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The colours of May 1

FOR MOST Slovaks aged 30 and up, Labour Day is still associated with compulsory attendance at pre-1989 events intended to glorify communist rule. Nowadays, most people prefer to devote themselves to leisure activities, detached from politics. It is a day when zoos and various tourist sites around the country open for the main summer season. Despite that, many organisations and individuals still use May 1 to further their political aims.

FOR MOST Slovaks aged 30 and up, Labour Day is still associated with compulsory attendance at pre-1989 events intended to glorify communist rule. Nowadays, most people prefer to devote themselves to leisure activities, detached from politics. It is a day when zoos and various tourist sites around the country open for the main summer season. Despite that, many organisations and individuals still use May 1 to further their political aims.

Labour Day 2013 saw a variety of events taking place in Bratislava. In the morning, the Communist Party organised a gathering at the city’s SNP Square to mark the day as they used to in pre-Velvet Revolution times. Later that day, the same venue served as a stage for a protest demonstration organised by independent MP Alojz Hlina entitled ‘Against the loan-sharks’, to draw public attention to the alleged practices of some loan companies that lend money at what Hlina called ‘loan-shark interest rates’.

Also, a group of unemployed people marched through the centre of the country’s capital on Labour Day, under the banner ‘We are united by discontent and desire for a change’.

Finally, a group of activists protested in front of the General Prosecutor’s Office, where passersby could sign a petition calling for the investigation of corruption cases.

Politicians meanwhile used the day to travel around Slovakia to attend events in the regions. Prime Minister Robert Fico marked the national holiday in Žilina, where he attended a public gathering organised by the Confederation of Labour Unions Associations.

On May 1, Slovakia also marks an important anniversary from its recent history. This year was exactly nine years since the so-called big-bang enlargement, when the European Union accepted 10 new members, mostly countries of the former Eastern bloc. Slovakia was among them.

The country’s journey to membership started in October 1993, when it signed an association agreement in Luxembourg. In 1995, during a summit in Cannes, then prime minister Vladimír Mečiar submitted Slovakia’s official membership request. However, two years later the European Commission refused to include Slovakia among the countries on course to join the union because it did not fulfil its political criteria, the SITA newswire wrote.

The situation changed in 1998, when the EU praised the parliamentary elections in Slovakia, which it described as “a positive step towards the integration of Slovakia into European structures”. The country’s membership was officially approved during a summit in Copenhagen held in December 2002. The accession agreement was then signed on April 16, 2003.

Before Slovakia officially joined the EU, a referendum was held in which 92.46 percent of those who took part supported Slovak membership of the union, SITA wrote.

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