U.S. Department of State
Background Notes: Slovak Republic,
Official Name: The Slovak Republic
Area: 49,035 sq. km. (about the size of West Virginia).
Cities: Capital -- Bratislava (pop. 452,053). Other cities: Kosice (240,915), Zilina (86,685), Nitra (87,357), Presov (92,687), Banska Bystrica (84,919).
Terrain: High mountains in the north, low mountains in the center, hills to the west, Danube river basin in the south.
Climate: Temperate; average temperature -- in January 26.5°F; in July 68°F; Annual precipitation -- 24 - 40 in.
Nationality: Noun and adjective -- Slovak(s).
Population (1996 est.): 5,374,362.
Annual growth rate (1996 est): 0.34%.
Ethnic groups: Slovaks 85.7%, Hungarians 10.7%. Roma 1.5%, Czechs 1%, Ruthenians 0.3%, Ukranians 0.3%, Germans 0.1%, Poles 0.1%, other 0.3%.
Religions: Roman Catholic 60.2%, Protestant 8.4%, Orthodox 4.1%, Jewish 0.1%, other 17.5%. 9.7% report no affiliation.
Languages: Slovak (official), Hungarian, Ruthenian, and Ukrainian.
Education: Literacy -- 99%.
Health: Life expectancy -- 69 yrs. males. 77 yrs. females.
Work force (2.5 million): Industry, construction, commerce -- 59%. Government and other services--29%. Agriculture -- 12%.
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Independence: The Slovak Republic was established January l, 1993 (former Czechoslovak Republic established 1918).
Constitution: Signed September 3, 1992.
Branches: Executive -- president (head of state), prime minister (head of government), cabinet. Legislative -- National Council of the Slovak Republic (150 seats). Judicial -- Supreme Court, Constitutional Court.
Political Parties: Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) 61 seats; Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) 13 seats; Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) 17 seats; Democratic Union of Slovakia (DU) 13 seats; Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS) 11 seats; Hungarian Coalition (Coexistence, Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement (MKDH), and Hungarian Civic Party (MOS)) 17 seats; Slovak National Party (SNS) 9 seats; independent, 9 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18 years.
Administrative divisions: Eight administrative regions, 79 districts.
Defense (1997): 2.1% of GDP.
Flag: Three horizontal bands of white (upper), blue (middle), and red (lower), with heraldic insignia near staff consisting of double white cross on red field above blue base.
(figures are for the first nine months of 1997)
GDP: $14.05 billion.
Nominal per capita income (est.): $2,800.
Natural resources: Antimony, mercury, iron, copper, lead, zinc, magnesite, limestone, lignite.
Agriculture: Products -- milk, eggs, poultry, cattle, hogs, potatoes, oils, grains, vegetables.
Industry: Types -- iron and steel, chemicals, light industry, food processing, engineering, building materials.
Trade: Exports -- $6.56 billion: iron and steel, machinery and energy equipment, plastics. Imports -- $7.72 billion: mineral fuels and oils, machinery, audio/video equipment, vehicles. Trading partners -- Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Italy, Ukraine.
Foreign Investment: $1.08 billion.
The majority of the 5.3 million inhabitants of the Slovak Republic are Slovak (86%). Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority (11%) and are concentrated in the southern and eastern regions of Slovakia. Other ethnic groups include Roma, Czechs, Ruthenians, Ukrainians, Germans, and Poles.
The Slovak constitution guarantees freedom of religion. The majority of Slovak citizens (60%) practice Roman Catholicism; the second-largest group are Protestants. About 3,000 Jews remain of the estimated pre-WWII population of 120,000. The official state language is Slovak, and Hungarian is widely spoken in the southern region.
Despite its modern European economy and society, Slovakia has a significant rural element. About 45% of Slovaks live in villages of less than 5,000 people, and 14% in villages of less than 1,000.
From the eleventh until the early twentieth century, present-day Slovakia was under Hungarian rule. The Slovak national revival was begun in the nineteenth century by intellectuals seeking to revive the Slovak language and culture. The formation of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918 following World War I satisfied the common aspirations of Czechs and Slovaks for independence from the Habsburg Empire.
Although Czechoslovakia was the only east-central European country to remain a parliamentary democracy from 1918 to 1938, it was plagued with minority problems, the most important concerning the country's large German population. In 1938, the Allies concluded the Munich agreement which forced Czechoslovakia to cede the predominantly German region known as Sudetenland to Germany. Then, in March 1939 Germany invaded what remained of Bohemia and Moravia and established a German protectorate. Slovakia had already declared its independence on March 14, 1939, and had become a Nazi German puppet state led by Jozef Tiso.
