Books on Slovakia
% of GDP
Update No: 096 - (26/04/05)
Slovak Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda has been a great
success in his job. He is much esteemed in Brussels and Washington for his
sterling reforms, which have revitalised the Slovak economy and made Slovakia a
magnet for FDI.
The economy is buoyant. Slovakia posted year-on-year GDP growth of 5.3 percent
in the year to November, 2004 the latest figure available. The government
intends to implement its approved reforms this year, aiming at improving
citizens' standard of living, said Dzurinda, unveiling the government's
priorities for 2005 in early January."We expect 2005 to be a year of
real-wage growth at more than 3 percent," said Dzurinda.
Dzurinda longest-serving PM
In April he became the longest serving prime minister in post-Communist
Slovakia. Dzurinda overtook the former three-time PM Vladimír Meciar, who was
in power for 2,347 days.
The PM's spokesman Martin Maruška said that Dzurinda was probably not even
aware of the fact.
Political analyst Pavol Abrahám thinks that Dzurinda is a charismatic and
ambitious leader. "He is a symbol of an absolute change that society
started in 1998 [when the first Dzurinda cabinet took power], but also of an
incomplete change. Meciarism was not rejected fully," Abrahám said.
Nevertheless, his term in office may well be coming to an end. There are always
losers in a transition economy, however successful; and if there is a democracy
they can vote against the powers that-be.
Fico's SMER Increases Lead
The opposition Party Direction - Third Way (Smer) holds a commanding advantage,
according to a poll by UVVM. 30.2 per cent of respondents would vote for Smer in
the next parliamentary election. The next election is tentatively scheduled for
The Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) Meciar's party, is second with
12.9 per cent, followed by the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) with 12.2
per cent, the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 11.3 per cent and the
Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SKDU) with 8.2 per cent.
Since October 1998, the SKDU's Mikulas Dzurinda has led a coalition government
that included the KDH, the SMK and the New Civic Alliance (ANO). Dzurinda won a
second term as prime minister in September 2002.
In March Smer leader Robert Fico tabled his party's economic proposals, which
contemplate scrapping the 19 per cent flat tax rate in exchange for two new
value added taxes. The plan also envisions a five-year scheme to increase the
The country's unemployment rate was 12.7 per cent in March. One can be sure the
unemployed are solidly against Dzurinda.
Slovakia 's new profile
Slovakia's profile on the world stage has been transformed under him; of that
there is no doubt. It is now courted by world leaders.
It is significant that when the two most powerful men in the world decided to
meet earlier this year they did so in Slovakia, now in the good books of both,
no easy task that! Presidents Bush and Putin met in Bratislava on February
The summit meeting of the US and Russian presidents, George Bush and Vladimir
Putin, took place at Bratislava Castle. Slovak President Gasparovic invited
Putin to stay in Bratislava for one more day on a bilateral visit, which he duly
The Menace that was Meciar
The bad old days of the thuggish Meciar, premier from independence in 1993 to
1998, are firmly behind Slovakia, or so it would seem. Meciar is a populist who
in his long period of office teetered on the brink of the old absolutism so
familiar under communism. His HRDC party is still obtaining a significant
measure of support, given that government here depends on deals done to create
coalitions. It was that which in fact managed to unseat him. Basically motivated
by fear, a very disparate group - just about every other party apart from the
nationalists, combined in the parliament and have kept him out ever since. In
that period Slovakia has been transformed to being a member of NATO and accepted
into membership of the EU, neither of which would have happened if Meciar had
not been defeated.
His name a few years back was mentioned in the same breath as the tyrannical
presidents, Milosevic of Serbia, and Lukashenka of Belarus, of whom only the
latter remains in power. But Meciar having been unseated by democracy is still
trying. He was defeated by Gasparovic for the Slovak presidency last time and
still heads up his party in parliament. The danger is only that this parliament
depends on coalitions, circumstances change and memories can be short. But most
parliamentarians serving now, will not have forgotten how it seemed that under
Meciar, the rule of law was in danger of being abandoned.
