Closeness with Russia is advantage for Slovakia in EU - official

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BRATISLAVA, July 1 (RIA Novosti, Leonid Sviridov) - Slovakia's advantage within the European Union is a cultural and linguistic closeness with Russia, as well as a knowledge of Russian realities, an official in Slovakian Foreign Ministry said Friday.

In an exclusive interview with RIA Novosti, State Secretary of the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs Magdalena Vasaryova said the accession of Slovakia to the EU could play a positive role in the development of Russia-EU cooperation. "The Slovakian Republic is interested in expanding the strategic partnership between Russia and the EU," she said. Bratislava welcomed the Russia-EU summit in Moscow in May and the signing of the agreements on the four common spaces.

Slovakia and Russia are strategic partners in the transit of energy resources on European markets. "Slovakia is interested in intensifying the Russia-EU energy dialogue, especially in view of Europe's likely increased demand for energy resources and a forecasted increase in Russia's energy exports," she said.

When speaking about the most promising areas of bilateral economic cooperation, Vasaryova said that the potential for cooperation was being not used to its full capacity. According to her, experienced Slovakian businessmen must find and occupy niches on the Russian market where they can consolidate. "We are interested not only in traditional forms of cooperation but in establishing joint enterprises and increasing Slovakian investment in Russia," she said.

According to her, the establishment of the Grafobal-Don company, which was opened in January 2005 in Rostov-on-Don (southern Russia), "proves that this form of economic cooperation is possible."

"The company is 100%-owned by a Slovakian financial group, Grafobal Group Bratislava, which is valued at $18 million," she added.

Another important joint project is the Matador-Omskshina joint venture in Omsk (Siberia) with Slovakian share of $10.5 million. "This company has been producing world quality tires for ten years already," Vasaryova said. "The tires are sold not only on the Russian market but exported to Britain, the Czech Republic, Poland, CIS countries and the Western Balkans."

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