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Slovakia celebrates the 20th anniversary of the velvet split

SLOVAKIA as we know it today celebrates 20 years of its existence on January 1, 2013. On this day in 1993, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (ČSFR) split up to give life to two new independent states: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The split of the ČSFR is often referred to as “the velvet break-up”, since it was carried out by constitutional agreements without any violence, unlike in former Yugoslavia.

SLOVAKIA as we know it today celebrates 20 years of its existence on January 1, 2013. On this day in 1993, the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic (ČSFR) split up to give life to two new independent states: the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic. The split of the ČSFR is often referred to as “the velvet break-up”, since it was carried out by constitutional agreements without any violence, unlike in former Yugoslavia.

The Slovak Republic was established on January 1, 1993, when the parliament and the cabinet at its joint session passed a statement regarding the emergence of the independent state. Ever since, January 1 has been a national holiday in Slovakia, marking the emergence of the country.

The velvet break-up was preceded by a number of meetings and negotiations between Czechoslovak, Czech and Slovak politicians and state institutions in the period between 1990 and 1992. On January 21, 1992, the Federal Assembly of the ČSFR (the federal parliament) did not pass two proposals of then Czechoslovak President Václav Havel: his amendment of the constitutional law on referendum and the constitutional law on passing the new Constitution of the ČSFR. Following that, on March 11, negotiations between the Slovak National Council and the Czech National Council (the national parliaments) over the organisation of the state were suspended, and newly-elected national parliaments were expected to resume.

The winners of the 1992 parliamentary elections, the Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic, and the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), led by Vladimír Mečiar, in the Slovak Republic, launched negotiations over the break-up.

On July 17, 1992 the Slovak parliament passed the Declaration on the Sovereignty of the Slovak Republic, a symbolic document, which was followed by the passing of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic on September 1. The Constitution became effective on October 1.

The Federal Assembly passed the constitutional law on the dissolution of the ČSFR on November 25, 1992, which became effective on December 31, 1992, at midnight.

The two governments also signed an agreement on the common proceeding of the passing of rights and duties from the work contracts of the state bodies and state organisations of the federation.

During the very first day of its existence the Slovak Republic was diplomatically recognised by 93 states, among them the US, Russia, China, the UK, Germany and France. The first diplomat to submit official documents regarding diplomatic relations was the general consul of Germany, who did so 30 minutes after midnight between December 31, 1992 and January 1, 1993.

The Slovak Republic was also admitted as a member of world organisations and institutions, such as the World Bank and the United Nations. Later, in March 1993, Slovakia became a member of CEFTA, the Council of Europe and others.

Since February 8, 1993, the official currency of the Slovak Republic was the Slovak crown, which was used until January 1, 2009, when it was replaced by the common European currency.

On February 15, 1993, the Slovak parliament elected the first Slovak president, Michal Kováč, who ran as the candidate of the HZDS.

The break-up of the ČSFR was a way out of an uncompromising situation, according to Milan Zemko from the Historical Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

“In post-November 1989 Czecho-Slovakia it quickly became clear that there were very diverse ideas about the authentic federation,” Zemko said in an interview with the SITA newswire, and explained that Czech politicians were talking about a so-called functional, significantly centralised federation, while Slovak politicians favoured a rather looser marriage.

As early as 1990 the Czechs and Slovaks engaged in the so-called hyphen war, after the Slovak side opposed the Czechoslovak Republic as a new name for the country, and demanded the name Czecho-Slovak Republic instead. In the end a compromise was reached whereby the name was passed without the hyphen in the Czech language and with it in Slovak.

In multinational post-socialist states the break-up of federations previously ruled by centralised communist parties was part of the democratisation process, Zemko noted.

“In Central-Eastern Europe this was how the emancipation processes of smaller nations, which were launched as early as the 19th century, were rounded up,” Zemko said.

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