In a RIA Novosti interview that preceded his official trip to Russia, Slovak President Rudolf Schuster said he hoped that the visit would become a "turning-point" from the point of view of expanding bilateral relations. According to Schuster, he attaches great importance to his first official visit to Russia, which is scheduled for November 11 through 14. Today, Bratislava and Moscow have a chance to make better use of the two countries' cooperation potential, believes the Slovak president, who thinks it is time for Slovakia to step up its effort to enter the Russian market, which is bound to be "less accessible a few years on because of growing competition." Having pointed out that his delegation includes a large group of entrepreneurs who are eager to streamline bilateral contacts in various fields, Schuster stressed the importance of furthering regional partnership, expanding scientific and technical cooperation, and setting up joint enterprises that would sell their produce on the Russian market as well as in third countries. In the president's opinion, the contemplated construction of a Yamal-Europe pipeline is very "promising" -- Slovakia, a country that draws profit from transportation of gas and oil across its territory, is eager to implement it, he said. Speaking about Russia's debt to Slovakia, Schuster said the issue should not dominate bilateral relations. Anyway, he is convinced that the governments of Russia and Slovakia will "find a mutually acceptable compromise here." Touching on his country's foreign-policy line, Schuster stressed that its strategic goal -- NATO and EU membership -- remained the same. But it would be a mistake to consider this fact an obstacle to Slovak-Russian cooperation, he emphasized. "Modern-day Russia is an important and serious partner, who has chosen the same path as Slovakia, the one leading to market economy and a democratic state," he said. According to his words, common Slavonic roots and proximity of two countries' languages should help streamline bilateral relations and reach better mutual understanding. Another fact uniting Russia and Slovakia is that "they fought jointly against fascism during the Second World War." Schuster attaches special importance to an upcoming meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, whom he regards as a "pragmatic politician who invariably stands up for development of mutually advantageous interstate relations." The Slovak president is also expected to meet with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Alexis II, and top officials from St. Petersburg.
As November 4 approaches (on this day, Russia and Belarus are to sign union programs), disputes between supporters and opponents of the integration become increasingly heated