Books on Slovakia
% of GDP
Update No: 112 - (26/09/06)
Ethnic strife between Slovaks and Hungarians
On the fiftieth anniversary of the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian uprising,
there is a disturbing new trend of inter-ethnic unrest between Hungarians and
Slovaks. For instance, two men recently attacked a young woman whom they heard
speaking Hungarian in the street in the western Slovak town of Nitra, writing on
her blouse: "Hungarians, go back to the other side of the Danube."
Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has denounced the attack and called on
his Slovak left-wing counterpart, Robert Fico, to speak out against xenophobia
A spate of incidents has followed the inclusion in Slovakia's coalition
government of the far-right nationalist SNS party, which has stoked xenophobia
against the large Hungarian minority and fanned historical tensions between the
small Slavic country and the nation that was once its ruler.
For weeks, some young Slovaks have been entering restaurants along the southern
border with Hungary and provoking customers heard speaking Hungarian, according
to the SMK party representing the Hungarian minority, which forms around 10
percent of Slovakia's five-million-strong population.
The offences have been reciprocated across the border. The Slovak embassy in
Budapest has been daubed with graffiti and at a football match, posters of
"Slota must die" could be seen, referring to the SNS head Jan Slota.
Fico has said his party will defend the rights of minorities in Slovakia, and
his deputy prime minister in charge of minorities issues, Dusan Caplovic,
condemned the Nitra attack and "all forms of extremism."
After the elections in June 2006, Social-Democrat (SMER) leader Fico formed a
government with the Slovak National Party (SNS) and People's Party (HZDS),
replacing former Prime Minister Dzurinda.
Under its slogan "a Slovak government for the Slovaks", the SNS earned
more than 11 percent of the vote in June's legislative elections, winning 20
seats in Parliament and three ministerial posts in Fico's coalition government.
An outspoken and self-styled "patriot," Slota has described Hungarians
as "a cancer on the body of the nation" and said publicly he would
like to send tanks into Budapest, a decidedly tactless comment on the fiftieth
anniversary of the Soviet suppression of the Hungarian uprising by just such
In another tasteless jibe in July he compared the Hungarians in Slovakia to the
former German minority in the neighbouring Czech Republic, saying that he envied
the Czechs since they had seen the minority expelled from their country after
World War II.
His comments provoked a barrage of abusive text messages and emails from
Hungarians to SNS leaders. They responded to being labelled "fascists"
by claiming Hungary was frustrated at losing its historical sway over Slovakia.
Slovakia became a fully independent country in 1993 when it parted peacefully
from its Czech partner, dissolving the former Czechoslovakia. Previously, from
the 10th century until 1918, it had been continually under some form of
The current tension, according to the Slovakian radio station RSI, is "the
heritage of a tortured history of cohabitation of 10 centuries charged with
antagonism" which have "polluted with resentment" ties between
the two peoples.
The arrival of the far-right on the Slovak political stage has "encouraged
extremists on both sides," said one diplomat in the Slovak capital,
Bratislava. "We are experiencing the logic of mutual vexation, with the
resurgence of ill-extinguished fires born of an ill-managed history which goes
back all the way to the Treaty of Trianon," said another diplomat in
Budapest. This 1920 treaty set the boundaries of Czechoslovakia after
independence from Hungary, encompassing in the new republic areas where many
A leading Czech newspaper has warned that the mounting tensions between Slovakia
and Hungary could lead to a Yugoslav-style conflict in the region. In an
editorial for the quality daily, Lidove Noviny, Lubos Palata wrote that a
"spark" had caused the "fire" in the Balkans, and warned:
"Today, there are sparks between Slovakia and Hungary.
"It is urgent that Fico and Gyurcsany agree on a date for a meeting. There
are already enough sparks. Too many", Palata commented.
Fico defends his 'social-democratic' government in Brussels
On his first visit to Brussels as leader of the controversial new Slovak
government, Robert Fico met with Commission President Barroso and faced the
Brussels press at a conference organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC).
Fico underlined his government's resolve to find the right balance between
continuing economic reforms and creating an efficient welfare state.
The new government has immediately come under heavy fire from two sides:
· The international social-democrat communities, which resented Fico's
cooperation with the extreme-right nationalist party (SNS), and;
· The European economic elites, who feared that Fico would undo some of the
neo-liberal reforms that had been introduced during the Dzurinda reign.
Commitment remains firm to the Lisbon Agenda of the EU
In his talks with the Commission, Fico confirmed that his government remains
firmly committed to the EU's agenda for growth and jobs (Lisbon agenda) and the
obligations of the convergence criteria. He also gave reassurance that his
government will tackle "ethnic intolerance". The recent ethnic unrest
against Slovakia's Hungarian minority has raised concern in Brussels.
Speaking to an audience of journalists and lobbyists at the EPC, the Slovak
leader insisted that his team is a "social-democratic government." He
promised "clear continuity" in foreign affairs (NATO as well as the EU)
and stated that his country supports further enlargement of the EU with Romania
Fico also restated his commitment to the timetable for entry into the Schengen
zone and the adoption of the euro in 2009.
