Slovakia Country Report
The murder of a journalist in February 2018 triggered the largest public demonstrations since 1989, with the public calling on ruling Direction-Social Democracy (Smer-Sociálna Demokracia: Smer-SD) to take political responsibility and resign. Pressure from its junior coalition partner has heightened government instability risk, making an early election almost certain in 2018. An alternative of a Smer-SD-led minority government supported by the far right would significantly hamper the predictability of the policies and Smer-SD's attempts to shape Slovakia as a go-to partner within the regional Visegrad Four group. Slovakia's economic outlook for 2018 is broadly favourable, with the key fiscal indicators probably remaining within the Maastricht limits. Active far-right groups posemoderate risks of assault against ethnic minorities. The risk of terrorism is likely to remain moderate.
Slovakia's favourable geographic location and low-cost labour are attractive for FDI. Strikes are rare and more likely to affect the public rather than the private sector. Wage negotiations are the main reason for industrial action in privately owned companies. However, elevated corruption and administrative red tape hamper Slovakia's competitiveness vis-à-vis its regional peers. Corruption allegations affect all echelons of public administration. Public procurement and allocation of EU subsidies are particularly likely to be vulnerable to corruption. The current government promised to bring more transparency into public tenders and state institutions; however, recent accusations of political corruption will probably hamper any visible improvement during its term.
Although part of NATO, Slovakia generally keeps a low international profile, making it an unlikely target for terrorist attacks staged by Islamist militant groups. However, if attacks were launched, the most likely target would be government and parliament premises, embassies, public transport and large shopping centres in the capital, Bratislava, and Košice. The foremost risk to property or personnel stems from the protests organised by extreme-right and activist groups (such as those advocating animal welfare) as well as organised crime activities. However, the level of organised crime has reduced dramatically over the past decade, with several high-profile members of criminal groups now imprisoned or awaiting trial.
The risk of interstate war between Slovakia and any other country is low. The country is part of the EU, NATO, and the regional Visegrad Four (V4) group, which means that any potential conflicts are more likely to be solved through diplomatic channels rather than military conflict. Although some bilateral issues exist (such as the nuclear power issue with Austria and the issue of the treatment of ethnic minorities with Hungary), these are highly unlikely to escalate into an armed conflict. Slovakia has a sizeable Hungarian ethnic minority (around 10% of the population); however, the risk of civil war is highly improbable.
The risk of protests is likely to remain moderate. The most significant risk stems from demonstrations and counter-demonstrations organised by far-right/nationalist groups, which tend to stage rallies against the government's immigration policy, during pride parades as well as over anti-Roma and anti-Hungarian sentiment. The anti-immigration protests are likely to attract activists from neighbouring countries and turn violent either due to fights between protesters and police or between pro- and anti-immigration activists. It is highly unlikely that businesses will be directly targeted. Anti-government and anti-corruption protests have become more frequent, but they will most probably remain small and peaceful.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
No vaccinations are required to enter the country.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Tick-Borne Encephalitis: For stays in rural zones and for hiking enthusiasts (for children over the age of one).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
The country often suffers from summer floods following heavy rain. In 1998, 2002, 2006, and in 2013, the country experienced severe flooding that left dozens dead.
Between November and March, important snowfalls can isolate some parts of the country (roads and rails cut, electricity outages, etc.).
Despite the small number of highways, the motorway is generally well developed. However secondary and peri-urban roads may be in bad condition (deformed pavement, pothole, indication failure, etc.).
Roads in remote areas are often poorly maintained and can be dangerous. Extreme vigilance is advised at night due to the lack of proper street lighting. Horse-drawn carts, agricultural vehicles, cyclists, and vehicles without taillights or reflectors are common. Moreover, drivers can be very aggressive.
Vehicles are required to be fitted with snow tires from November 1 until May 1. Dipped-beam headlamps are required to be turned on during both the day and night. It is necessary for drivers to display a sticker on a vehicle windshield, authorizing the circulation on highways and national roads, otherwise punishable by fine. This sticker, which has a limited period, is available at border posts, post offices and at some gas stations. Driving under influence is strictly forbidden.
Travelers should note that few domestic flights are operated in Slovakia.
Trains are slow but the railway network is dense and in a good state.
It should also be noted that public transportation (tramways, bus and trolley bus in Bratislava) is reliable and well-developed.
Taxis are usually reliable and inexpensive. It is advised to order a taxi ahead. Riders should check the meter and ask for a price estimate before using the taxi. It is recommended not to use informal taxi companies.
Slovakia has a continental climate. The hottest and driest regions are the southern and eastern plains. The coldest month is January (-2°C average) and the hottest are July and August (21°C average). The period from May to September is generally quite sunny, despite periodic thunderstorms.
Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz