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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 31,868 23,700 20,500 59
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 4,920 3,950 3,760 73
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 124 - (28/09/07)

The CEE Social Democrats unite against the US
An event of great significance has happened. Central and East European (CEE) Social Democrats have combined to reject US missile shield plans for Europe. They agreed this in mid-September in Bratislava.

The Social Democratic parties of Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia have rejected the US plans to position parts of its missile shield in Europe in a common statement. "We are concerned about the decision to deploy the system and are at one with the large majority of our populations in rejecting it," the statement, drafted by Austrian and German Social Democrats, reads. "A decision to station the missiles must not be taken unilaterally or bilaterally, since this is a major issue affecting the security of all of Europe." 

In January, the United States asked the Czech Republic and Poland to station an X-band radar and 10 interceptor missiles respectively for its missile shield that the US says is designed to protect against so called rogue states such as Iran. The countries entered into bilateral talks despite the project's lukewarm reception across Europe and Russia's outright hostility to it. 

The Central European Social Democratic politicians agreed in their statement that the deployment "has sparked tensions between the US and Russia" and "there is a threat of a new arms race." 

They also demanded that a debate on the project be held at European Union level. "It is not possible that we sidetrack ... the idea of common European security," said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. "And it will be very bad if Europe is divided on this issue as it had been in Iraq's case." 

However, Hungarian Socialists, also present at the regional Social Democratic gathering, refrained from signing the statement. The party's Deputy Chairman, Hungarian Defence Minister Imre Szekeres, said that Europe must defend itself from threats. "If we do it in NATO or individual members of the alliance decide on cooperating in this area we recognize their right to do so," he said. 

Central Europe's Social Democratic politicians introduced their common position at a press conference during their two-day Prague gathering, where they have also pondered the future of the welfare state and European energy policy. 

Fico's triumph
The meeting has been seen as a breakthrough for Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, a leader of the leftist Smer party. He has been largely ignored by European socialists after forming a ruling coalition with parties led by two rogues of post-communist Slovak politics - former authoritarian premier Vladimir Meciar and nationalist Jan Slota. 

Neither of them were given a post in the cabinet though and Fico has so far kept them under a tight rein. 

"I am very pleased by the great progress and stable politics carried out by our Slovak friends," said German SPD leader Kurt Beck. "Their politics stand with the highest European level financially, economically and socially." 

"I hope any 'punishment' meted out to our party will now end," Fico told CT24 news channel on September 13th. 

Smer predominant
Whatever he is thought of abroad, at home Fico's party is popular. The governing Party Direction - Third Way (Smer) remains the most popular political organization in Slovakia. According to a poll by MVK. 39.7 per cent of respondents would vote for Smer in the next parliamentary election.

The Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) is second with 15.5 per cent, followed by the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) with 10.7 per cent, the Slovak National Party (SNS) with 10.5 per cent, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) with 7.8 per cent, and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 6.9 per cent.

Parties require at least six per cent of the vote to earn seats under the country's proportional representation system. The Slovak Communist Party (KSS) and the Green Party (SZ) fall below this threshold.

Slovak voters renewed their legislative branch in June 2006. Final results placed Smer-led by Robert Fico-as the top party in the European country with 50 seats. In July, Fico officially took over as prime minister, in a coalition encompassing Smer, the SNS and the HZDS.

In late July, interior ministers from 14 European Union (EU) countries agreed that it will be possible to lift border controls by the end of August. New members of the EU-such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland-are preparing to implement the Schengen Information System (SIS), which allows them to remove systematic border controls at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008. Slovak interior minister Robert Kalinak discussed the situation, saying, "As the timetable within the implementation of SIS is still valid, there is no reason to postpone the deadline for the new system."

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