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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 49,000 sq km (11,400 sq mi)
Population: 5,433,385 (2010)
Capital City: Bratislava
People: Slovak 85.8%, Hungarian 9.7%, Roma 8%, Czech-Moravian-Silesian 0.8%, Ruthenian and Ukrainian 0.2%, German 0.1%, Polish 0.1%, Others 0.2%.
(According to the 2001 census, 1.7 percent of Slovaks identified themselves as Roma. However, the Statistical Office of the Slovak Republic estimates number of Roma as 400,000)
Language(s): Slovak (official), Hungarian
Religion(s): Roman Catholics 60.3%, Atheists 9.7%, Protestants 8.6%, Orthodox 0.7%, Other 17.5%.
Currency: Euro
Major political parties: Party Direction – Third Way (SMER), People’s Party for a Democratic Slovakia (LS -HZDS), Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS), Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKU), Party of the Hungarian Coalition (SMK), Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), Hungarian Bridge Party (Most-Hid)
Government: Government coalition: SDKU, SaS, KDH, Most-Hid
Head of State: President Ivan Gasparovic
Prime Minister/Premier: Iveta Radicova
Foreign Minister: Mikulas Dzurinda
Membership of international groupings/ organisations: Council of Europe (COE), European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), European Union (EU), Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, IFC, International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Interpol, IOC, NATO, Non Aligned Movement (NAM), (guest), Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe (OSCE), Partnership for Peace (PfP), United Nations (UN), Western European Union (WEU), (associate partner), World Health Organisation (WHO), WIPO, WMO, WtoO, WtrO.. They also hold the Presidency of the Visegrad 4 group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia) for a year from July 2010.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: €69.10 (2011)
GDP per capita: US$23,384 (2011)
Annual Growth: 3.0% (2011)
Inflation: 4.1% (2011)
Major Industries: metal and metal products; food and beverages; electricity, gas, coke, oil, nuclear fuel; chemicals and manmade fibres; machinery; paper and printing; earthenware and ceramics; transport vehicles; textiles; electrical and optical apparatus; rubber products.
Major trading partners: Slovak Imports: EU27 - 65.3%, Germany -16.4%, Czech Republic - 10.6%, Russia - 11.3%, S Korea - 6.3%, China - 6.0%, Slovak Exports: EU27 - 84.7%, Germany - 20.4%, Czech Republic - 14.2%, Poland 7.3%, Austria - 7.0%, 7.0% Hungary (Jan-Nov 2011)Trade with UK: Imports from UK - 1.3%, exports to UK - 3.6% (Jan-Nov 2011)
Unemployment: 13.5% (2011)
Slovakia economy grew by 3% in 2011, down from 4.1% in 2010 due to implementation of an austerity package worth of 2.5% of GDP and weaker foreign demand (exports create 84% of the Slovak GDP). Growth for 2012 is predicted to be around 1.2%.

Further information about Slovakia's economy can be found at UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Slovakia (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/slovakia) .

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HISTORY

On 1 January 1993, Slovakia became independent following the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia. The Slovak Government signed the EU Accession Treaty in Athens on 16 April 2003 A referendum in May 2003 gave them an overwhelming mandate to join the European Union and they duly became a full member on 1 May 2004. Slovakia received an invitation to join NATO at the NATO Prague Summit in November 2002 and joined on 2 April 2004.

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GEOGRAPHY

Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe and shares common borders with Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Ukraine. Mountains dominate the central and northern parts of the country while the south is mainly lowland. It has a temperate climate.

Longer Historical Perspective

The earliest records of Slavic inhabitants in present-day Slovakia date from the fifth century AD. Following their invasion in 907, the Magyars established the Kingdom of Hungary, which included much of modern-day Slovakia. This invasion had profound long-term consequences as it meant that the Slavic people of the Kingdom of Hungary - the ancestors of the Slovaks - were separated politically from the western areas, inhabited by the ancestors of the Czechs, for virtually a millennium. This separation was a major factor in the development of distinct Czech and Slovak nationalities. The Hungarians ruled the Slovaks for a thousand years until the end of the First World War.

