Last year's "1999 Regular Report from the Commission on Slovakia's Progress towards Accession" was a major milestone for the country. In acknowledging that the country had met the political criteria for accession to the EU for the first time, the Report went a long way to dispelling the pariah status engendered by the antics of the 1994-98 government of Vladimir Mečiar.
This year's Report is unlikely to start the champagne corks popping in quite the same way. There are problems, many of them resulting from the instability of the coalition government, but the overall tenor of the Report is one of solid progress on the part of Premier Mikuláš Dzurinda's team.
Political dissension and a market economy
The 2000 Report states that Slovakia continues to meet the political criteria for accession. It notes that advances have been made in the consolidation of the democratic system. However, it also points to "dissension within the ruling coalition" as a factor in the delay of certain key areas of reform, including the reform of public administration and the civil service.
Certain moves towards reform of the judiciary are acknowledged, but the Report is critical of delays in the reform of the nomination process and probation system. The treatment of minorities is also singled out for criticism, and here the Report is particularly concerned with the situation of the Roma. Progress in developing new approaches to overcoming disadvantage is acknowledged, but those efforts have yet to have an effect on the ground: "Tangible improvement of the situation of the Roma minority... [has]... not been achieved to a large extent," the Report concludes.
Turning to the economic criteria, Slovakia is acknowledged to be "a functioning market economy." There is praise for the restoration of macroeconomnic stability, the elimination of price distortions and moves to privatise the public utilities.
However, a note of caution is raised with regard to the need for continued prudence: "the current budget proposals for 2001 risk to endanger the stabilisation achievements." There are calls for the completion of structural reforms to public finance and for the strengthening of banking supervision. Health, pensions and social security are singled out as areas of public finance which "need to be kept under control."
Uneven on the acquis
The Report runs through 29 of the acquis (the areas of EU law which candidate countries must bring their own legislation into line with), giving a brief progress report on each area. It states that Slovakia has made "significant progress in legislative alignment with the acquis."
However, it notes that some areas are stronger than others. Company law, agriculture, transport, regional policy, the environment and financial control are all described as lagging behind. Noticeable progress has been made in a number of areas of internal market legislation, including public procurement and financial services, but there is not enough progress towards the free movement of persons.
The lack of a framework for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications is highlighted. Company law has seen no substantial progress, "with the partial exception of accounting law." There is a call for greater effort, with particular regard to patents and trademarks, pirating and counterfeiting. Significant progress is noted in the areas of statistics, industrial policy and the telecommunication and audiovisual sector.
Justice and home affairs received mixed reviews, with praise for progress on visa policy and asylum legislation, coupled with a declaration of the need for "considerable progress in all relevant acquis areas," particularly migration, border controls and the fight against crime.
There is evident disappointment on the lack of progress in the agricultural sector, with calls for accelerated alignment and implementation. The need to implement veterinary and phytosanitary legislation is highlighted. Turning to transport, the Report identifies limited progress is identified in the areas of road transport and inland waterways and calls for substantial efforts to be made towards alignment in the rail sector.
The energy sector and regional policy have also seen limited progress. Slovakia had already made substantial progress in the area of customs, but this has slowed in the past year, and there is a call for further efforts to complete the legislative framework.
The 2000 Regular Report for Slovakia takes its cue from the typical school report card, with a smidgeon of carrot and a smattering of stick. The phrases "a solid term's progress" and "could do better" both spring to mind. An end to government instability, and concentration on the implementation of new legislation would appear to be the keynotes. Slovakia is not going to finish top of the class, but this is not a report card that Dzurinda is going to have to hide away from his parents.
Robin Sheeran, 13 November 2000
Also of interest:
- The 2000 Progress Reports in full
- CER update on accession candidates, May 2000
- CER commentary on the 1999 Progress Reports
- The 1999 Progress Reports in full
- Archived CER articles on the EU
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Slovakia through CER
- Return to CER front page