Books on Slovakia
Update No: 121 - (27/06/07)
Slovakia's former authoritarian prime minister, Vladimir Meciar, has been
generally written off as a has-been. A bulky impressive-looking man, despite his
short stature, he accepted the negative verdict of the electorate in 1998,
stepping down from power after only one elected term (he had been the communist
boss beforehand, but, as everyone knows, the communists believed in being
economical with democracy). He obviously saw himself as the embodiment of his
nation, whose independence he had declared in 1993.
This withdrawal from the limelight, seen as so ignominious at the time, may
turnout to have been a masterstroke, ensuring his popular return one day. He
knew that highly unpopular reforms were necessary. He may well have thought that
it was better to allow the opposition to carry them out in the shape of Mikulas
Dzurinda and his radical rightist government from 1998 to last year, which made
Dzurinda the darling of Brussels - but not of the people.
In 2006 Robert Fico came to power - and immediately made a deal with Meciar. He
and his party were re-admitted to respectability as partners in the new
coalition government. Meciar may well be chuckling, as Fico plays the Kerensky
to his Lenin, metaphorically speaking.
Meciar to the fore
Meciar was re-elected on June 9th as chairman of his party, a member of the
current Slovak governing coalition. At the congress of People's Party-Movement
for a Democratic Slovakia in Nitra, 70 kilometres (43 miles) east of Bratislava,
217 of the 240 delegates voted to reappoint Meciar.
He is now poised to succeed Fico. That is a distinct possibility. He knows how
to play on the heartstrings of Slovakia Profonde as nobody else. He just has to
use a bit of patience.
The present government will trip itself up sooner or later. Then there is the
saviour of the nation - its original creator.
PMs Praise Slovenian-Slovakian Relations
Meanwhile the incumbent prime minister has his own ideas about things. The prime
ministers of Slovenia and Slovakia, Janez Jansa and Robert Fico, praised
relations between the countries as they met in Bratislava on 3rd June. Talks
held by the two as part of Jansa's two-day official visit to Slovakia focused on
Slovenia's experience in adopting the euro and international issues.
Slovakia is planning to adopt the euro in 2009 and Slovenia's experience with
the new currency will be useful for it as it gets ready for the switch.
Moreover, talks also examined bilateral cooperation, viewed by the pair as being
"very successful" on all fronts.
The countries have similar views on a wide range of important international
issues, Jansa and Fico said after their meeting. The biggest difference is over
the future of Kosovo, where, according to Jansa, Slovenia supports UN Special
Envoy Martti Ahtisaari's plan on the conditional independence of the province.
"This is the proposal that is the most feasible in practice," Jansa
said and added that it must be coupled with efforts to present Serbia with a
clear European future. "It is important that the EU adopts a united stance
on this issue," the Slovenian PM said.
"There is no practical or theoretical solution that would satisfy both
sides. A balanced decision of the international community is needed here,"
said Jansa, adding that consensus must be achieved in the UN Security Council.
The Slovenian PM went on to say that Kosovo was in effect not a part of Serbia.
"So if Kosovo gained independence tomorrow, nothing would change on the
Fico, who would not answer directly whether Slovakia supported Ahtisaari's
proposal, pointed out Slovakia was a non-permanent member of the UN Security
Council at the moment, which would give it a chance to contribute to the final
resolution on Kosovo. He said that Slovakia endorsed the common EU stance, but
added that if a resolution failed to be adopted, it could lead to some countries
taking unilateral action that could destabilise the region.
The PMs agreed that the countries have very similar stances on EU topics. Both
countries support the European future of the Western Balkans and the timely
expansion of the Schengen zone. Regarding the EU constitution, Jansa said the
key was to "take a stop forward as soon as possible".
Fico said that the constitution was a trauma holding back the EU project.
According to him, Slovakia supports the German presidency's proposal, although
not changes that would give certain advantages to one or two countries at the
expense of the bloc as a whole.
Slovenia, also, supports the German presidency's efforts in respect to the
constitution, Jansa said, adding that it was important to see what the limits of
compromise were. "The desired outcome is not a compromise at all cost, but
a compromise for the European constitutional treaty that would facilitate
progress in Europe," he said.
Jansa added that it was pleasing to see economic cooperation between the
countries grow by a quarter last year, with trade now worth EUR 500m.
