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Annual Report of the Association Administrator Mr. Kasalovský to the 11th General Assembly

Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to say welcome to all full members and honorary members, and also to all guests in the 17th year activity of our association. Exceptionally, I enjoy presence of the first President of the Slovak Republic Mr. Michal Kováč.

For today´s General Assembly 78 full members and honorary members approved their presence with commitment, this is 38.5% of all registered members. Sixty members apologized their absence, this is 29.9 % of all members. In accordance with our Statutes, Part V., clause 5 and 9, from 27th September 2004, our General Assembly has a quorum for decision by absolute majority of present members. We have thirteen guests in today´s General Assembly, one of them is from the Czech Republic and one from Austria.

Let me nominate Mr. Ján Šály for general assembly recorder and Mr. Juraj Dlhopolček for verifier of the minutes. Also I wish to propose membership of election committee as follows: Ms. Eleonóra Bujačková, Mr. Jozef Dolník and Mr. Milan Zeman.

It is already 11th time I am obliged to submit you Annual Report. The 10th General Assembly was on 28th February 2008. It passed 20 month since then. How did we cope with main tasks we set for period of two years? There were two big topics: 1. business environment and 2. living environment of population - citizen with priorities as follows: natural environment and water, education and culture, health and fitness, security and citizen dignity, transport.

Esteemed participants,
I want to remain of the program of particular sessions. The new period we started with video conference named "Friendship Bridge" with former Prime Minister of Russia and current President of Chamber of Commerce and Industry Of the Russian Federation Mr. Jevgenij M. Primakov. On the 74th regular session and 203rd club event during the discussion it was approved currentness of our main topics but also the Russian part depicted a framework of possible problems of world economy.

I cancelled 75th session called for 29th May because Prime Minister Mr. Robert Fico changed his program. It occurred the first time in the history of the club.

Mr. Jevgenij M. Primakov, President of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Russian Federation and its colleagues met three - member delegation of our club. The opinion exchange topic concerned the development of Russian and world economy, relationship between Russia and the USA, water as a global priority number one and also the possibilities for the development of economic relationship between Russia and Slovakia.

On the 5th June 2008 the Administrator of the club received letter from Pope Benedict XVI, letter contained thanks for interest for his work and he also appreciated the club activities.

Further, 76th regular session was in the last day of September. The guest was Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Ľubomír Jahnátek, who spoke about economic environment in the Slovak Republic. President of partner NGO "People and water", Mr. Michal Kravčík introduced program of integrated flood protection and measures against climate extremes at all. Mr. Prof. Michal Novák, director of Neurology - Immunologic Institute of Slovak Academy of Science and Centre of Excellence spoke about Alzheimer´s disease. Ms. Zdenka Kramplová clarified more questions of food safety.

On 30th October 2008 was 77th regular session. Ms. Ivetta Macejková, President of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic spoke about constitutionality of the Slovak Republic. Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, dealt with actual questions of international policy. Slovak - Hungarian relationship in the 21st century depicted club Administrator Peter Kasalovský. Problems of tourism discussed Mr. Ján Bočkay. During this assembly also talked Ambassador of France H.E. Mr. Henry Cuny who particularly acknowledged activity of Mr. Ján Kubiš in the function of Minister of the Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic.

At the end of November there was discussion with Mr. Ivan Šramko, Governor of NBS (National Bank of Slovakia) about development of the world and capital markets and about significance of our admission to Eurozone. Prime Minister Mr. Robert Fico notified his attendance in the club but this time he did not go due to situation in the Parliament.

The 79th session took part on 24th February 2009. Introductory speech with the topic: "How to cope with negative consequences of globalisation and onward economic crisis" held Administrator Mr. Peter Kasalovský. Associated with this he clarified also mutual document of NGO People and Water, Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club and ZMOS (Association of the Cities and Municipalities of Slovakia) with the name "Slovak Waters for People". He presented also business plan of company Euročas, a.s, for navigability of Slovak river Váh and several other impulses to eliminate consequences of onward economic and financial crisis. On 13th March he submitted above- mentioned materials to Slovakia Prime Minister Mr. Robert Fico in presence of Deputy Chairperson Mr. Slavomír Hatina and Mr. Ladislav Krajňák.

Second main topic of club assembly was discussion "What is necessary for national success in competition among nations?" Introductory speech held President of Slovak Chancellor Conference and Chancellor of Slovak University of Technology in Bratislava Prof. Ladislav Báleš and Vice - chancellor of The Technical University of Košice, Prof. Juraj Sinay.

President of the Czech Republic Prof. Václav Klaus and honorary member of our club since 1994 meet eleven members of our club. He presented his opinions on development of the EU and also his opinions concerning climatic changes. He clarified also content of his presentations and knowledge from his stay in the USA. He agreed to publish above mentioned content in our website.

Our association participated on May conference with topic "Global Crisis of 21st Century" with the Faculty of Economy and Business of The Bratislava School of Law..

We had also our representative in Prague´s World Public Forum concerning actual questions of world economy. We received also personal invitation from former Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Mr. Miloš Zeman.

On 4th June was 80th regular session. Through video bridge spoke from Bangladesh Dhaka Nobel Laureate for Peace, Prof. Muhammad Yunus about citizen strength and responsibility. In the other part our Austrian Member Mr. Hans Leitner introduced topic "Banks and Their Crisis". Mr. Vladimír Synek tried to answer question "Economic Crisis and Crisis of Values".

Today´s 11th General Assembly, 81st session and 215th club event whose second part will be in January 2010. After speech or, better said reflection of Mr. Ján Čarnogurský about period from 1989 until 2009 and about it what are we obliged to do for democracy and better - fuller life in our country. He was also awarded with Golden Biatec Award in 2000. After my Annual Report we put on the program proposal of message for participants of the UN Climate Changes Conference, which will be in December in Copenhagen and also presentation of CEO of the company Euler Hermes Servis, Ms. Helena Múdra with topic "Credit Insurance in the Period of Financial Crisis". After it we can hear words of first member of our association from Russian Federation Mr. Vladislav Pestov. He was co-opted into the Committee on 8th October this year. He will help development of good business relationship between our and Russian business persons and also with various services of his advocate office.

Full members of association will receive in last November decade via e-mail together with invitation for the second part of 11th General Assembly also committee election ballot for period 2010-2011. Result of committee election - voting is by ballot as usual - will be published on and also during the members´ assembly in January 2010.
Members of club and other important business personalities will receive also ballot for Golden Biatec Award 2009, for World Politician 2009, for The Most Appealing Member of the Parliament of Slovakia and for Best Bank 2009.

Ladies and gentlemen,
I invited Slovak Prime Minister Mr. Robert Fico for discussion. He thinks about December term.
Esteemed assembly,
During last twenty month we had three traditional meetings of members from Czech and Slovak Republic in Polešovice organized by Mr. Zdeněk Dokulil and Mr. Lumír Ondrušek. During these social events ve discussed also about program of nearest club assemblies in the future. Mr. Gabriel Karlín invited us and we had 23rd Czech and Slovak friendly meeting in Veľký Krtíš on 8th October with presence of Mayor, Mr. Dalibor Surkoš.

During twenty month we did more working meetings of Administrator with Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ján Kubiš, Minister of Environment Mr. Jaroslav Izák, Minister of Agriculture Ms. Zdenka Kramplová, Minister of Agriculture Mr. Stanislav Becík and also Ambassador of Russian Federation Mr. Alexander Udaľcov and French Ambassador Mr. Henry Cuny. During year 2008 we communicated twice with our honorary member and President of WEF, Prof. Klaus Schwab about questions of environment and water. In one case we provided document about our activities and opinions on global priorities of prestigious world foundation World Food Prize.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In the period of 10th General Assembly, with intense unhappiness we received bad news about death of great friend of Slovaks Mr. Tomáš Baťa, Golden Biatec 1996 Laureate, Prof. MUDr. Ladislav Chovan, double Prominent of the Economy Laureate and Golden Biatec Laureate , Deputy Speaker of Slovak Parliament Mr. Viliam Veteška and excellent actor and man Mr. Michal Dočolomanský.
Honour to the memory of deceased !

Esteemed members of association,
practical activity of our association and also changes of lifestyle and communication led to the approval of proposal for changes in the statutes. Above mentioned was approved on 8th meeting and recommended include changes into Annual Report.

Committee recommends to General Assembly to approve changes in statutes as follows:
  1. Committee approves headquarters of the association and its change,
  2. Administrator call a session of General assembly, regular meeting and extraordinary assembly at least 14 days before the term in the form of priority letter or via electronic media,
  3. Committee on the basis of the General Assembly resolution negotiates annual balance in accordance with declaration of taxes until 15th March of following year and proposal for budget for next calendar year. Members will be provided with feedback information during the next regular session,
  4. on the basis of the Administrator´s proposal Committee decides about changes in the target of the association or about ending of its activities.
Esteemed assembly,

In period from March 2008 until October 2009 we did more than enough for accepting new informations, to be more tolerant and and in a way humbler.
We offered to our members more than before attractive events and activities but we did not reach the most important target. Effects from our impulses occurred but they were minimal.

Impulses for new working opportunities and change of the attitude to threatening and slightly manifesting climate changes, to navigability for river Váh and using of local sources of raw materials and human potential are pending on the vacuum.

Since year 1993 we develop idea of praise for people of work in economy, public and international life. Golden Biatec Award as an annual prize of our association despite the humbleness of the ceremony did not lose anything from its golden shine. This is applicable as for prestigious award Prominent of the Economy that was founded in 1995. Club surveys World Politician, The Most Appealing Member of the Parliament and Best Bank could be called traditional but not opulent. Due to results of internet surveys are some people nervous or excited in some way. They are not able to cope with popularity of many personalities abroad or in the country. In more cases they perceive it as inappropriate or outrageous.

I have been saying for ages, dear ladies and gentlemen, that we are so far from tolerance, mutual respect. I do not mean only Golden Biatec Award and internet surveys. But I would like to say that concerning this question we are in better situation that Mr. Pál Csáky. Activity of this gentleman prevents me from criticizing Slovak representatives and administration for inefficiency in endeavours to create new and desirable quality or relationship between Slovaks and Hungarians at all levels.

I think that it will be useful to mention several Golden Biatec Laureates during years 2007 and 2008. They became laureates on the basis of balloting. There are Prof. MVDr. Michal Novák, DrSc., on of the most renowned expert for Alzheimer´s disease, Ing. Michal Kravčík, President of NGO People and Water, laureate of many world and European prizes and from and from the week before last week also laureate of domestic prize from festival EKOTOPFILM, and the least discredited public officer General Prosecutor of the Slovak Republic Mr. Dobroslav Trnka and beautiful and marvelous modernized place Spa Luhačovice.
This year was nominated ten candidates, both persons and business subjects. There are shining personalities among them and in the mail I have other three proposals for nomination. Please, pay attention to the reason for nomination this year. We can see what we are missing in our society and what we desire to have...

Ladies and gentlemen,
Media and banks create state policy. Politicians are in unrewarding position similar to position of beaten boxer or scarecrow on the cabbage field but they have a big share in arising such situation.
Where are our dreams that we had twenty years ago about civil society and increasing civil democracy? How does it look situation with three famous words "Egalité, Fraternité et Liberté?" They are here but again, not for all. Do not be surprised when is society in permanent tension and vibrations.
Our and foreign politicians received during 17 years of our life from us many memorandums and declarations concerning burning problems. Domestic politicians who are not quiet are in offensive minority. Normally communicating in each government position, are for example here present Mr. Ján Čarnogurský, Speaker of Parliament Mr. Jozef Migaš, Minister of Economy Mr. Peter Magvaši, Minister of Environment Mr. László Miklóš, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Eduard Kukan, Speaker of Parliament Mr. Pavol Paška, Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Ján Kubiš and deceased Deputy Speaker of the Parliament of the Slovak Republic Mr. Viliam Veteška.

Ladies and gentlemen,
harmonizing society, responsibility towards citizen... We have to do a lot in this field. Also because of moral decay at all. Its necessary to do something with the memory loss of the politicians, business persons, purposely built half-truths and lies of public servants in the interest of improving their material conditions and political influence. It looks we are like paradise for white shark which is occurring everywhere. Even our Slovak predator do not need water for its movement.

Sometimes is somebody solving our good neighbourly attitude to Hungary. Its our essential interest to drum into their heads we love them. We should to do in the field of economy, international affairs and social affairs not only in the culture and art. Despite the fact that there is the problem with memory and today also with expanding poverty.

During 20 years from the start of new era, every year died approximately 80 thousand people. Total about 1,6 million. We lost 1.6 million human memories. It is the reason we can persuade crowd, to lie, to tell half-truth and facts purposely taken from the context, we can also say that each problem was there in all our born days. For example, that corruption is the the work of forty years of communist government... As if case Enron and other did not happen. Well this is one of proof that give us the right to speak about information crisis, about undreamed and monstrous decline that degrades our value ladder as Cassius Clay his rivals in the ring. It happens not only in Slovakia but also in the global space.

Economic crisis gets its second wind and devout wish that the end of the next year will be better is only the fruit of fantasy of ambitious politicians who have never been rebuked.

How citizens trust their government? Why it does not establish a bank or fund where citizens will give their savings? With the aim to help survive many enterprises and realize many interesting projects refused by banks...
Remind the words that Prof. Muhammad Yunus, who is not only Nobelist but also a banker said to us. It seems to us fantastic, but it works several decades. We need a bank of new quality. It is the question pending in our business environment.

How citizens trust their government? Why it does not establish a bank or fund where citizens will give their savings? With the aim to help survive many enterprises and realize many interesting projects refused by banks...
Remind the words that Prof. Muhammad Yunus, who is not only Nobelist but also a banker said to us. It seems to us fantastic, but it works several decades. We need a bank of new quality. It is the question pending in our business environment.

But we are nation... how entertaining is for as advertising slogan where government - Ministry of Health recommends to drink water from water supply. Its free commercial or a "present" for water supply companies in private hands? And what is surprising? It does not bother companies producing mineral and bottled water.

Particular importance has our attitude towards environment, water and threatening climate changes. Details will be presented by Mr. Michal Kravčík.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We are for more citizen responsibility,
for more human dignity,
for working opportunities based on domestic raw sources and human potential,
for avant-garde solutions in segment of environment and particularly water,
for multilateral development of nation,
for new quality of the relationship with Hungary and in the framework of the whole European Union,
for more peace and happiness in our society.
We are here 17th year despite the animosity of many Government and Opposition leaders. To be out of party membership is not .in.. I do believe that it persists and will help our World to change faster to the desirable form.

In Bratislava, 29th October 2009.


of the Administrator to the 10th General Assembly of the Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club on activities since the 9th General Assembly and plans for the 2008-2009 period.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Guests,

Some of the planned activities, as adopted a year ago, did not appear on the agenda of central meetings. The main reason for this is the effort to organise, and prepare the content for, these activities as best as possible to ensure that they are inspiring for professional and lay public alike. This includes the topics of European energy security and the Kyoto Protocol. We will pay greater attention to these topics this year. According to our members' opinions, the following topics should be prioritised on the agenda of club meetings: 1. business conditions, with special emphasis on the utilisation of EU funds and 2. the population's living conditions and the environment (in the broadest sense of the word and in the following order: the environment and water, education and culture, health and physical fitness, public safety and civil dignity, and transport).

Recalling my conversations with a number of our members, as well as personalities from various areas of public life, I think that we want, or have the inclination, to embellish reality when we look at our domestic, European and civilisation problems and paint it in glowing colours. It is as if we are trying to reassure or convince ourselves that we are no worse than the rest of our developed democratic world. The fact is that most of EU members take the same or similar approach to the urgent problems of today. It seems that they have the illusion that the situation is not so dramatic and will not become a real problem until after their term is up.

In less than twenty years, the Earth will face a global catastrophe unless will start behaving reasonably in respect of the issue of water. The state and overall quality of the young generation is more of a topic for teachers, medical professionals, psychologists, sociologists and others, but if they could speak freely their evaluation would certainly be shocking. The same applies to the living conditions and interpersonal relations in most families, not to mention the all-round and sometimes even spontaneous devastation of our time-honoured and generally respected values. At the same time, we dare to talk about knowledge-based economy and knowledge society.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

Not everything is about high-tech and computers. There is also the alarming long-term absence of modern teaching aids and laboratories. For a nation as small as Slovaks to be successful in the natural competition between nations, it must be well-educated, well-oriented, cultured, better than others at something specific and tangible, as well as physically well developed. Compared to the past, it seems that the society's interest in ensuring the new generation's mental and physical fitness is constantly declining. If this was not so, we would not have these, in a way hideous, problems that the society tries to disguise (or understate) such as disrespect for others, for work, for the nation and homeland as such, and problems with civic awareness and responsibility, discipline, brutality, vulgarity, and crime in general.

We have two options. We can either just watch what happens or get involved and help promote new and fresh thinking, a sound lifestyle, and, above all, stabilise the value orientation of broad layers of the population, not just a narrow group of people. The fact that wise and successful people from the production sphere, in particular craftsmen, and from the spheres of education, science and technology were pushed to the periphery of society would have been enough. It is as if we did not want to see and let the world see our greatest authorities. This slightly reminds me of the fate of the most famous personality of Slovak decent, Franz Liszt, whom we still have not, so to say, discovered and refuse to accept. His active participation in the millennium celebrations of missionaries Cyril and Methodius in the Vatican (in 1868, in the presence of Pope Pius IX) means nothing to our current officials.

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The fifteenth year of our club's existence started with the 67th Regular Assembly following the 9th General Assembly held one year and a day ago, on 27 February 2007. It was attended by 132 members and guests. The meeting's agenda was to conclude the year-round discussion on the topic of the Future of the European Union and its Relations with the United States.

The second to the last part of the discussion was attended by the following regular and honorary members: Prime Minister Robert Fico, Chairman of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry Peter Mihók, President of the Association of Employer Unions Tomáš Malatinský, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Viliam Veteška, Rector of the Slovak Technical University Vladimír Baleš, director of the Perfekt publishing company Eduard Drobný, and RND theatre director Stanislav Štepka. This discussion between personalities awarded with the annual Golden Biatec award or the prestigious Prominent of the Economy award, provided a good basis for the formulation of the Club's declaration on this topic. The declaration was addressed to the Slovak Parliament, the President, the Government, the European Commission and the European Parliament.

The traditional act of announcement of new recipients of the Club's awards and winners of our traditional polls took place at this event. The recipients of the awards (Golden Biatec and Prominent of the Economy) were elected by a secret ballot by Club members and other personalities of economic and public life, and by the respondents of our traditional polls at (Best Bank, the Most Appealing Member of the Government, Parliament and Politician of the World). The new editions started on 1 May and will be, de jure, completed today by announcing the new recipients of our awards and winners of our four traditional polls.

