|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks Following Bilateral Meeting with Foreign Minister Kukan
Bratislava, Slovakia, November 22, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you, Foreign Minister Kukan -- and thank you
for the welcome the Slovak government and people have shown me today.
More than ever, coming to Slovakia is like coming home.
Today I have had very productive meetings with President Schuster and Prime Minister Dzurinda as well as the Foreign Minister. I have brought greetings from Washington's favorite Slovak hockey star Peter "Bonzai" Bondra.
I have congratulated Slovakia's leaders on the progress the country has made in the past year, and I want to congratulate the people as well. By building a strong civil society, and turning out to vote in elections, you have put Slovak democracy on a sounder footing. You have done admirable work to improve relations with your neighbors and fight discrimination and intolerance. You have begun vital economic reforms.
And the results are already visible - in Slovakia's falling inflation and growing national income. In the European Union's positive evaluation of Slovak prospects for membership. In your progress toward NATO membership. And in your important contributions to regional stability and international peace.
I have discussed with Slovakia's leaders the difficult steps that still lie ahead. There is more to do to reform the economy and to fight corruption, to ensure the rights of minorities, and particularly the Roma. And to meet the high standards set by NATO and the European Union.
I have also assured the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister and I will assure the President that the United States will stand with Slovakia through these challenges. At the government's request, we have increased our support for legal and economic reform efforts. We are assisting Slovakia in its planning for NATO membership. And we are proud to work with Slovak partners in peacekeeping in Kosovo, Albania, Bosnia and Eastern Slavonia.
The ties between the United States and Slovakia are deep and enduring. They begin with immigrant families such as mine, and extend through hockey stars and astronauts and Members of Congress with Slovak ancestry. They are symbolized at the gravesite of Slovak patriot and League of Nations founder Stephan Osusky, who lies buried in Washington near the graves of President Truman and Secretary of State Dean Acheson. The lives of all three remind us that the foundation of our common bond is nothing less than the love of liberty, and the ceaseless quest for human freedom.
In that endeavor, our nations stand side by side - and I look forward to standing with Slovakia as you move forward on the path to stable, prosperous democracy. And I thank you again for your tremendous hospitality, and wish you all the best and look forward to our continued working together. And I'm glad I finally got here and that we've had such good meetings.
QUESTION: (In Slovak) Minister Kukan mentioned that the atmosphere during your talks was open and concrete. I would like to ask if you also spoke so openly and concretely about the already mentioned corruption?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (inaudible) we did have very open and honest discussions and we did talk about corruption, because we are concerned about corruption, not only as has been exhibited in various places here, but everywhere. I have to tell you that among the greatest problems that many countries face, and as we globalize the economy, and we all know what everybody is doing, is the whole problem of corruption. And it is really the parasite that is undermining many societies and we have to deal with it openly and very clearly. I, a couple of years ago, signed the OECD Convention on Bribery and Corruption. We consider that a very important international document. And the fight against corruption is one of the major issues that we have to deal with generally and the Foreign Minister and Chairman and I spoke about that subject.
QUESTION: There are indications that Egypt is preparing to out of hand to reject certain scenarios. On the diplomatic front, what is the United States doing to insure that this investigation remains public -- (inaudible)?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all, let me say that there actually has been very close cooperation between us and Egypt. When I was in Istanbul I met with Foreign Minister Moussa. He said that we would stay in very close touch on this. The investigations are going forward and the Egyptian experts are working with the NTSB. And as Hall said, I think it is very important for that work to go forward and for there not to be speculation about various aspects of this and to draw premature conclusions of any kind. I think that clearly we will continue to speak with the Egyptians. While I've been gone, Under Secretary Pickering has been in touch with the Egyptian Ambassador in Washington. And as I said, I've spoken with Foreign Minister Moussa and I will undoubtedly be speaking to him as this proceeds, about this subject and a lot of others also.
QUESTION: (In Slovak) Madam Secretary, my question is connected with one that my colleague had. Last year two members of the Slovak Government had to resign because they were suspected of corruption. The political scene in Slovakia is still in movement. The government rapidly looses popularity. Were the elections in '98 evidence for the American administration that democracy in Slovakia is stable or are you going to wait for elections in 2002?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, first of all let me say I do not wish to get involved in the internal affairs of Slovakia. I would like to say I have been very impressed by the work that this government has done in cooperation with the Parliament in terms of getting economic reforms underway, working on legislation to do with minorities, the language law. And what I have done is encourage all those with whom I have spoken today to follow through with economic reforms, to understand the importance of foreign investment, to stay in very close touch with the voters and to make sure that Slovakia, through this government, is able to take its rightful place in the OECD, EU and to move forward in terms of integration with Europe.
And as I mentioned to the previous question, we clearly are concerned generally about the issue of corruption and it is not Slovak specific. This is a problem that we have seen in other countries which has to be dealt with on a systematic basis. But I must say that in the meetings when Prime Minister Dzurinda came first to New York and then to Washington, his meetings with President Clinton, and with the rest of us, we have been impressed by the dedication to economic reform and the understanding of the necessity of keeping the momentum going. Slovakia has a lot to do. It has to make up for lost time. It is very unfortunate that Slovakia lost so much time and I hope that very much that this current leadership will be able to make that time up, maybe learn from the mistakes of some of the others and put them to good use and move forward in the whole reform agenda.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the state of Iraq has started halting their oil exports. I was wondering what the next step in the U.S. Mission in the United Nations will be now that Iraq has rejected the extension on oil for food program.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, I have to tell you it's to me a sign of a great cynical approach that Iraq's Saddam Hussein has taken both towards his own people because this is an oil for food program and the plan was to increase the ability of Iraq to sell oil in order to buy more food for its people. So, first of all, it is a move against his own people by Saddam Hussein. And second, it's cynical vis-à-vis the international community because all that resolution wants is for Saddam Hussein to live up to his obligations to disarm. That is a commitment that he has to make (inaudible) according to Security Council resolutions, and he has to comply. And the fact that Tariq Aziz indicated that they would not comply, strikes me as a sign that they must want somehow to keep continuing the possibility of having weapons of mass destruction which is unacceptable to the international community. So what we wanted was a (inaudible) regime to go into Iraq to make sure that they would not acquire weapons of mass destruction and I think Iraq has shown its true colors again by turning down the possibility of having more food and medicines for its people by selling more oil.
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