Slovak compatriots in Ottawa and share with them the impressions of his brief stay in one of the world's coldest capital cities.
Several topics relevant to both countries were delved into during fruitful negotiations with Canadian partners, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Chris Alexander and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Steve Blaney. At the forefront of the discussions with Minister Alexander was the question of mounting tensions in Ukraine. Mr. Kaliňák expressed his concerns about the future of Ukraine but also about the relations of Slovakia with its Slavic neighbour to the east. "For over seventy years the relations between Slovakia and Ukraine have been calm and peaceful, but now the situation has truly escalated and it is not easy to say the least."
As has been confirmed during the Minister's short visit Slovakia's relations with Canada remain positive, strong and friendly. The negotiations about the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) are nearing their grand finale and its approval will open doors to new investment and trade partnerships and opportunities for the European community and its member states, including Slovakia. Even though Slovakia was no exception when it came to the negative impacts and consequences of the global financial crisis, Mr. Kaliňák reminded the reception's attendees it has come out as one of the countries with the highest economic growth in the eurozone. Furthermore, Slovakia has recently experienced a decrease in unemployment, improvement in safety and security, and decline in the number of victims of road accidents.
As a member of the European Union, Slovakia is once again faced with a complicated question, namely "What stance should be taken vis- à-vis the loan to Greece?" Mr. Kaliňák did not allocate too much time to this topic in his brief speech at the reception, but he demonstrated a certain dose of humour when he proposed the approval of the Greek loan in exchange for a piece of Greece's coast. Several other moments in his presentation served as evidence of his good sense of humour. He confessed that he finally understood why he has never visited Canada in the wintertime and admitted that from now on he will opt for the summer months if planning another trip. "Evidently, global warming does not concern Canada," he remarked with a smile, referring to the freezing weather.
After a few days spent in Ottawa where he was warmly received, this charismatic and well-spoken young politician continued to Toronto and subsequently the United States. Afterwards, motivated and surely filled with diverse impressions, rich experiences and new ideas Mr. Kaliňák returned to his home land to continue fulfilling his governmental and ministerial roles and responsibilities.
Text: Maria Habanikova, Photos: Tibor Dej and the Slovak Embassy in Ottawa