25 April 2011

Diplomacy on the edge of the EU

The British Czech and Slovak Association (BCSA) held it's formal Annual General Meeting in April and this was immediate followed by a public talk by Michael Roberts, British Ambassador to Slovakia 2007-10.

The fitting venue was the Slovak Embassy in London and the function room was packed for the event.

Michael Roberts had prepared for the talk well producing both a presentation and typed notes to accompany the pictures. This flair for preparation came through during the talk too as a lot of what he presented was the result of work he did for the Queen's visit to Slovakia.

We were entertained with lots of little stories showing historical links between Britain and Slovakia. Most of these were unknown to us beforehand so it proved to be an informative talk too.

For example, we were told that tapestries from Mortlake in London had been found in Bratislava Castle.

We also heard interesting takes about Englishmen measuring Slovak mountains, attending Slovak royal weddings and spying in Slovakia.

Michael also gave us some of his views on Slovakia which were generally favourable and he intends to remain working in the region even though he has now retired from the diplomatic service.

The city of Kosice came in for particular praise for its beauty and culture, something that more of us will be encouraged to sample when it become the European Capital of Culture in 2013.

The role of the European Union was another interesting facet of his time there as Slovakia become more and more engaged with Europe, leading to it joining the Euro currency zone, then the control that the EU had over Slovakia lessened as it had fewer things that it could threaten to withhold Slovakia from. You have to jump through hoops to get in to the clubs but once you are in then you're a member setting the hoops for the next countries that want to join.

I suspect that Michael Robert could have talked all night about Slovakia but he managed to restrain himself to around an hour. We then had a few questions before breaking up for drinks, nibbles and conversations.

Another highly successful BCSA talk.

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