Recent History

In 1918, at the end of the First World War, a Slovak National Council was formed and under the 1920 Treaty of Trianon, Slovakia was separated from Hungary and the Czechoslovak State was created. Following the German annexation of the Czech Lands in 1938-39, a Slovak nationalist government was set up under Father Tiso, who in March 1939 established an independent fascist state. Under post-war Communist rule, the Slovaks were reunited with the Czechs. However, after the "Velvet Revolution" of 1989, latent tensions in Czech-Slovak relations re-emerged. Vladimir Meciar, leader of the "Movement for a Democratic Slovakia" (HZDS), led the demand for Slovak state sovereignty. Meciar became Prime Minister following parliamentary elections in June 1992. An independent Slovak Republic came into being on 1 January 1993 and in February 1993 Michal Kovac was elected its first President.

Meciar's particular brand of authoritarian leadership made him a highly controversial figure. His party governed in coalition with other smaller parties, notably the Slovak National Party (SNS), the most nationalistic party in Slovak politics and intensely hostile to the Hungarian minority. At the elections of September 1994 Meciar's party formed a new coalition, with the SNS and the far-left Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS). During the next 4 years, Meciar deprived the opposition parties of any meaningful role in parliament or elsewhere. In September 1998 Mikulas Dzurinda, won a general election. In December 1999, the EU recognised the progress Dzurinda's government had made in overcoming the democratic deficit of the Meciar years, and invited Slovakia to open negotiations on EU membership.

The general elections of 2002 resulted in a centre right pro-reform coalition government of four parties - SDKU, KDH, SMK and ANO with Dzurinda again Prime Minister. The Dzurinda government ensured that Slovakia played an active role in Western political and defence structures. Under Dzurinda Slovakia supported measures for trade liberalisation, and participated in NATO peacekeeping missions. Slovakia also deployed troops in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

The withdrawal in September 2005 of ANO from the coalition followed by KDH in February 2006 resulted in a minority government and a call for early elections, which took place in June 2006, where Robert Fico emerged as the leader of the biggest party. Fico’s SMER party formed a coalition with Meciar’s HZDS and Slota’s SNS, with Fico as Prime Minister. At the election in June 2010, four centre-right parties (SDKU, SAS, KDH and MOST-Hid) formed a coalition led by SDKU’s Iveta Radicova, and Fico became leader of the opposition. BBC News Country Timeline: Slovakia (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/europe/country_profiles/newsid_1108000/1108491.stm)

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Slovakia's Relations with the International Community

The European Union

The Slovak Republic became a full member of the European Union on 1 May 2004, having signed the Accession Treaty in Athens on 16 April 2003. The EU membership referendum held on 16-17 May 2003 gave backing to membership with a 92% vote in favour. In April 2008 Slovakia ratified the Treaty of Lisbon. On 1 January 2009 Slovakia adopted the Euro.

OECD

In December 2000, Slovakia became the 30th official member of the OECD.

NATO

Slovakia signed the NATO Accession Protocol on 26 April 2003 and became a member of NATO on 2 April 2004. The accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to NATO in March 1999, and the outbreak of armed conflict in Yugoslavia, were important influences on Slovakia’s policy. Slovakia has since contributed to a number of NATO peacekeeping missions including Bosnia, Kosovo, Cyprus and the Golan Heights.

Slovakia's relations with the UK

Bilateral relations are excellent. The British Embassy, British Council and BBC World Service enjoy a high and positive profile in Slovakia, and the UK's commercial presence is growing rapidly. British tourists also number prominently among the million or so visitors who flock to Slovakia each year.

Defence

In recent years we have developed close defence links with Slovakia on her path to NATO membership and integration. We continue to cooperate in a number of defence areas providing training opportunities, reciprocal visits and advice on defence issues, through our Defence Relations Activity Programme.

UK Development Assistance

Between 1993 - 2003 the Department for International Development (DfID) provided assistance to Slovakia through the Know How Fund, disbursing over £14m of technical assistance. This was designed to help Slovakia achieve successful transition to a pluralist democracy and well regulated market economy. The UK has continued to help Slovakia with its development as a new EU Member State. To this end there has been a range of projects under the UK-Slovak Action Plan (which ended on 31 March 2007) and the Bilateral Programme Budget.

Cultural Relations with the UK

There is a thriving British Council presence in Slovakia. The Council promotes English language teaching, educational partnerships and academic links, as well as exchanges in the arts, science and culture. It works with the Embassy and Slovak partners to foster good governance.

