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Visegrad Four experts send letter to top EU officials Locked A group of high-profile experts on European policy, advisors and former deputy foreign ministers of the Visegrad Four has sent an open letter to leading figures of the EU with recommendations concerning Central Europe, the Central European Policy Institute (CEPI), which prepared the letter with Polish think tank demosEuropa, informed the TASR newswire on September 30. The letter was sent to new European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, new European Council President Donald Tusk and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. It contains recommendations for Brussels institutions vis-a-vis central Europe over the next decade. “The next five years will be a test for Europe,” the letter reads. “Enormous expectations have been put on your leadership. You can find allies in Central Europe for building a competitive and open EU.” The signatories identified five main spheres that will be crucial for the further development of the Visegrad Four (V4) countries (Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland). These include a common energy policy that should be viewed as an inseparable part of the EU’s growth strategy, with the goal of introducing a joint energy market stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Adriatic Sea and eastern Mediterranean, and a reduction of energy dependency on Russia. The V4 countries also highlighted digitalisation and innovation. The signatories noted that Central Europe has significantly contributed towards the competitiveness of the entire EU, but it must now move forward to a growth model based on innovations. This must include ensuring better access to funds for small and medium-sized companies and creating an appropriate financial environment for start-ups. The experts also stressed the need to develop cross-border transport infrastructure in the region and to support the internal market, including via the free movement of labour. The signatories further called on the top EU representatives to do everything they can to promote Ukraine’s successful transformation. They also stated that the process of accession talks with countries of the Western Balkans should not be sidelined. 1 Oct 2014
Economy projected to grow slower this year, by 2.3 percent Slovak economy is expected to see a growth of 2.3 percent this year, 2.9 percent next year and 3.5 percent in 2016, according to the latest prognosis released by the Slovak Central Bank (NBS) published on September 30. In comparison to the previous estimate, NBS reduced expectations of growth by 0.1 percentage point for 2014 and 0.3 percentage point for 2015. “In real economy, prediction risks stem from potential additional escalation of geopolitical tensions,” NBS governor Jozef Makúch said at a press conference, as quoted by the TASR newswire. “Also, specific technical risk is posed by the adoption of a new ESA 2010 methodology in national accounts statistics.” It is mostly domestic consumption that might influence the growth of GDP this year. “The structure of economic growth is undergoing changes, with the share of exports beginning to decline in favour of rising domestic demand,” said NBS vice-governor Ján Tóth, adding that domestic demand fuels more than half of economic growth now. NBS estimates that consumer prices will stagnate this year and see a growth of 1.2 percent in 2015, a prognosis that prompted the central bank to expect a lower inflation by 0.4 percentage point. Among reasons for this, Tóth cited lower food prices as well as slower development in prices of services. Inflation is likely to reach 1.9 percent in 2016. NBS also stated that salaries see a surprisingly accelerated growth, which does not reflect the inflation-free environment. “This is mostly due to developments not only in public but also private sectors,” claimed Tóth, adding that salaries grow mostly in industrial sphere and public sector. Foreign demand continues to pose a potential risk for Slovak economy. On the contrary, it is domestic demand that might spur further growth. The NBS also sees risks in the future development of inflation which might be pushed by higher oil prices and lower euro exchange rates, whereas food prices could have the opposite effect. 1 Oct 2014
Roma proxy: EU-funded project launched to resolve squatter issues A pilot project is to be launched in Krásna Hôrka in the south-eastern Slovakia, designed to tackle problems relating to the ownership of land upon which an illegal Roma settlement is built. The project is to be carried out by a working group composed of various experts from a number of institutions and will operate on a budget of €30,000. 1 Oct 2014
