June 4, 2021: Visit to the City of Košice

   On June 4, 2021, I visited the City of Košice. This happened for the first time since I began my diplomatic mission in Slovakia. I met and held talks with the Governor of the Košice Self-governing region Rastislav Trnka and with the Mayor of Košice Jaroslav Polaček. I was very pleased to make this visit to the east of Slovakia, because I planned to make it since I have arrived to Slovakia. However, the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which attacked from the autumn of last year until May this year, prevented any relocation within Slovakia, so I was able to visit Košice only after the release of anti-pandemic measures.
   I visited eastern Slovakia on the invitation of Mr. Rastislav Trnka, the the Governor of the Košice Self-governing region. Before the meeting with him, I symbolically watered sakura trees with Mayor Polaček. The trees were planted in the city last year on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of establishment of the relations between Japan and the former Czechoslovakia. Later on we went together to the building of the historic town hall, where we remained in an informal conversation.
   I learned that Košice, which lay on the important link between the trade routes between Hungary and Poland, enjoyed the great favor of King Louis the Great in the 14th century. He granted the city the Great Privilege, which elevated it to the second most important city after Budin. At the same time, he issued a coat of arms to the city, thanks to which Košice became the first city to receive its own coat of arms. All this testifies the immense maturity and economic importance of the then Košice.
   At present, however, in the area of the level of wages or employment, the east of the territory is undoubtedly handicapped in comparison with the west of Slovakia. The mayor explained that eastern Slovakia underwent a special economic and cultural development, which differed from that which developed the west of Slovakia. Now, however, the east of Slovakia suffers from inequality in many areas throughout Slovakia, in which everything seems to be concentrated, especially around Bratislava. Mayor Polaček explained in detail of the complexity of the whole issue.

   Additionally, at the meeting with Rastislav Trnka, the background of the problems of the development of the eastern regions was explained, but during the talks, the mayor focused mainly on the following topics:
  1. Better promotion of monuments included in the UNESCO list of cultural heritage and other historically attractive localities of the Košice region for Japanese tourists.
  2. Through Japanese factories and companies already established in the Košice region to attract other Japanese companies, and thus further deepen mutual Slovak-Japanese cooperation.
   The Governor´s office also organized a visit to the Technical University in Košice, where I had the opportunity to get acquainted with renowned research institutes that cooperate with Japanese universities on joint projects. I perceived the strong potential that TUKE, in cooperation with Japanese companies, can have in penetrating the world market.
   Since 1993, when Slovakia became independent, it has focused mainly on the development of the automotive industry. However, in recent years we have seen that the labor market for the automotive industry is reaching its limits, while wages are rising, as a result of which the current model of development is no longer applicable. Therefore, the Slovak government is sufficiently aware that the task is to move towards the development of tourism and the knowledge economy, in which the Embassy of Japan would also like to be helpful.