Recent Visits

Inward

Mikulas Dzurinda, Prime Minister - April 2003

-- Pavol Hrusovsky, Chair of the Slovak National Council and Leader of KDH Party - March 2004

-- Pal Csaky, Deputy Prime Minister - two visits in October 2004

-- Dr. Vladimir Palko, Interior Minister - October 2004

-- Robert Fico, Prime Minister (then opposition leader) April 2006

-- Jan Mikulaj, Minister for Education - January 2007

-- Jan Kubis, Foreign Minister - January 2007

Robert Fico, Prime Minister - June 2007

-- Robert Fico, Prime Minister - March 2008

-- Miroslav Lajčák, Foreign Minister - April 2009

-- Robert Fico, Prime Minister - November 2009

Iveta Radikova, Prime Minister - May 2011

-- Iveta Radikova, Prime Minister - November 2011

Outward

-- Adam Ingram, Minister for Armed Forces - Jan 2004

-- Denis MacShane, Minister for Europe - 1 May 2004

-- Lord Mayor of London - July 2004

-- Richard Caborn, Minister for Sport and Tourism - October 2004

-- Ivor Caplin, Under Sec of State for Defence and Minister for Veterans - October 2004

-- Baroness Scotland, Home Office Minister of State - February 2005

-- Stephen Ladyman, Minister for Transport, June 2005

-- John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister - June 2005

-- HRH, The Duke of York, UK Special Representative for Trade and Investment, October 2005

-- Baroness Ashton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, November 2005

Tony Blair, Prime Minister - March 2006


-- HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh: 23-24 October 2008 (State Visit)

-- David Miliband, Foreign Secretary, accompanying HM The Queen - October 2008

-- Kenneth Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice - September 2010

-- Kenneth Clarke, Secretary of State for Justice - February 2012

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

Since 1993, bilateral trade between the UK and Slovakia has grown at an increasing rate. UK exports include, electrical and office machinery, pharmaceutical products, telecommunications equipment, organic chemicals, textiles, and general industrial machinery. Slovakia chiefly exports telecommunications and ICT equipment, vehicles, electrical machinery and construction technologies (plumbing, heating, and lighting equipment).

The UK is the 12th largest investor in Slovakia (2009). One major investment was the acquisition by Tesco Stores of seven department stores in 1996, and the more recent major development of a chain of hypermarkets. Tesco is now the top retailer in Slovakia, and one of the main employers in the country. Other major UK investors are Shell, Provident Financial, CP Holdings (Slovakia’s biggest health spa, in Pieštany), Amec, Letheby & Sons (Aquacity Poprad) and Tate & Lyle. Other major UK firms present include: BAe Systems, Logica, GlaxoSmithKline, Astra Zeneca, Allen & Overy,Next, Mothercare, Marks and Spencer and Accessorize are among the established and well-known franchises that have recently opened stores in Bratislava.

UK Trade & Investment Country Profile: Slovakia (http://www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk/ukti/slovakia)

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POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

Following the parliamentary elections on 12 June 2010, Iveta Radicova became the country’s first female Prime Minister leading a coalition of four centre-right political parties. Between them they won 44% of the vote securing 79 seats in the 150-seat Parliament. The coalition parties were generally western-oriented free marketeers with a similar ideological persuasion, committed to making the most of EU and NATO membership.

The coalition was underpinned by a power-sharing agreement giving each of the four parties finely balanced rights. Although Radicova gained the premiership by virtue of her SDKU Party being the largest, there was no dominant partner in electoral terms and she was answerable to a Coalition Council comprising three members of each party. The leader of her own SDKU Party is ex-PM Mikulas Dzurinda who became Foreign Minister, while ex-European Commissioner and now Transport Minister Jan Figel heads the Christian Democrat KDH Party. As Speaker of the new Parliament, Richard Sulik leads a new liberal party, Freedom and Solidarity (SaS). From the position of Deputy Speaker, Bela Bugar leads “Most-Hid”, another new party which seeks to bridge the divide with Slovakia’s 500,000-strong ethnic Hungarian minority.

In October 2011 Radicova lost a vote of confidence when trying to ratify Slovakia’s contribution to the European Financial Stability Facility bailout mechanism. Radicova, who remains popular in Slovakia, was expected to run for President when she stands down as Prime Minister following the parliamentary elections set to take place on 10 March 2012. In November 2011, however, she announced that she would leave politics and return to academia.

Current President Ivan Gasparovic defeated opposition candidate (and current caretaker Prime Minister) Iveta Radicova in 2009 presidential elections. He is the first President who defended his mandate and was re-elected for the second term (until 2014).

Presidential elections are next due in 2014.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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