Meanwhile, Fico said Slovakia was interested in Slovenian experiences with
adopting the euro, which is why Jansa will on Monday be taking part in an
international conference on Slovakia's efforts to adopt the single currency.
Jansa said Slovakia was well positioned to adopt the euro.
Slovenia was well prepared for the switch because other eurozone members were
ready to share their experience. "Also because of this, Slovenia stands
ready to share its experience," said Jansa.
"The adoption of the European currency in Slovenia was followed by a rise
in public support for it. You too should approach it without fear," he
Meanwhile, Fico congratulated Slovenia on the recently obtained invitation to
join the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). He added
that Slovakia would support Slovenia's efforts to finalise its membership.
Jansa also touched on the issue of US plans for a missile shield in East Europe,
saying he was certain that the system was intended for defensive purposes.
"Nevertheless, it would be better if this matter was tackled within the
framework of NATO."
SES inks 1.5bn crown contract with Japanese company
Power-engineering company, Slovenske Energeticke Strojarne a.s. (SES) Tlmace,
signed a contract for over 1.5 billion Slovak crowns on May 10th with Japanese
company, Ebara Corporation, for the construction of three fluidised bed boilers
for the incineration of communal waste, each with a capacity of 109 tonnes an
hour, Horspodarsk Noviny reported on May 15th.
Ebara Corp is a subcontractor of German Hochst, the energy supplier for the
industrial park in Frankfurt am Main. The boilers should be delivered in the
first half of 2008; and the company plans to put them into operation in January
2009, SES Marketing Director, Viliam Petras, was cited as saying.
SES Tlmace reported sales of 568.9 million crowns in the first quarter of 2007,
according to non-audited and non-consolidated results. On production costs of
775.7 million crowns, up 76.7 per cent, SES Tlmace generated first quarter added
value of 218.5 million. In the first quarter of 2006 it was 180.1 million. The
power engineering company closed the first quarter of 2007 with a profit of 38.6
million crowns, while in the first three months of 2006 pre-tax profit was 25.3
million. SES Tlmace produces, repairs and reconstructs equipment chiefly for
power stations, and supplies fluidised bed boilers. In addition, it secures
equipment supplies for the chemical, petrochemical and gas industry. In 2006,
the company Segfield Investments, which is a member of the Slovak private equity
J&T Finance Group, acquired a majority stake in the power-engineering firm.
World Bank says Euro adoption by 2009 is realistic
Slovakia should not have problems meeting the Maastricht inflation
criterion, and is one of a few countries in the CEE region that should not fear
an economic slowdown, said the World Bank's regular report on economic
development in CEE countries/EU members (EU8+2), Slovak Spectator reported.
The report was presented by World Bank Economist for Slovakia, Anton Marcincin,
on May 31st in Bratislava. Only developments on world oil markets might
represent a risk with respect to inflation, he added. According to Marcincin, it
seems that of all the EU8+2 countries that have not yet adopted the Euro, only
Slovakia has a realistic Euro adoption plan. The other countries have postponed
their planned adoption dates. The World Bank's report also points out that the
countries in the region as a whole have failed to use good economic development
to improve their fiscal policies and lower their public finance deficits.
Slovakia aims to keep its budget deficit below three percent of GDP, which is
the maximum threshold for the successful adoption of the Euro.
Govt plans to invest in defence programme
Slovakia is due to invest 34 million crowns over the next three years as part of
efforts to improve the European Union's defence capabilities as the Slovak
government agreed to partake in a programme of collective investment in defence
research and technology. The programme concerns collective spending on defence
research and technology by EU-member states within the framework of the European
Defence Agency (EDA), TASR reported.
Set for 2007-2009 with an extension option, the programme's budget is close to
1.843 billion crowns, it was reported. In 2005, EDA countries invested almost 74
billion crowns in various programmes, with the bulk of the money (94 per cent)
coming from France, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Sweden and Great Britain.
Around 9.4 per cent of the total amount spent by EU-member states on defence
research and technology development goes towards specific EU programmes. The EDA
was set up to boost the efficiency of military spending of EU-member states.
