Slovak Republic country brief
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 September 1st. The capital is Bratislava.
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.
Slovakia's current Prime Minister, Robert Fico, leader of SMER (Direction- Social Democracy), took office in April 2012. This followed general elections in March 2012, which saw the defeat of a four party centre-right coalition led by the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union. This is the first single-party government since the Slovak Republic was formed in 1993. Mr Fico served as Prime Minister previously from July 2006 to July 2010 in a coalition arrangement. The current fifteen-member Cabinet includes three non-party affiliated Ministers, including the Deputy Prime Minister/Minister of Foreign and European Affairs. The next parliamentary elections are due in 2016.
The current Slovak President, Ivan Gašparovič, commenced his second five-year term on 15 June 2009. 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 next Presidential elections are scheduled for 2014. Dr Gašparovič cannot run again.
The Slovak Republic 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 to an open market with a strong export orientation (exports as a percentage of GDP are approximately 80%). The Slovak Republic introduced the Euro on 1 January 2009.
The Slovak Republic’s GDP per capita is approximately 73 per cent of the EU average. It has low levels of public and private debt compared to the EU average. Its public debt-to-GDP ratio (43.3%, 2011, Eurostat) is below the Stability and Growth Pact criterion (maximum of 60%). Its budget deficit to GDP (4.3%, 2011, Eurostat) is currently above the Stability and Growth Pact criterion (maximum 3%). The Slovak Government’s goal is to reduce the deficit to 2.9% of GDP in 2013. In 2011, the Slovak Republic adopted a Fiscal Responsibility Act which focuses on debt containment. In addition, in March 2012, the Slovak Republic was among the 25 EU-signatories to the Fiscal Compact.
The economic forecast for the near term remains modest, with GDP growth forecast to slow to 1.2% in 2013. Unemployment continues to be higher than the EU average. The Slovak Government has identified transport infrastructure and education as priorities for attention in the upcoming years.
Australia and the Slovak Republic established diplomatic relations on the formation of the Slovak Republic in 1993.
Momentum in the bilateral relationship has been growing, as a result of joint international commitments and shared perspectives on global issues of concern. A highlight of this has been the cooperation between Slovak and Australian soldiers in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan.
Slovaks constitute a relatively small ethnic 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, and was naturalised in a ceremony held in Canberra on 3 February 1949. Gosford in New South Wales has had a sister city relationship with historic Nitra in the Slovak Republic since 1988.
In recognition of these strong people-to-people links, Australia and the Slovak Republic signed a social security agreement, which started on 1 January 2012. The Agreement enables former Australian residents living in the Slovak Republic to claim the Australian Age Pension, and assists people in both countries to qualify for it. More information is available at www.fahcsia.gov.au.
Over 2,600 Slovaks have travelled annually to Australia since 2009. The Australian Migration Program has facilitated annually around 140 family and skill visas during this period. A particularly positive aspect of the relationship between Australia and the Slovak Republic is the number of young Slovaks who study in Australia - 634 student visas were issued to Slovak nationals for 2011-12. In 2012, it was announced that Australia would commence negotiations with the Slovak Republic on a Work and Holiday Visa Arrangement. Once agreed and implemented, such an Arrangement would allow young Slovak and Australian citizens the opportunity to stay up to 12 months in the partner country and engage in short-term work and study during this time.
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 the Slovak Republic. The Slovak Republic maintains an Embassy in Canberra and has Honorary Consulates in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
High level visits
In June 2013, the Governor-General, Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO led a European Australian Business Council economic mission to promote closer trade and investment relations between Australia and the then 27 Member States of the European Union.
The Slovak State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, Mr Miloš Koterec, visited Australia in May 2012. Mr Koterec met with the Parliamentary Secretary for Defence, Dr Mike Kelly AM MP, and the Acting Chief of the Defence Force. Mr Ján Kubiš, former Slovak Foreign Minister and now the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, 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. Dr Trood met with the Slovak President. The then Foreign Affairs Minister, the Hon. Stephen Smith, visited Slovakia on 16 February 2010 where he met with Slovak Foreign Minister, Dr Miroslav Lajčák. The then Australian Defence Minister, Senator the Hon. John Faulkner, met the then Slovak Defense Minister, Jaroslav Baska, during the informal meeting of Defence Ministers of NATO member countries held in Bratislava in October 2009.
A number of Australian parliamentary delegations have visited the Slovak Republic. An Australian 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.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Bilateral trade and investment links remain limited with the Slovak Republic, but are expanding gradually. An Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement has existed between Australia and the Slovak Republic since 1999.
Two-way merchandise trade remains strongly in the Slovak Republic’s favour, with the import of passenger motor vehicles to Australia continuing to be the dominant import. Australia's exports to the Slovak Republic were worth approximately $ 2.2 million in 2011-12 and comprised mainly computers, medicaments, specialised machinery and parts, and aluminium.
For information on doing business in the Slovak Republic, please contact Austrade or visit www.austrade.gov.au.
Last updated July 2013