In the middle of March, Czech Ambassador to Slovakia Vladimír Galuška invited the holders of the Golden Biatec and representatives of the Club to a friendly meeting. He received one of the twenty-two silver Golden Biatec commemorative medals struck on the occasion of our 15th anniversary from the Club's Founder and Administrator as an expression of our gratitude for our good relations and co-operation.

The Administrator, together with the Club's board, chose to commemorate the anniversary of the establishment of our association as a foundation in August 1993 in an austere way or, rather, by work. The discussion on the Future of the EU and its Relations with the United States was practically completed in April, in the presence of Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška. The Radošinské naivné divadlo (RND) theatre and its director Stano Štepka helped create good-natured atmosphere at the meeting. At this, the 68th Regular Assembly, the Administrator presented the Club's declaration on the Future of the EU and its Relations with the United States to the Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška.

In the following days, the declaration was delivered to the Slovak President, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and sent to five diplomatic missions and presidents of the EC and the European Parliament, President of the WEF, President of the WFP, as well as sixty honorary Club members from abroad. From April to the end of September, we received written as well as spontaneous reactions to the content of our declaration from personalities in various positions, but only from abroad. These mostly concerned the relations between the European Union and the United States.

The last quarter of 2007 started with a presentation by Prime Minister Róbert Fico on the subject of the Government's strategy and its results. TA3 broadcast the speech live from the meeting hall at Pálffy Palace. 143 members and a number of guests attended the event held on 4 October 2007.

General Assembly,

The guests at the subsequent, 70th Regular Assembly - the Club's discussion meeting held on 6 November 2007 - included Minister of Defence František Kašický, Minister of Justice Štefan Harabín and Prosecutor General Dobroslav Trnka. 94 members were present. The majority of them signed the declaration of 5 November 2007 presented by a group of members under the title Nothing but Common Sense - Slovak-Hungarian Relations in the 21st Century. This declaration was also delivered to the highest Slovak officials - the Speaker of Parliament, the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister - as well as the ambassadors of Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Austria and the United States.

The anniversary 200th Club meeting and the 71st Regular Assembly took place on 21 November 2007. It was held in honour of President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishyevich Nazarbayev. All three Slovak presidents Ivan Gašparovič, Rudolf Schuster a Michal Kováč attended this meeting. President Ivan Gašparovič spoke to the assembly. The Administrator explained why the President was awarded the Golden Biatec in 2003 and then Kazakh President Nursultan Abishyevich Nazarbayev spoke for almost 40 minutes about his country's economy, social and political developments, the business environment and gradual democratisation. 154 members, 35 Kazakh economic representatives and businessmen and 60 guests were present. As part of the "Kazakh Day", the Slovakia-Kazakhstan Business Forum, whose main organiser was our association, took place.

The last official meeting of the year, the 201st event and 72nd Regular Assembly was attended by Speaker of Parliament Pavol Paška, who spoke on the topic of Constitutionality, Democracy and Relations on the Domestic Political Scene; Minister of Foreign Affairs Ján Kubiš, who gave a lecture on the main issues of international relations in Europe; and Governor of the National Bank of Slovakia Ivan Šramko, who gave a presentation on the issue of our accession to the Eurozone.

The agenda of our today's 73rd Regular Assembly is one of the hottest global topics: water. A group of our members and the Ľudia a voda [People and Water] NGO are presenting to this audience and the general public a "challenge" document of 11 February 2008 entitled Water is the Greatest Wealth. At the beginning of January, at the time the annual World Economic Forum was taking place in Davos, the Club's Administrator sent ideas related to this extensive topic in the form of a book by Michal Kravčík et al. entitled New Water Paradigm to Prof. Klaus Schwab, the President of the Forum and our honorary member since 1994. We have reached a point, locally and globally, where water and everything related to it should be a challenge for all rational and success-driven politicians to move from words to action.

The fact is that three years ago we approved our support for the plan to make the Váh River navigable as one of the Club's key tasks. In other words, we agreed to help start making Slovakia's commitment to present and past generations and Brussels a reality. Making the Váh River navigable from Komárno to Žilina and connecting it with the Odra River and the Baltic Sea should not be science fiction. It has been more than ten years since Mečiar's government made the commitment to the EU to make the Váh River navigable, but nothing meaningful has happened besides formulating the ways how to earn "big money" from land. The damage caused by doing nothing is becoming excessive.

I must add that this year's programme of the Davos annual meeting practically unofficially endorsed our topic on new thinking from the past two years, with participation and concrete ideas from Pope Benedict XVI, as well as our year-end topic on water, which we are developing in collaboration with the Ľudia a voda NGO. Independently of the WEF programme, we are focusing on identical or at least similar issues.

The quality of the recipients of the Club's awards and prizes for 2007 should serve as important inspiration for enriching the content of discussions on these topics. Simply said, the ideas that people such as Michal Kravčík, Dobroslav Trnka, Milan Fiľo, Josef Kružela, Zdeněk Dokulil and Lumír Ondrušek, Jiří Mikulenka, Sylvia Holopová and Ladislav Rehák have in their hearts and, in particular, in their heads should be literally infiltrated into our discussion... (I would like to point out that four of the eight awarded persons are not members of our Club.) These are people whose work and results deserve recognition. They are not angels, but their thoughts about our near future are valuable and only unwise politicians and public officials would not listen to and think about them.

Two club meetings with our Moravian members were held last year. These meeting have a twelve-year history and invaluable atmosphere.

To make this summary complete, let me give you some figures on our membership. We register 170 regular members from Slovakia, 15 from the Czech Republic, and ten from Austria, Germany and the United States. The number of honorary members rose from 61 to 62 last year by including President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Abishyevich Nazarbayev. Nevertheless, more than 150 other personalities of economic and public life are regularly invited to our events, no less than 50 of whom are former members of our association.

For informational purposes, invitations to this year's General Assembly were also sent to 17 foreign personalities awarded with the Golden Biatec in the past. Included with the invitation was information about the club's activities in the recent period and the content of individual discussion meetings. It is gratifying that a number of them have responded and provided their ideas. These include Czech President Prof. V. Klaus, President of the World Economic Forum Prof. Klaus Schwab, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University Prof. Jeffrey Sachs and Lord Brittan of Spennithorne, Vice-Chairman of UBS Investment Bank London.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I recommend that the 10th General Assembly approve the submitted report and the plan of activities for the 2008-2009 period. I further recommend that the board be requested to discuss the financial report and the framework budget for the two-year period until the end of 2009. I recommend that the Administrator be authorised to a) submit the tax return for 2007 on behalf of the Club, b) ensure the discharge of the functions of the Club secretariat and c) present the proposals from members related to amendment of the Statutes to the 11th General Assembly in February 2010.

I am convinced that this assembly should express their thanks to the members for their activities in the fields of economy and public life in general and their personal contribution to the relative success of their local community and the country as a whole and to new thinking. I would also like to point out the opinion of many of our members that without the dominance of new thinking, we will not be able to build the base for a qualitatively new society.

Bratislava, 21 February 2008

Dr. Peter Kasalovský

by a group of members of the NEF Association.s Economic Club
on November 5, 2007

Nothing but common sense
(On Slovak-Hungarian relations in the 21st century)

On October 6, 2007, former President of the United States Bill Clinton sent an unofficial message on relations between Hungary and the Slovak Republic from the Central European Business Centre in Budapest. In it, he said to the citizens of both states: "there is not a big difference between what's going on in Slovakia and Hungary and what the Irish have gone through, or what is happening in the Middle East". He recommended that politicians from both countries use maximum caution in dealing with the situation so that minorities' interests are taken into account. In his message, it was as if he were asking the Slovak and Hungarian publics which is more important: differences or a common vision and common future? Bill Clinton's evaluation of Slovak-Hungarian relations evoked conflicting reactions and rejection from the Slovak side.

We feel that regardless of its form, we must pay the closest attention to the content of the former U.S. President's message. Why not finally reach a consensus by a cultivated public in both countries through engagement of the widest range of citizens to formulate a vision of mutual relations and their fulfilment within the European Union on the threshold of the 21st century?! It is a demonstrable fact that in both states not only rancour, but even enmity is purposefully encouraged. It originates in efforts by political adventurers to change both historical facts in front of the eyes of the public, as well as the interpretation and upholding of multilateral international treaties and bilateral treaties between the Czechoslovak Republic and the Republic of Hungary from 1920 and 1945-1949.

We regret that the Hungarian state was on the side of the aggressors during the First and Second World Wars. However, the fact is, that international and bilateral treaties on the arrangement of post-war relations are regarded by part of the Hungarian public as being unjust and worthy of revision. Decrees by the President of the Czechoslovak Republic, E. Beneš, during the period 1940-1945 were not only approved by a legislative committee, but were also in accordance with international law. Neither the Great Powers nor the victors have indicated any desire to change the history of the last century and its events. In fact, obligations of the Hungarian side under the Peace agreement with Hungary, which was signed in Paris on February 10, 1947 regarding the return of items of cultural heritage that came into possession of the Hungarian state after 1848, have still not been honoured.

From the current unhealthy societal climate we can draw the conclusion that the populations of both states are insufficiently informed and informed in an inarguably biased manner. They are badly informed not only about the content of the above-mentioned treaties, but also about the entire array of antagonistic and even tragic events that have taken place between the Slovak and Hungarian peoples during their coexistence over the last several centuries. It is not at all unthinkable that this moment and the even punishable lack of respect for their own history and European history, which is shown by both peoples and comes mainly out of their lack of commitment to a future in the EU, is planned and directed from abroad. Tolerating those who poison our common well, filling them with semi-truths and lies on both sides, and the absence until now of any unambiguous political will to eliminate the hot points in our relations provides support for revanchistes and significantly strengthens the tendency to move away from democracy.
It is high time to reject and mainly to eliminate from our present environment - especially in the interest of our future - everything that has given former President of the United States Bill Clinton cause, in his own way but in good faith, to warn the Slovak and Hungarian peoples about the possibility that these developments will lead to destabilization. We also cannot ignore the comments of the Chairman of the Senate International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos, who, in October of this year requested that Slovak Prime Minister R. Fico distance himself from the so-called Benes decrees and guarantee the rights of the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia. Above all, neither today nor in the future is it possible to reject the legal consequences of the Second World War or to require that which has already been long guaranteed to our minorities . rights of incomparably high quality as in the majority of developed democracies.

Let us not even dare to think about what effect such an unconstructive and simultaneously self-destructive process would have at the level of the international community and within the European space. At the level of both states, regions, cities and towns, but above all within individual families and especially within interpersonal relations, this would cause uncontrollable and long-term trauma. For our association and this group of members, on the basis of reflection on the events mentioned, there remains nothing else but to call on the highest constitutional actors of the Republics of Slovakia and Hungary to analyse without delay the essence of the main issues and of this spontaneously growing tension. Subsequently, under the supervision of social and cultural representatives of both states, a system of measures could be put in place to secure the health and, above all, the long-term immunity of our countries and populations from infection by malevolent rancour, uncultured behaviour and mutual disrespect of peoples and ethnic groups.

Bratislava, November 5, 2007

Dr. Peter Kasalovský, Director

Ing. Katarína Štefankovičová
Dr. Miroslav Demko
Dr. Ján Šály

Water is the greatest wealth

During the 17th UN SC debate on energy, security and climate held in New York on 17 April 2007, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon drew alarming scenarios of the possible consequences of climate change. He stressed that the projected changes in the earth's climate are not only an environmental concern, but can also have serious social and economic implications, not the least for peace and security.
Most threats pointed out by the UN General Secretary are closely related to the increasing incidence of extreme weather events and to water, especially its shortage and floods. With a view to preventing catastrophic scenarios, Ban Ki-moon called for unity and for consensus-seeking through discussions at different forums, for early action and, in particular, for bringing in the resources of civil society and of the private sector.
We share the UN Secretary General's concerns over climatic tendencies and over the possible negative consequences of the climate change. We fully support rational efforts at replacing environmentally harmful technologies with less harmful technologies, including those reducing the production of greenhouse gases. However, the reduction of greenhouse gas production should be just the start of the fight against climate change. Given the extremely critical nature of these threats, it is vital to examine, without delay, also other human influences on the thermal situation of and climate on the earth.
The scientific community recognises that the role of water and water vapour in the earth's climatic system is of paramount importance and that it has not been adequately explored. Clouds play an essential role in regulating the energy balance of the earth in relation to solar radiation, limiting its penetration into the atmosphere and on the earth.s surface. The presence or absence of water in the landscape predetermines whether the incident solar radiation will be transformed into latent heat from water evaporation or into palpable heat. Evaporation of each molecule consumes the heat, cooling down the earth's surface by the amount of the heat consumed. Under the impact of cold air water vapour rising higher into the atmosphere condensates, releasing thermal energy. It then returns in the form of cooling rain.
The repetition of this process constitutes an effective mechanism for eliminating the surplus thermal energy. However, water may evaporate and fulfil its climate-forming role only if it is present in the landscape in sufficient quantity. The amount of palpable heat generated in a drained landscape locally exceeds by an order of magnitude the values of the warming due to greenhouse gases, as presented by the International Panel on Climate Change.
Slovakia has not been spared from the effects of the on-going climate change. According to official data, in the course of the 20th century, mean annual air temperature in Slovakia increased by around 1.1°C. In the last century, total annual atmospheric precipitation dropped by an average of 5.6 %; in the southern part of the country, it fell by around 10 % and in certain areas even by a higher percentage. Soil evaporation and humidity characteristics indicate a gradual drying out, especially of southern regions of Slovakia.
In this alarming situation, Slovakia is annually drained of more than 100 million cubic meters of rainwater that had once saturated soil, replenished groundwater reserves, ensured good yield of springs and humidified climate through evaporation. Deforestation, incorrect agricultural practices, unsound regulation of watercourses and urban development bring about changes not only in water circulation, but also changes in energy flows and the climate change at local and regional level. The time has come to modify water management practices that have barely changed in our country since the times when our territory abounded in water.
The existing one-sided narrow focus of political and financial support limited to cutting down the production of greenhouse gases and the failure to pay heed to other aspects of human activities impacting the climate undermine the unity, kill the discussion, jeopardise the consensus and bring the risk of making mistakes with fatal consequences. Yet, the general public, the business community, local government and politicians at national level are not adequately informed of the serious risks involved in the existing landscape-forming practices.
We call on the domestic and international professional and scientific community to give priority to the research into the effects of man-induced changes in the circulation of water on climate change. We call on governmental and non-government structures to focus on and support also this area. For, what is at stake are the very preconditions of life for people and the landscape. Ultimately, this must lead to the earliest possible reduction of the billions of losses in all spheres of human activities. We trust that the mass media will also launch a wide discussion on the impact of man-induced changes in water circulation on the climate change, and also on economic development, security and health of the population.

Call of a group of members of the Informal Economic Forum (NEF) - Economic Club association and of the People and Water NGO of 6 February 2008 to be put forward at the 10th General Meeting of NEF Economic Club on 28 February 2008.

Dr. Peter Kasalovský, Executive Vice-President, NEF Economic Club, association
Ing. Michal Kravčík, CSc., President, People and Water, NGO

10 th General Assembly (2008)

by a group of members of the NEF Association.s Economic Club
on November 5, 2007

Nothing but common sense
(On Slovak-Hungarian relations in the 21st century)

On October 6, 2007, former President of the United States Bill Clinton sent an unofficial message on relations between Hungary and the Slovak Republic from the Central European Business Centre in Budapest. In it, he said to the citizens of both states: "there is not a big difference between what's going on in Slovakia and Hungary and what the Irish have gone through, or what is happening in the Middle East". He recommended that politicians from both countries use maximum caution in dealing with the situation so that minorities' interests are taken into account. In his message, it was as if he were asking the Slovak and Hungarian publics which is more important: differences or a common vision and common future? Bill Clinton's evaluation of Slovak-Hungarian relations evoked conflicting reactions and rejection from the Slovak side.

We feel that regardless of its form, we must pay the closest attention to the content of the former U.S. President's message. Why not finally reach a consensus by a cultivated public in both countries through engagement of the widest range of citizens to formulate a vision of mutual relations and their fulfilment within the European Union on the threshold of the 21st century?! It is a demonstrable fact that in both states not only rancour, but even enmity is purposefully encouraged. It originates in efforts by political adventurers to change both historical facts in front of the eyes of the public, as well as the interpretation and upholding of multilateral international treaties and bilateral treaties between the Czechoslovak Republic and the Republic of Hungary from 1920 and 1945-1949.

We regret that the Hungarian state was on the side of the aggressors during the First and Second World Wars. However, the fact is, that international and bilateral treaties on the arrangement of post-war relations are regarded by part of the Hungarian public as being unjust and worthy of revision. Decrees by the President of the Czechoslovak Republic, E. Beneš, during the period 1940-1945 were not only approved by a legislative committee, but were also in accordance with international law. Neither the Great Powers nor the victors have indicated any desire to change the history of the last century and its events. In fact, obligations of the Hungarian side under the Peace agreement with Hungary, which was signed in Paris on February 10, 1947 regarding the return of items of cultural heritage that came into possession of the Hungarian state after 1848, have still not been honoured.

From the current unhealthy societal climate we can draw the conclusion that the populations of both states are insufficiently informed and informed in an inarguably biased manner. They are badly informed not only about the content of the above-mentioned treaties, but also about the entire array of antagonistic and even tragic events that have taken place between the Slovak and Hungarian peoples during their coexistence over the last several centuries. It is not at all unthinkable that this moment and the even punishable lack of respect for their own history and European history, which is shown by both peoples and comes mainly out of their lack of commitment to a future in the EU, is planned and directed from abroad. Tolerating those who poison our common well, filling them with semi-truths and lies on both sides, and the absence until now of any unambiguous political will to eliminate the hot points in our relations provides support for revanchistes and significantly strengthens the tendency to move away from democracy.
It is high time to reject and mainly to eliminate from our present environment - especially in the interest of our future - everything that has given former President of the United States Bill Clinton cause, in his own way but in good faith, to warn the Slovak and Hungarian peoples about the possibility that these developments will lead to destabilization. We also cannot ignore the comments of the Chairman of the Senate International Relations Committee, Tom Lantos, who, in October of this year requested that Slovak Prime Minister R. Fico distance himself from the so-called Benes decrees and guarantee the rights of the Hungarian minority living in Slovakia. Above all, neither today nor in the future is it possible to reject the legal consequences of the Second World War or to require that which has already been long guaranteed to our minorities . rights of incomparably high quality as in the majority of developed democracies.

