|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks Following Meeting with Prime Minister Dzurinda
Bratislava, Slovakia, November 22, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Many thanks. Good morning Slovakia.
I thank you, Prime Minister Dzurinda, for your warm welcome. It makes my visit to Bratislava feel a little bit more like coming home.
This is my third trip in the last five years and for the first time I can say that I have come not only as a friend but as a full and close partner. Through the vision of Prime Minister Dzurinda and his government and the courage of the Slovak people, your country is assuming the place destiny gave you at Europe's heart.
In the last year, you have done much to solidify democracy and secure the rule of law for all citizens. Your efforts to improve relations with your neighbors and promote ethnic tolerance have set an example throughout the region. And the Prime Minister's economic reforms are beginning to bear fruit, with rising growth rates and falling inflation.
Progress at home is bringing Slovakia new respect -- and new opportunities -- abroad. The European Union has applauded your economic progress -- and is likely to invite Slovakia to begin accession negotiations next month. The United States strongly supports this. We also welcome Slovakia's progress toward joining the OECD. And we are working actively to help Slovakia meet the criteria for NATO membership.
Already, Slovakia is making important contributions to regional stability and international peace through its participation in NATO-led forces in the Balkans and UN peacekeeping operations around the world. Slovak diplomats are doing their country proud at the OSCE and elsewhere. And Slovak non-governmental organizations have much to offer to other countries hoping to follow your peaceful path to democratization.
The process of change has not been easy and many Slovaks are still struggling to make ends meet; and the economic reforms to come, though essential, will be difficult.
But better times are ahead. For Slovakia has the foundations of a stable democracy, a central location and a well-educated workforce. Most important, it has citizens with faith that the future can be better than the past, and with the dedication and courage to build that future.
Ten years ago, Slovaks took to the streets to demand a government that would be accountable to the people. Last year, you used your campaign rallies and ballot boxes to hold the government accountable for its shortcomings. I am confident that you will use that same determination to build a society of which every Slovak can be proud. And I am privileged to pledge my own support, and that of the United States, as you work toward that goal.
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