H.E. Dagmar Repčeková, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to Serbia, has compiled an ambitious list of tasks for herself to do during her mission, which started last autumn. Among them are improving the already good bilateral relations, assisting Serbia in its euro integration in areas where Slovakia has had ample experience, helping to double the level of bilateral trade, and in establishing contacts and cooperation between the two countries’ academia and research institutions.
You commenced your term as new ambassador of Slovakia in Belgrade last autumn. What have been your impressions so far?
– Serbia is truly a multifaceted country – not only in the sense that it surprises the first-time visitor with its many faces, from the richness of nature to the delight of Serbian cuisine, to the multitude of folk traditions and the flash-and-bang of city nightlife, but also in the multifariousness of opinions on every single issue that comes up in everyday life. I don’t think there was even a single issue that could be put up for a YES/NO vote. You would have to throw in a whole gamut of qualifiers: “if this, then yes…”, “to a certain extent”, “no, but…” etc. Even public opinion pollsters seem to play along, giving respondents at least four or five possible answers to choose from. This leads to a situation where it’s sometimes rather difficult to get a straight answer to a very simple question. However, otherwise I find your country enjoyable and colourful.
What priorities have you set for yourself during your term in Serbia?
– Slovakia has traditionally maintained very friendly relations with Serbia. My aim is to foster bilateral political dialogue; assist Serbia in its euro integration in areas where Slovakia has had ample experience, especially in the fields of public administration reform and fiscal decentralisation; help establish contacts and cooperation between our two countries’ academia and research institutions, and a range of other tasks, including the attention we traditionally pay to addressing the issues raised by the Slovak national minority in Serbia. As of 1st July 2016, Slovakia will take over the Presidency of the EU Council for a six-month term and we are already preparing some activities aimed at promoting tourism, developing R&D cooperation, introducing our culture abroad etc.
Serbia and Slovakia enjoy good bilateral cooperation, but there is still room to boost economic cooperation between the two countries. In which areas is this attainable?
– Along with the recovery of the public finance sector in Serbia, we also note growing interest among Slovak companies in penetrating the Serbian market. Slovak companies are already represented in Serbia in heavy machinery, the energy sector and water management areas. The closeness of both countries, the sizeable Slovak minority, living mainly in Vojvodina, and the growing stability of the Serbian business environment, are factors attracting even small and medium-sized Slovak companies investing in tourism and local services. Slovak companies are also interested in waste management cooperation and establishing joint ventures in traditional sectors – the textile industry, food processing etc. Slovakia also needs suppliers for the growing automotive industry and from Serbia it is possible to get even just-in-time deliveries. Bilateral trade reached just 505 million euros in 2014 and my personal goal is for this figure to have doubled by the end of my mission here.