Thursday, 24 April 2014

Czech, Slovak presidents call for closer cooperation

ČTK |
5 April 2013

Bratislava, April 4 (CTK) - The Czech and Slovak presidents, Milos Zeman and Ivan Gasparovic, would welcome a better transport connection between their countries and a closer cooperation of companies, such as rail cargo operators, they said after their meeting in Bratislava Thursday.

Zeman arrived on a two-day visit to Slovakia, his first foreign trip since he was inaugurated on March 8, Thursday.

Later Thursday, Zeman had a luncheon with Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer-Social Democracy).

"We are close friends, the atmosphere of our talks was quite informal," said Fico, adding that they discussed issues related to Czech-Slovak cooperation.

After meeting Gasparovic, Zeman told journalists that cooperation between the two countries' rail cargo companies, for example, could make them a strong and successful player on the central European or even all-European market.

Gasparovic said cooperation in the transport area, and also between the two countries' armies, are the priorities Prague and Bratislava should focus on.

A possible merger of the Czech rail cargo operator CD cargo and its Slovak counterpart Zeleznicna spolocnost Cargo Slovakia was recently discussed by the two countries' prime ministers.

The Slovak media, however, have speculated that the merger may be thwarted by the two companies' bad financial situation and that the Slovak firm may be acquired by its Polish rival PKP Cargo.

Zeman said he would welcome a more intensive operation of the two countries' firms in the other country.

"The number of talented businessmen is not as high as to allow us to waste [their efficiency]. It would be good if we mutually enabled our countries' successful businessmen to expand to the neighbouring country where no language barriers practically exist," Zeman said.

The languages spoken in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which formed a joint state, Czechoslovakia, in 1918-1992, are similar and each is well comprehensible in the other country.

Gasparovic said the recent dispute [in Prague] over the future Czech ambassador to Slovakia is a matter of the Czech government and president.

Zeman added it would be amateurish to comment on it in public.

Zeman has been in dispute of late with Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg who is opposed to Zeman's suggestion that Livia Klausova, wife of previous president Vaclav Klaus, should become Czech ambassador to Slovakia.

Zeman recalled Czech Prime Minister Petr Necas's recent statement that only an amateur makes public comments on the filling of diplomatic missions before the negotiations are completed.

Zeman said Schwarzenberg has been repeatedly commenting on the issue, the last time being Thursday. "Let us consider the question of amateurism," he said.

Commenting on his talks with Gasparovic, Zeman said there are no conflicts between the two countries, but "there exists a number of challenges," Zeman said.

He said he and Gasparovic also discussed provocative issues and said they spoke about a joint Czech-Slovak ice hockey league whose launching may be considered in the foreseeable future.

Zeman added that after the talks he concluded that sufficient conditions for a joint football competition have not yet been created.

Zeman appreciated the extraordinarily close relations persisting between Prague and Bratislava.

"I haven't come on my first [foreign] visit [as president] only in order to observe the tradition, but mainly because relations between the Slovak and Czech republics can be called extraordinary, without any exaggeration," Zeman said.

He said like in the past, when he was prime minister, he still would like the Visegrad Four (V4) group to be extended also to include Slovenia.

"Now that I've become president, the goal may be achieved in cooperation with other member countries," Zeman said.

The Visegrad group was established in the early 1990s to boost cooperation between the post-communist central European states, Now it comprises the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

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