A new Consul General of Slovakia spoke of how to become a diplomat from a teacher, why they do not give permission for small border traffic and where else crossing points will open
Recently, Ukrainian-Slovak border traditionally celebrated the annual day of neighborliness. During the official speeches there were a lot of good words about the partnership and collaborative work, but many visitors that day also talked about the difficulties faced by people crossing the border, about poorly developed economic relations and the conflicts raised by the Slovak national minority of the region. "Zamok" interviewed a newly appointed Consul General of the Slovak Republic in Uzhgorod Mariana Mulik about all these problems.
"In Transcarpathia, I do not feel uncomfortable"
– Mr. Consul, we congratulate you on your appointment. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
– I was born in Eastern Slovakia, in the town of Vranov over Toplou. I lived here until 15 years old before I went to school first in Trebishov and then in Presov. My professional occupation is a teacher of elementary classes, but it happened so that since 1998 I have been working in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic. The first place of my Foreign Service was New Delhi in India. It was a very good experience because I had to quickly immerse in a completely different culture, to learn to work in that system. After three and a half years of work in this country I was sent to the Baltic, where I worked at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Latvia (in fact, the work of a consulate involved Lithuania and Estonia). I took my appointment in Uzhgorod very well, it’s very close to my home town, and here I do not feel mental discomfort. Although in terms of responsibilities this diplomatic mission is more difficult, because in Ukraine there are much more my countrymen who may need help.
– What kind of cooperation do we have between Ukraine and Slovakia now? Are these connections sufficient, or maybe they need to be improved?
– I see that the relations between Ukraine and Slovakia are well established, but their potential is even greater. It’s nice that people want to meet and work together. Many Slovak entrepreneurs are interested in working on the territory of Ukraine and Ukrainian businessmen are interested in Slovakia. So I’ll do my best to strengthen these ties. I have already met the Governor of the region and the Mayor of Uzhgorod, we talked a lot about the necessity to further develop relations between Transcarpathia and Košice and Prešov regions. We also raised the border matter, because there are some problems, in particular long queues, which can and have to be minimized. But since this issue is not quite my competence, I cannot directly affect this.
– Are you planning to change anything in the work of consulate, to take an active part in the life of Slovak communities of the region?
The only thing I would do in addition is to increase attention to the economic component of Ukrainian-Slovak relations. Since last year a diplomat on economic issues – Alexander Skurla – has been working here. He is responsible for business relations between Ukraine and Slovakia. Therefore, we are going to pay more attention to the development of economic relations between the countries. We have already participated in a seminar where we spoke about investment opportunities in the economy of Slovakia, and soon we want to organize a meeting of Slovak and Ukrainian entrepreneurs in Kiev.
– What is the reason of the Consulate not issuing permits for the local near-border traffic?
– Since September 19, 2011 our office has indeed stopped receiving applications for registration of permits for local near-border traffic. This is due to some technical difficulties that have arisen in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Slovak Republic with the installation of technical equipment necessary for the selection of fingerprints. At the same time it has become necessary to regulate the legislation on the departmental agreement between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.
– From time to time misunderstandings arise on the Slovak-Ukrainian border due to the fact that the Slovak border guards and customs officers refuse to let Ukrainians pass if their Schengen visa has been opened, for example, by the Hungarian Consulate. What is the situation with this now?
– One of the main conditions for obtaining a Schengen visa is a mandatory first entry of a foreigner into the territory of the country of Schengen area, the consular authority of which has granted him a visa. Use of other crossing points at the border may cause a suspicion of visa abuse of, so this practice exists indeed, according to information available to us, the border guards and customs officers on the border of Ukraine and other neighboring countries, members of Schengen area, react just the same.
– Recently, Hungary has introduced restrictions on imported fuel at the border. Is Slovakia planning to resort to such actions too?
– We know that the load on the crossing point "Uzhgorod – Vyshne Nemetske" has recently increased significantly, due to Ukrainian cars, registered in the monitoring system of customs services of the Republic of Hungary too. Accordingly, Customs government of Mikhalovtse is also planning to introduce similar restrictions aimed at protection of the domestic market and limitation of violations involving illegal importation of fuel.
– Tell us about the work of the Slovak Cultural Center in Uzhgorod. What does it do and what are the plans for its activity?
– The priority mission of the Slovak Cultural Center in Uzhgorod is the representation of interests and goals of the Slovak national minority in Ukraine in the field of art, culture, science and education, as well as coverage of current political and social life in Slovakia. The leading program of deepening friendly Slovak-Ukrainian relations will become permanent cultural and historical expositions and temporary exhibitions, dedicated to certain events.
Another form of presentation of Slovak culture will be video broadcasting of Slovak documentary and popular films. In addition, the Cultural Center provides the ability to organize and conduct a variety of activities including concerts, lectures, meetings with authors, poetry readings, book presentations, scientific workshops, meetings of writers, linguists and translators of Slovak prose and poetry etc. on its premises.
– Along with the standard Honorary Consulate of the Slovak Republic has been also active for many years in Uzhgorod. Wouldn’t it be better to open it in another place in Transcarpathia, where the Slovak community is also widely represented?
– Now Honorary Consulate of Slovakia in Uzhgorod has already stopped its operation. It is indeed going to be transferred soon, namely to Velyky Berezny, which is a region, densely populated by the Slovak national minority.
The aim of the new Honorary Consulate, above all, will be the establishment and expansion of economic and cultural ties. Now we are preparing for the opening of the consulate at an official level, so soon we will know more about it.