Peter Weiss is one of the most prominent faces of Slovak politics and the founder of the Party of the Democratic Left who also worked as the Slovak ambassador to the Czech Republic for seven years. He is currently enjoying a well-earned retirement.
How do you remember the seven years you spent as a diplomat in Prague? Did you have a favorite place you liked to visit there?
Being the Slovak ambassador to Czechia was an honor and a wonderful culmination of my professional career. My wife Janka and I felt great living in Prague. It is a beautiful and safe city. We used to go relax in Stromovka Park accompanied by our female German shepherd.
Did you experience anything remarkable as a diplomat in Czechia?
I have many diplomatic experiences. The ultimate one being the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Czechoslovak Republic in Prague and in Martin in 2018.
What interesting people did you meet here?
I met all of the Czech political higher-ups at the time as well as representatives of the economic and culture sectors. As a person of socially-democratic thinking, I had exceptional relationships with many of them. The receptions held on the occasion of our national holiday where lines formed for our national dish "bryndzové halušky" provided ample opportunity for intimate discussions.
How do you feel about the relations between both countries? Where could we find mutual inspiration?
My view of the relations between our two countries is described in detail in my book "To My Czech Brethren", published by Novela Bohemica. It contains a selection of my public appearances in the Czech Republic. In general, I can say that even though our relations are no longer exceptional, given that the CSFR split happened thirty years ago, they are still unique. They got a kickstart once more following a bit of a freeze during the covid period. I can see no other two countries in Europe that are as close in terms of language and culture. And that have such potential to shape their relations based not only on pragmatic joint interests but also on a historically established friendship.
What are the biggest issues you're dealing with in Slovakia right now?
Our worries and troubles are quite similar to those in Czechia. We are dealing with high inflation, fear and anger in society. Naturally, people are apprehensive of what the future will bring as well. The domestic political crisis is much stronger in Slovakia, though. It was caused by incompetent and uncultured rule following the 2020 election. The government that promised big changes, a decent Slovakia and a cleansing of society, and that had a comfortable constitutional majority failed tragically and miserably. Our society is polarized, shattered, and deeply frustrated, which is why radical notions verging on extremism have found a strong foothold in politics.
Do you still work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
After my diplomatic mission in Prague ended, I terminated my employment at the Ministry. I'm now retired and I write columns for the Czech Právo and the Slovak Pravda journals. I am not a member of any political party. In public life, I am a freelance social democrat.
But since April this year, you've been working at the newly established Institute of Social Democracy associated with the HLAS-Social Democracy party. What sort of work do you do there?
We've organized multiple extremely interesting expert panels under the Man and Slovakia 2030+ program. For instance: What Kind of Social Democracy Slovakia Needs, Job Market 2030+ (Challenges and Opportunities), New Growth Model – Slovakia 2030+ Becoming a Country With Higher Added Value, or A Social State that Helps.
From your vantage as a foreign policy expert, how do you see things developing on the global international landscape? Can we remain calm?
We've seen major shifts in the geopolitical order this past decade. The US and EU dominance in the global economy is no longer as clear. The European Union is faced with a major challenge in its ability to push through its own interests and remain a proper geopolitical player. We should take heed of French President Emmanuel Macron's initiative to help the EU gain strategic autonomy and lower its dependence on the USA.
How do you feel about the Russian threats and the war in Ukraine?
The Russian aggression is an unjustifiable gross breach of international law. It destabilized international relations. It essentially destroyed the security framework built up in Europe after the 1975 Helsinki Accords, bringing an unprecedented level of uncertainty to our region. After all, Slovakia is an immediate neighbor of the invaded Ukraine. The Russian aggression was motivated by imperialism and revisionism, calling into question existing borders and alluding to Russia's supposed historical claims. That's a fuse ready to blow up the whole post-war order in Europe.
Could there possibly be a military conflict in Central Europe?
I believe that things won't turn out that way and that Ukraine will manage to restore its territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders from 1991 with the help of the EU and NATO countries. I also believe that a fair and just peace will be reached with security assurances for the entirety of the European continent. We should never have to experience this evil and expensive affair ever again. Let Putin's imperialistic military adventure become a memento for Europe and beyond.
Could the election taking place this fall in Slovakia bring about a shift in the country's stance on the Russo-Ukrainian war? And that on the EU as well?
It will be exactly this election that decides whether Slovakia can emerge out of the biggest domestic political crisis in our independent history and assuage a troubled, aggrieved, and deeply divided society. We would be quite sad to see Czechia run away even further in terms of quality of life.
How is your private life going?
I'm living my life. My wife and I like to go for walks in nature. I like to read and watch good thriller movies, ideally spy or political ones. And I happily and lovingly care for our female Yorkshire terrier Kiwi. Sadly, we had to leave our German shepherd Helly to a family in Czechia due to space constraints.
Are your children a source of joy?
Yes. My son has given me two grandchildren, which is a joy for the whole family. My wife's daughter, whom I see as my own, is also doing well. They are both making us happy.
How do you plan on spending the summer with your wife? Are you going on vacation?
We look forward to returning to our favorite spot in Antalya, Turkey, following a covid-induced hiatus.
Peter Weiss (born July 7, 1952) is an ex-member and deputy speaker of the Slovak National Council and former Slovak ambassador to Hungary and Czechia.
He graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy at the Comenius University Bratislava. From 1975 to 1989, he worked at the Institute of Marxism-Leninism of the Slovak Communist Party (SCP), also being appointed secretary of science in 1984.
Following November 1989, he was the chair of the SCP, and in 1990, he played a major part in transforming the SCP to the socially-democratic leaning Party of the Democratic Left (PDL), which he chaired until 1996. Following internal turmoil, he left the PDL in 2002.
Weiss was a member of the Slovak National Council between 1990 and 2002, serving as the deputy speaker from 1992–1994. From 1998–2002, he was the chair of the foreign committee and co-chair of the Joint Parliamentary Committee and the European Parliament, and spent two years leading the delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
Between 2009 and 2013, he was an ambassador to Hungary, going on to hold the same post in Czechia until 2020. He currently works as a commentator for the Právo journal and writes columns for the Slovak journal Pravda.
In 1992, with the then Chairman of the CSFR Federal Assembly Alexander Dubček
In 2020, at an award ceremony where he received the First Order Medal of Merit from President Miloš Zeman