Martin Bezak, Ambassador of the Slovak Republic to the Republic of Macedonia and former Deputy Director of the President’s Department for Foreign Policy, discusses Slovakia’s evolving bilateral relations with Macedonia, in the areas of diplomatic, cultural and business ties, as well as the activities undertaken to promote better cooperation between the countries.
European Times: What are the milestones of your professional career?
Martin Bezak: I have served as diplomat in the Slovak Foreign Service for almost 20 years, and performed activities tightly connected with the Balkan affairs for more than 15 years. Back in the 1999 – 2003, I had the privilege to be posted to Belgrade during the most difficult period of the modern Serbian history. My second posting was to Athens, Greece, and since October 2013, I was accredited as first resident full-fledged ambassador of Slovakia to Macedonia.
European Times: What are the Embassy’s main priorities and undertaken activities?
Martin Bezak: The enhancement of the political dialogue and the transfer of our expert help and authentic know how from the transformation and integration processes, has been the first priority in my mandate. Our endeavours have shown success in the elimination of disbalance in the bilateral visits between the political leaders of both countries in terms of place of their meetings in favour of Slovakia. In this context, for example, last year the former President of Slovakia paid a visit to Skopje and Bitola, and our Prime Minister visited Macedonia’s border with Greece. Regarding the economic cooperation, we succeeded in the establishment of the first ever direct flight connection between Bratislava and Skopje, thus enhancing the tourism and business mobility and connectivity. In February 2016 we organized the first meeting of the Joint Slovak-Macedonian Committee on Economic Cooperation and are currently working towards the establishment of the Slovak-Macedonian business club in Skopje and the opening of the Honorary Consulate of Slovakia in Bitola. Embassy’s third priority is the promotion of the cultural values of Slovakia in the broadest sense.
European Times: What are some of the most successful Slovakian business stories in Macedonia?
Martin Bezak: There are just few successful Slovakian businesses in Macedonia, but the flagship is carried by Chemkostav Michalovce, a construction company that executed the reconstruction and construction works, in order to modernize the Idrizovo facility, a business worth more than €11 million. Macedonia has also cooperated with Slovakia on the purchase of 150 freight cars for the Macedonian railways company. I am proud to announce the first ever Slovak direct investment in Macedonia, namely HOLZ-consulting from Trenčín will build in Veles a plant for the production of fuel pellet from agricultural and forestry waste. The company will invest €10 million in the plant and employ 500 workers.
I personally believe that Macedonian people and businesses deserve stability in terms of politics, social and economic environment, and I hope that the country will enter in negotiations for joining the European Union, by sticking to the reforms, enhancing the rule of law, returning the trust in domestic institutions from the citizens and solving its open issues with neighbouring countries.