BRATISLAVA, Slovakia (AP) — Political newcomer Andrej Kiska was inaugurated Sunday as Slovakia’s new president, vowing continued cooperation with the European Union and NATO amid concerns about security in neighboring Ukraine.
Kiska took the oath of office at a special session of Parliament, becoming Slovakia’s fourth president since it gained independence after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The eastern European country, a major conduit for Russian deliveries of natural gas through Ukraine into central Europe, has been unsettled by recent violence in Ukraine.
“The events in Ukraine have worried us,” Kiska said in his inaugural address. “Security issues are on the agenda in Europe again.”
“I will continue in the tradition of previous presidents who were always strong supporters of Euro-Atlantic cooperation,” Kiska said, alluding to the EU and NATO. He succeeds two-term president Ivan Gasparovic.
Kiska, a successful 51-year-old businessman-turned-philanthropist, was elected in March, in an embarrassing defeat to his major rival — left-leaning Prime Minister Robert Fico. Kiska was until recently a relative unknown in Slovakia, and attracted voters fed up with corruption and politics-as-usual to beat Fico.
As prime minister, Fico remains the country’s most powerful politician. In Slovakia, the president holds a largely ceremonial post but appoints Constitutional Court judges, can veto laws and appoints the prime minister after parliamentary elections.
The founder of two successful credit companies, Kiska also helped create the charity Good Angel, which contributes money to families who have financial troubles because they have seriously ill children. He hosted a lunch for homeless, elderly and other disadvantaged people on Sunday.
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