DURING A September 14-15 annual meeting of the Central European Free Trade Alliance (CEFTA) in Bratislava, Slovak PM Mikuláš Dzurinda said his country could leave the group if it gained EU membership as expected in 2004.
According to European Union rules, EU countries may not be members of other economic groupings.
CEFTA was founded in 1994 to promote trade without barriers in the region, and unites Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria. Croatia is expected to join by the end of this year.
Over 25 per cent of Slovak exports go to CEFTA countries, with whom Slovakia had a strong trade surplus of almost $500 million last year.