Let us not even dare to think about what effect such an unconstructive and simultaneously self-destructive process would have at the level of the international community and within the European space. At the level of both states, regions, cities and towns, but above all within individual families and especially within interpersonal relations, this would cause uncontrollable and long-term trauma. For our association and this group of members, on the basis of reflection on the events mentioned, there remains nothing else but to call on the highest constitutional actors of the Republics of Slovakia and Hungary to analyse without delay the essence of the main issues and of this spontaneously growing tension. Subsequently, under the supervision of social and cultural representatives of both states, a system of measures could be put in place to secure the health and, above all, the long-term immunity of our countries and populations from infection by malevolent rancour, uncultured behaviour and mutual disrespect of peoples and ethnic groups.

Bratislava, November 5, 2007

Dr. Peter Kasalovský, Director

Ing. Katarína Štefankovičová
Dr. Miroslav Demko
Dr. Ján Šály

Declaration of the IEF Economic Club of 18 April 2007 on the Future of the EU and its Relations with the United States to the National Council, the Government and the President of the Slovak Republic, the European Parliament and the European Commission

    For more than a year and a half, we have thought it honest and essential to openly talk about the future of Europe, the European Union, and its relations with the US. Since autumn 2005, the meetings of our association - the Informal Economic Forum Economic Club - have paid attention to these issues, which are not only a matter of political leaders, but also the non-governmental and civil sectors. The halting of EU institutional reform and, almost equally, the overall state of the EU were the strongest impetus for our discussion on these issues under the title "New Thinking in the New World and the New Europe".
    We are of the opinion that the new home for European nations and their states, which was made attractive by many political legends of the 20th century, in particular French President F. Mitterand and German Chancellor H. Kohl, is not being completed thoroughly and unreservedly. The process of European-wide integration appears to lack the necessary support and energy in the quality of the new relations within the EU organism. The EU should be a new home for European nations and their states and its appeal has and will continue to be given by the most precious values of our civilisation's development. These are equality, brotherhood and freedom, which always require proper attention, in particular because they are always a necessary condition for a new quality of traditional and generally known human ideals.
    The real reasons why the process of approval of the European Constitution has been blocked still have not been clearly expressed. How many leading politicians from individual Member States, not to mention their citizens, know, or at least guess, where the EU is going institutionally?! Why shouldn.t we demand that political leaders finally give a statement on their particular idea of the future of Europe and the EU?! We should ask what is being done for the sake of the declared efforts and make an attempt at self-reflection - have we done too little, just enough or more than enough? And this includes the issues of peace, freedom, solidarity and joint management of affairs. We have tried to do this in our discussions and many of us are of the opinion that politicians too often tend to present the desired as the already accomplished.
    How well do we in the EU know each other? Are we closer to each other? How many of us feel that they belong to their own nation and country, to Europe and the EU, and to the part of mankind, which is democratically - out of the will of the majority - changing the world for the better, eliminating evil and its causes? Is the EU's model of economic success actually realistic and functional? How is it guaranteed? To what extent are the efforts centred on people? On what basis do we believe that in terms of knowledge and culture, we are wealthier than other parts of the world? We feel that the responsibility for global developments lies not only with individual Member States, but also with the community of EU Member States as a whole. Are we united in our views on conflict situations or do we behave like the select few who have the right to judge others? Are we dealing with them according to the degree of danger they pose or according to our free will? Are the issues of climate change and consequences of globalism really a priority in the actions of our leaders?
    Poor efficiency of the executive power in confrontation with terrorism and the world of crime has resulted in unacceptable interventions in human rights, civil rights and even privacy. The failure of specific security solutions is ever more frequently unreasonably ascribed to our inexperience. Regrettably, military action continues to have a greater weight and power than cultural diplomacy. Are we, in our conscience, helping to create a world that is economically and socially better? How have we really mitigated the risk of international and regional military conflicts? Are we really contributing to the eradication of hunger, poverty, illiteracy and diseases, to which we committed ourselves almost 40 years ago?
    Already a decade ago, we called on the Slovak Parliament and Government, and in particular the representatives abroad, to increase information about our obligations, our rights and the developments in European institutions, and we have to repeat this appeal again. The lack of information causes lack of interest in public affairs and leads to doubts, mistakes and wrong stances. Our friends, partners and even competitors see us as a society with successful, well-targeted reforms based on responsibility of the individual and overall exemplary economic dynamics. Nevertheless, the task of reducing our indebtedness and, above all, coping with the historical challenge of spending only what we can produce, will not be an easy thing to do.
    The concept, the project and then the construction of the new home for European nations and their states, have indeed been one of the wonders of our civilisation. Its organisation and overall success is not only an important factor of stability, but also an example of economic and social progress, multinational civil society and peaceful development both in Europe and the world over. Still, it needs better order and more self-discipline. Today, we can also see the needs of the nearest future, when, as it seems, the need will arise to create a new quality of relations and even harmonise the policy in the EU and its Member States with that of the United States. Without such a strategy, finding solutions to global priorities, in particular the environment and global security, will be increasingly more complex and problematic.
    Ten years ago, on 23 May 1997, we unanimously adopted a declaration on Slovakia.s membership of the EU and NATO. We reaffirmed the validity of its content on 20 January 2003, when a section of the domestic and foreign public seemed to underestimate their importance. Today, we reiterate that they are a far-sighted solution to the development of relations between nations and their states in Europe and the world. Still, we believe that substantial improvement of the provision of information about the activities and intentions of European institutions is a basic prerequisite for their viability. The urgent need to initiate maximum support for comprehensive mutual convergence of the populations of the Member States appears to be no less important. Institutional reform also needs the opinions of the broadest possible layers of civil society and responsible Europeans to be heard.

S. Hatina, R. Y. Mosny, P. Kasalovský, J. Šály
    Co-chairmen; Administrator; on behalf of the working group

of the Administrator and Executive Vice-President of the Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club
on activities between the 8th and 9th General Assembly

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Distinguished Members and Guests,

Our club is in the fifteenth year of its existence. Since the 8th General Assembly held on 26 January 2006, it has devoted priority attention to the topic of New Thinking on the future of the European Union and its relations with the United States. After extensive and very inspiring discussion at the annual meeting, supported by messages from French President J. Chirac, President of the World Economic Forum Prof. K. Schwab, and J. Ch. Cardinal Korec, New Thinking was at the centre of attention of every club event.

Let me mention the key events over the past thirteen months:
  • the club's representation met with its prominent and honourable members, firstly with Czech President V. Klaus on 8 March and then with Slovak President I. Gašparovič on 15 March; we discussed the issue of social and living conditions and our views on the future of the European Union;
  • the 64th regular assembly on the topic of the visions of politicians about Slovakia in 2006-2010, which took place at the Zlatý býk Hotel in Rimavská Sobota on 28 April, was adversely affected by the fact that Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family I. Radičová and MEP and Vice-Chairwomen of SMER-SD M. Beňová failed to attend the assembly. Minister of Construction and Regional Development L. Gyurovzsky (SMK), however, received applause for his ideas on the future of Slovakia.
  • The 65th regular assembly, and the 190th club event in total, took place on the eve of the parliamentary elections on 9 June. Chairman of Club 500 V. Soták discussed the needs of the Slovak economy. Russian foreign policy was presented by Ambassador A. Udalcov. Deputy Speaker of the Parliament V. Veteška spoke about domestic tourism. Administrator P. Kasalovský used this event to open the 15th club year and, on this occasion, awarded the silver Golden Biatec to 22 domestic and foreign personalities. Keeping in line with the tradition, Golden Biatecs were awarded to personalities who had made the greatest contribution to the club.s activities over the past four years. Minister of the Environment L. Miklós and entrepreneur L. Krajňák became the laureates of the Golden Biatec. Six Prominent of the Economy awards were presented to: Club 500 and its Chairman V. Soták; IRS, s.r.o., and its executive director I. Baláži; the Social Insurance Agency and the Chairman of its Board of Directors F. Halmeš; hotelier J. Bočkay; the AVIS company; and, entrepreneur M. Jevický.
  • After the Slovak Parliament passed the Manifesto of the Government led by Prime Minister R. Fico, the Club's position under the title "About the Government and its Manifesto" was published via TASR.
  • The 65th regular assembly took place in the presence of Minister of the Environment J. Izák. The assembly's programme was cut shorter because Prime Minister R. Fico could not join the discussion due to sudden indisposition. Nevertheless, the speeches by Chairman of the Governing Board of Recycling Fund J. Dlhopolček entitled "The Recycling Fund is an instrument and result of ecological thinking of entrepreneurs", French Ambassador J. Fauré "On the future of the EU", and Director of Corporate Consulting Group V. Synek on the "Identity of Slovak citizens" provided enough room for exchange of opinions. The Committee re-co-opted S. Hatina as a member and unanimously elected him the Co-Chairman.
  • On 13th December, a selective assembly was convened to discuss the contribution from V. Synek "The glitter and the gutter of management" and discussion documents presented in writing and published on the website:

    1. Our world (the one we live in)
    2. Europe, the house where we live in
    3. Our perception of the architecture of the American "house"
    4. The Slavic world,
    5. Thoughts on Euro-American co-operation.