On August 29, 1944, 60,000 Slovak troops organized by the underground rose up against the Nazis and the Tiso regime in what became known as the Slovak National Uprising. Although ultimately unsuccessful, this act of resistance became an important historical landmark for the Slovaks. At the close of World War II, Soviet troops overran all of Slovakia, Moravia, and much of Bohemia.
Reunited after the war, the Czechs and Slovaks held elections in 1946. In Slovakia, the Democratic Party won the elections, but the Czechoslovak Communist Party won 38% of the total vote in Czechoslovakia and eventually seized power, in February 1948. The next four decades were characterized by strict communist rule, interrupted only briefly in 1968 when Alexander Dubcek, a Slovak, became party leader. Dubcek proposed political, social, and economic reforms in his effort to make "socialism with a human face" a reality. Concern among other Warsaw Pact governments that Dubcek had gone too far led to the invasion and occupation of Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, by Soviet, Hungarian, Bulgarian, East German, and Polish troops. Dubcek was removed as party leader and replaced by another Slovak, Gustav Husak, in April 1969.
The 1970s and 1980s became known as the period of "normalization," in which the apologists for the 1968 Soviet invasion prevented, as best they could, any opposition to their conservative regime. Political, social, and economic life stagnated. Because the center of the reform movement had been in Prague, normalization was less harshly felt in Slovakia. In fact, the Slovak Republic saw comparatively high economic growth in the 1970s and 1980s relative to the Czech Republic.
The 1970s were also characterized by the development of a dissident movement, especially in the Czech Republic. On January l, 1977, more than 250 human rights activists signed a manifesto called Charter 77, which criticized the government for failing to meet its human rights obligations.
On November 17, 1989, a series of public protests known as the "Velvet Revolution" began and led to the downfall of communist rule in Czechoslovakia. In the days following this momentous event, Charter 77 and other groups united to become the Civic Forum, an umbrella group championing bureaucratic reform and civil liberties. Its leader was the dissident playwright Vaclav Havel who was elected President of Czechoslovakia in December 1989. Its Slovak counterpart, Public Against Violence, was based on the same ideals.
A transition government was formed in December 1989, and the first free elections in Czechoslovakia since 1948 took place in June 1990, with Civic Forum and Public Against Violence winning landslide victories. Civic Forum and Public Against Violence found, however, that although they had successfully completed their primary objective -- the overthrow of the communist regime -- they were less effective as governing parties. In the 1992 elections, both Civic Forum and Public Against Violence were replaced by a spectrum of new parties.
In the election of June 1992, Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party won in the Czech lands on a platform of economic reform, and Vladimir Meciar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) emerged as the leading party in Slovakia, basing its appeal on fairness to Slovak demands for autonomy. Negotiations on the federal constitution remained deadlocked over the issue of Slovak autonomy, and in the latter half of 1992, Meciar and Klaus negotiated an agreement that led to the division of Czechoslovakia into two independent states at the end of the year. On January 1, 1993, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic were simultaneously and peacefully founded. Both states attained immediate recognition from the U.S. and their European neighbors.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICAL CONDITIONS
Slovakia's highest legislative body is the 150-seat unicameral National Council of the Slovak Republic. Delegates are elected for 4-year terms on the basis of proportional representation. The Slovak political scene supports a wide spectrum of political parties ranging from the successors to the Communist Party -- the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL) -- to the nationalistic Slovak National Party (SNS) on the right.
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar's party, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), returned to power in December 1994 after winning a substantial plurality in the elections. HZDS has formed a narrowly based coalition governing with two smaller parties -- the Slovak National Party (SNS) and the leftist Association of Slovak Workers (ZRS). This is the third government since Slovak independence. The previous government was composed of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL), and the Democratic Union (DU), and was headed by Prime Minister Jozef Moravcik. The Moravcik government succeeded the country's initial HZDS-SNS coalition government led by Meciar after a vote of no confidence in March 1994.
