FLAG: Horizontal bands of white (top), blue, and red superimposed with a crest of a white double cross on three blue mountains.
ANTHEM: Nad Tatru sa blyska (Over Tatra it lightens).
MONETARY UNIT: The currency of the Slovak Republic is the Slovak koruna (sk) consisting of 100 hellers, which replaced the Czechoslovak Koruna (kcs) on 8 February 1993. There are coins of 10, 20, and 50 hellers and 1, 2, 5, and 10 korun, and notes of 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, and 5,000 korun. sk1 = $0.03333 (or $1 = sk30) as of 2005.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.
HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; May Day, 1 May; Anniversary of Liberation, 8 May; Day of the Slav Apostles, 5 July; Anniversary of the Slovak National Uprising, 29 August; Reconciliation Day, 1 November; Christmas, 24–26 December. Movable holiday is Easter Monday.
TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.
Slovakia is a landlocked country located in Eastern Europe. Comparatively, it is about twice the size of the state of New Hampshire with a total area of 48,845 sq km (18,859 sq mi). Slovakia shares boundaries with Poland on the n, Ukraine on the e, Hungary on the s, and Austria and the Czech Republic on the w, and has a total boundary length of 1,355 km (842 mi). Slovakia's capital city, Bratislava, is located on the southwestern border of the country.
The topography of Slovakia features rugged mountains in the central and northern part of the country, and lowlands in the south. The High Tatras (Tatry) mountains along the Polish border are interspersed between many lakes and deep valleys. The highest peak in the country, Gerlachovsy, is found in the High Tatras with an elevation of 2,655 m (8,711 ft). Bratislava is situated in Slovakia's only substantial region of plains, where the Danube River forms part of the border with Hungary.
Slovakia's climate is continental, with hot summers and cold winters. In July the mean temperature is 21°c (70°f). January's mean temperature is -1°c (30°f). Rainfall averages roughly 49 cm (19.3 in) a year and can exceed 200 cm (80 in) annually in the High Tatras.
Some original steppe grassland areas can be found in the south-western lowland region, where marsh grasses and reeds are also abundant. While oak is a primary tree found in the lowlands, beech, spruce, pine, and mountain maple are found on mountain slopes. Alpine meadows include carnations, glacial gentians, and edelweiss. The High Tatras support the growth of many types of moss, lichens, and fungi. Mammals found in the country include fox, rabbits, and wild pig. A wide variety of birds inhabit the valleys of Slovakia. Carp, pike, and trout are found in the country's rivers, lakes, and streams. As of 2002, there were at least 85 species of mammals, 199 species of birds, and over 3,100 species of plants throughout the country.
Like the Czech Republic, Slovakia has had its air contaminated by sulfur dioxide emissions resulting from the use of lignite as an energy source by the former Czechoslovakia, which once had the highest levels of sulfur dioxide emissions in Europe. Slovakia instituted a program to reduce pollution in the late 1980s. Air pollution by metallurgical plants endangers human health as well as the environment, and lung cancer is prevalent in areas with the highest pollution levels. Airborne emissions in the form of acid rain, combined with air pollution from Poland and the former German Democratic Republic, have damaged Slovakia's forests. Land erosion caused by agricultural and mining practices is also a significant problem.
There are 13 Ramsar wetland sites in the country and 2 natural UNESCO World Heritage sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 7 types of mammals, 11 species of birds, 1 type of reptiles, 8 species of fish, 6 types of mollusks, 13 species of other invertebrates, and 2 species of plants. Threatened species include the Danube salmon, marsh snail, and false ringlet butterfly.
The population of Slovakia in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 5,382,000, which placed it at number 109 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 12% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 18% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 2005–10 was expected to be stagnant at 0.0%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The projected population for the year 2025 was 5,237,000. The overall population density was 110 per sq km (284 per sq mi), with the highest density concentrated in the river valleys.
The UN estimated that 56% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 0.57%. The capital city, Bratislava, had a population of 425,000 in that year. Košice had a population of 242,066.
Slovakia receives about 400 refugees every year. In April 1999 Slovakia granted temporary protection to 90 refugees from Kosovo. Of these, 70 left Slovakia in July 1999 and returned home. In 2004, Slovakia had 409 refugees, and maintained higher numbers of asylum seekers, including 2,916 from India, China, Russia, and Armenia. In 2005, the net migration rate was an estimated 0.3 migrants per 1,000 population.
The population is about 85.8% Slovak according to the latest census (2001). Hungarians, heavily concentrated in southern border areas, total 10.6%. While the census reported that Roma make up about 1.6% of the populace, unofficial estimates place the number at about 7%. Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, Poles, and various other groups account for the remainder.
Slovak is the official language, spoken by about 83.8% of the population. It belongs to the western Slavic group and is written in the Roman alphabet. There are only slight differences between Slovak and Czech, and the two are mutually intelligible. Slovak lacks the ě, ů, and ř in Czech but adds ä, l', ô, and ŕ. As in Czech, q, w, and x are found only in foreign words. A minority language like Hungarian may be used for official business if its speakers make up at least 20% of the population on the local level.
The Slovak Republic has been a strongly Catholic region, even during the period of communist repression of religion from 1944–89. According to the 2001 census, about 69% of the population were Roman Catholics. About 7% of the population were Augsburg Lutheran, 4% were Byzantine Catholics, 2% were members of the Reformed Christian Church, and 1% were Orthodox. Other registered groups include Jehovah's Witnesses, Baptists, Brethren Church members, Seventh-Day Adventists, Apostolic Church members, Evangelical Methodists, and members of the Christian Corps in Slovakia and the Czechoslovak Hussite Church. There are small communities of Muslims and Jews. About 12% of the population claimed no religious affiliation.
There are about 30 unregistered groups in the country, including: Hare Krishnas, Shambaola Slovakia, Shri Chinmoy, Zazen International Slovakia, Zen Centermyo Sahn Sah, the Church of Scientology, the Baha'i Faith, the Society of Friends of Jesus Christ (Quaker), Nazarenes, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
The constitution provides for freedom of religion and this right is generally respected in practice. While there is no specific state religion, the government signed an international treaty with the Vatican in 2001 which creates a special relationship between the state and the Roman Catholic Church. Though the government has signed special agreements with at least 11 other religious groups within the country, these agreements are subject to national law, while the Vatican agreement is governed by international law, making the latter more difficult to amend. The government offers subsidies to registered religious groups based on the number of clergy within the organization. Since the Catholic Church is the predominant religion, this church receives the largest amount of money.
There were some 3,662 km (2,277 mi) of broad, standard and narrow gauge railroads in 2004, primarily consisting of the Bratislava-Koice route. Of that total, standard gauge railways predominated at 3,512 km (2,184 mi), followed by 100 km (62 mi) of broad gauge.
The road system totaled 42,970 km (26,727 mi) in 2002, of which 37,698 km (23,448 mi) were paved, including 302 km (188 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 1,356,185 passenger cars and 161,559 commercial vehicles registered for use.
As an inland country, Slovakia relies on the Danube, 172 km (45 mi), for transportation of goods. Bratislava and Komárno are the major ports on the Danube, which connects with the European waterway system to Rotterdam and the Black Sea. In 2005, Slovakia's merchant fleet was comprised of 24 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 41,891 GRT.
