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The Slovak Republic was formed on 1 January 1993 after the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic split on 31 December 1992. The Slovak Republic (increasingly referred to as Slovakia) is land-locked and borders the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Austria. It covers an area of 49,039 square kilometres (about two-thirds the size of Tasmania), much of which is mountainous. The population of Slovakia is 5.4 million (July 2008 estimate). The Slovak Republic celebrates its National Day (Constitution Day) on September 1st. The capital of the Slovak Republic is Bratislava.
The Slovak Republic is a parliamentary republic with legislative power vested in a unicameral parliament (the National Council of the Slovak Republic or NRSR) which holds responsibility for most areas of government policy. The NRSR is made up of 150 deputies elected for four-year terms. The head of government is the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President and is accountable solely to the NRSR.
Slovakia's current Prime Minister, Iveta Radicova, was appointed on 9 July 2010, following general elections on 12 June 2010. She is Slovakia’s first female Prime Minister. Dr Radicova heads a four party centre-right coalition made up of the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU-SD), the Freedom and Solidarity Party (SaS), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Most–Hid party. The ministries are apportioned across these four parties. The next parliamentary elections are due in 2014.
The current Slovak President, Ivan Gašparovič, was sworn in on 15 June 2004 and was re-elected to a second five year term on 5 April 2009. President Gašparovič commenced his second term on 15 June 2009. The President of Slovakia is elected for a five year term by direct popular election. While the president’s powers are largely representational and ceremonial, the office also holds some important legal powers, including the appointment of the Prime Minister and the ability to veto legislation. However, the president’s veto can be overturned by a simple majority in parliament.
Slovakia became a member of the OECD in 2000, NATO in March 2004 and the European Union in May 2004.
Over the past 20 years, the Slovak Republic has made a successful transition from a centrally planned economy dominated by heavy industry to an open market dominated by a steadily growing services sector. It is now among the best-performing in the European Union, with a GDP per capita of approximately 70 per cent of the EU average.
Slovakia achieved consistently high rates of economic growth over the past decade, with real GDP growth peaking at 10.6 per cent in 2007. Growth remained strong at 6.2 per cent in 2008, but as an export oriented economy, Slovakia’s growth slowed in 2009 with the onset of the global financial crisis. Declining demand from foreign markets resulted in estimated negative GDP growth of 4.7 per cent in 2009. A return to modest positive growth of 4.1 per cent is projected as demand picks up in 2010.
Unemployment, which had been steadily declining since 2004 to a low of 7.7 per cent in 2009, rose to 11.8 per cent in February 2010.
Slovakia introduced the Euro on 1 January 2009. Sixty-two assistance measures to combat the effects of the global financial crisis have been approved by President Gašparovič since January 2009, bringing the Slovak Government’s total anti-crisis spending to €332 million.
Australia and Slovakia enjoy warm bilateral relations. Bilateral trade and investment links remain limited, but are expanding gradually. Slovaks constitute a relatively small ethnic group in Australia, with approximately 10,000 people living in Australia of Slovak origin.
Gosford in New South Wales has had a sister city relationship with historic Nitra in Slovakia since 1988.
Responsibility for diplomatic relations with the Slovak Republic rests with the Australian Embassy in Vienna. Visa and migration issues are handled by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship’s office in Vienna. Australia's Austrade office in Prague is responsible for fostering trade links with Slovakia. The Slovak Republic maintains an Embassy in Canberra and Consulates in Melbourne and Brisbane.
Australia and Slovakia are jointly committed to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, where Slovak soldiers serve alongside Australian troops in Uruzgan Province.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon. Stephen Smith, visited Slovakia on 16 February 2010 where he met with then Slovak Foreign Minister, Dr Miroslav Lajčák.
Former Australian Defence Minister, Senator the Hon. John Faulkner, met the then Slovak Defence Minister, Jaroslav Baska, at a side meeting during the informal meeting of defence ministers of NATO member countries held in Bratislava 22-23 October 2009.
An Australian parliamentary delegation led by the Hon. Roger Price MP, visited Slovakia on 13 October 2009.
A delegation representing the Trade Sub-committee of the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, led by the Hon. Bruce Baird MP, visited Slovakia in April 2003 as part of an inquiry into Australia's trade and investment relations with Central Europe. Australia's then Minister for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon. Philip Ruddock MP, visited Slovakia for official talks in August 2002. A Parliamentary Delegation, led by the Hon. Neil Andrew MP, visited Slovakia in April 2001.
The then-Slovak Foreign Minister, Mr Ján Kubiš, visited Australia in October 2008. Other senior visitors from Slovakia to Australia have included the then Foreign Minister, Eduard Kukan and Slovak Secretary of State, Peter Brno, in 1999. The then Chairman of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Jozef Migas, visited Sydney in 2000 for the Olympic Games. Jan Figel, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, also visited Australia in 2000.
Slovakia is one of Australia's smaller trade and investment partners. However, two-way trade has increased rapidly in recent years and stood at $115 million in 2009. This was mostly due to a large increase in passenger vehicle imports from Slovakia. Other imports from Slovakia included furniture, glassware and musical instruments. Australia's exports to Slovakia (worth $4 million in 2009) were mostly made up of specialised machinery and measuring and analyzing instruments. There were around 1,600 enrolments in Australian education institutions by Slovak nationals in 2009.
A Double Taxation Agreement and the bilateral Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation provide the legal framework for Australia’s commercial relations with the Slovak Republic. An Australia–Slovak Trade and Investment Seminar was held in Bratislava on 4 November 2009, attracting a broad range of industry representatives.
While Australian investment in Slovakia remains relatively low, several Australian companies have expressed interest in entering the Slovak market. With increases in the level of foreign investment as a result of ongoing privatisation, further opportunities may arise for Australian businesses, including in the services, automotive, electronics, IT, engineering and infrastructure development sectors.
QBE insurance is the biggest Australian business operation in Slovakia. Australian company Bronx International is in partnership with a Slovak company, Kovozink Dobsina, to produce a galvanising plant.
The Australian company Crown Energy is carrying out a uranium survey near the Slovak villages of Zemplin and Vitartovce, while the Perth-based company GB Energy was granted uranium exploration licences for areas in eastern and south-eastern Slovakia in November 2007. GB Energy is also exploring for oil and gas in the neighbouring Czech Republic.
Howe Leather has a manufacturing facility in Kosice, Eastern Slovakia, producing leather seats for luxury motor vehicles.
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