- A German agency report explains why more people migrated from the
Czech R. to Slovakia than the other way round last year. Passages
from it are below.
votruba "at" pitt "dot" edu
x x x
In the decade before European Union enlargement, Slovakia's western
border with the Czech Republic was a well-worn door of opportunity to
a better life.
Since the country joined the E.U. in May 2004, however, thousands of
Slovaks who had moved west for jobs and higher salaries have started
Recent government statistics show a dramatic reversal in Slovak
immigration to the Czech Republic, underscoring the link between
enlargement and economic revival in one of Europe's most depressed
While Slovakia had a net loss of 6,000 citizens to its western
neighbor in 2003, the door swung the other way last year for a net
gain of 6,000.
The turnaround, experts say, is all about jobs and prospects of jobs
tied to the arrival of foreign manufacturers.
Nearly 100 new factories, particularly for the auto industry, have
sprung up across Slovakia in the past three years, reviving stagnant
towns where unemployment rates could top 20%.
Enlargement made it cheaper and easier for Slovak-based factories to
export and sell in Western Europe.
Foreign companies picked Slovakia over the Czech Republic and other
new E.U. member states because of its government incentives as well
as low taxes and low wages.
The government's investment agency Sario sealed 47 deals with foreign
firms worth $2.2 billion last year.
The contracts nearly doubled the 2003 foreign direct investment in
This year Sario expects to close about 42 foreign investments worth
"It's been just one year (since enlargement), but definitely one of
the best things to happen is this free market," Zember said. "Trucks
don't have to wait so long at the border, and the market is larger."
Through the 1990s, Slovakia's only big foreign investors were
Germany's Volkswagen, which built a plant near Bratislava in 1991,
and America's U.S. Steel, which took over a former communist
steelworks in Kosice.
But now French automaker PSA Peugeot Citroen is building an $830
million factory in Trnava that is slated to open in 2006.
The Korean automaker Kia also signalled in 2004 it would invest $860
million for a new auto factory in Zilina.
The two new plants and recent expansions at Volkswagen mean that more
than 800,000 cars could soon be rolling off Slovak assembly lines.
Marching close behind the big carmakers are dozens of auto-parts
suppliers. The German-American venture Getrag-Ford plans to open a
Australia's Howe Leather will make car seat covers at its new plant,
and the U.S. firm Johnson Controls plans to produce seating foam in
one Slovak city and open a technical centre in another.
Companies in other business sectors are also expanding in Slovakia,
with some shifting production from more expensive Western Europe.
These include German tool-maker Flott, Korea's electronics giant
Samsung and a Danish maker of film equipment Glunz & Jensen.
For Slovaks, the economic revival is not only bringing its immigrant
families home but is also reviving depressed communities.
Four years ago, for example, Trencin was a city with an 18%
unemployment rate. Thanks to a flurry of investment the jobless rate
is now down to 6%, the second-lowest in the country after the capital
Public works projects including a new highway bridge and the
renovation of the old town square are on the drawing board.
"Trencin's progress makes it an all-around choice for the most
desirable city in Slovakia," said a proud Mayor Branislav Celler,
adding that his office had negotiated with dozens of companies from
the United States, Japan and Europe last year.
So much has Slovakia improved that it has been dubbed the "Tatra
Tiger" of economic development, a reference to its scenic Tatra
Mountains and echoing Ireland's past success as the Celtic Tiger in
Economists in Prague have warned the Czech government that Slovakia
is gaining ground in the race for investment -- and could surpass the
Czech Republic in just two years.
According to the Slovak National Bank and the European Commission,
fast economic growth is expected to continue this year.
The gross domestic product rose by a surprising 5.5% last year, and
may increase at the same pace this year.
In a recent newspaper interview, Slovak Finance Minister Ivan Miklos
expressed his post-enlargement satisfaction: "We can say that we are
catching up with the advanced world faster than was originally