Slovakia had an estimated 34 airports in 2004. As of 2005 a total of 17 had paved runways, and there was also a single heliport. Air service in Slovakia is conducted primarily through M.R. Stefanik Airport at Bratislava. In 2003, about 208,000 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.
The first known peoples of the territory of present-day Slovakia were Celts, who lived in the region about 50 bc. The Celts were pushed out by Slavs, who moved in from the east at the beginning of the modern era. A Frankish merchant named Samo formed the first unified state in the region in the mid-7th century. The Moravia Empire appeared in the 9th century, incorporating parts of present-day Slovakia. Although the first Christian missionaries active in the area were Orthodox (including the monks Cyril and Methodius, who introduced an alphabet of their own invention—still called Cyrillic—in which to write the Slavic languages), it was the Roman church that eventually established dominance. At the end of the 9th century the Magyars (Hungarians) began to move into Slovakia, incorporating the territory into their own. For many centuries the Hungarians treated the Slovaks as subject people, so it was not until the 13th century, when Hungary had been ravished by Tatar invasions, that the territory began to develop. Some contact with the Czechs, who speak a closely related language, began in the early 15th century, as refugees from the Hussite religious wars in Bohemia moved east.
After the Turkish victory at Mohacs in 1526 the Kingdom of Hungary was divided into three parts; so-called "Royal Hungary," which included Slovakia, was passed to the rule of the Hapsburg dynasty. Bratislava became the Hapsburg capital until the end of the 17th century, when the Turks were driven from Hungarian territory, and the Hungarian capital moved to Budapest. Although there was some religious spillover of Protestantism from the west, Slovakia was solidly in control of the Catholic Counter-Reformation, establishing the long tradition of strong church influence in the region.
In the late 18th century the attempt of the Hapsburg rulers, especially Josef II (1765–1790), to germanify the empire led to a rise in Hungarian nationalism, which in turn stimulated a rise in Slovak national self-consciousness. During the 1848 Revolution a program, "Demands of the Slovak Nation," was formulated, which called for the use of Slovak in schools, courts, and other settings, and demanded creation of a Slovak assembly. These demands were rejected, and the Hungarians continued their efforts to suppress Slovak nationalism. When the Austro-Hungarian Empire was formed in 1867, the Hungarians began a program of intense Magyarification. In the absence of a Slovak intellectual elite, nationalistic ideals were largely maintained by the local clergy.
When World War I began the Slovaks joined with the Czechs and other suppressed nationalities of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in pushing for their own state. Czech and Slovak immigrants in America were united in their efforts to prod the United States to recognize a postwar combined Czech and Slovak state. The Czechs declared independence on 28 October 1918, and the Slovaks seceded from Hungary two days later, to create the Czecho-Slovak Republic.
The relationship between the two parts of the new state was never firmly fixed. The Czech lands were more developed economically, and Czech politicians dominated the political debate. Although they were supported by a portion of Slovak society, there remained a large constituency of Slovak nationalists, most of them in Jozef Tiso's People's Party, who wanted complete independence.
Attempts to deal with Slovak separatist sentiments occupied a good deal of legislative time during the first Czechoslovak Republic, particularly since economic development continued to favor the Czech lands over the Slovak.
In 1938 Adolph Hitler demanded that the Sudeten German area, in the Czech part of the country, be ceded to Germany. Representatives of Germany, Italy, France, and the United Kingdom met in Munich, without participation by Czechoslovakia, and decided that in order to achieve "peace in our time" Germany could occupy the Sudetenland, which it did in October 1938. Slovak nationalists argued that once the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia had begun, they too should secede, particularly because both Poland and Hungary also took advantage of the situation to seize parts of Slovakia. When Hitler's forces seized Prague in March 1939, a separate Slovak state was declared, which immediately fell under Nazi domination. Although nominally independent, the Slovakia of President Tiso was never more than a Nazi puppet.
During the war Slovak leaders like Stefan Osusky and Juraj Slavik cooperated with E. Benes' Czechoslovak government-in-exile, headquartered in London. There was also a small group of Slovak communists who took refuge in Moscow. In December 1943 a Slovak National Council was formed in opposition to the Tiso government, with both democratic and communist members. They began an uprising in Banska Bystrica in August 1944, which failed because of lack of support by both the West and the Soviet Union. When the war ended, the Slovak National Council took control of the country. Soviet attempts to use Slovak nationalism as a tool of control failed in the 1946 elections, when noncommunist parties received 63% of the vote. The communists switched their tactics to encouraging civil disorder and arresting people accused of participation in the wartime Slovak government. Tiso himself was executed in 1947.
Elsewhere in Czechoslovakia, the communists had been the largest vote getters in the 1946 elections, but in 1948 it seemed that they might lose. Rather than risk the election, they organized a Soviet-backed coup, forcing President Benes to accept a government headed by Klement Gottwald, a communist. Benes resigned in June 1948, leaving the presidency open for Gottwald, while A. Zapotocky became prime minister.
Once Czechoslovakia became a People's Republic, and a faithful ally of the Soviet Union, a wave of purges and arrests rolled over the country, from 1949 to 1954. In 1952 a number of high officials, including Foreign Minister V. Clementis and R. Slansky, head of the Czech Communist Party, were hanged for "Tito-ism" and "national deviation."
Gottwald died in March 1953, a few days after Stalin, setting off the slow erosion of communist control. Zapotocky succeeded to the presidency, while A. Novotny became head of the party; neither had Gottwald's authority, and so clung even more tightly to the Stalinist methods, which, after Nikita Khrushchev's secret denunciation of Stalin in 1956, had begun to be discredited even in the USSR. Novotny became president upon Zapotocky's death in 1957, holding Czechoslovakia in a tight grip until well into the 1960s.
Khrushchev's liberalization in the USSR encouraged liberals within the Czechoslovak party to try to emulate Moscow. Past abuses of the party, including the hanging of Slansky and Clementis, were repudiated, and Novotny was eventually forced to fire many of his most conservative allies, including Karol Bacilek, head of the Slovak Communist Party, and Viliam Siroky, premier for more than a decade. Slovaks detested both men because of their submission to Prague's continued policies of centralization, which in practice subordinated Slovak interests to those of the Czechs.
Alexander Dubček, the new head of the Slovak Communist Party, attacked Novotny at a meeting in late 1967, accusing him of undermining economic reform and ignoring Slovak demands for greater self-government. Two months later, in January 1968, the presidency was separated from the party chairmanship, and Dubček was named head of the Czechoslovak Communist Party, the first Slovak ever to hold the post.
Novotny resigned in March 1968, and Czechoslovakia embarked on a radical liberalization, which Dubček termed "socialism with a human face." The leaders of the other eastern bloc nations and the Soviet leaders viewed these developments with alarm. Delegations went back and forth from Moscow during the "Prague Spring" of 1968, warning of "counter-revolution." By July the neighbors' alarm had grown; at a meeting in Warsaw they issued a warning to Czechoslovakia against leaving the socialist camp. Although Dubček himself traveled to Moscow twice, in July and early August, to reassure Soviet party leader Brezhnev, the Soviets remained unconvinced.
Finally, on the night of 20–21 August 1968, military units from all the Warsaw Pact nations except Romania invaded Czechoslovakia, to "save it from counter-revolution." Dubček and other officials were arrested, and the country was placed under Soviet control. Difficulties in finding local officials willing to act as Soviet puppets caused the Soviets to play on Czech and Slovak antagonisms. On 31 December 1968 the country was made into a federative state, comprised of the Czech Socialist Republic and the Slovak Socialist Republic, each with its own legislature and government. In April Gustav Husak, once a reformer, but now viewing harmony with the USSR as the highest priority, was named head of the Czech Communist Party. A purge of liberals followed, and in May 1970 a new Soviet-Czechoslovak friendship treaty was signed; in June Dubček was expelled from the party.
Between 1970 and 1975 nearly one-third of the party was dismissed, as Husak consolidated power, re-establishing the priority of the federal government over its constituent parts and, in May 1975, reuniting the titles of party head and republic president.
Once again it was liberalization in the USSR which set off political change in Czechoslovakia. Husak ignored Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev's calls for perestroika and glasnost until 1987, when he reluctantly endorsed the general concept of Party reform, but delayed implementation until 1991. Aging and in ill health, Husak announced his retirement in December 1987, declaring that Milos Jakes would take his post; Jakes had been a life-long compromiser and accommodator who was unable to control dissenting factions within his party, which were now using the radical changes in the Soviet Union as weapons against one another.
Enthusiasm for political change was not as great in Slovakia as it was in the Czech west, where in November 1989 people had begun to gather on Prague's Wenceslas Square, demanding free elections. The so-called "velvet revolution" ended on 24 November, when Jakes and all his government resigned. Novotny resigned his presidency soon after.
Alexander Dubček was brought out of exile and put forward as a potential replacement, but the hostility of Czech intellectuals and activists, who felt that they had to drag unwilling Slovaks into the new era, made it impossible to choose a Slovak as president. The choice fell instead on Vaclav Havel, a Czech playwright and dissident, who was named president by acclamation on 29 December 1989, while Dubček was named leader of the National Assembly.
Dismantling the apparatus of a Soviet-style state began immediately, but economic change came more slowly, in part because elections were not scheduled until June 1990. The old struggle between Czechs and Slovaks intensified, as Slovaks grew increasingly to resist the programs of economic and political change being proposed in Prague. Slovak demands led to an almost immediate renaming of the country, as the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic.
In the June elections the Slovaks voted overwhelmingly for Public Against Violence, the Slovak partner of the Czech Civic Forum, which meant that economic transformation was begun. Again there was much greater enthusiasm for returning to private ownership in the west than there was in the east, intensifying Slovak separatism. In December 1990 the country's Federal Assembly attempted to defuse the problem by increasing the roles of the Czech and Slovak regional governments, but it also gave President Havel extraordinary powers, to head off attempts at Slovak secession. The nationalists found an articulate and persuasive voice for growing separatist sentiments in Vladimir Meciar, the Slovak premier.
During a visit to Bratislava in March 1991, President Havel was jeered by thousands of Slovaks, making obvious the degree of Slovak discontent. Meciar was replaced in April 1991, by Jan Carnogursky, but the easing of tensions was only temporary, since Carnogursky, too, favored an independent Slovakia.
By June 1992 matters had reached a legislative impasse, so new federal elections were called. Slovakia chose to hold elections for its National Council at the same time. In July the new Slovak legislature issued a declaration of sovereignty and adopted a new constitution as an independent state, to take effect 1 January 1993. Throughout 1991 and 1992 a struggle followed, with the Federal Assembly and president on one side, trying to devise ways of increasing the strength of the federal state, and the Czech and Slovak National Councils, or legislatures, on the other, seeking to shore up their own autonomy at the expense of the central authorities. Although polls indicated that most Slovaks continued to favor some form of union with the Czechs, the absence of any national figure able or willing to articulate what form that union might take, left the field to the separatists and the charismatic Meciar.
In the federal election the vote split along national and regional lines, with the Czechs voting for right-of-center, reformist candidates, especially Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party, while the Slovaks voted for leftist and nationalist parties, especially Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (MDS). Although the federal government and President Havel continued to try to hold the state together, Czech Prime Minister Klaus made it clear that the Czechs would offer no financial incentives or assistance to induce the Slovaks to remain in the union. Increasingly the republics began to behave as though they were already separate so that, for example, by the end of 1992, 25.2% of Czech industry had been privatized, while only 5.3% of Slovak industry had. By the end of 1992 it was obvious that separation was inevitable. The two prime ministers, Klaus and Meciar, agreed to the so-called "velvet divorce," which took effect 1 January 1993. Czechs and Slovaks alike have objected that this move was never put to a popular referendum.
The new constitution created a 150-seat National Assembly, which elects the head of state, the president. Despite the strong showing of his party, Prime Minister Meciar was unable to get his first candidate through, and so put up Michal Kovac, a Dubček supporter and former finance minister in Slovakia, who had served as the last chairman of Czechoslovakia's federal parliament.
The Meciar government rejected the moves toward political and economic liberalization which the Czechs were pursuing, attempting instead to retain a socialist-style government, with strong central control. Swift economic decline, especially relative to the Czech's obviously growing prosperity, combined with Meciar's own erratic and autocratic manner, caused him to lose a vote of no-confidence in March 1994.
Kovac was elected for a five-year term by the National Parliament on 8 February 1993; on 12 December 1994 he appointed Meciar prime minister. Meciar's party (MDS), which won 35% of the vote in the 1994 elections, formed a ruling government with the Slovak National Party and the Association of Slovak Workers. However, Meciar again was slow to implement economic reforms, and his attempts to consolidate his power via undemocratic legislation were rebuffed in 1996 by President Kovac. The MDS-led coalition government managed to remain in power until the September 1998 elections. During the MDS era, opportunities to privatize state-owned property were used to reward political loyalty, and election laws were changed in a way that favored the MDS. Much of the legislation introduced by the Meciar government was found to be unconstitutional.
Under the new election laws, the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDC) was formed by five small political groups in 1997. Mikulas Dzurinda was its leader. Elections held in September 1998 saw the SDC gain 26.33% of the vote. On 30 October 1998, SDC formed a coalition government with Dzurinda as prime minister.
In January 1999, parliament passed a new law allowing for the direct election of the president. Presidential elections were held on 15 and 29 May, and in the second round, Rudolf Schuster of the small centrist Party of Civic Understanding (SOP) was elected with 57.2% of the vote over Meciar (42.8%). The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found the elections to be free and fair. In July 1999, a law was passed improving the status of minority languages. In February 2001, parliament amended the constitution as a step toward gaining membership in the EU and NATO. Among the 85 amendments bringing the 1992 constitution in line with EU judiciary and financial standards were the creation of an ombudsman as a public protector of human rights, and an initiative to have the government support the aspirations of ethnic Slovaks living abroad to preserve their national identity and culture.
Parliamentary elections were held on 20 and 21 September 2002, and although Meciar's HZDS party won the most seats in the 150-member National Council (36), three core center-right parties formed a coalition without left-wing parties that had previously hampered it. Dzurinda continued in office as prime minister.
