During this special anniversary year of 2018, a number of events have been held, most recently in Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., commemorating the historical events of 100 years ago. The major event, a gala reception commemorating the ‘Pittsburgh Agreement’ was held on May 31 in Pittsburgh, at the Heinz History Center. It was organized by the Slovak and Czech honorary consuls and the embassies of both countries. Nearly 300 attendees and guests heard from local officials and Czech and Slovak government officials commemorating and interpreting the event that took place 100 years ago in downtown Pittsburgh. There, Prof. Thomas G. Masaryk met with representatives of the Slovak-and Czech-American communities to endorse an agreement that Slovaks and Czechs would support the formation of an independent republic following the end of World War I and the dissolution of the Hapsburg Empire. From this ‘Pittsburgh Agreement’ and a number of other keys events, the nation of Czecho-Slovakia (or Czechoslovakia) emerged. The resulting nation experienced both a glorious and torturous path within Europe throughout the middle of the 20th century (1918-1992).
The Year 2018 is a special anniversary year for Slovakia, with celebrations commemorating the events of 100, 50 and 25 years ago. The Slovak Embassy kicked off the year’s celebrations with a special reception held in Washington, D.C. on January 19 in the ornate Members’ Room of the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill. The focus of the reception was on the 25th anniversary of Slovakia’s independence, when it split from the former Czechoslovakia in 1993, and its remarkable achievements in terms of integration with Europe and transatlantic institutions, as well as strong bilateral relations with the U.S. under the theme, Together for Freedom and Democracy. At the same time the events that led to the formation of Czechoslovakia in 1918 following WWI were commemorated, along with the spirit of freedom and democracy displayed during the ‘Prague Spring’ of 1968.
Slovak Ambassador Peter Kmec led the celebration and spoke of the Slovakia’s struggles and achievements on the road to independence. He acknowledged the support of a number of American individuals and organizations, including Friends of Slovakia, the Slovak fraternal organizations, the Slovak League and many others. Also giving remarks at the event were the co-chairs of the Congressional Slovak Caucus, Rod Blum (R-Iowa) and Peter Visclosky (D-IN). In addition, remarks were provided on
behalf of the U.S. State Department by Matthew A. Palmer, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
Following the event, the publication Diplomatic Connections (Mar-Apr issue) published an excellent interview with Ambassador Kmec that summarized Slovakia’s achievements in the past 25 years, and also provided some nice photos of the Capitol Hill event. See this link and turn to page 14 for the story.
Also, for other events during this anniversary year check the FOS website, www.friendsofslovakia.org or watch for FOS e-blasts. To get on the list for e-blasts and/or to update your contact information send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org .
On Monday, November 13, 2017 Pavol Demeš, a well-known Slovak expert on international relations and civil society, author and photographer, spoke about “Slovakia and the United States: The Ties that Bind” at the Embassy of the Slovak Republic in Washington D.C. The event was co-sponsored by Friends of Slovakia (FOS) and the Embassy of the Slovak Republic. The evening affair was attended by an inquisitive audience including members of FOS, the Embassy, think tanks and US government agencies. FOS President Joe Senko presented Pavol Demeš with a custom-made General Rastislav Štefánik coffee mug at the conclusion.
Pavol Demeš’ personal observations included how Slovakia, as a respected member of the European Union and the Visegrád Group, is doing today both domestically and in its foreign relations. He also covered a variety of societal trends and key challenges faced by Slovakia including in the areas of education and the judiciary. Pavol Demeš assessed the current state of Slovak – United States relations in today’s political environment and concluded by positing what could be done to improve these relations via enhanced contacts. Audience members posed at least a dozen excellent questions to which he provided thoughtful and eloquent responses. The evening ended with a wonderful reception of goulaš and knedle, orechovnik for dessert and, of course, delicious Slovak Wine.
About the presenter: Pavol Demeš served in the Slovak government, first at the Ministry of Education and later as Minister of International Relations (1991-92), and then as Foreign Policy Advisor to Slovak President Michal Kováč (1993-97). In 1999 he was awarded a six-month public policy research fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. From 2000 until 2010 he was the Director for Central and Eastern Europe of the German Marshall Fund of the United States based in Bratislava. Since then, he has been a non-resident Senior Fellow with German Marshall Fund and board member of the European Endowment for Democracy. In 1998 he received the EU-US Democracy and Civil Society Award and in 1999 the USAID Democracy and Governance Award. In 2011 he was awarded a Medal of Honor from the Friends of Slovakia and in 2017 he received the Czech and Slovak Transatlantic Award.
On Friday, President Andrej Kiska held a speech at the annual GLOBSEC Bratislava Global Security Forum:
“It’s been only few hours since I came back from NATO summit in Brussels. This one was highly anticipated. Not surprisingly — it was the first summit of head of states and governments with the participation of the new US president. And let’s be honest, in months since the US elections many of us in this room were worried about what to expect. Fortunately, our transatlantic bond is as strong as ever. We stick together, we guard each other’s back. The Alliance remains the backbone of our security. And moreover, we have a new ally on board — Montenegro.
All 28 member states are determined to fulfill their share of responsibility. This is also important for me personally as the president of the Slovak Republic. Some of you may know that I’ve been very vocal about the half-hearted attitude of our authorities towards our NATO commitments. So I was pleased to announce yesterday in Brussels that the government approved Slovak contribution to securing our allies in the Baltics through so-called enhanced forward presence. Moreover, we will join up fighting terrorism efforts of the Alliance by deploying Slovak troops to Iraq.”
President Kiska spoke on three points:
“First: we struggle lately to maintain institutions of the West — be it NATO or the EU — as fellowship of truly democratic countries based on common values.
Second, we allowed the enemies of the free world to get into our heads, to meddle too much in our own affairs.
Third, we let our elections to be deformed into a survival game of our democratic destiny.”
Read the entire speech on Global Security Forum website: