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The Slovak Republic is located in eastern Central Europe and, with an area of 49 036 km², is slightly larger than Switzerland. It borders Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the southwest and the Czech Republic to the northwest.
The landscape of the Slovak Republic is characterized by the mountains of the Western Carpathians, the western part of the Carpathian Arc. The Western Carpathians are divided into numerous mountain ranges by numerous basins and valleys. The Carpathian Arc begins in western Slovakia with the Little Carpathians, which reach heights of up to 750 m. The Carpathian Mountains are the most important mountain ranges in Slovakia. To the north the White Carpathians, the Javornik Mountains, the High Tatras and to the north-east the Low Beskydy Mountains follow in the outer arc. In the High Tatras lies the highest elevation of the Slovak Republic, the Gerlsdorf peak with 2 655 m. The Inner Carpathian Arch includes the Small and Great Tatras, the Low Tatras (up to about 2,000 m) and the Slovak Ore Mountains, which reach heights of up to about 1,470 m. The Tatra Mountains are the highest in the Slovak Republic.
Only in the southwest and the east of the country there are extensive plains, where Slovakia has a share in the Small Hungarian Plain (Kisalföld) and the Alföld, the Great Hungarian Plain. A large part of the rivers that originate in the Western Carpathians drain towards the south towards the Danube, which partly marks the border with neighbouring Hungary. The longest river in Slovakia is the Waag (Váh), which rises in the Low Tatras and flows into the Danube after 390 km. The capital Bratislava lies in the southwest of the country on the banks of the Danube.
According to the 1993 Constitution, Slovakia is a parliamentary republic with a multi-party system. The head of state is the president (since June 2004 Ivan Gasparovic), who is directly elected by the people for a term of five years. He appoints the prime minister as head of government (since April 2012 Robert Fico), usually the representative of the strongest party in parliament.
The legislative power lies with the Parliament, which consists of one chamber (National Council, Narodna Rada Slovenskej Republiky). The 150 deputies are elected by the people through a proportional system for a term of four years. The main parties are the Directional Social Democracy Party (SMER-SD), the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) and the Ordinary People and Independent Persons Party (OL’aNO). The Slovak Republic is divided into eight regions (Kraje).
Contrary to unfavourable forecasts, the economy of the Slovak Republic has experienced a marked upturn since independence was achieved in 1993. Although the official negotiations for accession to the European Union did not begin until 2000, they were concluded in time for the country to become a member of the EU on 1 May 2004. Slovakia adopted the euro on 1 January 2009. The only problem remains high unemployment (13.5%). Economic growth amounted to 2.5 % in 2012.
Agriculture in Slovakia is traditionally poorly educated and contributes just under 4 % to the gross domestic product (GDP), but also employs only 3 % of the working population. About one third of the country serves as agricultural land. Cereals, sugar beet, potatoes, vineyards, tobacco and hops are cultivated. Cattle and pig breeding are important in livestock farming.
In particular, the various areas of heavy industry have been intensively developed since the 1950s. After the collapse of the markets of the Eastern Bloc, these energy- and raw material-intensive sectors of Slovak industry almost came to a standstill: The share of industrial production in GDP fell from over 60% in 1991 to 24% in 2000. Many of the enterprises are now considered outdated and no longer competitive. Of particular importance today are mechanical engineering and vehicle construction, the chemical and pharmaceutical industries and metal production. In 2011, the share was 35% again. The country has deposits of lignite, copper and iron ores, lead, zinc, magnesium and mercury. The country’s energy supply is secured by coal-fired, hydroelectric and nuclear power plants.
The service sector was able to increase its share of GDP to around 61% in parallel with the decline in industry. The main imports are machinery, vehicles, industrial intermediate products and raw materials. The most important trading partners for both imports and exports (machinery and transport equipment, industrial intermediate products, finished goods) are the other EU states (above all Germany), the Czech Republic and Russia.
The total road network is around 25 600 kilometres. There are around 3 600 km of rail available. There are five international airports, the largest of which is located near the capital Bratislava. The most important waterway in the country is the Danube, which connects Slovakia with several countries. The currency is the euro.