At a NATO summit in Prague held in November 2002, Slovakia was formally invited to join the organization, and in December, it was one of 10 new countries invited to join the EU. In the spring of 2004, it became member of both these organizations. Also, in April 2004, a new president was elected, Ivan Gasparovic. Although in the first voting round Gasparovic received less votes than his main contestant—Meciar—he managed to rally the support of the other presidential candidates in the second round, taking 59.9% of the vote. In May 2005, Slovakia ratified the EU constitution.
The constitution that the Slovak National Assembly adopted in July 1992 calls for a unicameral legislature of 150 members (the National Council of the Slovak Republic). Voting is by party slate, with proportional seat allotment affecting the gains of the winner. Thus, in the 1994 election, Meciar's party gained 61 of the 150 seats, with only 35% of the popular vote. In the 2002 election, Meciar's party gained 36 seats in the National Council, with 19.5% of the vote. The government is formed by the leading party, or coalition of parties, and the prime minister is head of the government. A coalition of center-right parties formed the government in 2002. Head of state is the president, who, after 1999, was directly elected by popular vote for a five-year term. A cabinet is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the prime minister. Rudolf Schuster was Slovakia's first directly elected president; Ivan Gasparovic was elected president in 2004, defeating Meciar in the second round of voting. The next presidential election was to be held April 2009.
There were 18 parties contesting the 150 seats of the National Council in the 1994 election, but only 7 or 8 were considered to be serious contenders, because of the necessity of receiving 5% of the total vote in order to take a seat. In 2002, there were 7 parties that won seats in the National Council. The single most popular party in 1994 was the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), which won 35% of the vote. By 2002, HZDS won just 19.5% of the vote and 36 seats; although it won the most votes it was unable to form a government. Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda headed a coalition consisting of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU) with 15.1% of the vote and 28 seats; the Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK) with 11.2% of the vote and 20 seats; the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) with 8.3% of the vote and 15 seats; and the Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO) with 8% of the vote and 15 seats. Also winning seats in parliament were the populist Smer Party (Party Direction—Third Way) with 13.5% of the vote and 25 seats, and the Slovak Communist Party with 6.3% of the vote and 11 seats. The next legislative elections were to be held September 2006.
Slovakia is currently divided into 79 districts and 8 regions (kraje ), and each region has a parliament and governor. In February 2001, in an effort to speed up Slovakia's EU accession process, the parliament implemented a series of constitutional changes aimed at decentralizing the country's power structure. Thus, the state audit office, the judiciary, and the minorities gain in independence and authority. In January 2002, Slovakia was divided into eight Upper-Tier Territorial Units—self-governing entities, named after their principal city. These changes responded to one of EU's key requirements for increased decentralization and flexibility of the administrative apparatus.
The judicial system consists of a republic-level Supreme Court as the highest court of appeal; 8 regional courts seated in regional capitals; and 55 local courts seated in some district capitals. The courts have begun to form specialized sections, including commercial, civil, and criminal branches.
The 13-member Constitutional Court reviews the constitutionality of laws as well as the constitutional questions of lower level courts and national and local government bodies. Until 2002, parliament nominated and the president appointed the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges, and parliament chose all other judges based on the recommendations from the Ministry of Justice. In 2002, however, parliament passed legislation creating a Judicial Council, composed of judges, law professors, and other legal experts, to nominate judges. All judges except those of the Constitutional Court are now appointed by the president from a list proposed by the 18-member Council. The president still appoints the Constitutional Court judges from a slate of candidates nominated by parliament.
The constitution declares the independence of the judiciary from the other branches of government. Judges are appointed for life, but Constitutional Court judges serve seven-year terms. There is also a military court system, and appeals may be taken to the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Defendants in criminal cases have the right to free legal counsel and are guaranteed a fair and open public trial.
In 2005 the total active armed forces of Slovakia numbered 20,195, with estimated reserves numbering 20,000. The Army had 12,860 active personnel, armed with 271 main battle tanks, 291 reconnaissance vehicles, 404 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 120 armored personnel carriers, and 374 artillery pieces. Air Force personnel totaled 5,160, equipped with 71 combat capable aircraft and 19 attack helicopters. As of 2005, there were 4,700 members in paramilitary units, including border police, guard troops, civil defense troops, and railway defense troops. Slovak armed forces in 2005 were deployed to eight countries or regions as part of NATO, European Union or UN missions. The defense budget for 2005 was $828 million.
Slovakia is a member of the United Nations, which it joined in 1993 when Czechoslovakia agreed to split into two parts. Slovakia serves on several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO, the World Bank, ILO, and the WHO. The country is also a member of the Council of Europe, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the OECD, OSCE, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the WTO. Slovakia became an official member of NATO and the European Union in 2004. The country has observer status in the OAS and is an affiliate member of the Western European Union.
The government has actively participated in US- and NATO-led military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The country also participates in a joint Czech-Slovak peacekeeping force in Kosovo and supports UN missions and operations in Sierra Leone (est. 1999) and Cyprus (est. 1964).
Slovakia serves on the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Energy Agency, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. In environmental cooperation, is part of the Antarctic Treaty, the Basel Convention, Conventions on Biological Diversity and Air Pollution, Ramsar, CITES, the Kyoto Protocol, the Montréal Protocol, MARPOL, the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change, and Desertification
Slovakia is continuing the difficult transformation from a centrally controlled economy to a market-oriented economy with some measure of success. Sustained GDP growth, although slowed after 1998, has been achieved, and inflation has moderated to single digits. While privatization has been carried out at an uneven pace, macroeconomic performance has improved steadily with 4.8% growth in 1994 and an average annual GDP growth rate of 6.66% 1995 to 1997. In 1998, however, the effects of the Russian financial crisis slowed investment and demand, reducing annual GDP growth to 4.4% in 1998, and to 1.9% in 1999. The pace of growth accelerated slowly from 2000 to 2002, from 2.2% to 3.3% to 4.4%, respectively. Average annual inflation after independence fell from 13.4% to 5.8% in 1996, but then hit double digits again in 2000, at 12%. In 2000 the government implemented austerity measures that helped to bring inflation down to 7.3% in 2001 and 3.1% in 2002. Unemployment remains a serious concern, at 19.8% in 2001 and 17.2% in 2002. The per capita GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, at $8,300 in 1998, had reached $11,500 (CIA est.) in 2001.
The progress made by the Dzurinda government between 2001 and 2004 has been remarkable. In 2004, Slovakia joined NATO and the EU, most of the major privatizations have been completed, massive foreign investment has been attracted to the country, and the economic expansion has been significant (despite the general European slowdown). In 2004, the GDP growth rate was 5.5%, up from 4.5% in 2003; for 2005, it was expected to stabilize at 5.3%. Inflation was on the upsurge in 2003, reaching 8.6%, but by 2004 it decreased to 7.5%, and was expected to decrease even further in 2005, to 2.9%. Unemployment was reduced steadily since 2001, but at 14.3% in 2004 it was still very high, and negatively influenced the economic performance of Slovakia. Other factors that affect the healthiness of the economy are corruption and poor living conditions for the population.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Slovakia's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $85.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $15,700. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 5.1%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.8%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 3.6% of GDP, industry 29.7%, and services 66.7%.
