Around Slovakia

Project to help victims of human trafficking

INTERIOR Minister Robert Kaliňák has signed an agreement to work with NGOs on a project aimed at protecting and supporting the victims of human trafficking.
The project involves three NGOs - Dotyk, Prima, and Strom - that engage in locating and helping the victims of such crimes. Under the project, victims will be identified and accommodated in anonymous flats where they will be well looked after.
The agreement, which was signed on February 9, states that the ministry will provide Sk2 million (€57,900) for the project. According to Kaliňák, this figure might be increased in the future. The ministry has also prepared leaflets to help guide victims of human trafficking to the authorities or to organisations that can help them. In addition, the ministry is considering increasing the number of staff in its section dealing with human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and victim support.
The number of human-trafficking offences recorded in Slovakia rose from nine in 1998 to 49 in 2005. "These often involve girls who are lured with false offers of a variety of jobs," said Barbora Kuchárová of Prima. The victims are then intimidated with physical violence, deprived of their documents, and threatened with reprisals, including the murder of their relatives.

Tighter rules for church registration proposed

TO REGISTER a church in Slovakia will soon require the signatures of 20,000 members rather than just sympathizers, as is permitted in current legislation. The ruling coalition parties Smer and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) included this requirement in their joint amendment to the Law on Religious Freedom and the Status of Churches and Religious Association that passed on to its second reading in parliament on February 6.
HZDS MP Ľudmila Mušková explained that the law should prevent various dangerous sects from registering and demanding state support according to the law.
Mušková said that many people in Slovakia are naive and that such sects could abuse them in their efforts to get registered. Smer's Ján Podmanický rejected allegations that the amendment limits human rights. He insists it respects them.
The spokesman for the ruling Slovak National Party, Rafael Rafaj, supported the amendment. He also does not consider the amendment to be discriminatory. He stressed that the amendment is necessary, mentioning efforts to register a "church of atheists", though this was meant as a joke.
The opposition Christian Democrats support the amendment as well.

Bets are on!

THE 2006 SALES of Tipos, Slovakia's largest lottery company, climbed to a record high level of over Sk5 billion for the first time in the company's history.
Preliminary sales from lottery operations came to Sk5.027 billion last year. Based on the existing legislation, the company paid Sk589 million of the proceeds to the state.
In 2006, Tipos paid out Sk3.2 billion in prizes, which was 64 percent of the total annual sales from lottery operations. Thanks to lotteries, the number of millionaires in Slovakia increased by 29 people. The highest prize of Sk65.3 million went to a winner of a Loto lottery.
"The winners won 11 prizes worth over Sk10 million and another 18 prizes between Sk1 million and Sk10 million," informed Tipos. Compared to 2005, the volume of paid-out prizes increased by Sk1.2 billion.

The Seven Wonders of Slovakia

The church of Saint Margaret of Antioch in Kopčany dates back to the 9th century, which makes it the oldest preserved church in the former Great Moravian region.
photo: Jana Liptáková

SLOVAKIA is stepping up its efforts to have its own "seven wonders" included on the UNESCO World Heritage List, as the government believes that this might help stimulate tourism and encourage development in the regions, the Pravda daily reported on February 2.
Slovakia already has four cultural and one natural site on the list. The cultural sites include Spiš Castle near Levoča (in the eastern Slovak Prešov region), the largest castle in Central Europe; the town of Banská Štiavnica (in central Slovakia's Banská Bystrica region), an old mining town full of historical buildings; the village of Vlkolínec near Ružomberok (in the north-western Žilina region) with its outstanding 16th-19th century wooden houses; and the town of Bardejov (in the eastern Prešov region), a precious example of a medieval Central-European town.
Slovakia's single natural site on the UNESCO list is the 712 caves in the Slovenský Kras area in the eastern Slovak Košice region.
Although Ukraine has only got three sites on the list, and Slovenia only one, Hungary and Austria both have eight sites each, while the Czech Republic and Poland both have 12.
"Slovakia has great cultural potential and outstanding natural riches, so we'd like to nominate additional sites for the UNESCO list, although we can only submit one site each year," said Katarína Betkova from the Culture Ministry.
Slovakia has three sites that it is currently hoping to have added to the UNESCO list. These include a group of old Carpathian wooden churches in several locations; Komárno Fort in the western Slovak Nitra region, the largest defensive structure in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire; and the Church of St. Margita in Kopčany in the western Slovak Trnava region.

Dead miners still on "unpaid leave"

THREE of the four miners who died in November 2006 during a cave-in in the Nováky coal mine near Prievidza in the western Slovak Trenčín region have still not been officially certified as dead, the Hospodárske Noviny daily reported on February 6.
Moreover, they are still registered as employees of the mine, as if they were taking unpaid leave.
"We want to hold their death certificates in our hands and bury our husbands with dignity," Miroslava Ondrejková, the widow of one of the miners, told the daily.
So far, only the body of 41-year-old Jozef Néčey has been found and identified, while the investigation into the tragedy - which took place on November 16 - still continues after nearly three months.
The widows are shocked at how difficult it has been to obtain information about the tragedy. Police pathologists in Bratislava are still examining the body parts that were found by rescuers on December 12 in an attempt to decide to whom they belonged.

Aqua-Therm fair

AS MANY as 110 exhibitors showcased their products and services at the ninth Annual International Aqua-Therm Fair, which took place between February 6 and 9 at the Agrokomplex Exhibition Centre in Nitra.
The fair offered visitors the opportunity to see a wide range of exhibits and observe the main trends in the field. It focused mainly on ventilation systems, air-conditioning, measuring equipment, regulation, sanitation, and ecological technologies.
Slovak exhibitors were joined by exhibitors from the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, and Hungary, who made up 20 percent of the fair's total. This year's fair's main theme was energy conservation.
According to Jindřich Jirásek of Progress Partners Advertising from Prague, the company that organized the fair, around 15,000 visitors attend the event each year.
The visitors are mainly interested in various types of fuels, and equipment for heating, air-conditioning, water-filtration, and energy saving.
This year's fair was accompanied by a programme called Low Energy Days, which focused on ways to save energy. The program concentrated mainly on the construction of low-energy houses, said Jirásek.

Gas explosion kills woman and her daughter

A WOMAN and her four-year-old daughter were killed and another adult and a nine-year-old boy were injured on February 2 in what is believed to have been a gas explosion at a house in Krompachy in the eastern Slovak Košice region, the Nový Čas daily wrote.
The strong blast shook a neighbouring house and broke the windows of a bus that was passing the house at the time. Many people on the bus were also injured.
"Our house shook and the explosion broke our windows. I was frightened, so I went outside and saw that our neighbour's house was on fire," said neighbour Katarína Horváthová.
Doctors treated around 15 people who were injured, and two people were hospitalized. Doctors later stated that their condition was not critical.

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