Happily the nation is now being courted on all sides. For instance,
representatives of European affairs committees of the Visegrad 4 (V4) countries'
parliaments met at a three-day conference near Bratislava. Participants from the
V4, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, agreed that they will
challenge old EU member states to liberalize or fully cancel the transition
periods for the free movement of labour from new EU member states. According to
them, opening the market in the spirit of the Lisbon strategy would help the
economic development of the EU.
Slovakia is preparing for UN Security Council membership
Slovakia, indeed, is gearing up for a term of UN Security Council
The steering committee for membership of Slovakia in the United Nations Security
Council evaluated the current state of preparations for Slovakia's membership on
this body at its meeting. Slovakia is one of the candidates for non- permanent
membership of the UN Security Council from January 2006.
The UN's General Assembly will elect new non-permanent members in October of
this year. The commission headed by the State Secretary of the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs Magda Vasaryova also determined its tasks for the near future.
Members of the steering committee discussed and approved a plan of political
consultations with permanent and non-permanent members of the UN Security
Council before the elections to the UN Security Council, as well as
participation of government's representatives in important events of the United
Nations in New York.
Slovakia is the single candidate of the Eastern European Group for non-permanent
member of the UN Security Council for years 2006 and 2007. The UN Security
Council has fifteen members. Five are permanent members with the right of veto
and ten are non-permanent members elected for two-year terms.
Dzurinda is one of those figures who may well be better appreciated by history
than his compatriot contemporaries.
Lufthansa making a big impact
German carrier Lufthansa has big plans up its sleeve for Slovakian market, TSAR
News Agency reported recently.
The carrier has transported over 21,000 passengers since it arrived on the
Slovak market in May 2004 to the end of the year. Of this number, over 70 per
cent were transfer passengers of which between 50 to 60 per cent headed to final
destinations in Europe. Lufthansa's Regional Director for the Czech Republic and
Slovakia, Bernd Hahn, announced that on average, flights on the Bratislava to
Munich route were half full. They want to increase the passenger traffic on
these routes. Hahn sees growth potential in the air travel sector in Slovakia.
The key is to get people to fly from Bratislava rather than Vienna. Lufthansa's
ambition is to launch a scheduled route from Bratislava to Frankfurt.
Expert says Slovakia should focus on solar energy sources
Solar energy is a wasted resource in Slovakia, like many other countries, the
Slovak spectator reported recently.
The fact is that Slovakia has one of the longest traditions in solar energy
development in Europe. But the lack of support for renewable energy development
since the Velvet Divorce and zero government subsidies for thermal-solar power
installation has led to the country's decline in tapping the freely available
source of solar energy.
Milan Novak, the director of Slovak energy company Thermo/solar, is convinced
that the state should give proper attention to solar and other renewable energy
sources. Two of the three largest producers of solar-powered systems in the
former Czechoslovakia were situated in present day Slovakia. After
Czechoslovakia split, however, the pace of solar energy development in Slovakia
He said, "Support for renewable energy sources in the Czech Republic is
more generous than in Slovakia. In the Czech Republic, homeowners can get
subsidies up to 50 per cent of the cost of constructing a solar-powered system.
Additionally, he/she can claim a 5 per cent value added tax." But in
Slovakia, individuals get no subsidies, and value added tax (VAT) is unified at
19 per cent. As the initial cost of the solar-based systems is a bit higher
compared to the conventional systems, a reasonable subsidy by the government can
encourage people to go for solar energy. Once installed, it is almost
maintenance free and has hardly any recurring cost.
Dial, Telecom in new venture
Dial Slovensko and Slovakia's main fixed-line telephone company, Slovak Telecom
(ST), will soon sign a contract for connection of telephone networks, TSAR News
Slovak Telecom is a leader in the area of telecommunications services in the
Slovak Republic. Slovak Telecom has broad range of products and services. The
company has succeeded in stabilising the most important processes, activities
and economic results of the company. There will be an increase in the IT sector
with the contract between both the countries. "We have actually finished
talks with Dial, they only have to be formally concluded," ST spokesman,
Radoslav Bielka, said on March 24th. The contract signed by ST was sent to Dial
and has not been returned yet. The contract will enable individual choice of a
telephone operator according to offered service and prices as of August 1st,