He emphasised that his government will respect the agreement with the EU to
decommission the two Bohunice nuclear power plants, although he warned his
country will become more dependent on electricity imports in the future.
The new Slovak premier said he wants to steer his country towards a more
"economically efficient welfare state". Fico accused the previous
government of having introduced economic reforms that the majority of Slovak
citizens had not benefited from. "Slovakia has the highest poverty rate in
Europe and very high unemployment," Fico said. "Eight years of
right-wing reforms have been a disaster."
Fico promised to continue reforms and comply with the Maastricht criteria but
"not on the backs of the people". High economic growth (up to 7%
recently, and expected growth of around 5%) and slimming down an inefficient and
bureaucratic state apparatus should bring the necessary resources to find the
right balance between compliance with Maastricht and building the new welfare
state, the prime minister said. He also committed to using EU funds efficiently
and fighting internal corruption.
Replying to the press
Most of the questions from the audience at the press conference focused on
Brussels' concerns about the inclusion of the nationalist party in the Fico
government and ethnic tensions with Hungarians. Fico blamed the Hungarian
minority party (which was part of the former Dzurinda government) for spreading
press stories over ethnic tensions. "Show me one case where a Hungarian
citizen has brought his case before the European Court," Fico defended
himself. "Evaluate my government on its programme and results," he
Answering a question about industrial policy in Slovakia, Fico expressed
concerns over the future of the European car manufacturers that have invested
heavily in his country: "What will happen when the European car industry
In July 2006, the Party of European Socialists (PES) expressed its concerns
about Fico's co-operation with the Slovak National Party. Based on a Congress
decision from 2001, the PES has a policy of non-co-operation with "any
political party which incites or attempts to stir up racial or ethnic prejudices
and racial hatred."
TwoOne to acquire 66% stake in Kosice airport
The Austrian-Slovak consortium TwoOne will acquire a majority 66 per cent stake
in Kosice airport in eastern Slovakia, the country's second most busy airport,
Slovak Spectator reported on August 31st.
The Slovak government agreed that it would not challenge the decision of the
Anti-Trust Bureau (PMU) competition authority, which had already approved the
The TwoOne consortium includes the Slovak capital group Penta, as well as Vienna
Airport and the Austrian Raiffeisen Zentralbank. Penta reported that the 900
million Slovak crowns purchase price for the stake was recently paid. TwoOne has
committed to invest 380 million crowns in Kosice airport, although the
consortium's plans foresee investments totalling 911 million crowns by 2015.
Slovak economy grows 6.7% in Q2 2006
Slovakia's economy continues to grow at top speed. According to the latest data
from the Statistics Bureau (SU), the gross domestic product (GDP) in the second
quarter of 2006 increased by 6.7 per cent against the same period last year,
Slovak Spectator reported on September 8th.
The SU now predicts that annual GDP growth in 2006 could reach 6.5 per cent.
Household consumption remains the main driver of the country's economic growth,
based on a rise in both real wages and employment.
For the first time in seven years, Slovakia's jobless rate dropped under 14 per
cent to 13.5 per cent in the second quarter of 2006, while employment was at the
highest level since 1994. Real wages increased by four percent to 18,324 Slovak
crowns per month, Slovak Spectator reported.
Slovakia presents steps to prevent hike in energy prices
Slovakia's Economy Ministry prepared a list of 22 measures that should prevent
further increases in energy prices, as well as targets for the energy prices it
wanted to achieve on the market, Slovak Spectator reported on September 8th.
According to the ministry's calculations, electricity prices should drop by 5.4
per cent as of January next year, while water and sewerage should go down by
five per cent and natural gas should be 1.8 per cent cheaper. According to
Slovak Spectator, it is not clear how the ministry came up with these numbers,
nor does the proposal address the prices of heating and fuel. The ministry plans
to submit the material to the government in the near future.
Telecom Bureau to issue permit to Telefonica
Slovakia's Telecom Bureau (TU) market regulator was to issue a permit to
Telefonica O2 Slovakia to operate a mobile network in the country recently,
according to TU spokesman, Roman Vavro, Slovak Spectator reported.
Telefonica, which earlier won a tender for a third mobile operator in Slovakia,
will be allowed to provide services immediately once the permit takes effect.
"After the operator gets permission, it has 15 days to challenge the
verdict, but it can also pass on this option. In this case the permit takes
effect immediately," Vavro said.
Telefonica will be able to provide services through the institution of national
roaming, which enables it to use the networks of existing operators. "To
operate its own stations the operator needs other permits for concrete stations
as well as construction permits," Vavro said.
In early August, Telefonica O2 Slovakia said it expected to start operating on a
national roaming basis in the last quarter of 2006.
It plans to launch the commercial operation of its own network within 10 months
of receiving its licence.