KUKAN and Dzurinda applaud Nato nod.
The results come after four years of intensive diplomatic activity. The country had a lot of catching up to do, since the neighbouring Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland already had invitations to Nato in their hands in 1998, and in 1999 became full members. At the same time, these three countries were way ahead of Slovakia in their entry talks with the EU.
The following are this year's milestones along the road to Western integration:
February 9 - Foreign ministers of EU countries at an informal meeting in Spain pronounce Poland, Cyprus and Slovakia "problem countries" for EU entry, the latter because of uncertainty over the outcome of September elections.
February 27 - The US ambassador to Nato, Nicholas Burns, says on a visit to Bratislava that Washington had "fundamental concerns" about the possible victory of the opposition Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) party in fall elections because there was "no proof the leadership of the party has changed". He was referring to HZDS boss authoritarian three-time former prime minister Vladimír Mečiar, who is widely distrusted by the West.
March 7 - Nato Secretary General George Robertson urges Slovaks to vote in fall elections for parties that would be able to lead the country into Nato. "It's that simple," he says.
June 7 - President Rudolf Schuster meets US President Bush in the White House. Bush pledges to help Slovakia become a Nato member provided the country forms a cabinet after the upcoming September general elections that does not include former Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar or his HZDS party.
June 19 - The parliament votes to send a unit of Slovak army engineers to Afghanistan to help repair the airport in Bagram. The expedition is received with approval by Nato leaders.
October 9 - The EC issues its long-awaited report on progress achieved in the accession process. The Commission predicts that Slovakia and nine other candidate countries will have fulfilled the EU's accession criteria by the given deadlines. In addition, the Commission says it expects Slovakia to rectify identified problem areas such as the judiciary, corruption and issues surrounding the country's Roma minority.
October 25 - Leaders of all 15 EU countries at a summit in Brussels formally accept Slovakia as a prospective member, along with nine other candidate countries.
November 18 - EU ministers put back entry date for candidate countries from January 2004 to May 2004.
November 21 - Slovakia and six other post-communist countries receive invitations to become members of Nato at the Alliance's summit in the Czech capital Prague, in the biggest wave of eastward expansion in the organisation's 53-year history. The invited countries are expected to join Nato in 2004.
November 20 - The European Parliament (EP) passes a resolution on EU enlargement, with only 20 of the 505 MEPs present voting against and 30 abstaining. The resolution calls on Slovakia to step up the fight against corruption at all levels.
December 15 - Slovakia wraps up EU accession negotiations in Copenhagen, after bickering with Brussels for weeks over farm subsidy levels and other budgetary matters.