Joining the EU
Relations between Slovak Republic and European Union (Slovakia & EU) are based on the European Association Agreement, which was signed on 4th of October 1993 and came into force on 1st of February 1995. Slovakia, with other associated countries of Central and Eastern Europe, was involved in the process of EU enlargement. In 1995, these countries applied to become members of the EU: Romania, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria. Czech Republic and Slovenia have applied to join the EU in June 1996.
Joining the European Union belonged to the priorities of Slovak foreign policy since the Slovak Republic was established as an independent country in 1993. Vladimír Mečiar, the Prime Minister of Slovakia, submitted the application for the Slovak Republic into the EU on 27th of June 1995 at the European Council meeting in Cannes.
One of the conditions to acquire membership for all candidate countries is the implementation of the Copenhagen criteria, which have been approved by the European Council in Copenhagen in 1993. These criteria are divided into several groups:
- Political criteria – the candidate country must have institutional stability as a guarantee of democratic governance and legally consistent state, respect for human rights and the protection of minorities.
- Economic criteria – these include a functioning market economy and the ability to withstand competitive pressure in the enlarged European Union.
- Acceptance of the acquis communautaire – the candidate countries need to harmonize the system of law with the EU, and demonstrate the ability of its implementation in practice.
In December 1999, the European Council on the Helsinki summit decided to invite Slovakia for negotiations on joining the EU. In March 2000 formal negotiations in Brussels began. Slovakia had to negotiate with the EU in 31 negotiating chapters. Slovak Republic managed to keep pace with the candidate countries of the so-called first group, who negotiated with the EU two years longer, and closed the individual negotiating chapters in quick time.
Negotiations officially ended at the Copenhagen summit in December 2002, concluding chapters of agriculture, finance and budget.
Slovak Republic signed the Accession Treaty with EU on 16th of April 2003 and on 1st of July 2003 it was approved by the plenary of the SR.
Slovakia, like other candidate countries after the conclusion of the negotiations on accession to the EU, declared a referendum on 16th – 17th of May 2003, where citizens were able to comment joining the European Union. The majority of eligible voters expressed their agreement with the country’s entry into the European Union. After a successful ratification of the Accession Treaty, the Slovak Republic became a member of the European Union on 1st of May 2004.
A lot of people ask this, so once again, when did Slovakia join the European Union? Answer: On 1st of May 2004.
Slovakia and Euro
Slovakia adopted the common European currency on 1st of January 2009. EU leaders agreed with Slovakia’s entry in the Euro zone at the summit on the 19th of June 2008 in Brussels.
Slovakia committed to adopt the euro in the Accession Treaty with EU on 16th of April 2003 in Athens. Contractual obligation didn’t have a time limit. The country could join the European Monetary Union after accomplishing all the stated conditions – the Maastricht criteria:
- inflation can not exceed the average of the three states with the lowest inflation by more than 1.5 percent
- the general government deficit must not exceed 3 percent of GDP
- the total public debt must not exceed 60 percent of the amount of GDP
- long-term money rates may be more only in two percentage points higher than the average of the three states with the lowest rates
The process of accession to the European Monetary Union was launched by the Government of Mikuláš Dzurinda in July 2003. In September 2004, they set a target date of entry into the Eurozone on 1st of January 2009. The government of Robert Fico, established after the elections in June 2006, confirmed the intended commitment.
The official and full compliance to the Maastricht criteria established in April 2008 opened the way for a positive recommendation from the Commission for the entry of Slovakia into the Eurozone. This has become a reality on 7th of May 2008. Since 29th of May 2008 the conversion rate of crowns to the euro is set at 1 Euro = 30.1260 Slovak Crowns.
- August 2008 – Start of compulsory dual display of prices and other financial values in crowns and euros
- 1st of January 2009 – Joining the euro area – “D-Day”
- 1st to 16th of January 2009 – Dual circulation – possibility to paid in crowns and euros, the costs displayed only in euro
- 30th of June 2009 – End of the exchange of crown coins in the banks
- 31st of December 2009 – End of compulsory dual display and the end of the exchange of crown banknotes in banks
European Economic Area (EEA)
The European Economic Area (EEA) was established on 1st of January 1994 based on an agreement between Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and the European Union (including Slovakia). It allows these countries to participate in the EU’s single market without joining the EU. In exchange, they are obliged to adopt certain EU internal market legislation. All new relevant legislation is dynamically incorporated into the Agreement and thus applies throughout the EEA, ensuring the homogenity of the internal market.
The EEA Agreement is concerned principally with the four fundamental pillars of the Internal Market, the 4 freedoms:
- freedom of movement of goods,
- freedom of movement of persons,
- freedom of movement of services,
- freedom of movement of capital.
But also flanking policies such as:
- social policy,
- consumer protection,
- environment policy.
The EEA Agreement does not cover agriculture and fishing.
The EEA Agreement allows for EEA participation in Internal Market relevant Community programmes and agencies, however with no right to vote. The EEA states also make financial contributions towards the reduction of economic and social disparities in the EEA.
The Agreement covers most of the substance of the EU’s relations with the EEA States. The updating of the Agreement through the incorporation of new relevant Community legislation generally runs smoothly and thousands of legal acts have been extended to the EEA to date.
Swiss nationals have the same rights as EEA members.
Slovakia in Schengen
The Schengen area is a territory of 23 member countries of the European Union + 2 associated countries of the European Economic Area, which agreed on the abolition of border controls between themselves, this way allowing free movement of persons and goods inside of the area. There are no border barriers, passport or customs controls and these countries have common visa politics.
People can cross the border wherever they want without passport control, unless it is a protected area above the second level of nature protection. At places under higher levels of nature protection (national parks and protected landscape areas) it is mandatory to respect the law of nature protection and visitors’ codes, i.e. the visitors can freely move only on marked paths or cycling routes.
The Schengen area consists of EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Hungary, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Italy.
Associated members of the European Economic Area are: Iceland and Norway.
EU countries, which are not yet members of the Schengen area: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom.