Books on Slovakia
Update No: 123 - (31/08/07)
The centre of Central Europe
Slovakia is an interesting entity. Much more so than people realise. It is right
in the heart of Central Europe, in its living centre.
Bratislava, its capital, is next to Vienna and right on the Hungarian, as well
as Austrian, border. It is the ancient, if not the scientifically geographic
centre of Central Europe, on its main artery, the Danube.
Slovakia took the initiative in radical reform under the leadership of Mikulas
Dzurinda (1998-2006), coming after the leaden grip of Vladimir Meciar, who had
the rare merit for a populist, former communist apparatchik, of respecting the
electorate's dismissal of him and leaving office quietly. Dzurinda's reforms,
among other things, united individual and corporate income taxes at 19 percent
and introduced private pension schemes as well as cash payments in surgeries.
This made him very popular abroad, but not so much with the populace.
The new leftist government of Robert Fico has adjusted some of the reform steps
since it took over in July last year.
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 this European country with 50
seats. In July, Fico officially took over as prime minister, in a coalition
encompassing Smer, the SNS and the HZDS.
Bratislava the Central European jewel
Bratislava is not as well known as it deserves to be. Everybody knows about
Prague, indeed Warsaw, Budapest and Bucharest. Capitals all of ancient nations.
Bratislava only became a capital in January 1993. Actually it was briefly one of
an independent Slovakia, thanks to Hitler, after 1939, under the curious
leadership of Jozef Tiso, who managed to be an ardent fascist and was a senior
Roman Catholic priest, a monseignor. He pleased Hitler by his zealous anti-semitism,
dispatching 58,000 Jews to the gas chambers, but failed to notice that Hitler
was as zealously anti-clerical and intended to liquidate priests after the war.
It has a superb location. It is becoming the powerhouse of the region, including
Eastern Austria, Northern Hungary and the Southern Czech Republic. The expansion
of Bratislava's residential districts and suburbs into neighbouring EU republics
is generating new businesses and job opportunities for them as well. Buoyed by
the growth of prosperity in the Bratislava surrounds, property prices are
soaring in adjacent areas of Austria and Hungary
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 between them 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 entry of individual countries in
In January this very important development should accelerate the property boom.
Slovakia and Hungary are set to join Austria in the EU borderless zone known as
the Schengen Agreement, whereby travellers do not need to show passports when
crossing from one country to the next within the EU. Daily crossing to and fro
will be seamless.
Buoyed by the growth of prosperity in the Bratislava surrounds property prices
are soaring in adjacent areas of Austria and Hungary.