Research Paper - Alexandra Jamborová

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Research Paper - Alexandra Jamborová

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    1 Slovakia Benefits from EU Slovakia Showcases the Benefits of the European Union Alexandra Jamborová   alexandra.jamborova@gmail.com  INT 305: OVERVIEW OF THE EUROPEAN UNION Matthias Suthe MBA, Jean Monnet Professor Research Paper February 23, 2014    2 Slovakia Benefits from EU Since the Slovak Republic joined the European Union on first of May 2004, many things have happened and a lot of changes have undergone for ten years. “ Throughout the 90s, Slovakia was seen as the black sheep of post-communist central Europe ,”…” while the Poles, Czechs and Hungarians haggled with Brussels over the terms for joining the EU, the Slovaks wondered when their turn would come ” (Traynor, 2004) . These shameful words were  published by one reputable foreign magazine almost ten years ago. However another article was written last year, “ Slovakia is one example of the European Union using carrots and sticks to nudge eastern European countries toward the community of affluent democracies ” (Passell, 2013). Although the political and economic situation had not been favorable in Slovakia for several years, a decision to join the EU born fruit and triggered an avalanche of  positive changes in this country. Blossom of the economy, stabilization of the political situation and improvement of the living standards and social conditions are one of the most important changes that have been brought by the accession to the European Union. EFFECTS OF THE ACCESSION TO THE EU ON THE SLOVAK ECONOMY One of the most positive things, that have been stimulated and brought by the accession to the European Union, is an economic improvement. Slovakia had been handling with economic problems for many years. Poor economic competitiveness, low productivity and share of domestic product to domestic demand were the most serious economic issues that had been deeply rooted in the past. As a part of Czechoslovakia, Slovakia was a long-time considered as the poorer half of the country where living standards were probably one quarter below that of the Czechs. Although, there was a little hope for a change during the  peaceful Velvet Revolution in 1989; it did not last long. The misery of Slovakia continued when Vladimir Mečiar, a rabble -rousing nationalist, was elected as the prime minister.    3 Slovakia Benefits from EU Meanwhile, neighboring countries such as Poles, Czech and Hungarians haggled with Brussels ov er the terms for joining the EU, “the reason  for the cold shoulder from the US and Europe can be summed up in two words  –    Vladimir Mečiar”…”the hardman who led Slovakia to its first- ever independent status”  (Traynor, 2004). Unfortunately, since the Slovaks got rid of a dangerous populist pressing over a thuggish and corrupt regime in 1998,  positive things have happened in this country. EU summit in Helsinki (1999), NATO Washington summit (1999), EU summit in Copenhagen and NATO summit in Prague (2002), all of these important meetings took part in the Euro-Atlantic integration of Slovakia. However, this was just the beginning. In 2003, the Protocol to the North Atlantic Treaty on the Accession of Slovakia was signed; the accession of 10 new member states, including Slovakia, into the EU was approved. Moreover, the Treaty of Accession between the EU and Slovakia was signed and “the referendum on th e accession to the EU was held with 92.5 % of  participating citizens voting in favor of the accession ” (EurActiv, 2009) . Finally, Slovakia has become a member of the EU on first of May, 2004; it joined the Schengen Area in 2007 and introduced the single European currency in 2009. While these unique historical events and existential necessities were occurring, the Slovak economy was awakening. “ The main  priority for candidate countries in the preparation for EU accession was real convergence of the economy from the position of the level of economic competitiveness achie ved” (EurActiv, 2009). To conclude, this was one of the most important stimuli for blossom of the Slovak economy. “ Average income in terms of purchasing power have quadrupled (to about $24,000) since it bottomed out in 1992  —  which means Slovakia can boast of the fastest sustained growth in Europe.”…” In the latest Legatum Institute Prosperity Index rankings (which combine economic, social, and political success), Slovakia ranked 36th in the world, behind Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, but far ahead of most other post-communist transition economies around the world. Indeed, in one key category, education, Slovakia    4 Slovakia Benefits from EU ranked 26th globally, ahead of a host of advanced economies including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Italy, and Singapore! ” (Passel,2013). Therefore, membership in the EU has  become a significant milestone in the development of the Slovak economy. Since Slovakia  joined to EU, a clear signal of being a safe area for investments and business has been sent to  big international companies which contribute to the economic growth and creation of new  jobs. For example, there has been built Kia c ar factory near Žilina that accounted for 41  percent of Slovakia`s industrial output and employed approximately 60,000 workers. Therefore, it has become one of the most important players of the Slovak automotive industry. To sum up, according to the article “Slovakia: Economy  Overview ”  (2009), the banking sector is almost entirely in foreign hands, major privatizations are nearly complete and the government has helped facilitate a foreign investment boom with business friendly policies such as labor market liberalization and a 19 percent flat tax. Foreign investment in the electronic and automotive sectors has become strong. Economic growth of Slovakia exceeded expectations in 2001-08 despite the General European slowdown. EFFECTS OF THE ACCESSION TO THE EU ON POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SITUATION Other positive changes that the accession to the EU has brought, was stabilization of the political and social situation in the country. Slovakia has become a part of internationally recognized communities that increased the influence of Slovakia between other European countries. In addition, joint action with partners from EU has helped Slovakia to handle with  problems such as national, energy security, climate changes or financial crisis. Moreover, new rights for Slovak citizens have been available. As stated by EurActive (2009), the right to diplomatic and consular assistance from an Embassy of any other EU member state in third countries, the right to petition, the right to non-discrimination and in particular the right to vote for the European Parliament are one of the most important rights for Slovaks that has    5 Slovakia Benefits from EU come from the membership in the EU. What is more, free movement of people, goods, services and capital, four basic freedoms and pillars of the EU, have brought new opportunities for Slovak workers, students and businessmen. For example, Slovak citizens can travel across the European countries without border checks; more than ten thousand Slovak university students can study at other European universities thanks to Erasmus exchange  programme, funded by the EU; many Slovak workers have a chance to find employment on the large EU labour market without administrative obstacles. Moreover, thanks to the EU and its regional policy “more than € 2,100 per citizen was assigned for Slovakia during 2007 -2013  periods from the structural funds of the EU. The primary goal of this financial assistance is to strengthen the cohesion of the Eur  opean Community as a single social entity” (EurActive, 2009). Therefore, most of the EU funds have been used for the construction of roads, rails, environmental protection, and improvement of tourism, innovative businessmen, as well as for research and programs for raising the employment. To sum up, “from 2004 to 2006 Slovakia made use of € 1,16 billion for financing more than 6,600 projects that helped to modernize the country in many different ways”(EurActiv, 2009). During 2008, probably 405 elementary schools, kindergartens have been renewed by the cohesion funds and also five health institutes for the treatment of respiratory, oncology and cardiac diseases have been modernized. In addition, there has been allocated about  € 113 million to increase the high speed internet accessibility in Slovakia since 2013. THE ACCESSION TO THE EU  –   SLOVAK POLITICIANS` OPPINIONS Many opinions were expressed by Slovak politicians during the occasion of the ninth anniversary of the accession to the EU. According to the Š. Puškaš, the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs has considered the accession to the EU as a strong, positive impulse for entire society. “The impact of our entry into the Union illustrates two facts - over less than a decade, the Slovak GDP climbed from 50 percent to 75 percent of the European average and about
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