According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $425 million or about $79 per capita and accounted for approximately 1.3% of GDP. Foreign aid receipts amounted to $160 million or about $30 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.5% of the gross national income (GNI).
The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Slovakia totaled $18.15 billion or about $3,368 per capita based on a GDP of $32.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 4.1%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 26% of household consumption was spent on food, 16% on fuel, 5% on health care, and 12% on education.
As of 2005, there was an estimated 2.62 million people in Slovakia's workforce. As of 2003, agriculture accounted for 5.8%, with 29.3% in industry, 9% in construction, and 55.9% in the services sector. Unemployment was estimated at 11.5% in 2005.
Unions are freely allowed to organize in Slovakia as well as engage in collective bargaining. Strikes are legal only if they meet certain stringent requirements. About 45% of the workforce was unionized in 2002.
Children may not work until the age of 15. After age 16, minors may work without restrictions as to hours or condition of work. These provisions are effectively enforced by the government. The minimum wage was $105 per month in 2002. The standard workweek was 42.5 hours, although under collective bargaining agreements, many workweeks are 40 hours. The government sets minimum occupational health and safety standards and it effectively monitors them.
Agriculture engaged 9% of the economically active population in 2000. The total cultivated area in 2003 was 1,564,000 hectares (3,865,000 acres), or 33% of the land area. Agriculture accounted for about 4% of GDP in 2003.
Barley and hops are important agricultural exports; fruit, wine, and seed oil are also produced for export. Important crops in Slovakia in 2004 (in thousands of tons) included: wheat, 1,764; barley, 916; corn, 862; potatoes, 382; rye, 124; and sugar beets, 1,599. In 2003, 22,615 tractors and 3,748 combines were in use.
During 1980–90, agricultural production grew by an average of 1.6% annually. During 1990–2000, agriculture increased by an annual average of 1.2%. Cereal production in 1999 was only 71% of the average during 1989–91. In 2004, cereal production was 6.9% higher than during 1999–2001.
Some 874,000 hectares (2,160,000 acres) of land are meadows and pastures, representing 18.2% of the total land area. In 2005, there were some 1,300,000 pigs, 580,000 head of cattle, 316,000 sheep, 9,000 horses, and 5,600,000 chickens. Meat production was estimated at 314,000 tons in 2005, with pork accounting for 44%; beef, 14%; turkey, 23%; chicken, 14%; and others, 5%. Milk production was 1,153,000 tons in 2005. Due to the concern over bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease), in July 1996 Slovakia banned selected imports and transit of cattle and sheep, and beef and mutton imports and transits coming from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Portugal, France, and Switzerland.
Fishing is only a minor source of the domestic food supply. Production comes mostly from mountain streams and stocked ponds. Some of the rivers and ponds near Bratislava are polluted with chemicals and petrochemical seepings, impairing the growth of fish stocks regionally. The total catch in 2003 was 2,527 tons, with common carp and rainbow trout the dominant species.
About 45% of Slovakia is under forest cover. Forests have been severely damaged by acid rain from coal-fired power stations. Roundwood production in 2004 was 7,240,000 cu m (255.6 million cu ft). Slovakian forest product exports include paper, wood, and furniture. In 2004, wood pulp production amounted to 520,000 tons; paper and paperboard, 798,000 tons; and wood-based panels, 508,000 cu m (17.9 million cu ft). Slovakia's trade surplus in forestry products was nearly $331.8 million in 2004.
Metal and metal products, particularly aluminum and steel, comprised Slovakia's leading industries in 2002, each of which was heavily dependent upon imports of raw materials. Gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel, and chemicals were other top industries. Industrial mineral production in 2002 included: dolomite, 1.357 million tons, down from 1.471 million tons in 2001; lime (hydrated and quicklime), 911,000 tons; magnesite concentrate, 930,000 metric tons, down from 961,000 metric tons in 2001; crude gypsum and anhydrite, 121,700 metric tons; salt, 97,400 metric tons; barite concentrate, 25,820 metric tons, up from 14,450 metric tons in 2001; bentonite, 66,128 metric tons; kaolin, 24,600 metric tons; perlite, 18,630 metric tons, up from 14,910 metric tons in 2001; and zeolites, 15,000 metric tons. The Košice magnesite mines were put on care-and-maintenance. Also produced in 2002 were arsenic, diatomite, feldspar, illite, iron ore, refractory clays, nitrogen, sand and gravel, sodium compounds, limestone and other calcareous stones, crushed stone, sulfur, sulfuric acid, and talc. No zinc, lead, gold, silver, or copper was mined in 2002. Other mineral resources included antimony ore, mercury, brick soils, ceramic materials, and stonesalt. All mining companies were government owned.
Total electric power production in 2002 amounted to 30.486 billion kWh, of which 26.9% was from fossil fuels, 17.1% from hydropower, and 55.9% from nuclear power. By 2001 nuclear power accounted for 54% of production, thanks to two new reactors that had come on line between 1998 and 2000, reducing Slovakia's dependence on fossil fuels and allowing it to become a net exporter of electricity. Consumption of electricity in 2002 was 24.196 billion kWh. As of 2002, total installed capacity was 7,417,000 kW. Slovenske elektrarne (SE) is Slovakia's main power producer, accounting for 91% of the country's generating capacity.
Coal mining produced some 3,752,000 short tons of lignite in 2002, from reserves estimated at 190 million tons in 2001. In 2002, Slovakia imported 6,076,000 short tons of coal, of which 5,103,000 short tons consisted of hard coal.
As of 1 January 2004, Slovakia had crude oil reserves of 9 million barrels, natural gas reserves of 0.53 trillion cu ft., and a crude oil refining capacity of 115,000 barrels per day. Production of oil in 2003 was estimated at 3,500 barrels per day. Natural gas output in 2002 was estimated at 7.5 billion cu ft. Domestic demand for oil averaged 81,000 barrels per day in 2003. Natural gas consumption in 2002, was estimated at 270 billion cu ft. In 2002, natural gas was used by 80% of all Slovak households.
Major industries include heavy engineering, armaments, iron and steel production, nonferrous metals, and chemicals. In 2000, industry accounted for 34% of Slovakia's GDP, and the industrial growth rate was estimated at 4% in 2001. Foreign firms such as Volkswagen, US Steel, and Whirlpool are major investors in Slovak industry. Although privatization was ongoing in 2002 (including the Slovak Gas Company and oil-pipeline operator Transpetrol), and the country was attracting more foreign investment, many firms untouched by foreign investment were in trouble. Nonetheless, many Slovakian enterprises were restructuring and modernizing their equipment and methods. Slovakia produced 182,003 automobiles in 2001, and 264 heavy trucks in 2000. The country had one oil refinery in 2002, with a capacity of 115,000 barrels per day.
By 2004, the industrial sector had suffered a series of setbacks. Its representation in the total economic output had decreased to 30.1%, it employed only 29.3% of the labor force, and the industrial production growth rate was only 5.1%—as opposed to the 5.5% GDP growth rate. Agriculture made up 3.5% of the GDP and employed 5.8% of the working population; services came in first with 66.4% and 55.9% respectively; 9% of the workforce was employed by the construction sector. Major industries in 2004 were: metal and metal products; food and beverages; electricity, gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel; chemicals and manmade fibers; machinery; paper and printing; earthenware and ceramics; transport vehicles; textiles; electrical and optical apparatus; and, rubber products.
