Europe

Slovakia country profile

Map of Slovakia

Right at the heart of Europe with a history closely intertwined with its neighbours, Slovakia has managed to preserve its own language and distinct culture.

It was part of Czechoslovakia until the "velvet divorce" in January 1993.

Independent Slovakia went through an initial period of political turbulence, but weathered the 2008 financial crisis to emerge as a prosperous and stable parliamentary democracy.The country joined the European Union in 2004, and the eurozone in 2009, and sent troops on peacekeeping missions to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kosovo.

Slovakia has a significant Romany population, which suffers disproportionately high levels of poverty and social deprivation.

FACTS

Slovak Republic

Capital: Bratislava

  • Population 5.5 million

  • Area 49,033 sq km (18,932 sq miles)

  • Major language Slovak

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 74 years (men), 81 years (women)

  • Currency euro

Getty Images

LEADERS

President (outgoing): Andrej Kiska

Image copyright Getty Images

Philanthropist and former businessman Andrej Kiska 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.

He has often been at variance with Robert Fico and his successor, not least over the government's pro-Russian foreign policy. He decided not to stand for another term in 2019.

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.

President (incoming): Zuzana Caputova

Image copyright zuzanacaputova.sk

Opposition candidate Zuzana Caputova beat the government's Maros Sefcovic in the second round of the March 2019 presidential election, with 58% of the vote.

A lawyer and long-standing anti-corruption campaigner, she is noted for a decade-long fight against a poisonous landfill in her hometown of Pezinok.

Ms Caputova was moved to stand for the presidency during protests over the murder of journalist Jan Kuciak, who was investigating links between politicians and organised crime when he was shot dead along with his fiancée in February 2018.

Ms Caputova's socially-liberal and pro-European stance will put her at loggerheads with the pro-Russian government when she takes office in June.

Prime minister: Peter Pellegrini

Image copyright Getty Images

Peter Pellegrini was appointed prime minister in March 2018 in the aftermath of the killings of a journalist and his fiancee.

President Andrej Kiska rejected Mr Pellegrini's first list of cabinet ministers, saying the public would not trust them to properly investigate the murders of Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova.

The killings sparked nationwide protests, leading to the country's long-standing prime minister, Robert Fico, stepping down. Mr Kuciak had been investigating alleged government corruption.

Mr Pellegrini had served as deputy prime minister and, earlier, speaker of parliament.

He holds a degree in finance, banking and investment, and speaks English, German and Russian.

MEDIA

Image copyright Reuters

TV is the most popular medium. Two Slovak financial groups own many of the top media outlets.

Freedom House says the media are generally free and independent. But the 2018 murder of an investigative journalist highlighted the increasing exposure of reporters to intimidation and abuse, says Reporters Without Borders.

Facebook is the leading social network.

TIMELINE

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.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bratislava Castle is one of the capital's landmarks, and towers over the Danube River

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