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European future uncertain

SLOVAKS entered the year almost certain of their entry into the EU in May 2004, after the September 2002 elections put in power pro-democratic forces acceptable to the West. The EU's decision to accept 10 new members, Slovakia among them, came as one of the last news items of that year.
The last major hurdle the country had to clear was a successful referendum in which citizens would make their decision on EU accession.

SLOVAKS entered the year almost certain of their entry into the EU in May 2004, after the September 2002 elections put in power pro-democratic forces acceptable to the West. The EU's decision to accept 10 new members, Slovakia among them, came as one of the last news items of that year.
The last major hurdle the country had to clear was a successful referendum in which citizens would make their decision on EU accession. Thanks in great part to the cabinet's inability to get ready for the popular vote, this turned out to be a bigger challenge than expected.
Now, at the end of 2003, the fate of the EU itself is far from certain:


January 21 - At an extraordinary session, the parliament passes a final resolution to call a referendum on Slovakia's EU entry. President Rudolf Schuster later officially declares that the public vote will be held on May 16 and 17. Voters will be asked to answer the question: "Do you agree that Slovakia should become a member of the European Union?"


March - Slovak MPs support an amendment proposed by the ruling Christian Democrats (KDH) to the country's treaty on EU accession, granting Slovakia autonomy in decisions regarding cultural and ethical issues. The issues could include abortion and the rights of homosexual couples.


March 7 - The European Commission (EC) warns Slovakia that it has not yet fulfilled its commitments in regional politics, coordination of structural funds, and harmonisation of financial laws.

March 11 - Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan warns that the 14 days planned for the government's EU campaign is too short a time.


March 21 - A survey shows the number of Slovaks who intend to vote in the referendum on Slovakia's entry to the EU fell to 66.9 percent in March, a loss of 5 percentage points compared to February.


April 16 - In Athens, President Rudolf Schuster signs Slovakia's EU accession treaty, finalising a significant part of the integration process. The accession treaties provide the legal basis for EU entry, laying out the rights and responsibilities of each state and the larger bloc. The Slovak government approved the treaty unanimously on April 10.


April 28 - Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration Pál Csáky admits that the government has made "a faux pas" after it withdraws the anthem for its EU referendum campaign because of copyright infringement.


May 16 -17 - Just over 52 percent of eligible voters take part in the referendum on Slovakia's entry to the European Union, out of which 92.46 percent were in favour and around 6 percent against. Slovak law requires that a referendum have more than 50 percent attendance to be valid.


May 26 - EC general director for regional policy, Luiz Riera, tells Csáky that Slovakia is the least-prepared country for entry into the European Union. Among the problems are the need for Slovakia to resolve its lack of cofinancing for projects, lack of administrative capability, and poor cooperation between ministries.


September 23 - The parliament approves Slovakia's position on the EU's draft constitutional treaty for the EU intergovernmental conference (IGC), which starts on October 4 in Italy. The IGC participants will negotiate a draft constitutional treaty, a compromise document prepared by the European Convention, which completed its work on July 10. The Slovak delegation is to pursue several priorities - a one-country-one-commissioner policy, just rotation in the ministerial councils, preserving unanimous voting in some key areas such as taxes, social affairs, and the protection of economic and social cohesion.


November 5 - The long-anticipated progress report of the EC on Slovakia softens the criticism the country received for its EU entry-related deficits in May, pleasing the country's leaders. The EC remains unhappy about the country's delays in establishing an agricultural payment agency and introducing the Integrated Administration and Control System to manage payments from public finances. Slovakia's disregard for EU steel production quotas; the law on retail chains, which is hostile to the free movement of goods and services; and problems with food hygiene standards are also causes for EC concern.


December 13 - EU leaders fail to reach an agreement on the future EU constitution at a summit in Brussels. Slovak leaders express their disappointment at a failure to find compromise and declare their commitment to more intensive integration.


Compiled by Lukáš Fila.

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