The Slovak Academy of Sciences, founded in 1953, has departments of exact and technical sciences and of natural sciences and chemistry, and 36 affiliated research institutes. The Council of Scientific Societies, headquartered in Bratislava, coordinates the activities of 16 societies concerned with specific scientific and technical fields. Natural history exhibits are displayed in the Slovak National Museum in Bratislava, the Central Slovak Museum in Banská Bstrica, and the Museum of Eastern Slovakia in Košice. The Slovak Mining Museum, founded in 1900, is located in Banská Stiavnica. Eight universities offer scientific and technical degrees. In 1987–97, science and engineering students accounted for 40% of university enrollment.
In 2002, research and development (R&D) expenditures totaled $407.279 million, or 0.59% of GDP. Of that amount, 53.6% came from the business sector, followed by government sources at 44.1%. Foreign sources accounted for 2.1% and higher education 0.1%. In that same year, there were 1,707 scientists and engineers, and 564 technicians per one million people that were engaged in R&D. High technology exports in 2002 totaled $386 million, or 3% of the country's manufactured exports.
Bratislav is the primary commercial center of the country. Other major centers include Košice, Trencin, Zilina, and Poprad. Nitra is a primary distribution center for agricultural products.
Retail trade is currently undergoing rapid privatization along with other sectors of the economy. As of 2002, about 98% of all retail establishments were privatized. Most establishments are small, family-owned shops specializing in one type of product, such as groceries, flowers, books, clothing, music, etc. However, the trend is slowly moving towards larger Western-style stores and hypermarkets that offer a wider variety of products under one roof. Wholesalers tend to be directly involved in the retailing of their products as well. A few franchise firms have recently made their way into the country.
Retail shops are generally open from 9 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. New chain stores are open seven days a week from about 7 am to 8 pm. Grocery stores often operate from 6 am to 7 pm. Many stores will open for half a day on Saturdays, but most businesses and shops are closed on Sundays.
The Czech Republic, which used to account for as much as one-third of Slovakia's foreign trade, has dropped behind Germany as Slovakia's leading trade partner. Trade with the former Soviet Union has declined in importance and has increasingly been replaced by trade with the OECD, whose members buy over 90% of all Slovak exports.
In the Far East, China has emerged as the top trading partner, with imports and exports between the two nations increasing by almost 300% in 1995.
In 2004, exports totaled $29.2 billion (FOB—Free on Board), and were only slightly surpassed by imports at $29.7 billion (FOB).
|Italy-San Marino-Holy See||1,650.0||1,395.8||254.2|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
Vehicles (25.9%), machinery and electrical equipment (21.3%), base metals (14.6%), chemicals and minerals (10.1%), and plastics (5.4%) topped the list for Slovakia's export commodities. Slovakia's main export partners were Germany (which received 34.4% of total exports), the Czech Republic (14.7%), Austria (8.2%), Italy (5.8%), Poland (5.3%), the United States (4.5%), and Hungary (4.3%). The imports were distributed among the following categories: machinery and transport equipment (41.1%), intermediate manufactured goods (19.3%), fuels (12.3%), chemicals (9.8%), and miscellaneous manufactured goods (10.2%). Most of the imports came from Germany (26.1%), the Czech Republic (21.3%), Russia (9.1%), Austria (6.6%), Poland (4.9%), and Italy (4.9%).
A decline in foreign trade in 2001 caused the central bank to revise its forecast of the current account deficit up from 4% to 5.7% of GDP.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2001 the purchasing power parity of Slovakia's exports was $12.9 billion while imports totaled $15.4 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $2.5 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2000 Slovakia had exports of goods totaling $11.9 billion and imports totaling $12.8 billion. The services credit totaled $2.2 billion and debit $1.81 billion.
Exports of goods and services totaled $31.5 billion in 2004, up from $25.1 billion in 2003. Imports grew from $25.5 billion in 2003, to $32.6 billion in 2004. Although Slovakia has managed to keep a fine balance between imports and exports, the resource balance was on a negative upsurge, growing from -$407 million in 2003, to -$1.2 billion in 2004. A similar trend was registered for the current account balance, which deteriorated from -$278 million in 2003, to -$1.4 billion in 2004. The national reserves (including gold) were $12.1 billion in 2003, covering approximately
|Balance on goods||-649.0|
|Balance on services||241.0|
|Balance on income||-119.0|
|Direct investment abroad||-24.0|
|Direct investment in Slovakia||559.0|
|Portfolio investment assets||-742.0|
|Portfolio investment liabilities||168.0|
|Other investment assets||-20.0|
|Other investment liabilities||1,703.0|
|Net Errors and Omissions||27.0|
|Reserves and Related Items||-1,508.0|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
six months of imports; by 2004, they decreased to $11.7 billion, covering only four months of imports.
Four years after the Soviet system relinquished control over the eastern bloc, Slovakia formed a National Bank. In January 1992 the banking system of Czechoslovakia was split. From that point on the National Bank of Slovakia was charged with the responsibility of circulating currency and regulating the banking sector. At the end of 2002, there were 23 commercial banks operating in the Slovak Republic, including the Investment and Development Bank (1992); People's Bank (1992); Postal Bank Inc. (1991); Industrial Bank, Inc. (1992); First Commercial Bank Inc. (1993); Slovak Credit Bank (1993); Slovak Agricultural Bank (1991); and the General Credit Bank (1990). Twelve of the 23 commercial banks were partly or wholly foreign-owned. In addition, two branches and 10 representative offices of foreign banks had been established. In 2000, plans called for the privatization of the three largest banks, Vseobecna Uverova Banka (VUB), Slovenska Sporitelna, and Investicna a Rozvoyova Banka (IRB) by the end of the year. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand deposits—an aggregate commonly known as M1—were equal to $4.7 billion. In that same year, M2—an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual funds—was $13.9 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 7.76%.
The Bratislava Stock Exchange (BSE) opened on 8 July 1990 and acts as a share holding company formed by all Slovakian financial institutions, banks and savings banks, and companies authorized to trade securities. Brokers and other mediators are not permitted in the trading system. The volume of stocks traded on the BSE, however, remained low until 1996. In 2001, there were 844 companies listed on the BSE, with a trading value of $966 million (up 141% from 2000) and total market capitalization of $665 million (down 10.3% from 2000). As of 2004, a total of 258 companies were listed on the BSE, which had a market capitalization of $4.410 Billion. The Bratislava Option and Futures Exchange opened in 1994.
