Slovakia country profile
- 17 March 2016
- From the section Europe
Right at the heart of Europe and with a history intertwined with that of its neighbours, Slovakia has proudly preserved its own language and distinct cultural traditions.
It was part of Czechoslovakia until the "velvet divorce" in January 1993.
Having uncoupled itself from its western neighbour, Slovakia at first struggled to prove itself as an independent democracy, but by the time of the twentieth anniversary of the "velvet divorce" in January 2013, it had come to be seen as one of Europe's biggest success stories.
Slovakia joined the EU in 2004 and the eurozone in 2009. Its forces have taken part in the Nato-led operation in Afghanistan, and in peacekeeping duties in Kosovo.
Slovakia has a significant Romany population which suffers disproportionately high levels of poverty and social deprivation.
Population 5.5 million
Area 49,033 sq km (18,932 sq miles)
Major language Slovak
Major religion Christianity
Life expectancy 72 years (men), 80 years (women)
President: Andrej Kiska
Philanthropist and former businessman Andrej Kiska (pictured right) was elected president in 2014.
He won a run-off election against the country's social democratic prime minister, Robert Fico, whose defeat was considered highly significant: if he had become head of state, his party would have controlled the presidency as well as the government.
Mr Kiska campaigned on the need to have a healthy balance of power between the president and the cabinet, and called for a strengthening of the independence of the judiciary where the president appoints important personnel.
The presidency is largely ceremonial, but the president has the power to pick the prime minister, appoint Constitutional Court judges and veto laws. A parliamentary majority can override vetoes.
Prime minister: Robert Fico
Robert Fico (above left) was asked to form a new coalition government after his party won the most seats in the parliamentary election in March 2016 .
He had already served as prime minister since April 2012.
A left-wing deputy in the Slovak parliament since 1992, and a former member of the Communist party, he had previously served as deputy chairman of the Party of the Democratic Left (SDL).
He left the SDL in 1999 to establish Direction (Smer), which later merged with other parties to become Smer-Social Democracy.
He first became prime minister in July 2006 and held the post until July 2010. Although Smer-SD won the most seats in the June 2010 election, he was unable to form a government and went into opposition. Smer-SD won a landslide victory in the March 2012 election, becoming the first party since independence to win an outright majority in parliament.
With two powerful domestic financial groups now owning, either directly or indirectly, the majority of media outlets, fears of potential political pressure have increased.
In particular, "oligarchisation" is seen as having a negative impact on domestic investigative journalism.
Television and radio remain the most popular media.
Some key dates in the history of Slovakia:
1918-1992 - Republic of Czechoslovakia includes Czech, Slovak and Ruthenian lands. The "velvet divorce" results in two independent countries, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
2004 - Slovakia joins Nato and European Union.
2009 - Slovakia adopts the euro.