Books on Slovakia
% of GDP
Update No: 101 - (27/09/05)
Slovakia's reforming minority government on September 21st
overrode a parliamentary boycott that could have forced early elections. But
doubts remain over how long it can soldier on.
The rightwing coalition of Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda gathered enough
deputies to open the parliamentary session, ending nine days' deadlock caused by
an opposition boycott. A total of 77 deputies - 67 from the government, 7
independents and 3 from the opposition - assembled in the 150-member chamber,
one more than that required for a quorum.
The vote was the fifteenth attempt to open the session since the Monday of the
previous week. During that time, nine days, there had been farcical scenes
inside the chamber and allegations of sleazy negotiations outside it. Robert
Fico, leader of the opposition, has accused the government of offering deputies
bribes of Sk15m (390,000 Euro) to come over to its side. "Political parties
are laughing at their voters," said President Ivan Gasparovic. "Such
techniques have nothing to do with democracy."
The parliamentary deadlock led even Mr Dzurinda's two coalition allies to call
for the elections to be brought forward from next September. Bela Bugar, leader
of the ethnic Hungarian SMK party, on September 21st repeated that he would
prefer elections in March to the prospect of governing with such a fragile
majority. "The fact that we have 77 deputies now is one thing, but the
question is how long this will last," Mr Bugar said.
Mr Dzurinda - currently the longest serving premier in the region - is desperate
to avoid early elections, particularly after a poll last in mid-September showed
his party's support has shrunk to 7.4 per cent compared to 35.4 per cent for Mr
Fico's leftwing Smer party.
The September 21st victory means that the immediate threat of early elections
has been lifted and that the government can continue with the privatisation of
the country's power generator, airports and rail freight operator. The
government has already introduced most of its ambitious economic reforms such as
a 19 per cent flat tax, but Mr Dzurinda wants to pass what he calls "reform
adjustments" aimed at softening their impact before the elections.
Stable state, rotten core
Things do not change much in Slovakia, renowned for the scale of its sleaze and
the like. One man's story bears this out.
In the autumn of 2002 most Slovaks would have been surprised to learn that the
recently imprisoned tycoon Jozef Majský, implicated in a long list of serious
offences, would be walking the streets freely 22 months later; surprised by the
fact that he wouldn't have been freed earlier. Given Majský's former influence,
wealth, and ties at all levels of society, his case was always going to be as
much about politics as about the crimes of which he was accused.
The Slovak public has grown accustomed to the fact that the prosecution and
punishment of political elites is rare. The phenomenon of the current political
establishment, which in effect controls the actions of the judiciary, respecting
the former social and political order, is very common in Slovakia's modern
history. It's equally common to see former leaders make impressive political
comebacks after some time spent away from the public eye.
After Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in the summer of 1968 to thwart
efforts to reform the communist regime, the leader of the reform movement,
Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak as it so happens, lost his status both in the party
and government, but was left to live a quiet life. Eventually, Dubcek's legacy
made him one of the heroes of the Velvet Revolution, which brought the communist
oppression to an end in late 1989.
Gustáv Husák, who was Czechoslovakia's president at the time the communist
regime collapsed, is a good example of the ups and downs of Slovak political
life. He participated in the Slovak National Uprising during World War II, and
became a prominent member of the Communist Party, but fell victim to a purge in
the 1950s when he was imprisoned. He was later not only rehabilitated by the
regime but also given the highest office of state.
After the fall of Communism he retired and his funeral was attended, among
others, by Christian Democratic leader Ján Carnogurský, who had been
imprisoned for his anti-communist activities under Husák's presidency. Vasil
Bilak, former Secretary General of the Communist Party, who oversaw the period
of socialist 'normalisation' after the Soviet invasion, is enjoying his
retirement, while his son-in-law is active in parliament as head of the re-vitalised
Communist Party of Slovakia.