    J. Šály, R. Y. Mosny, M. Demko, J. Dolník and P. Kasalovský contributed to the formulation of these documents.
  • Today's assembly, which is the 9th general and 67th regular assembly, and the 194th club event in total, paid priority attention to the fifth instalment of the discussion on the topic of New Thinking on the future of the EU and its relations with the United States. It was also attended by Prime Minister Róbert Fico. The big full stop, so to speak, of this discussion will be the proposal for a memorandum for the Slovak Parliament, the Government, the EP and EC, as well as non-governmental organisations and our partner organisations, which will be on the agenda of the 68th regular assembly at the Radošínske naivné divadlo Theatre. We are pleased about the support for our activities that we have received from Pope Benedict XVI, Russian President V. Putin, Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs J. Kubiš, as well as Prime Minister R. Fico, who has expressed his support in his letter of 13 February this year and by his contribution to our today's discussion.
  • I should also mention more than a decade long tradition of regular biannual friendly discussion meetings between members from the Czech Republic represented by Mr. Z. Dokulil and members from Slovakia in a wine-cellar in Polešovice nearby Uherské Hradište. Last year, it took place in April and November.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the Administrator, I have attended nearly seventy working meetings with our members and supporters during the period of almost thirteen months. To give you an account of my communication over the internet would be purposeless. From the point of view of our objectives confirmed at the 8th General Assembly, we owe greater effectiveness to the following tasks: the resolution of Roma issues through employment and other activities; the return of F. Liszt to the Slovak nation; democratisation of the society; presentation of investors; and, development of the Váh Waterway.

I presented the club.s opinions to Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, and Family V. Tomanová and Speaker of the Parliament Pavol Paška. On the eve of our General Assembly on Friday, 23 February, I paid another visit to our valuable member Ján Ch. Cardinal Korec. At our half-an-hour long meeting, I presented to him some of the views of our members and noted his ideas. He was also pleased to accept the silver Golden Biatec on the occasion of our club anniversary. I have met with a number of diplomats and domestic personalities in the relevant period.

Dear Assembly, Last year, as of 26.01.2006, we had 155 regular members and 97 honourable members from Slovakia and 51 from abroad. Since, at the 8th General Assembly, we abolished the exemption from membership fees for our honourable members from Slovakia and dropped the idea of regional clubs, as of 27 February the membership of our community was as follows:

150 regular members,
22 members - diplomatic missions in Slovakia,
5 regular members from the Czech Republic,
3 members from Slovakia with permanent rights of honour - Presidents M. Kováč, R. Schuster and I. Gašparovič,
and 61 foreign VIP members.

175 members are from Slovakia and 66 from abroad; we register a total of 241 members. Seven members from the preceding period cancelled or failed to confirm their membership. However, 26 individuals and companies have expressed their interest in membership in the past period. We are equally pleased that our events regularly draw the attention of renowned local scientists, academic functionaries, church dignitaries, economic and social authorities, as well as mayors of municipalities. There are more than a hundred of such personalities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
the content of our activities will not change over the coming years. Our key topics are and will continue to be:
- the conditions for entrepreneurship,
- energy security of Europe,
- the issue of the Kyoto Protocol,
- the social and living standard of the domestic population, with special attention to the Roma minority,
- the educational and cultural level of the domestic population, with emphasis on the exemplariness of Slovak and Slavic personalities, such as F. Liszt,
- the future of the EU and its relations with the United States.

Our efforts will continue to be directed at international personalities. Your ideas and initiatives are warmly welcome.

Bratislava, 25 February 2007

Dr. Peter Kasalovský, Administrator

The Annual Report, financial report and the budget framework for 2007 were approved unanimously.

Annual Report

Prepared by the Administrator of the Economic Club
For the 13th period
28th September, 2004 - 26th January, 2006
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Almost sixteen months have passed since the 7th General Assembly until today. We prepared five all-club meetings within this period:
  • - 10th December 2004, Bratislava, EXPO Club: on quality of economic and entrepreneurial environment (key note by P. Mihók, Chair, SOPK), with presentation of Gutmannbank Austria, Konstrukta Industry a.s. Trenčín, with a reflection on Franz Liszt and his roots (M. Demko); and with announcing Golden Biatec laureates, winners of the Prominent of the Economy, and results of the 5th edition of the Best Bank Award, and 2nd edition of the public and club vote for the Most Likable Politician 2004 (Member of the Government, Member of the Parliament, and World Politician).
  • - 23rd March 2005, Rimavská Sobota, "Zlatý býk" Hotel: on environment in Slovakia and its regions (key note by L. Miklós, Minister of Environment of the SR,), with presentation of Slobodné fórum and its chairwoman and MP Z. Martináková. The delegates paid tribute to the deceased Golden Biatec laureate E. Egyed, whose funeral was due on the day of the meeting. Official results of the Golden Biatec 2005, Prominent of the Economy 2005, 6th edition of the Best Bank and 3rd edition of the Most Likable Politician opinion polls were also announced.
  • - 14th June 2005, Spišská Sobota, "Sobota" Hotel: with the President of the SR, I. Gašparovič; meeting with the main topic of Slovakia, World and Europe, with the presentations of Lázně Luhačovice, a.s., Vienna - partner city of the Slovak capital, and with annual report.
  • - Efforts from the end of September 2004, initiated by MUDR. A. Jančo, former club member, to establish a regional club in Košice can be considered as a failure.
Regional club events:
  • - 18th November 2004, POprad, Economical Club Poprad-Tatry: on informational support to the management, with SAP participation;
  • -23rd October 2004, Uherské Hradiště: on cross-border cooperation, with presentation of Astra a.s. Zlín.
  • - 28th April 2005, Uherské Hradiště: traffic connections for the future, discussion with the presentation of Vá.ska vodná cesta (Váh Waterway) association.
  • - 6th May 2005, Lučenec: with M. Marko, Mayor of Lučenec, on development and further activities of Economical Club in Novohradsko-gemerský region.
  • 8th December 2005, Uherské Hradiště: on chances to activate club sympathisers in the Czech Republic.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is only a brief account of the club events on central, regional and local levels in the previous period. We noticed a rapid decline in number of regional and local events; however, this situation is nothing exceptional in the 13-year history of our club.
Certain problem occurs, same as in the past, resulting from party affiliations of our membership and its worries from being not understood by the governmental circles, or even sanctioned for potential activities in our club. In the past, we saw such behaviour or even lack of culture of two former governmental establishments.
Aside from party affiliation, there is more than a palpable effort - much more evident than in 1996-1998 - of growing number of entrepreneurs and personalities from various fields of human activities, to close up in their inner worlds, or on their properties. This means in practice: do not stick out, do not press forward, and eventually do not show any interest in the development of our society.

Distinguished Assembly,
The 7th General Assembly instructed the club administrator and committee to focus on the issues of currency, Eurozone and taxes, and also reflect on the inspiring work and life of a great Slovak . Hungarian Franz Liszt, as well as prepare potential solutions of Romany issues (discussed during the previous club year in the regular meetings in December 2003 and February 2004).
In line with the resolution, we did not succeed to drive either vice-chairman of the Slovak government responsible for minorities P. Csáky towards cooperation on suggested solutions for Romany community. Correct information on proposed solutions was sent to numerous honourable club members in abroad (in the first decade of 2005). However, neither official constitutional representatives have responded to club motions in connection with the great personality of F. Liszt. Yet findings of M. Demko were presented to some international personalities (during second decade 2005).

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In previous period, the communication with the Czech President V. Klaus, Golden Biatec laureate since 1995 and honourable member of the club community, proceeded, as well as traditional cooperation with the World Economic Forum, World Food Prize, and numerous Austrian, Russian, Swiss and Taiwan economical and social, non-state, or non-governmental subjects.
Special communication started and is being developed with an array of national and international personalities since November 2005 in relation with the intended project of the "Váh waterway" (a navigable corridor on the river Váh spanning from the Danube up to Piešťany). One oppositional and one Cabinet party showed their interests; yet proceeding in their current pace, the project would not be completed in 8 - 10 years, but rather in 500 years at earliest.
As regards the "centrifugal", even unacceptable idea of equal membership communication regardless of political affiliation, there were certain changes in the membership (similarly to the situations in 1995, 1997 and 2004), mainly caused by several entrepreneurs.
Neither committee, nor administrator stepped back from the main principles of equality of all members and overall membership, as well as its independence as a community from the political parties. They even refused the efforts for a special position - zero-fee membership for several members from the economy field who were honoured with club awards in the past.
Those were mainly companies with foreign majority share (Germany), as well as some individuals - entrepreneurs who frequently presented their views that their personal exceptionality, business success and leadership were not sufficiently highlighted and acknowledged on the club ground.

Distinguished Assembly,
Sixteen months ago we had 155 regular members and 97 honorary members from the Slovak Republic, and 51 members from abroad. Not counting our sympathisers who regularly attend club events either in regions or on central level. There was no change in figures as of the 30th September, since leaving members were substituted by new ones within a month or two. Current situation is similar, and it is same like this whenever activities are required, or membership fee is due.
Officially we made a note of the decision of five members to terminate their memberships; while they showed zero interest in club activities within the whole period since the 7th general assembly. Other two members showed what is not rare either among businessmen or top sportsmen: they are well-off and loaded, yet have manners of country bumpkins: if you do not praise them, or better bow to them, their faces stiffen, unfortunately for them - their brains likewise.
In the period of December 2005 - January 2006, 4 new members were admitted and after this general assembly we will evaluate the interest in membership from other domestic and foreign applicants. It is clever, or better said "verified", to stick to the truth that quality is not a matter of quantity. If we were highly acknowledged for the period from 1993 until Slovakia.s official accession to the European Union, most recently by the founder and President of the most prestigious non-government world organization of economical, scientific and political leaders, World Economic Forum, Professor K. Schwab, this only confirms that we did not waste our time, but contributed to our movement forwards.
It was a unique and unrepeatable chance. And we were working peacefully, yet persistently, often fighting with incorrectness and narrow-mindedness of numerous domestic political potentates. This narrow-mindedness can be explained only as a narrow-mindedness that can be careless, yet too often it is a real source of problems. Serious problems that were inevitable on one hand, yet difficult to handle since they were not accepted.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have already had a meeting in this hall before parliamentary elections. There were leaders or their proxies of all political parties in that meeting. With regards to our experience, but mainly respecting the needs of our society, I recommend (after consultations with committee members) focusing our club activities in the coming two years on these topics:
  • quality of conditions for business, mainly legislative ones;
  • problems of social and living conditions of our citizens, mainly education and health care;
  • democratization of our society;
  • utilization of domestic resources for economical development, mainly in transportation, and supporting the idea of Váh waterway;
  • presentation of national and foreign investors and their projects;
  • general promotion of good image of our republic.