The president is elected by parliament to a 5-year term. President Michal Kovac's term ended March 2, 1998. Since the Parliament was unable to agree on a successor, most presidential powers have reverted to Prime Minister Meciar. Under the Slovak constitution, the president serves as commander in chief of the armed forces, appoints ministers, grants pardons, and has the right to dissolve parliament under certain circumstances. The president also signs laws and has the right to return legislation to parliament, but the parliament can override this veto with a simple majority vote.
The country's highest court of appeals is the Supreme Court, elected by and responsible to the National Council. The 10 members of the Constitutional Court, who rule on constitutional issues, are appointed by the president from a choice of candidates nominated by parliament.
The Slovak Armed Forces have a total of approximately 42,000 personnel, including two Army Corps and one Air and Air Defense Corps. These forces include a Rapid Reaction Battalion designed to participate in peacekeeping operations. It became operational in December 1996. Slovakia contributed an engineering battalion to the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia (UNTAES), and has been an active participant in Partnership for Peace exercises. Opinion polls consistently show the Army to be the nation's most trusted institution. Defense budget cuts threaten the preparedness of the military, and cuts in personnel to 36,000 are planned.
Principal State Officials
President -- vacant
Prime Minister -- Vladimir Meciar
Minister of Foreign Affairs -- Zdenka Kramplova
Ambassador to the United States -- Branislav Lichardus
Chargé d'Affaires to the United Nations -- Olga Keltosova
Ambassador to NATO and the EU -- Emil Kuchar
Slovakia maintains a temporary chancery in the United States at Suite 380, 2201 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. 20007. Construction on a permanent chancery is due to be completed in 1999.
Slovakia maintains a foreign trade office in New York and honorary consulates in Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, and Pittsburgh.
Slovakia began an economic turnaround in 1994 when it posted a 4.8% rise in real GDP. Since then, the Slovak economy has been growing rapidly by 7.2% in 1995 and 6.9% in 1996. Through the first three quarters of 1997, real GDP growth has been 6%. Slovakia's recovery was originally based on impressive export performance as the largest firms captured new markets in Western Europe for their inexpensive and primarily semi-finished products. Subsequently, domestic consumption has been responsible for the economy's growth, leading to a trade deficit of about $2 billion in 1996 and a $1.1 billion deficit through the third quarter of 1997.
Tight monetary policy continues to be the key factor in keeping a lid on inflation, although there has been a small upward trend in 1997. Inflation hit its lowest point -- 5.4% -- at the end of 1996. Through the first three quarters of 1997, inflation moved up to 5.7%. Interest rates rose above 30% in 1997. Unemployment is estimated at 13% for the first nine months of 1997.
Slovakia's record on privatization is mixed. While privatization is virtually complete (the private sector share of GDP is more than 85%), some of the most lucrative state-owned firms have been placed off limits to privatization. The nature of Slovakia's privatization process, particularly the preference for domestic buyers and the low prices paid by most of those buyers, has ensured a lack of new capital for the country's resource-poor companies.
From 1990 through the first half of 1997, Slovakia had received just over $1 billion in foreign direct investment. German companies represent the largest share of foreign investment in Slovakia followed by Austria and the United Kingdom. U.S. companies place fifth, having invested $81 million.
In 1997, Slovakia's trade imbalance, while more than $1 billion, began to narrow slightly due in large part to new barriers and a limited availability of credit. By the end of the third quarter of 1997, Slovak exports had increased 12.2% while imports were up 9.1% compared to the same period in 1996.
The Czech Republic is Slovakia's largest trading partner, purchasing almost 27% of Slovakia's exports and supplying 23% of its imports. Other major partners include Germany, Austria, and Russia. Slovakia imports nearly all of its oil and gas from Russia. Slovakia's export markets are primarily OECD countries and the European Union. The United States accounts for about 3% of total trade with Slovakia. The Slovak Republic has Most Favored Nation status and receives duty-free (GSP) benefits for many of its products.
The government has applied for membership in the OECD and the EU. Slovakia signed an Association Agreement with the EU in October 1993, which went into effect in February 1995. In 1994, Slovakia was one of the original members of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA). During the first 9 months of 1997, Slovakia sent almost 39% of its exports to its CEFTA partners.
Since Slovakia became an independent state in 1993, the government has stated that integration into Western economic and security structures is its chief foreign policy objective. While Slovakia has generally met the economic requirements for membership in these institutions and was initially favored to be in the first round of integration, international concerns about the state of democratic development are currently an obstacle for EU and NATO accession. Slovakia is in the accession process for membership in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Slovakia and the Czech Republic entered into a Customs Union upon the division of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The Customs Union enables a relatively free flow of goods and services. CEFTA similarly has improved market access for Slovakia's neighbors. Hungary and Slovakia signed a Basic Treaty in 1995 and are currently negotiating its implementation.