FOOD & DRINK
Production growth expected in breweries
The first quarter of 2007 went well for Slovakia's breweries, as beer
consumption in Slovakia now stands at some 80 litres per person per year, after
falling for four years mainly due to higher consumption taxes, Slovak Spectator
Beer production is now set to stabilise, and brewers even expect an increase, it
was reported. According to Heineken spokesman, Roman Krajaniak, beer consumption
is now increasing partly thanks to the warm weather, and the breweries have
invested in new products and packaging. Beer exports fell by a considerable 70
per cent last year. This fall, however, was partly influenced by the licensed
brewing abroad of certain Slovak beers such as Zlaty Bazant (Golden Pheasant)
and Saris. Roman Sustak, executive director of the Slovak Association of Beer
Producers, estimated that some 45 million litres of Slovak beer were brewed
abroad last year.
SARIO reports many companies interested in investing
The Slovak Economy Ministry and the Slovak Investment and Trade Development
Agency (SARIO) have listed around 140 companies that have shown interest in
investing in Slovakia, Slovak Spectator reported.
Slovak Economy Minister, Lubomir Jahnatek, speaking at the 14th annual
International Engineering Fair in Nitra, said that most investors are interested
in engineering production. A total of 880 dealers, representing 250 different
firms from 25 countries, are taking part in the 14th annual
mechanical-engineering fair that began in Nitra on May 22. Jahnatek said he sees
potential growth in the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, which
currently account for 37 per cent of Slovakia's total exports. Mechanical
Engineering Union President, Milan Cagala, was cited as saying that the fair
offered a unique opportunity to tackle the ever-growing competition. The
organisers at the Agrokomplex exhibition grounds said that this year, there has
been a greater interest in metallurgy, plastics in mechanical engineering,
machine tools, welding and welding technology. According to Agrokomplex Manager,
Jozef Janis, interest in commodities in electrical engineering, automation and
regulation has fallen. Last year, the engineering industry in Slovakia turned
profits amounting to 446.8 billion Slovak crowns (13.2 billion Euro), which
represents an 11 per cent rise year-on-year. Car production is expected to make
up more than half of all industrial production and more than 60 per cent of
total exports in 2008, it was reported.
Gasparovic supports Bosnia's European integration efforts
In a meeting with Chairman of the Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Tripartite
Presidency Nebojsa Radmanovic, Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic said his country
supports further EU enlargement and is ready to help BiH in its integration
effort into Euro-Atlantic structures, according to the Slovak president's press
office, New Europe reported.
Nebojsa Radmanovic thanked Gasparovic for his support, and pointed out that at
the time of the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, BiH had not had the
intellectual and economic power that Slovakia had when the former Czechoslovakia
split up, the press release said.
On the issue of European integration, Radmanovic said that the transformation of
his country should lead to its integration into the EU, but pointed out that
many reforms and changes in legislation are still needed.
The two also spoke about current issues in the Balkans. On the issue of Kosovo,
Radmanovic said it is a crucial and dangerous problem both for Serbia and the
entire Western Balkan region, and all possibilities for negotiations between the
Serbs and Kosovo Albanians must be explored to their full, the press release
said. He was cited by the Slovak president's office as saying that the problem
cannot be settled without a consensus between Belgrade and Pristina, adding that
"anything must be considered and done which would lead to an agreement and
not to a unilateral decision."
New trading links with Spain expected
Slovakia may well acquire new trading links in the car industry and
logistics with Spanish entrepreneurs, the Slovak Investment and Trade
Development Agency (SARIO) recently announced, based on the results of a recent
trade mission, TASR reported.
In the period November 2006-May 2007, a group of Spanish businessmen visited
five industrial and logistics parks in Svaty Jur, Senec, Devinska Nova Ves (all
Bratislava region), Trnava, and Nitra. The group also visited two companies:
Grupo Antolin in Devinska Nova Ves and Teleflex Automotive in Vrable (Nitra
region). "The Spanish businessmen expressed their satisfaction with the
results of the visit," read SARIO's web site. The mission was organised by
the Spanish Embassy in Bratislava and a chamber of trade in Barcelona. The
objective was to acquire information on investment opportunities in Slovakia,
and to establish new foreign-trade links and cooperation in production between
Slovak and Spanish entrepreneurs. Apart from Slovakia, the four businessmen have
also shown interest in the Czech Republic and Hungary, it was reported.