Distinguished Assembly,
Let me thank the former members of the committee and the whole array of members for a good cooperation and promotion of club activities regardless party affiliations or political preferences. Today, I would like to thank personally the President of the Slovak Republic, Mr. Ivan Gašparovič, Minister of Environment, Mr. L. Miklós, former co-chairmen Mr. R. Y. Mosný and L. Sedmák, former chairmen Mr. J. Gabriel, S. Hatina and P. Hrinko, as well as to the chairman of SOPK, Mr. P. Mihók.

Five-member committee was elected in a non-public vote for the 14th and 15th year of our existence, in the panel of: P. Kasalovský, P. Hrinko, R. Y. Mosný, L. Sedmák and J. Dolník. I was elected for a one-year-longer term for the post of the club administrator. I recommend confirmation of Š. Kardoš in the position of auditor until the 9th General Assembly. Administrator will be responsible for renewed functionality of the secretariat and solution of problems with the club economist.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I ask you to express in public voting your consent with or refusal of this annual report on activities since the 7th General Assembly and proposed framework of club activities until 2008. Further, I recommend voting on instructing the committee to evaluate the report on economical management - deadline 25th March, 2006 - and based on this, to submit tax return 2005 to the club administrator, and approve the budget framework for 2006.

New Thinking in New Europe?

R. Y. Mosny, President of The Informal Economic Forum Economic Club, Bratislava, Slovakia, 26 january 2006

In Steven Spielberg's movie, "Catch Me If You Can", the father of the main character compares himself to one of two mice that fell into a bucket filled with cream. One mouse drowned, but the other swam for so long that it turned the cream into butter and the mouse walked out. "Which mouse am I?" the father asks.

After World War II, the European continent could have been allegorically compared to a gigantic bin of cream where many mice were drowning. Many of them also have kept swimming...

Have the remaining swimmers turned the cream into butter? Have some of them survived and walked out into new lives?

After the Second World War, the surviving parts of Europe had only one matter in mind: How can the old continent avoid another bloodshed and mayhem? How can the citizenry of previously feuding and fighting cultures and countries pull together and start building a better and brighter future? How can they avoid cyclical periods of misery, hatred and violence?

A few years after the war in May 1950, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman proposed that several European countries come together to reach agreements about joint interests. Each country would maintain its own identity, but they would work together to best serve all parties through democratic decision-making. The result, known first as the European Community and eventually as the European Union, finally came together in 1958, with six countries initially participating.

But had old habits died completely to ensure that new feuding would not resurface? Was the new Union strong enough to ensure that Europe and its different nations could coexist together under the management of a central government? Could old thinking provide new ideas?

It is obvious that a new era requires new attitudes, new thinking and a new approach. How can the new Union ensure protection and equal rights to all citizens in all aspects of self-determination and protection of many diversified ethnic cultures? Can this be achieved solely with economic instruments?

Nearly 50 years later, the EU has expanded to include 25 countries. The common efforts and issues of the Union could be said to be modeled after the thinking of the great 19-century British ethical philosopher, Jeremy Bentham, who advocated "the greatest good for the greatest number of people". These deal not only with economic matters, but include essential aspects of everyday life, such as citizens' rights; ensuring freedom, security and justice; job creation; regional development; environmental protection; making globalization work for everyone. To make the Union stronger and more intertwined and permanent, the participating members have created a common unifying European currency: the euro.

Historically speaking, Europe has been at the center of world affairs for more than five hundred years; at first alone, but more recently as part of the Western alliance alongside the U.S.A. and Canada. It had been the world's strongest economic power with a cumulative military might of individual European nations that no other continent could match. At one time, Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Germany had controlled three quarters of the world population and world resources. However, the old continent has been losing its importance with the passage of time. Its share of the world population is half what it was in 1820. Its share of world output is down to a fifth, compared with over a third in 1870. It can be reasonably predicted that this decline could continue into the foreseeable future.

Stopping and eventually reversing this potential decline has been the main rationales for the drive to closer European unity that began in the mid-1950s. Recent European visionaries and leaders saw the Continent's two halves - East and West - peacefully unified in an expanded European Union (and an enlarged North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in a way that neither Napoleon nor Hitler could achieve by conquest.

The European continent is entering the 21st Century as part of a multi-polar world in which power is shifting to non-Western nations, mainly in Asia, that only until a few decades ago were European colonies. Compared to the United States, which to this day remains politically powerful and economically strong, today's Europe keeps struggling with the problems of its past that could haunt her into further weakness.

But what direction should this Union take? Should it become an equal partner to the only remaining world superpower, the United States, or should it become the only viable challenger, as Chris Patten, the EU commissioner for external affairs, explicitly called for Europe to become "a serious player...a serious counterweight and counterpart to the United States?" What are the pros and the cons of this view?

First let's review the views of some of the visionaries and social scientists.

Samuel Huntington, a distinguished American historian and social scientist, with expertise in national security, strategy, and civil military relations, democratization and political and economic development of less-developed countries, sees European integration as "the single most important move. It presents an alternative away from the uni-polar world of the post-cold world hiatus toward a truly multi-polar 21st Century."

Dr. Charles Kupchan, a professor of international relations in the School of Foreign Service and Government Department at Georgetown University and a Senior Fellow and Director of Europe Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, predicts that "Europe will soon catch up with America.because it is coming together, amassing the impressive resources and intellectual capital already possessed by its constituent states. Europe's political union is in the midst of altering the global landscape". Kupchan further observes that "a collective Europe is next in line to challenge American power".

Tony Blair's foreign policy guru and a senior British diplomat Robert Cooper, who has been inspired by classical analogies, calls for "a new kind of imperialism, one acceptable to a world of human rights and cosmopolitan imperialism which, like all imperialism, aims to bring order and organization but which rests today on the voluntary principle". He sees the new European Union as the institution best able to become a postmodern imperium of the 21st Century.

British historian and political scientist and author, Niall Ferguson, in his recent book, Colossus, examines the pros and cons of such views. He observes that demographically, the population of the European Union is already more than a quarter larger than that of the United States.

In terms of total economic output, the European Union is not far behind the United States, rapidly closing the gap.

In productivity, the West European economies have spent most of the past half century rapidly catching up with the United States. Ferguson states that "in 1950 gross domestic product per hour worked in the United States was three times what it was in Germany; today, German productivity is just 23 percent lower, while French productivity is a trifling 2 percent less that American. Between 1973 and 1998 U.S. productivity grew at an average annual rate of just 1.5 percent, compared with a French rate of growth of 2.4 percent".

In trade, the United States has large deficits on its external accounts, while European Union runs a small surplus with 20 percent of total world exports (compared to 18 percent in the United States).

With the introduction of the single currency, the euro, the European Economic and Monetary Union has transformed the international capital market and the euro (the "euro block"), as a regional alternative to the dollar and has diminished the US currency in the global trading and reserve currency.

Last, but not least, one should not underestimate the European Union's potential power on the international stage. Even though it lags far behind the United States in arms technology, its military power and capability is not insignificant. According to Ferguson, "the U.S. defense budget is nearly double the combined defense budgets of the fifteen EU Members. In financial terms, the American contribution to NATO exceeds that of the EU members of NATO by around 30 percent".

Perhaps U.S. military might could be one of the major factors why attitudes of people in developing countries are increasingly negative and hostile towards the United States and grow more and more positive towards the European Union. As a result, the EU has been accumulating more and more of the "soft power".

For all the reasons above, it is not irrational for the United States to consider the European Union at least as a potential rival, and even a future adversary.

In summary, the European Union has a single currency, common foreign and security policies and a unique new form of quasi-federal government. The new Europe is independently forging closer and amicable relations with Russia, China and the developing world and is once again becoming a heavyweight player on the world stage.

Yet, there is another side to this balance sheet that has a tendency to be ignored by the Europhiles. Advocates of the transatlantic competition proclaim that in the New Europe, a virtuous circle would ensue. The new pan-European zone will be the world of freedom and prosperity, where it would be easier for member nations to shed the burden of their welfare states and enact the reforms necessary to restore international competitiveness.

It is now clear that it will not be as optimistically projected. More and more Europeans - at least in Western Europe - see the challenges ahead as problems, not opportunities. Many of them regard the advent of the common currency as a cause of their current budget difficulties, not part of the solution.

The aging population is making New Europe old. The median age in Germany will rise from forty today to forty-seven by 2050; the median age in France from twenty-eight to forty-five; the median age in Hungary from thirty-eight to fifty. The implications of this could have serious negative impact on annual growth, reducing it by up to three-quarters of a percentage point by 2040. This poses a serious challenge to already low current growth rate in France, Germany and Italy. The majority of EU members urgently needs to either significantly increase taxation levels, or drastically reduce government spending and subsidies to the agricultural sector in order to avoid unprecedented tax and debt burdens on future generations. In the case of Austria, Finland and the Netherlands, cuts in government spending would need to be of the order of 20 percent to achieve generational balance. This can pose serious social and political challenges that can result in a restless and unstable population. There is no doubt that urgent reforms are needed to avoid a future collapse of the European welfare system.

