Education of young Roma and boosting tourism: How Swiss funds help change Slovakia

23 projects were carried out so far, others may follow soon.

An observation tower, reminiscent of a big barrel, is a favourite tourist attraction in the Tokaj region. An observation tower, reminiscent of a big barrel, is a favourite tourist attraction in the Tokaj region. (Source: TASR)

Visitors to the village of Malá Tŕňa, situated in the Tokaj region in southeastern Slovakia, can take a look at the vineyards and their surroundings from a unique observation tower that resembles a gigantic wine barrel. The 12-metre-tall construction is beloved by both tourists and experts, who even labelled it the construction of the year.

The observation tower was built in 2015 as part of the Tokaj je len jeden (Tokaj is the Only One) project, financed through the EU enlargement contribution Switzerland provides to new EU member states to reduce the economic and social differences between them and more developed member states of the European Union.

“The Swiss Financial Mechanism was a unique opportunity for the Tokaj wine region to raise the standard of living of the local inhabitants and by developing local infrastructure to increase the number of visits,” Michaela Jánošík Maciková, project manager of the Association of Tokaj Wine Route, told The Slovak Spectator.

The project, focused on developing tourism, has had a great effect on the whole region, she added.

Apart from the new observation tower, the money was used to train new guides and local small entrepreneurs and craftspeople, reconstruct information centres and build cycling routes, as well as launch a website with GPS locations.

Funds from the Swiss Financial Mechanism were used to boost tourism in other localities around Slovakia, too, help promote dual education at vocational schools and support Roma from marginalised communities. The country contributed a total of 63.5 million Swiss francs (more than €55 million) to 23 projects in Slovakia between June 2007 and June 2017.

The Swiss are content with the outcome of the projects

Switzerland autonomously decides which projects it will support via its financial mechanism and agrees on this directly with partner countries, according to the official website.

The rest of this article is premium content at
Subscribe now for full access

I already have subscription - Sign in

Subscription provides you with:
  • Immediate access to all locked articles (premium content) on
  • Special weekly news summary + an audio recording with a weekly news summary to listen to at your convenience (received on a weekly basis directly to your e-mail)
  • PDF version of the latest issue of our newspaper, The Slovak Spectator, emailed directly to you
  • Access to all premium content on and

Get daily Slovak news directly to your inbox

Top stories

How a Catholic charity became a voice for migrants in Slovakia

Religious organisations have added leverage in changing perceptions of foreigners and migrants, says Caritas Slovakia.

Caritas Slovakia's ‘World Without “the Other” – Migration Myths’ campaign educates Slovaks on migration in a fun and artistic way.

Secret votes and public lies

There are uncanny echoes today of Slovakia’s agonies over its choice of chief prosecutor ten years ago.

Dobroslav Trnka (left) and Jozef Čentéš (right), the candidate who was eventually selected by MPs in 2011, never got to take up the post because the then president, Ivan Gašparovič refused to appoint him for reasons that were never clearly explained.

Which are the largest law firms in Slovakia?

For the first time, the ranking also provides an overview in partial categories of law.