Which subjects currently define relations between Germany and your host country?
In the final instance most of the subjects are also EU topics. At the moment these are particularly high on the agenda for relations between Slovakia and Germany. And at this point I’d like to congratulate Slovakia on its first assumption of Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the final six months of 2016. Germany will be doing its best to support Slovakia as it carries out this responsible task. Migration and refugee policy will still be an especially important area of our cooperation during this period and afterwards. We have already developed a whole range of mutual approaches on which we can continue to build. Despite our differing points of view on certain individual aspects, I am convinced that we will reach some sound solutions together.
Which special ties are there between your host country and Germany? In which areas would you like to deepen relations?
German-Slovak relations are traditionally very good and historically relatively unencumbered. Economic relations between the two countries have developed very intensely. Germany is Slovakia’s most important trading partner both for imports as well as exports. German companies of different sizes from various sectors are successfully active in Slovakia, and they rate highly as investors. For example, Volkswagen is the largest private employer in the country with around 10,800 employees. But the close relationship is also reflected in the cultural sphere as well: in Slovakia, German is the second most important foreign language following English. So it is essential to maintain and intensify these close ties between the two countries. One area that is particularly well suited for this is dual vocational training which is also the normal approach adopted by numerous German companies operating here. Last year Slovakia created new legislation for this purpose, and it integrated many aspects of Germany’s long-standing experience in the dual education system. A similar bilateral vocational training project exists with only five other European countries.
In the summer of 2016 school students in Slovakia graduated with the Abitur examination for the first time. Where, against which background and to what purpose?
In 2016, eight students at the German School in Bratislava passed the Abitur examination. The school has now completed establishment phase and can now offer a complete grammar school education through to the Abitur. In addition to this, and for many years now, students at the bilingual grammar school in Poprad in the northeast of Slovakia have been successfully graduating with a combination of the Slovak and the German Abitur exams. The opportunity to take the German Abitur examination in Slovakia is designed to enable and ease access to universities and higher education in Germany. Apart from this, good German language skills can also significantly improve the chances for young people in Slovakia’s labour market.
On 1 July 2016 Slovakia assumed the Presidency of the Council of the European Union – a particular challenge following Brexit. What is at the top of the agenda? And, is the decision of the British people influencing your work?
The main focus is now on seeking solutions for continuing mutual cooperation with Britain, but also on restoring the confidence of citizens in the EU and finding solutions to the key tasks of the future – for instance, the challenges posed by people seeking refuge, and migration in general. In its programme for the EU Council presidency Slovakia is counting in being “an honest broker” for strengthening unity and cooperation in the EU. And Germany will be doing its best to support these efforts. Naturally, the British people’s decision is also influencing my work and that of my team. We have to adjust to the fact that our British colleagues will no longer be with us at meetings in the circle of the EU member states. I personally regret this deeply, and I shall certainly miss the analytical contributions and the very special humour of the British colleagues.
Often there is a difference between the interior and exterior view of a country. In your personal experience, what needs to be said about Slovakia?
I reckon the expression “it may be little, but wow” fits quite well here. Considering its size and population Slovakia has distinguished itself as a remarkably strong economic partner for Germany in Eastern Europe. The economic statistics of this state, which has only been independent for about 20 years, are consistently positive. It’s unfortunate that many people in Germany still know too little about this country. But the unspoiled nature of this beautiful mountainous country, which incidentally has the largest bear population in Europe, brings pleasure to ramblers and nature lovers from all over the world. That’s why I’d be really happy to see far more of my compatriots visiting Slovakia.
Article source: https://www.deutschland.de/en/topic/politics/global-issues-law/ambassador-dr-thomas-gotz-in-the-slovak-republic