The 2019 election of Zuzana Čaputová as the first female president of the Slovak Republic brought increased visibility to the country, especially in the realm of foreign policy. While there is still room for greater participation, a growing number of women in Slovakia now occupy senior positions in influencing, planning, and conducting Slovakia’s foreign relations. In fact, earlier this year the Slovak foreign ministry held a week-long series of events recognizing and celebrating the contributions that women now make in diplomacy and international cooperation.
On May 7, 2021, Friends of Slovakia (FOS) convened a panel of three Slovak foreign-policy leaders to discuss their experiences and impact as policymakers and role models, and to share their perspectives on contemporary issues. Martina Hrvolová, director of Friends of Slovakia and a nonresident fellow at the German Marshall Fund, moderated the session, part of the FOS webinar series.
Lucia Kišš, then-director of the Slovak Agency for International Development Cooperation, became passionate about international development while living and studying abroad, but her passion brought her back home to Slovakia. Her work at the agency involved providing humanitarian and economic assistance in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East in ways that also advanced diversity and greater opportunities for women. (Since the webinar Ms. Kišš assumed a new position as director general of economic and development cooperation at the Slovak foreign ministry.)
Jana Kobzová, foreign-policy advisor, Office of the President of the Slovak Republic, described how her interest in democracy building and foreign policy developed at a time when Slovakia was not making decisions for itself. She asserted that domestic challenges and foreign policy are interlinked, adding that President Čaputová has consistently pursued a foreign policy based on the values of democracy, rule of law, political pluralism, media freedom, and a market economy. It is important not to compromise on these values when dealing with partners that might not make or live up to similar commitments, Ms. Kobzová noted.
Katarína Klingová, senior research fellow at GLOBSEC, a Bratislava-based think tank, presented a new study of gender equality and female participation in Central Europe (available here: https://www.globsec.org/publications/ceeher-report-absent-voices-missing-female-perspective-in-cee/). Ms. Klingová encouraged the use of existing rosters and databases, such as a newly launched www.ceeher.org, to identify and empower female Central and East European experts in international relations, foreign and security policy, business, economics, technology, and sustainability. Particular attention should be paid to the role identity plays in society, Ms. Klingová said, as this constitutes a reference point for people to address issues that concern their development. The next step is to develop policy recommendations that reduce or eliminate inequalities and create a more inclusive environment in which female voices may be heard, she concluded.