I first visited Slovakia in 1989 as a young college student, backpacking through Central Europe during one of the most transformative times in this region’s history. I vividly remember the atmosphere of optimism and excitement as Slovaks and their central European neighbors looked forward to building a free, democratic future for themselves after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Now back in Slovakia as the head of the U.S. Embassy, I have been amazed by the enormous strides this country has taken since that day.
One of my first priorities after arriving in Slovakia was to travel around the country so I could meet with its people firsthand. Over the past few weeks, I’ve traveled to Lest, where I was proud to see our countries’ strong military cooperation in action as over 100 troops from the Indiana National Guard joined their Slovak counterparts for the Slovak Shield training exercise. Events such as this and last month’s “Dragoon Crossing” provide both our militaries with valuable opportunities to train together, learn about each other, and become stronger military partners.
But that military cooperation is just one facet of our rich bilateral relationship. In Kosice, I met with AT&T and the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) to discuss our countries’ extensive business ties and to explore the potential for even greater economic cooperation. At the Eastcubator I learned about Slovakia’s growing culture of innovation and entrepreneurship and its potential to drive future economic growth. And I discussed with Deputy Mayor Martin Petrusko how the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) will open up export possibilities for Slovakia’s small and medium sized enterprises.
My most recent stop was in Banska Bystrica, where the 10th anniversary of the InfoUSA Center highlighted the strong people-to-people ties between our countries. The InfoUSA Center serves as an important platform for us to discuss the issues that affect Slovakia and the United States, as well as the world around us. Its EducationUSA advising center is also a key resource for Slovaks interested in studying at U.S. universities, and it serves as an important source of information about opportunities such as the Summer Work and Travel program, which brings thousands of Slovaks to the United States each year to explore and experience America.
But it should come as no surprise that the connections between our people are so strong – hundreds of thousands of Slovaks immigrated to the U.S. beginning in the 19th century. Our people are bound together by history and by shared experiences and values.
For the United States, Slovakia is an important friend, partner, and ally. We are proud of what this country has been able to accomplish over the past 20 plus years, and I look forward to working with you over the next three years to continue build a democratic, prosperous, and secure future.