Slovakia is a member of the United Nations and participates in its specialized agencies. It is a member of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). It maintains diplomatic relations with 135 countries of which 42 have permanent representation in Bratislava.
Millions of Americans have their roots in Slovakia and many retain strong cultural and familial ties to the Slovak Republic. President Woodrow Wilson and the United States played a major role in the establishment of the original Czechoslovak state on October 28, 1918, and President Wilson's Fourteen Points were the basis for the union of the Czechs and Slovaks. Tomas Masaryk, the father of the Czechoslovak state and its first president, visited the United States during World War I and used the U.S. Constitution as a model for the first Czechoslovak Constitution.
Relations were cool between the two governments during the 50 years of communist rule. When the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in August 1968, the United States referred the matter to the UN Security Council as a violation of the UN Charter, but no action was taken against the Soviets.
The fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia in 1989 and the subsequent split of the two republics on January 1, 1993, allowed for renewed cooperation between the U.S. and Slovakia. The United States has delivered more than $200 million since 1990 to support the rebuilding of a healthy democracy and market economy in Slovakia, primarily through programs administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Slovakia and the U.S. retain strong diplomatic ties, cooperate in military and law enforcement areas, and engage in economic partnership.
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials
Ambassador -- Ralph R. Johnson
Deputy Chief of Mission -- William P. Schofield
Political Officer -- Anthony A. Pahigian
Economic/Commercial Officer -- Eugene S. Young
Senior Commercial Officer -- Stephen Craven (resident in Vienna)
Consul -- Thomas Rogan
Administrative Officer -- Heather A. Townsend
Public Affairs Officer (USIS) -- Richard O. Lankford
Defense Attache -- Lieutenant Colonel John Markowicz
USAID Representative -- Paula Goddard
Peace Corps Director -- Nelson Chase
The U.S. embassy in Slovakia is located at Hviezdoslavovo namestie 4, 81102 Bratislava (tel: 421-7-533-08-61 or 421-7-533-33-38; fax: 421-7-533-00-96). Duty hours are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The embassy is closed on U.S. and Slovak holidays.
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION
Information Program provides Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for all countries and include information on immigration practices, currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S. posts in the country. Public Announcements are issued as a means to disseminate information quickly about terrorist threats and other relatively short-term conditions overseas which pose significant risks to the security of American travelers. Free copies of this information are available by calling the Bureau of Consular Affairs at 202-647-5225 or via the fax-on-demand system: 202-647-3000. Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets also are available on the Consular Affairs Internet home page: http://travel.state.gov and the Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). To access CABB, dial the modem number: (301-946-4400 (it will accommodate up to 33,600 bps), set terminal communications program to N-8-1 (no parity, 8 bits, 1 stop bit); and terminal emulation to VT100. The login is travel and the password is info (Note: Lower case is required). The CABB also carries international security information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council and Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Consular Affairs Trips for Travelers publication series, which contain information on obtaining passports and planning a safe trip abroad, can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954; telephone: 202-512-1800; fax 202-512-2250.
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-5225. For after-hours emergencies, Sundays and holidays, call 202-647-4000.
Passport Services information can be obtained by calling the 24-hour, 7-day a week automated system ($.35 per minute) or live operators 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) Monday-Friday ($1.05 per minute). The number is 1-900-225-5674 (TDD: 1-900-225-7778). Major credit card users (for a flat rate of $4.95) may call 1-888-362-8668 (TDD: 1-888-498-3648)
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories, immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number CDC-95-8280) is available from the U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 512-1800.
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see "Principal Government Officials" listing in this publication).
U.S. citizens who are long-term visitors or traveling in dangerous areas are encouraged to register at the U.S. embassy upon arrival in a country (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials" listing in this publication). This may help family members contact you in case of an emergency.
Further Electronic Information:
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S. foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background Notes; Dispatch, the official magazine of U.S. foreign policy; daily press briefings; Country Commercial Guides; directories of key officers of foreign service posts; etc. DOSFAN's World Wide Web site is at http://www.state.gov.
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on an annual basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the present. Contact the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information. It is available on the Internet (www.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202) 482-1986 for more information.
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