Slovakia

   

Policy Performance

#29

Economic Policies

#33
Despite steady economic growth, Slovakia receives a relatively low overall ranking (rank 33) with regard to economic policies. Its score on this measure has increased by 0.3 points as compared to its 2014 level.

Growth rates have been above 3% for several years, driven by external demand and household spending. Overall investment returned to growth in 2017. New auto-production agreements are positive, but increase the country’s dependence on this single sector.

Unemployment rates are moderately high but falling. Long-term unemployment rates are very high in cross-EU comparison, and labor-market participation rates are low in a number of groups. Labor mobility is also low, creating significant geographical differences in unemployment rates. A shortage of skilled labor for industrial production has emerged.

Tax policy has most recently focused on fighting tax evasion. However, the tax system has been reformed numerous times in recent years, drawing complaints about a lack of certainty. Deficits have been reduced to sustainable levels, thanks both to strong growth and restrained expenditures. R&D policy is underdeveloped.

Social Policies

#32
With several notable weaknesses, Slovakia scores relatively poorly in international comparison (rank 32) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Education funding is rising, but remains very low in comparative terms. A new dual vocational-training system has drawn only limited interest. A new strategy seeks to reduce education gaps within the Roma community. Health insurance is mandatory, but quality and efficiency are concerns. Emigration by doctors and nurses to other EU countries has resulted in staff shortages.

The poverty risk is low, but regional disparities are strong. The Roma community is badly marginalized. Women bear primary domestic responsibilities, with child-care provision limited. The government has begun to shift focus from cash benefits to child care. However, women’s employment rates remain quite low, especially for parents.

A pension indexing system has been reversed, with benefit levels increased. The resulting costs may become a budgetary concern. The prime minister opposed EU refugee-distribution policy, publicly associating migrants with the threat of terrorism. Public spending on domestic security and public order is now the highest in the European Union as a percentage of GDP.

Environmental Policies

#17
With growth given a higher priority than conservation, Slovakia falls into the upper-middle ranks (rank 17) with regard to environmental policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points relative to its 2014 level.

The country’s approach to environmental issues has been somewhat patchy, with weak implementation of existing laws. Energy demand for industrial production is high.

Despite reliance on nuclear power, which generates more than half of the country’s electricity, CO2 emissions increased in 2016. The renewables share is less than 10%. Completion of two additional nuclear plants, the country’s third and fourth, has been repeatedly delayed.

The country ratified the Paris climate accords in 2016, but the country is not an international agenda-setter. The government has questioned EU renewable-energy targets, which will be difficult for Slovakia to achieve.

Democracy

#27

Quality of Democracy

#26
Despite fair and inclusive electoral procedures, Slovakia falls into the lower-middle ranks (rank 26) with respect to democracy quality. Its score on this issue has declined by 0.3 points since 2014.

Campaign-financing rules have been strengthened, but a new electoral commission is dominated by parties rather than independent figures. Referenda rights are robust, though rarely used. Political pressure on the media has increased still further, though the high degree of pluralism ensures that diverse candidates retain fair access.

Civil rights are largely respected, but judicial integrity and mistreatment of the Roma population are problems. Demonstrations and protests have become more common. The government has stirred anti-immigrant feelings, and rates of discrimination and violence against minorities are relatively high.

A long-running dispute between the president and parliament that delayed appointments to the Constitutional Court was finally resolved. The minister of justice has sought to increase transparency and fight corruption in the judicial system, though with little support from the governing coalition.

Governance

#35

Executive Capacity

#34
With a number of notable weaknesses, Slovakia receives a relatively low overall score (rank 34) in the area of executive capacity. Its score on this measure has fallen by 0.3 points relative to 2014.

The Government Office lacks strategic-planning capacities and sectoral policy-evaluation expertise. Line ministries draft bills with comparatively little substantive oversight. Ministerial committees play a major role in the preparation of proposals. Informal coordination has also been important, both in coalition councils and as the prime minister has capitalized on his position as a strong party leader.

RIAs have improved over time, but continue to play a marginal role overall. The current government does not regard consultation with societal actors as a high priority. Communication has been relatively consistent with the exception of an August 2017 coalition crisis. The previous Fico government’s agenda has been carried over, but with many reform projects delayed or pursued erratically.

Ministerial compliance has deteriorated somewhat under the new coalition government, and monitoring has weakened. The country has engaged in considerable decentralization, but funding for subnational governments is precarious. The Fico government distanced itself from the euroskeptic Visegrad countries, prioritizing EU relations.

Executive Accountability

#31
With a number of outstanding gaps, Slovakia scores relatively poorly overall (rank 31) with regard to executive accountability. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have moderate resources. Oversight powers are not always respected by the executive, and the government’s legislative majority limits scrutiny. The audit office’s independence from the government has been questioned. The ombudswoman has taken vocal stances on behalf of groups facing discrimination.

Disenchantment with politics has contributed to declining popular policy awareness, a situation exacerbated by the government’s paternalistic governing style. The quality of media reporting is not high, with ownership changes exacerbating concerns about political bias. Online conspiracy sites pose a new risk.

Slovak parties tend to be dominated by their leaders, although several newly formed centrist parties are more democratic. Business lobbying groups are active and produce comprehensive analysis of reform needs, while unions are more fragmented. The vibrant civil society strongly influences public discourse.
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