Finance Ministry: 2014 budget deficit projection increases to 2.93 percent The Finance Ministry has altered its forecast for the public finance deficit in 2014 - from 2.64 percent of GDP as envisioned in the budget for 2014-16 to 2.93 percent of GDP. The respective document was approved by the government. The latest forecast takes into consideration the ministry’s macroeconomic and tax prognosis from September and incorporates them into the latest available data regarding budget developments. The increase in the deficit can be attributed to negative developments in the budgets of local municipalities, public health insurance and expected results of audits by the European Commission. “Changes in state reporting are another negative factor,” the ministry informed the TASR newswire on September 30. September saw the introduction of a new accounting framework called the European System of National and Regional Accounts (ESA 2010). Conversely, the ministry expects to collect more in taxes and social and health-care levies. The Slovak economy continued to grow at a solid rate in the second quarter of 2014; 2.5 percent year-on-year. “The quarter-on-quarter pace of growth decelerated slightly to 0.6 percent,” reads the ministry report. The growth was mainly propelled by domestic demand which grew at the fastest rate since the outbreak of the crisis in 2008. This also fuelled growth in employment, as the number of working people went up by 1.2 percent year-on-year, squeezing the jobless rate to 13.2 percent in the second quarter of 2014. The average nominal salary rose by 4.8 percent on an annual basis to €857 in the second quarter of the year, with real salaries rising at the same pace thanks to largely unchanged prices. “Real salaries in 2014 will grow at the fastest pace since 2007,” according to the ministry which also expects the average annual inflation to stand at 0.1 percent this year. 1 Oct 2014
Serbian drug dealer obtained Slovak citizenship illegally SLOVAKIA granted citizenship to Serbian drug dealer Dragoslav Kosmajac and another two Serbs illegally, private broadcaster TV Markíza reported on September 28. 30 Sep 2014
Božena production may move to Czech Republic KRUPINA-based Way Industries may move its production of Božena demining machines to the Czech Republic. The firm has allegedly turned to Czech investment agency CzechInvest with a request to prepare an offer for moving the plant, the TASR newswire reported on September 30. 30 Sep 2014
NATO air combat exercises take place in Slovakia AS MANY as 660 soldiers from 14 NATO countries and two countries of the Partnership for Peace are taking part in the MACE XVI air combat exercises in Slovakia, the TASR newswire reported on September 29. 30 Sep 2014
Váhostav asks for restructuring THE CONSTRUCTION company Váhostav-SK is trying to avoid bankruptcy, and has asked the court for protection from creditors and to launch the restructuring process, the SITA newswire reported on September 26. 30 Sep 2014
Economic sentiment rose slightly in September THE ECONOMIC sentiment indicator (ESI) changed little in September. Compared to the previous month its three-month moving average rose by 0.2 points to 103.1 points. The positive development of confidence in construction was cancelled out by the negative development among consumers and in services. 30 Sep 2014
Kiska: Slovaks in US should present ideas to help Slovakia SLOVAKS living abroad should not forget their homeland, and should come up with ideas that would help Slovakia, Slovak President Andrej Kiska told the Slovak community living in the US during the Slovak Heritage Festival in Holmdel, New Jersey on September 28. 30 Sep 2014
IFP expects to collect €300 million more taxes in 2014 THE STATE’s revenues from taxes and levies are expected to go up by €300 million in 2014, which is a 0.4-percent GDP increase. This follows from the latest prognosis by the Finance Ministry’s Financial Policy Institute (IFP) published on September 29. 30 Sep 2014
Foreigners sleep outside foreigners’ police office in Petržalka THE QUEUES in front of the Office of the Border and Alien Police in Bratislava’s Petržalka borough are so long that people are arriving 15 hours before business hours and sleeping outdoors on the ground or in tents. 30 Sep 2014
Glance House may go to businessman Kočner due to Supreme Court delays FOR four years, Slovak authorities have been unable to conclude the infamous case of the Glance House development. On October 3, the interlocutory judgment of the Supreme Court, which suspended the ruling of the Prešov District Court that the ownership of Glance House can be transferred to the mailbox company CDI, which is close to businessman Marián Kočner, will elapse, the Sme daily wrote on September 30. 30 Sep 2014
Frešo remains at SDKÚ’s helm AN ATTEMPT to oust SDKÚ chair Pavol Frešo at the party’s extraordinary congress in Senica on September 27 failed after an insufficient number of delegates voted to dismiss him. Subsequently, three of the party’s vice chairs resigned, the SITA newswire reported on same day. 29 Sep 2014
LGBTI activist Schlesinger joins liberal Freedom and Solidarity LIBERALS from the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party have decided to bolster their team, opening its door to LGBTI activist Romana Schlesinger, SaS chairman and MEP Richard Sulík told the press on September 26, the TASR newswire reported. 29 Sep 2014
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“I have never experienced something like this.” Ondrej Matej, a candidate for the SDKÚ chairman post, after finding all the locks had been changed at the party’s headquarters, where he wanted to hold a press conference.