The pre-World War II insurance companies and institutions of the former Czechoslovakia after 1945 were reorganized, merged, nationalized and centralized. Since 1952, the insurance industry has been administered by the State Insurance Office, under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, and two enterprises conducted insurance activities, the Czech and the Slovak Insurance Enterprises of the State. In 1997, at least 20 insurance companies were doing business in Slovakia. Nonetheless, the Slovak Insurance Company remains the only company authorized to write the compulsory third-party automobile liability insurance. Lawyers, architects and dentists are also required to carry liability insurance. There are no restrictions on foreign ownership of companies. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $1.140 billion, of which nonlife premiums accounted for $676 million. In that same year, the top nonlife and life insurer was Allianz Poistovna, which had gross written nonlife premiums
|Revenue and Grants||422.55||100.0%|
|General public services||95.37||20.6%|
|Public order and safety||23.11||5.0%|
|Housing and community amenities||3.9||0.8%|
|Recreational, culture, and religion||5.49||1.2%|
|(…) data not available or not significant.|
totaling $369.8 million, and gross written life insurance premiums of $141.9 million.
Since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, the Slovak government has implemented several measures to compensate for the large loss of fiscal transfers it received from the Federation, which were equivalent to between Sk20–25 billion in 1992. The Slovak government's initial budget was balanced at the beginning of 1992, with revenues and expenditures equivalent to Sk159 billion. Since that time, however, Slovakia's budget has fallen into deficit. Privatization efforts have been successful, attracting a large amount of foreign direct investment (FDI).
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Slovakia's central government took in revenues of approximately $21.4 billion and had expenditures of $23.1 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$1.6 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 16.9% of GDP. Total external debt was $25.81 billion.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2003, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were Sk422.55 billion and expenditures were Sk461.99 billion. The value of revenues was us$11 million and expenditures us$12 million, based on an exchange rate for 2003 of us$1 = Sk36.773 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 20.6%; defense, 4.7%; public order and safety, 5.0%; economic affairs, 10.2%; environmental protection, 0.7%; housing and community amenities, 0.8%; health, 20.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 1.2%; education, 3.4%; and social protection, 33.2%.
The principal taxes are corporate income tax, personal income tax, and value-added tax. Individuals are liable for tax on all sources of worldwide income. Corporate income tax is levied on joint stock companies, limited liability companies, and limited partnerships. In 2005, the corporate tax rate for resident companies was 19%. Capital gains were also taxed at 19%. Dividends paid out of after-tax profits are not taxed. Interest income from loans or bands are taxed at the corporate rate, as is income from royalties. Other taxes include a road tax, excise duties, import duties, and taxes on property.
As of 2005, individual income was taxed according at a flat 19% rate. Dividends paid to individuals is not taxed. Income from interest and capital are included in total income.
The principle indirect tax is Slovakia's value-added tax (VAT). As of 2005, the standard rate was 19% and was applied to most transactions. However, exports are zero-rated, and financial, broadcasting, insurance and educational services are exempt.
As a WTO member, Slovakia uses the Brussels Tariff Nomenclature. Goods imported into Slovakia are liable to three kinds of charges: customs duties, value-added tax (VAT) of 10% or 19%, and an excise tax. A 3% import surcharge was eliminated on 1 January 2001. However, Slovakia imposes surcharges on approximately 80% of its imports. Slovakia is also a member of the Central European Free Trade Area (CEFTA) along with Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovenia.
Prior to the defeat of Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, Slovakia experienced difficulty attracting foreign investment due to perceived political uncertainty and vacillations in its privatization policy. The government has introduced tax incentives to attract more capital from abroad.
Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow was $220 million in 1997 and rose to $648 million in 1998. Affected by the Russian financial crisis, FDI inflow fell to $390 million in 1999, but then recovered sharply in 2000 to reach a peak of over $2 billion. FDI inflow to Slovakia in 2001 was $1.5 billion. The Netherlands has been the single largest investor.
At the end of the first three quarters in 2004, cumulative foreign investment had risen to $11.4 billion. Most of the capital inflow was generated through privatization sales, but since 2003 significant greenfield investments have been made. In 2004, Hyundai invested $1.5 billion in its first European assembly plant; Ford constructed a $400 million gearbox production plant in the same year. Most of the investments went to industrial manufacturing (38.2%), the banking sector (22.7%), retail and wholesale (11.7%), and to the production and distribution of gas and electricity (11.0%). The biggest investing countries were Germany (with 22.7% of total investments), the Netherlands (16%), and Austria (14.3%).
The government in the early 1990s slowed economic reforms due to the social burden imposed by the transformation to a market economy. Measures included stimulation of demand through price subsidies and public spending. Slovakia's most successful structural reform has been privatization. The first stage of largescale privatization included 751 companies, and a second stage, which involved 650 medium- and large-scale enterprises, was implemented in late 1993.
However, the Meciar government was slow to implement the $1.5 billion privatization program after he regained power in 1994 and the country continued to rely heavily on foreign aid. Western investors cheered his defeat and replacement by reformer Mikulas Dzurinda in 1998. The Dzurinda government quickly earned praise for its implementation of reforms. The renewed liberalization measures, combined with a new attitude toward Slovakia's Roma (Gypsy) population, caused the EU to place Slovakia back on its list of candidate members. In December 2002, Slovakia was officially invited to join the EU, and accession took place in May 2004.
Slovakia's foreign debt at the beginning of 2002 was about $11 billion, approximately 55% of gross domestic product (GDP). The current account deficit was high, largely due to a shortfall in foreign trade. Foreign direct investment (FDI) has been relatively small in recent years, although FDI in 2000 alone was greater than cumulative investment received by Slovakia in the preceding 10 years. Although growth was strong and inflation relatively low in the early 2000s, the unemployment rate remained high. By 2002, the main banks and utilities had been privatized; but further corporate restructuring and labor market reform, improved banking supervision, and strengthening state administration and the judicial system remained structural reforms to be implemented.
A strong economic expansion followed in 2003 and 2004, with GDP growth rates of 4.5% and 5.5% respectively. In 2004, Slovakia joined NATO and the EU, which greatly improved the stability of the political and economic climate. In addition, an investment friendly environment was created, which led to a dramatic increase in the inflow of foreign capital. In 2005, Slovakia was considered by the World Bank the world's top performer in improving its business climate over the last year; in the same year it was deemed one of the top 20 countries in the world for ease of doing business. As of 2006, Slovakia was able to boast a highly skilled and relatively low-cost labor force, an attractive tax system (19% flat tax), a liberal labor code, and a favorable geographic location.
Slovakia's social security system was first introduced in 1906. The current program was implemented in 2004. Old age, disability and survivor's pensions are funded by employee and employer contributions as well as government subsidies. Retirement is set at age 62 for both men and women. The first laws covering sickness benefits were instituted in 1888. A family allowance system provides benefits for all residents funded totally by the government. There are also sickness and maternity benefits, a workers' compensation program, and unemployment benefits.
Women and men are equal under the law, enjoying the same property, inheritance, and other rights, however discrimination persists. Women on the average earn 30% less than men. Despite legal safeguards, the small number of women in private and public leadership roles is evidence of continuing cultural barriers to full equality. The Coordinating Committee for Women's Affairs has not been successful at protecting women against violence, health risks, or economic disadvantages. Domestic abuse and sexual violence against women remains an extensive and underreported problem.
Roma minorities suffer from high levels of unemployment and housing discrimination. Attacks against Roma and other minorities by skinhead extremists were reported. Human rights were generally well respected, but some democratic freedoms were not respected. These include the intimidation of political opponents and interference with the media. There were also reports of police abuse of Roma.
Since 1995 general public health services have been organized into a system of state health institutes. However, primary health care services, formerly operated by the state, are now separate from the public health sector and reimbursed through a compulsory insurance program. As of 2004 there were 77 polyclinics in the country; Slovakia had 84 hospitals, 23 specialized institutes, and 1 maternity facility. As of 2004, there were an estimated 325 physicians, 731 nurses, 44 dentists, 48 pharmacists, and 7 midwives per 100,000 people. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 6.5% of GDP.
Life expectancy in 2005 was 74.50 years and infant mortality was 7.41 per 1,000 live births. As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 10.1 and 9.2 per 1,000 people. A Slovakian woman living through her childbearing years had an average of 1.3 children. A large proportion of Slovakian women (74%) used some form of contraception. Immunization rates for children up to one year old were impressively high: tuberculosis, 90%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 98%; polio, 98%; and measles, 98%.
The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 200 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.
In 1992, the Slovak Association of Towns and Villages, comprised of some 2,000 towns, was engaged in recovering all housing units from former state administration authorities. As of 2001, there were about 1,884,846 dwelling units nationwide. Most of these were detached houses. About 88% of all dwellings were permanently occupied. About 11% of all dwellings were unoccupied. Of the permanently occupied units, the average number of rooms per unit was 3.2; nearly 73% of all dwellings had 3 rooms or more. The average number of people per dwelling was also 3.21. About 76.3% of all dwellings had central heating and 92.8% had a separate bathroom or shower facility. About 28,507 units were considered unsuitable for habitation.
Slovakia has an estimated adult literacy rate of 99%. Education is compulsory for nine years, approximately up to the age of 15. This basic schooling is accomplished in two stages of four years and five years. At the secondary level, there are a variety of general, vocational, professional, and art school programs to choose from. Most secondary programs last about four years.
In 2001, about 82% of children between the ages of three and five were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 86% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 88% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 99% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 18:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 13:1.
Slovakia has 13 universities, with the oldest being Cornenius (Komensky) University in Bratislava—founded in 1919. The Pavel Josef Afarík University, founded in 1959, is in Košice. In 2003, it was estimated that about 34% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 99%.
As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.4% of GDP, or 13.8% of total government expenditures.
The most important library in Slovakia is the Slovak National Library (4.4 million volumes), founded in 1863 and located at Martin. The State Scientific Library in Banská Bstrica (1926) holds almost two million volumes, and the Comenius University in Bratislava has the country's largest university collection of 2.2 million volumes. In total there are over 450 libraries in universities and other higher-educational institutions and about 2,600 public library branches nationwide.
The Slovak National Gallery (1948), the Slovak National Museum (1924), the Natural History Museum (1948), and the History Museum (1924), are all in Bratislava. The administrators of the Slovak National Museum also sponsor the branch museums of the Museum of Archaeology, the Museum of Ethnography, the Museum of Music, the Museum of Puppetry and Toys, and the Museum of Jewish Culture. The State Gallery of Art is in Banská Bstrica. There are dozens of regional museums throughout the country.
In 2003, there were an estimated 241 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people; about 7,000 people were on a waiting list for telephone service installation. The same year, there were approximately 684 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.
There are three government boards appointed by a majority vote of parliament to supervise radio and television broadcasting: The Slovak Television Council and the Slovak Radio Council establish broadcasting policy for state-owned television and radio. The Slovak Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting issues broadcast licenses for nongovernment groups and administers advertising laws and other regulations. The privately owned TV Markiza has the widest broadcast audience. In 2005, there were at two other commercial television stations and at least four commercial radios stations. The public broadcaster, Slovak TV and Radio, sponsored two national television networks and five national radio networks. In 2003, there were an estimated 965 radios and 409 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 127.3 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 180.4 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 256 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 63 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.
In 2002, there were 14 major daily newspapers, including (with average circulation figures): Novy Cas (New Time, 230,000), Pravda (Truth, 165,000), Praca (Labor, 80,000), and SMENA (a youth journal, 80,000). The daily sports newspaper Sport had a circulation of 85,000 in 2002. The two major Hungarian newspapers are the daily Uj Szo (New Word, 42,000) and the weekly Szabad Ujsag (Free Journal, 40,000). There are also a number of government bulletins and small circulation publications printed by and for minority language groups.
The Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry is located in Bratislava. There are professional associations for a number of occupations, including teaching and a number of medical professions.
The Slovak Academy of Sciences promotes public interest, education, and research in various scientific fields. Cultural and educational associations include the Organization of Slovak Writers. The Slovak Medical Association promotes research and education on health issues and works to establish common policies and standards in healthcare. There are several other associations dedicated to research and education for specific fields of medicine and particular diseases and conditions.
National youth organizations include the Association of Slovak Students, Civic Democratic Youth, YMCA/YWCA, and Slovak Scouting. There are several sports associations promoting amateur competition in a variety of pastimes, such as Frisbee, aikido, badminton, baseball, figure skating, floorball, and track and field; many sports associations are affiliated with international groups as well. There are national chapters of the Paralympic Committee and the Special Olympics, as well as a national Olympic Committee.
Kiwanis and Lion's Clubs have programs in the country. Women's organizations include the Alliance of Women in Slovakia. Greenpeace, Habitat for Humanity, and the Red Cross have national chapters.
Slovakia's outdoor tourist attractions include mountains (the most famous being the High and Low Tatras), forests, cave formations, and over 1,000 mineral and hot springs. In addition, tourists can visit ancient castles, monuments, chateaux, museums, and galleries. Slovakia is also home to many health spas. Horse racing is a national pastime. Golf, skiing, mountaineering, and rafting are popular sports among tourists. All visitors are required to have valid passports, onward/return tickets and sufficient funds for their stay. Visas are required for nationals of 154 countries including China, Australia, and India.
In 2003, about 1.4 million tourists arrived in Slovakia. There were 35,853 hotel rooms that year with 90,773 beds and an occupancy rate of 38%. The average length of stay was three nights.
According to 2005 US Department of State estimates, the cost of staying in Bratislava was $272 per day. Estimated daily travel costs elsewhere in the country averaged $157.
Ján Kollár (1793–1852), writer, poet, Slavist, and archaeologist, was a Slovak patriot who championed the Slav struggle against foreign oppression. Ludovít Stúr (1815–56) is the founder of the Slovak literary language and modern Slovak literature. Founder of scientific Slavic studies was Pavel Josef Safačrík (1795–1861), whose Slavonic Antiquities had great scholarly influence. Andrej Hlinka (1864–1938) led the Slovak Catholic autonomist movement. The greatest Slovak poet, Pavel Hviezdoslav (1849–1921), translated foreign poetry, refined the language, and contributed to Slovak awakening. The Robin Hood of the Slovaks, Juraj Jánošík (1688–1713), fought the Hungarians. Milan Rastislav Stefánik (1880–1919), military leader, astronomer, and ally of Tomáš Masaryk, represented the Slovaks in their struggle for liberty. Alexander Dubček (1921–92) was first secretary of the Czechoslovak Communist Party (1968–69). His attempt to increase civil liberties led to the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact in 1968. In 1989 he was elected the Federal Assembly's first speaker.
Slovakia has no territories or colonies.
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