The transformation of Slovakia


Bratislava will be hosting the summit of Presidents George Bush and Vladimir Putin next week. But the Slovak capital may seem an unusual location for such a high profile event, especially since just seven years ago, Slovakia was considered something of a pariah in Central Europe under the nationalistic leadership of then Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar.

After the elections of 1998 and Meciar's departure, the country has transformed to an EU, NATO and OECD member. It's now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. Martina Grenova spoke to Ivan Stefanec, the president of the Slovak Business Alliance about the reasons for the rapid change in Slovakia...

Why it happened in Slovakia?

"In my view, it is because of political will and political courage of our representatives and may be it was also a positive situation in society in terms of some kind of public-private partnership. In terms of tax reform, last year Slovakia dropped corporate income personal tax rate to 19%, we implemented flat tax and we have also one VAT rate. The result is that we have more entrepreneurs and also the state budget was fulfilled.

"The third point I'll mention is the registration of a new business. A year ago, it took almost three months in this country just to register a new business. Currently, it is since February last year, every new business has to be registered in 5 days. This is a big change. We can also see the result in terms of number of business entities growing in this country and also in terms of foreign direct investments which is going up."

Budapest and Warsaw were in play for hosting the meeting of the two presidents. Why, do you think, did the teams from Russian and the USA choose Slovakia?

"I assume that we are the most accepted one for the American as well as the Russian party. I feel that it is also the result of the right diplomacy of the Slovak Republic which is very consistent, clear and transparent. It is not against any I would say major decisions against Russians or Americans. I think we are trying to show that we would like to be friends with everybody and we would like to support our place in the heart of Europe in order to develop our relationship in all directions."