To date no one has been convicted for any of the crimes committed by the
communist regime against its citizens. The same is true of former authoritarian
Prime Minister Vladimír Meciar and his cronies. The public has never learned
how Meciar raised the finances to build his luxurious villa, nor has his
involvement in illegal activities by the security forces ever been fully
Indeed, Meciar is now slowly turning into a political ally of PM Mikuláš
Dzurinda, a former strident critic of Meciar's authoritarian methods. Dzurinda
is now so desperate to find parliamentary support for his minority cabinet that
Meciar may yet find his way back to a top position. However, the last blow of
losing the presidential race seems to be a tough one to absorb. Meciar had to
watch his critic, and onetime party colleague, Ivan Gašparovic take the
There is also the story of former intelligence chief Ivan Lexa. Several serious
charges have been raised against Lexa and his alleged abuse of the secret
service. Lexa was first taken into pre-trial custody in April 1999 and spent
several months in prison. He was then released and fled the country.
He was found in South Africa in July 2002, just months before parliamentary
elections, and handed over to Slovak authorities. Despite spending a number of
months behind bars, Lexa, who is now awaiting trial, is, like Majský, a free
man. These are just a few examples of the lenient way in which Slovak leaders
treat their enemies.
There are a number of reasons why this may be the case.
Firstly, there is size. Small countries such as Slovakia are characterised by
dense ties that exist between various political and economic interest groups.
Bratislava is truly a city where everyone knows everyone. A complete change of
the proverbial guards is therefore almost unthinkable, and these complex mutual
relations to a great extent prevent dramatic political clashes. Secondly, a
non-confrontational policy ensures greater stability in any political system,
even when it is larger than Slovakia's.
The Slovak political scene, exhausted by 15 long years of transformation, seeks
that stability. Majský fits perfectly into this pattern.
Like many before him, he has several acquaintances in the country's elite who,
at least to some extent, owe their success to him. If he decided to break his
silence and reveal the extent to which his past dealings involved Slovakia's
current leaders, it could be very damaging to the stability of the country's
political system, a system that already finds itself in turmoil. It remains to
be seen whether Majský will manage not only to exculpate himself, but, like so
many before, also return to the ranks of the country's elite.
Zilina car plant on hold
Construction work on the infrastructure for the new car plant near Zilina,
Slovakia has come to a halt following a decision taken by Zilina Invest, the
group responsible for gaining the land needed for the facility for South Korean
carmaker Kia, according to slovensko.com.
The work on the site will not get off the ground until a decision is made by the
institutions responsible as to how Slovakia's obligations towards the investor
should proceed, with respect to contracts agreed by the state and the investors
(Kia Motors Corporation and Hyundai Mobis), the report said. The Zilina-based
District Court last month issued a preliminary measure which banned entry to the
land of four dissatisfied owners of land needed for the construction of
infrastructure, who had complained that building work was taking place on their
Enel to invest €1.9bn in SE
Slovakia and the Italian utility Enel have agreed on a strategic investment plan
for Slovak electricity generator Slovenske Elektrarne (SE), New Europe reported
This is one of the key conditions that should be met before Enel can buy a 66%
stake in SE, Slovak Economy Minister Pavol Rusko told reporters. In line with
the investment plan, Enel has undertaken to invest close to 1.9bn Euro (73bn
Slovak crowns) to expand SE power-generating capacity, and at least 60bn crowns
to complete the Mochovce nuclear power station.
Telecom sales top 14bn crowns
The consolidated sales of the Slovak Telecom group for the first half of this
year totalled 14.3bn Slovak crowns (367m Euro), The Slovak Spectator reported
Consolidated operating costs of the group (without depreciation) reached 7bn
crowns (180m Euro). The results include data for Slovak Telecom's 100%
subsidiary T-Mobile Slovensko. According to International Financial Reporting
Standards (IFRS), the group's mid-year revenues from fixed-line services before
consolidation amounted to 8bn crowns (205m Euro) and revenues from mobile
communication reached 6.9bn crowns (177m Euro).
Tourists flock to Bratislava
More and more tourists are visiting Bratislava, the Hospodarske noviny daily
reported on July 8th.
While in 2003 around 304,000 tourists came to the Slovak capital, the figure
rose to 380,000 in 2004. During the period January-April 2005 there was a 12 per
cent year-on-year increase in tourists. The increase is partly attributed to the
February 2005 US-Russia summit that was held in Bratislava.