Slovak Republic country brief

Overview

The Slovak Republic was formed on 1 January 1993 after the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic split on 31 December 1992. The Slovak Republic 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 is 5.4 million (May 2011 census). The Slovak Republic celebrates its National Day (Constitution Day) on 1 September. The capital is Bratislava.

Political overview

The Slovak Republic is a parliamentary republic with legislative power vested in a unicameral parliament (the National Council of the Slovak Republic), which holds responsibility for most areas of government policy. The National Council 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 National Council.

The current Prime Minister, Mr Robert Fico, leader of SMER (Direction-Social Democracy), took office in April 2012. This followed general elections in March 2012 that saw the defeat of a four-party centre-right coalition led by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union. Mr Fico served as Prime Minister previously from July 2006 to July 2010 in a coalition arrangement. The current government is the first single-party government since the Slovak Republic was formed in 1993. The fifteen-member Cabinet includes two non-party affiliated Ministers including the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Mr Miroslav Lajčák. The next parliamentary elections will take place on 5 March 2016.

Presidential elections took place on 15 March 2014. Mr Andrej Kiska was elected as President in the second runoff vote (against Mr Fico) on 29 March and took office on 15 June 2014. The President is elected by direct popular vote. While the President’s powers are largely representational and ceremonial, the office also holds some important legal powers, including appointing the Prime Minister and the ability to veto legislation.

The Slovak Republic became a member of the OECD in 2000, NATO in March 2004 and the European Union in May 2004.

The Slovak Republic is a member of the Visegrad Four, with Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. The grouping aims to promote closer cooperation between these four central European countries to further their European integration. All four countries joined the European Union in May 2004.

Economic overview

The Slovak Republic has made a successful transition from a centrally planned economy to an open market with a strong export orientation. The Slovak Republic introduced the Euro on 1 January 2009. Exports as a percentage of GDP are approximately 92 per cent . Its GDP per capita is approximately 75 per cent of the EU average.

The Slovak Republic has low levels of public and private debt compared to the EU average. In 2011, the Slovak Republic adopted a Fiscal Responsibility Act focused on debt containment. In March 2012, the Slovak Republic was among the 25 EU-signatories to the Fiscal Compact. The country’s 55 per cent public debt-to-GDP ratio is below the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact maximum of 60 per cent. Its budget deficit-to-GDP is 2.6 per cent, which is also below the EU’s Stability and Growth Pact maximum of 3 per cent. The Government said it would continue to pursue consolidation efforts throughout 2015 with the aim of reducing this deficit to 2.49 per cent. The country achieved estimated real GDP growth of 2.9 per cent in 2015.

At October 2015, unemployment in the Slovak Republic stood at 10.7 per cent. The Slovak Government has identified transport infrastructure and education as a priority economic and employment focus for coming years.

Bilateral relationship

Australia and the Slovak Republic established diplomatic relations on the formation of the Slovak Republic in 1993.

Momentum in the bilateral relationship has grown recently as a result of joint international commitments and high level bilateral visits. A highlight was the cooperation between Slovak and Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, during ISAF.

Slovaks constitute a relatively small group in Australia. Based on Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census data, there are 4,990 Slovak speakers in Australia and over 10,000 people who identify as having Slovak heritage. The largest Slovak communities are in Melbourne and Sydney. The first naturalised Australian citizen was a person of Slovak heritage, Mr Jan Jandura Pucek, who was naturalised in a ceremony held in Canberra on 3 February 1949. Since 1988, Gosford in New South Wales has had a sister city relationship with historic Nitra in the Slovak Republic.

In recognition of these strong people-to-people links, Australia and the Slovak Republic signed a work and holiday visa agreement on 27 May 2015. A social security agreement commenced on 1 January 2012. Australia’s economic relations with the Slovak Republic are facilitated by a bilateral Double Taxation Agreement. A particularly positive aspect of the relationship is the number of young Slovaks who study in Australia—over the past five years, around 1500 Slovakian students have studied in Australia annually.

In 2013-14, 3,616 Slovakians travelled to Australia, up 24.8 per cent on the previous year. Over the last five years, the average annual growth rate in arrivals from Slovakia is 5.1 per cent. In 2013-14, 3,218 Australians visited Slovakia, up 24.4 per cent on the previous year and trend figures for the last five years indicate a growing interest in this destination for Australians. A particularly positive aspect of the relationship is the number of young Slovaks who study in Australia—over the past five years, around 1500 Slovakian students have studied in Australia annually.

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 Border Protection’s office in Vienna. Australia’s Austrade office in Prague is responsible for fostering trade links. The Slovak Republic maintains an Embassy in Canberra and has Honorary Consulates in Brisbane and Sydney.

High level visits

Slovak Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Mr Miroslav Lajčák, visited Australia with a small business mission in May 2015, signing the bilateral work and holiday visa agreement with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Mr Lajčák’s visit reciprocated the June 2013 visit of the Governor-General, Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, to Slovakia. The Governor-General led a European Australian Business Council economic mission to promote closer trade and investment relations between Australia and the member states of the European Union.

The Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Mr Miloš Koterec, visited Australia in May 2012. Mr Koterec met with the former Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Dr Mike Kelly AM MP, and the Acting Chief of the Defence Force. Former Slovak Foreign Minister, Mr Ján Kubiš, visited Australia in October 2008.

The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Central Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, Dr Russell Trood, visited Bratislava in March 2012 and met with the Slovak President. The former Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Stephen Smith, visited the Slovak Republic on 16 February 2010 where he met with MinisterLajčák. The former Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon. John Faulkner, met the Slovak Defence Minister, Jaroslav Baska, during an informal meeting of Defence Ministers of NATO member countries held in Bratislava in October 2009.

Bilateral economic and trade relationship

Bilateral trade and investment links with the Slovak Republic are modest, but gradually expanding.

Two-way merchandise trade is strongly in the Slovak Republic’s favour, with Australia’s imports from the Slovak Republic worth approximately A$398 million in 2014. Passenger motor vehicles continued to be the dominant import. Australian exports to the Slovak Republic were worth approximately A$3.2 million in 2014 and comprised mainly pharmaceutical products (excluding medicaments), measuring and analysing instruments, electrical circuits equipment and electrical machinery and parts.

For information on doing business in the Slovak Republic, please contact Austrade or visit www.austrade.gov.au.

 

Last updated: January 2016

Last Updated: 14 May 2014