“Twenty years on Czech and Slovak Squares” is the name of a new exhibition of photos, posters, newspapers and other memorabilia documenting the 1993 split of Czechoslovakia and developments in both countries since. The venue, the Czech National Museum’s New Building, is wholly appropriate, as in the past it housed the Czechoslovak Federal Assembly.
Among the guests at Tuesday’s opening was Mikuláš Dzurinda, who as prime minister of Slovakia oversaw its accession to the EU and NATO. In the very hall where deputies in 1992 voted to dissolve Czechoslovakia, I asked him how he viewed the split today.
“I would say that it was a sort of necessity, because of our history and also because of developments since 1968, when the Czechoslovak Federation was established.
“Speaking from the Slovak point of view, this time [the last two decades] has been quite good for us. Because the Slovak people needed to be more self-confident, to believe that is possible to manage our issues by ourselves.
“Looking at the economic figures, I can state that Slovakia is running fast. We were able to catch up with the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary in the process of EU integration.
“And last but not least, only my country was able to fulfill all the criteria which are needed to join the Eurozone.”
“Many, many politicians but also, allow me to say, ordinary people would answer that relations between the Slovaks and Czechs have never been better than they are today – and I fully agree with this.
“Travelling to the Czech Republic – visiting not only Prague but also Brno, Ostrava, Český Krumlov and many other places – I observe that the feelings, the emotions, of Czechs are very, very positive towards the Slovaks. And vice versa.”
You don’t find that fewer people speak Slovak in this part of the world [now]?
“Maybe the young generation, or people that are much younger than I am, have some difficulties expressing their ideas in the Slovak language, but there is no doubt that they understand.”
Do some Slovaks still regard Prague as in some sense the capital? There are a lot of jobs here, it’s good to study here if you’re Slovak…
“Yes, I think so. You mentioned some reasons why, for many Slovaks, Prague is the capital. But I would say that emotionally it is for me as well.
“I wouldn’t say if I cross the border between Slovakia and the Czech Republic at Kúty, or in Břeclav, that I am a foreigner. My feeling is that, yes, this is a beautiful place, but it’s also a part of my history or a part of my home.
“Don’t say it in Brussels, but if I were to decide, the capital of the EU would be the Czech Republic and Prague.”
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