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Your Excellency Apostolic Nuncio,
Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me welcome you all and express my pleasure hosting you for the first time at the New Year´s reception since I took the office in June last year. With some of you I have met already on different occasions, with others I meet today for the first time.
First days of New Year are tarnished by the tragedy that happened in Paris last week. Let me express here again my condolences to the families of all the victims.
And let me point out how important it is for us — democratic and free countries — to join forces in the war against terrorism. How important it is to defend our way of life, our values and our freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom to live our lives in a peaceful, open-minded, tolerant civil societies.
We are all obliged to deny to the terrorists and those who help them any sense of the victory. Not today, not tomorrow. This is our obligation, our duty to serve in the memory of all victims of terrorist attacks.
Last year we saw extraordinary level of security threats in the Middle East. Terrorists and militant groups have become a serious challenge not only for the Middle East and North Africa but for other regions as well. We have to fight ISIL on many levels and must not allow this conflict to be perceived as a clash of religions or civilizations.
We have common responsibility of building peace and prosperity in the world and we all know there are huge challenges to overcome. I believe that peace and prosperity start with the respect of values and principles on which they are built on. Freedom and human rights above all.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
I am proud to be the President of Slovakia. Slovakia is a beautiful but also dynamic country. Last ten years were truly successful but we still have things to do. I will continue to highlight the necessity to further improve our judicial environment, so that law enforcement is an absolute standard in this country.
I am convinced that we are on the right path and I think that last year’s changes, prompted by the public pressure, are visible and real. This is one of the important messages I would like you to bring to your governments. I hope that positive changes are also a good sign for foreign investors and for business climate in Slovakia.
In 2014 we elected new leading bodies of the European Union and they started with new enthusiasm to work on our European project. No doubts that the EU needs adjustments in different spheres, but we should not underestimate achievements we have reached in European integration and over-exaggerate our problems we sometimes tend to.
We have to continue to invest in our future. I believe what has been underdeveloped in Europe so far, and should no longer remain so, was appropriate innovation culture. Innovation culture defined by freedom, risk-taking and cooperation.
If we aspire for innovative economies and entrepreneurs, we are also in a critical need for innovative governance and innovative political leaders. Our reforms need to be innovative if we want to keep up with the best and brightest. We have to innovate our education system if we don’t want to waste our own future. I believe Slovakia must reinvent its public policies if we want to — as I say — walk our economy on the road from Iron to Silicon.
I am sure we have a lot to learn from each other and share best practices for mutual benefits. Economic diplomacy, support of innovation and start-ups and other related areas belongs to my priorities and I am open to support projects and undertake visits in this respect. Last year I made economic and innovation cooperation a major part of my visit to the United States. And I plan to do more.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Today, I would be glad to receive you at a more positive moment of international developments. We have to face uneasy international environment, especially in the field of security. The security structure, we were used to for 25 years, has been questioned heavily.
NATO and collective defense have become more important today for our security than ever before. Significant commitments were adopted at the NATO Summit in Wales and Slovakia will fulfill all given pledges as I announced them in agreement with the Slovak Government.
I cannot forget the importance of the Visegrad Four cooperation for Slovakia and for Central Europe. Slovakia continues in the second half of its Presidency. Our ambition is to push ahead projects already launched in energy security, transport infrastructure and defense co-operation.
We take very seriously what is happening in our neighboring country, in Ukraine and circumstances which has brought about current situation. Today we are preoccupied mainly with all efforts to prevent the escalation, to stop the violence and suffering of innocent people. We are striving for a diplomatic solution and full implementation of the Minsk agreements.
However, we all know that this is not only about Ukraine. This is about all of us in Europe and beyond who respect the principles of international law, and principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Slovakia will continue in supporting Ukraine. Reverse gas flow from Slovakia to Ukraine is maybe the most visible, but just one of many examples of our support. This year will be decisive for Ukraine’s future. While the continuing conflict is a heavy burden in the short term, political and economic reforms are crucial for a long term stability and prosperity.
Ukraine may draw on the experience of Visegrad Four countries. We discussed this issue in Bratislava in November last year at the meeting of Presidents of V4 countries with President Poroshenko. Slovakia will focus on two important areas: energy security and security sector reform.
The success of Ukraine is important also for all our eastern partners, especially Moldova and Georgia. We are paying special attention to the preparations of Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in May this year and the implementation of the Association agreement with the EU.
The region of Western Balkan has a little bit disappeared from the international radars. Countries of the region continue in their consolidation process. Intensity and progress differs and in some we would definitely appreciate more progress. Slovakia will continue to pay a close attention to the region and fulfilling its European perspective.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Many challenges are awaiting us in the coming year and they do not seem to be easy. We have better chance to succeed, if we approach them with common and true effort in preserving peace through basic principles of international law, basic freedoms and human rights. This cannot be done without all of us being able to share our success, without mutual trust and better understanding of each other.
I wish to you personally, to your families and to your respective countries and heads of states peaceful, successful and prosperous year 2015.