The Slovak Republic came about when the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic split on 31 December 1992. The country is also known as Slovakia and shares 1,672 km of border with the Czech Republic, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Austria. Most of the country is mountainous.
Slovakia’s population is 5.4 million. The Slovaks are descendants of a Slavic people who settled near the Danube between 400 and 500 AD. The majority of the country’s residents are Slovaks, Hungarians are the largest minority group, with the rest made up of Roma (Gypsies), Czechs, Moravians, Poles, and Germans. The country’s strong export orientation is driven by automobile and electronics, and at 22%, Germany is its principal export destination. The Czech Republic accounts for 11.8% and Poland 7.6% of its export market.
As a former Communist country, Slovakia’s political history has influenced its current welfare trajectory to a great extent. In 1989 Communism ended in the country and it split from Czechoslovakia to become the Slovak Republic. While establishing a deregulated liberal economy, post-communist and social democratic influence impeded policy changes, and the welfare state adopted social democratic elements and incorporated Communist ideologies. Primary and secondary education in Slovakia is free. From the age of six, education is compulsory for the next 8 years.
Thereafter three types of secondary education are available: vocational or technical schools, schools of general education (gymnasia), or teacher-training institutes. Slovakia’s social welfare system has remained as it was during Communism and the health care system is run by the state for the most part. A national insurance company is now funded by employers, employees, the self-employed, and the state. Slovakia’s childcare centres have mostly closed due to lack of funds.
Slovakia is a castle superpower or maybe a fairy tale epicentre. With abundant cultural and historical and fortified buildings, more than 100 castles can be viewed and double that number of manor houses depicting styles over a range of historical eras. Slovakia has 5 cultural on the UNESCO Heritage list, including the historic town of Banská Štiavnica and the Technical Monuments close by, Levoča, Spišský Hrad and the Associated Cultural Monuments, the Wooden Churches of the Carpathian Mountain region.
Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Caves of Aggtelek Karst and Slovak Karst are the only two natural sites on Slovakia’s UNESCO list. Slovak Paradise National Park offers hikers a magical forested delight with ravines, gorges, chasms, meadows and waterfalls. Cruise on a traditional flatboat through the scenic mountains, partake in a folklore festival, visit the Demanovska Cave of Liberty or simply take in the architecture, museums and culinary pleasures of an alluring culture.
Since Czechoslovakia was divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Slovakia became a member of the European Union and a Schengen country. This means that the European Travel Authorisation System ETIAS will become a necessary step for the nationals from the 62 countries currently travelling visa-free to the country as of 2021.
While Slovakia hasn’t been affected to the same extent as many other European countries by rising terrorism and uncontrolled immigration, it will be protected by the process which will heighten security before the risks reach the border posts. Travellers will apply online, following a similar process to Australia’s own ETA system, to get electronic pre-authorisation attached to their passport before leaving for Europe.
The application process takes only minutes, and authorisation is received within minutes, which is valid either until the passport expires or three years. Schengen regulations will still apply together with the ETIAS restrictions.
Slovaks migrated to Australia following the devastation of the Second World War, between 1945 and 1950. Nazi occupation and economic decline saw an influx of immigrants flood into Australia in the 1930s. When the communists took over Czechoslovakia in 1948. Refugees poured into Australia and continued into the 1950s. The fall of communism saw a decline in numbers in Australia as they returned home.
The Soviet occupation in 1968 led to another wave of emigration. The first naturalised Australian citizen was of Slovak heritage, and more than 11,000 Australian residents are now of Slovak ancestry.
Bilateral agreements between Australia and the Slovak Republic include a work and holiday visa agreement, a social security agreement, and a Double Taxation Agreement. Relations on the military scope include soldiers from both countries stationed together between 2011 and 2014 in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan, during the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
Two-way merchandise trade is predominantly in Slovakia’s favour: Passenger vehicles make up the majority of Slovakia’s exports to Australia, while Australia exports mainly leather, electrical machinery and part, aircraft, spacecraft and parts, textiles and leather machinery to the Republic.
Citizens of Slovakia must apply for ETA pre-authorisation before entering Australia on holiday or for business purposes. Australians may currently enter Slovakia with a valid passport but will be subjected to a similar pre-authorisation process to ETA when ETIAS is rolled out in 2021. Australians will obtain this electronic authorisation for stays of up to 90 days in Slovakia for the purpose of travel and business.