Peter Kmec: Only strong states can protect their people

Published: 12. 9. 2023
Author: Šárka Jansová
Photo: archives of Peter Kmec
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"A strong state that will protect you," is the motto of MP for the HLAS-Social Democracy party Peter Kmec, who formerly served as the Slovak ambassador to the USA. It is also one of the primary platform topics he will be running on in the upcoming fall snap election with his party.

Is Slovakia a strong state? Does it sufficiently protect its citizens?
The crises that nations have faced in recent years have shown that only strong states can protect their people and support them. In Slovakia, we had a weak government and a weak state that couldn't support its people during a pandemic, energy, and military crisis and it left people to fend for themselves. We had a conflicted and incompetent coalition of amateurs who were unprepared to rule, and so their work resulted in chaos and disorder within the state. Slovakia grew poorer, going backwards, and in terms of aid we were on the bottom rungs of EU member state rankings. The time has come to change that. Our ambition is to build a strong, confident state that can protect its people. Quality of life from birth until retirement is the cornerstone of the HLAS-Social Democracy policy. We want to equalize the differences between regions because nobody should be punished for being born in one place or another across Slovakia. We offer a society-wide accord with all professional groups. After thirty years of its existence as a sovereign state, the time has come to make Slovakia a good and honest place to live.

You have a plethora of experience from abroad, having worked in diplomatic services. What can you tell us about this work?
Allow me to preface this by saying that an ambassador serves as a representative of their country and bears a major responsibility for establishing good relations with the host country. I've always tried my best to clearly articulate our national interests and build relations based on mutual respect. Good foreign policy reflects the state of domestic policy. If consensus exists at home in terms of foreign policy, it makes an ambassador's mission that much easier. Sadly, long-term consensus in the Slovak political landscape has disintegrated and decisions were often made without seeking outside support, such as from the opposition. This is not the way to conduct foreign policy in the long run and we intend to change that.

How do you feel about certain trends – such as those related to gender – spreading from the USA or western parts of the EU?
Human rights topics are universal but the way they apply in specific countries is different. Here in Slovakia, they have unfortunately become but a tool to spark cultural wars between the conservatives and liberals with the aim of garnering quick voter support. This has divided our society even further. That's why I say that despite these topics being universal, we need to implement a specific approach that keeps in mind the value systems of the people living in each individual country. In some places, you need to educate more, not force the matter, and react gradually and with patience.

What topics are you most focused on as a member of your party's parliamentary group?
I focus primarily on foreign and security policy. I was approached by Peter Pellegrini back when I was working for him at the government office as a foreign policy advisor. He's a modern politician with strong socially democratic ties who appreciates the challenges of our time and the needs of the people. His thinking goes far beyond that of regular Slovak politicians. He wants a strong state that will be built on socially democratic foundations while also realizing just how quickly the world changes around us. If we don't jump on the train, Slovakia will grow ever poorer and we'll end up on the tail end of the EU. We want to implement confident foreign policy that nevertheless respects our partners within the EU and NATO. Slovakia first, but also Slovakia that is a predictable and reliable ally.

How do you feel about the war in Ukraine and the military aid from the West? Is there any chance at all of peace negotiations?
Every normal person wishes for peace. War is detrimental to economic relations, cooperation, and further negatively impacts every country. Today, it's hard to predict when and how peace will be reached. There is one fundamental truth that the HLAS-Social Democracy party finds important. We are opposed to any sort of violent shifts in territorial integrity and violations of state sovereignty. Russia is undoubtedly the aggressor and Ukraine is the one defending its territory. That's the root of the Western notion behind helping the invaded Ukraine by all means necessary, even military ones.

Is the Sliač military air base prepared for the new fighter jets that Slovakia is set to receive next year?
Sliač is significantly behind schedule, and the government has needlessly wasted three years through its inaction. We are currently facing the possibility of the new F-16 fighter jets that are supposed to be supplied to Slovakia in 2024 not having a place to land and be housed. Various provisional solutions are being considered, including operating the new jets out of Poland. We will be further diligently overseeing the developments to make sure that civilian operations also return to the Sliač airport upon completion of the refurbishments.

"Illegal migration requires an immediate solution. Europe cannot implement half-baked measures. Paying 20,000 EUR per migrant is unfathomable," you wrote on social media. What's the solution?
Illegal migration is a sensitive political issue in Slovakia. HLAS-Social Democracy has a clear stance on the matter. We refuse to pay 20,000 EUR per migrant that we are unable to shelter in our territory. We prefer to discuss how EU borders can be bolstered both in terms of technology and personnel, the kind of aid we should provide to developing countries in order to help us deal with illegal migration, which is primarily enriching trafficking cartels. They profit from people's misfortune, and the EU needs to deal with the issue where it originates, not at the last link in the chain.

What will be the biggest topic for your party going into the fall election in Slovakia?
HLAS-Social Democracy offers a vision of a strong state that will take care of every single person. As part of our campaign, we are running on the "For Change" petition project, which has garnered widespread support from the people, and which includes our pledge to provide protection from the food and energy crisis, aid for families and the elderly, and a commitment that politicians' wages will be dependent on the economic management of the state. We are also linking up with various social and professional groups to plan the program for Slovakia's future. During our three-year tenure in the Parliament, we put forth 50 social laws, and our policy will be conducted in the same vein. We offer expertise and a professional approach all the while refusing extremism and fascism. Our ambition is to win the election and play a major part in shaping the policy of the future government. Our campaign will be decent with a focus on presenting solutions to the people rather than lashing out against opponents.

Peter Kmec (born November 11, 1966, in Nitra), is a member of the Slovak National Council.
He studied at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (1985–1990). In 1990, he earned a Ph.D. from the Komenský University Bratislava.
Starting in 1993, he spent four years at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1998, he served as a political advisor to an OSCE mission in Georgia.
Between 1999 and 2000, he was the deputy director of the foreign minister's office in Bratislava. From 2000 to 2003, he served as a deputy ambassador to Israel, and later as a deputy ambassador to the USA until 2005. Between 2005 and 2007, he was the director of the foreign minister's office and subsequently spent five years as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Sweden. He was the ambassador to the USA from 2012 to 2018.
After returning home, he worked as an advisor to the prime minister (2018–2020), and has been a member of the Slovak National Council since 2020.
Kmec and his wife Monika have two adult children – daughter Lucia is studying medicine, son Adam is studying theoretical mathematics and physics. His wife is a yoga instructor and enjoys weaving tapestries.

At the White House credentialing ceremony with Barack Obama in 2012

With Chairman of the HLAS-SD party Peter Pellegrini


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