Europeans work less than their American counterparts. With the influence of powerful unions, Europe's labor market is insufficiently flexible. This is not only due to linguistic barriers but also because of regulations introduced over the years in response to the demands of trade unions. A recent study by the International Monetary Fund considered the evidence from the period 1960 and 1998 and asked a simple question: What would the effect on European unemployment be if the EU labor market were Americanized? The study revealed that it would result in:
  • increasing the participation rate (the proportion of the population in the labor force),
  • reducing the replacement rate (the ratio of benefits to past earnings),
  • reducing employment protection,
  • reducing the tax rate on labor (introducing fiscal reform to eliminate poverty traps),
  • weakening trade unions,
  • decentralizing wage bargaining (where nationwide collective agreements demonstrably cause big differentials in regional unemployment rates).
Americanizing Europe's labor force, the average worker in Europe would work as much as the American average worker - 2,000 hours per year. The current rate of the German worker is 1,535 and some, as in the Netherlands, France and Norway, work even less. Between 1979 and 1999, the average American working year lengthen by fifty hours, or nearly 3 percent, while average German working year shrank by 12 percent and the average Dutch by 14 percent.

There are many more challenges that will need to be addressed going forward. New future members will bring additional issues of integration into the new legal, social and economic system. But most of all, the past imperialistic ambitions of individual powers could collectively resurface and create new instability in the world order. The more power amassed by the New Europe will bring more ambitions. It may pose a serious threat to the current greatest power, the United States, as Germany did to her neighbors and to the world twice in the last century with devastating consequences. The future will tell which direction the new European leaders will choose. Will it continue to be a strong and equal partner to the United States, or will it become a challenger, and ultimately a foe?

It is apparent that the swimmers in the bin of Old Europe are turning the cream into a substance that more and more resembles butter. Once it becomes a solidified matter, the citizenry of New Europe could step out into the new future. In what directions, it is the decision that only they can-and should-make.

Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club

Established 4,500 days ago in the year of 1993

8th General Assembly - 63rd Regular Assembly

4th Meeting of Club Award Laureates

185th Club Meeting

Thursday, 26 January 2006, from 16.00 to 21.00 hours
Pálffy Curia, Zámocká Street, Bratislava


New Thinking in the New World - in the New Europe

A message from Ján Chryzostom Cardinal Korec
And greetings from the French President Jacques Chirac
And President of the World Economic Forum Prof. Klaus Schwab



L. Miklós, Minister of Environment of the SR - environment
P. Mihók, Chairman, Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry - conditions for entrepreneurship
I. Štefanec, Cabinet Plenipotentiary - humanity in society
J. Čarnogurský, former Prime Minister of the SR, lawyer - justice/law
L. Sedmák, President, Tauris Rimavská Sobota - self-sufficiency in nutrition
P. Hrinko, entrepreneur, host
L. Krajňak, Chairman, Slovak Tax Authority, Invest, a.s. - conditions for entrepreneurship
R. Ovesny - Straka, Chairwoman, Slovenská sporiteľňa, a.s.
(Slovak Saving Bank) - foreign investors in the SR
L. Koudelka, General Manager, SVIK Svidník - Roma issues
M. Demko, musicologist and composer - patriotism from the history
L. Vaškovič, Governer, EXIMbank - financial business
V. Veteška, Deputy-Chairman, Slovak Parliament - plurality in society
Prof. P. Krištúfek, President, Slovak Medical Association - healthcare
M. Machová, Director, Slovak Tax Authority - tax system
S. Hatina, entrepreneur - host


Draft Declaration


Awarding Ceremony

Announcement of the Golden Biatec laureates, winners of the Prominent of the Economy 2005, winner of the 6th year of the BEST BANK and winners of the 3rd edition of The Most Likable Member of the Slovak Parliament, Cabinet Member and World Politician 2005 opinion poll


8th General Assembly

1.    Report of the Administrator on club activities since September 2004 and intentions for 2006-2008
2.    Approval of the election results for the administrator,
committee and auditor



Lázně Luhačovice, a.s., Czech Republic
Vienna as a partner city of the Slovak capital Bratislava



Biatec Group, a.s., Bratislava, Lázně Luhačovice, a.s.,
Willing, a.s., Zvolen,  Raven, a.s., Považská Bystrica,
Ostrolúcka, a.s.,  Zvolen, Reding, a.s., Bratislava, SK Invest, a.s.,  Bratislava,
Latem Recycling, s s.r.o., Bratislava,
Borgis, spol. s r.o., Bratislava

Dr. Peter Kasalovský, Administrator and Vice-Chairman,
Bratislava, 22 November 2005

List od prezidenta WEF prof. Klausa Schwaba (zväčšíte kliknutím na obrázok)

"The Slovak Contribution to the European Neighbourhood Policy"

Presentation of Slovak minister of foreign affairs E. Kukan at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA)

Helsinki, 3 November 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased to have this opportunity to address such a prominent Finnish think tank as the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, and to share some of my ideas concerning the European Neighbourhood Policy. For my country, this topic presents an enormous challenge since until not so long ago Slovakia also belonged among the neighbours of the European Union. Today, however, it must and wants to take part in formulating the policy and attaining the objectives in this area.
On 1 May 2004, the European Union gained not only new members, but also new neighbours, both in the East and in the South of the continent. This marked an end to the infamous era of the division of Europe into the East and the West. Europe returned to its logical political and geographic organisation, and the notion of Central Europe regained its political as well as its social and cultural meaning. From this perspective, membership of the EU has tremendous importance for our country. Not only does it mean the recognition that we are part of the Community adhering to universal values of democracy and human rights. Equally important for us was also the recognition that the Iron Curtain did not succeed in destroying cultural and civilisation bonds that had been forged for centuries. And not only that. I have a feeling that even that part of Central Europe that used to lie west of the Iron Curtain seems to realise that it has gained an unprecedented stability. It resumed its place in the community that was alive only in the memories of the oldest generation. In spite of common roots (for instance, the number of similarities you would find between Vienna and Bratislava telephone directories is simply unbelievable), the generations that were growing up during the Cold War seemed to ignore the existence of the world to the east of theirs, up to the point that after the opening of borders many even failed to notice this change. Symbolically speaking: they got used so much to standing on one leg that, when they regained the use of the other one, they are only slowly gathering the courage to shift the weight to both sides. Just for illustration: to this day, the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of Vienna did not visit Bratislava . although the distance between the two cities is only around 50 kilometres. Don.t take this, please, as criticism of the Viennese. I use this example to demonstrate the consequences on the minds of people of an insensitive and inconsiderate political approach that had been responsible for the rise of the Iron Curtain.
Our citizens were keenly aware of this handicap. This is why the decision of the European Union to enlarge eastwards came as such a tremendous motivation. It gave a clear message, which said . we did not support the fall of communism merely to eliminate the threat coming from behind our eastern borders, or to find outlets for our products. The message was: come, we need you, we are part of one common whole. This was also the reason to start speaking about the reunification of Europe.
I hope you can forgive me this rather lofty introduction, which is intended only to frame what Slovakia wants to say about the future of Europe. It is extremely heartening that when the EU started to consider its eastward expansion, it immediately stressed the inadmissibility of the creation of new dividing lines. Europe.s experience with such lines is negative, and no one wants them. This is why we attach such a great significance to the common efforts of the EU Member States to pursue a policy of cooperation with the countries lying in their immediate neighbourhood. In case of Slovakia, we can specifically refer to Ukraine, but also to Belarus and Moldova that are not far from our borders. We cannot therefore perceive the developments in these countries separately from our national interests.
Let me please make another brief excursion to the past. If we speak about inadmissibility of new dividing lines, we must recognise where we stand today. It is a fact that while, in the Cold War era, the borders of Western countries were gradually losing their significance and this trend led to the creation of the Schengen system, nothing like that was conceivable in the East. What the Communist system watched over was not only its western border in Europe. This was only its most visible feature. The very quintessence of the system was to watch over individuals, what they did, where they went, with whom they met. The borders continued to play their irreplaceable role, although even here there had been differences between the Soviet Union and its so-called satellites, which also included Czechoslovakia of that time. (Soviet citizens needed a permit to move even within their own country.) This is why the dividing line in our eastern border continued to exist. If we consider this situation in the light of our accession to the EU and our forthcoming entry to the Schengen system, one would indeed need a great imagination not to see that dividing line. That is the situation we must bear in mind.
Now, however, I would like to speak about European Neighbourhood Policy itself. It clearly reflects our common interest in the development of political, economic and cultural contacts, and cooperation in the security field. One thing I consider to be very important is the firm anchoring of this cooperation in our value system, based on the principles of democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights, and market economy. The European Neighbourhood Policy creates a new type of relationships that enable to strengthen, in a special way, mutual trust, stability and security in Europe and beyond its borders.

There is no doubt that its size, geographical situation and economic potential make Ukraine an important player in the shaping of long-term security and economic stability in Europe. The EU has offered cooperation in the form of the EU.Ukraine Action Plan . an instrument of European Neighbourhood Policy signed this year. The Plan envisages the strengthening of bilateral relations, assistance to Ukraine in obtaining the status of market economy and subsequent admission to the WTO, closer cooperation in the area of foreign and security policy. In this regard, Slovakia has a specific position and a specific role. The fact is that we have practical experience with the implementation of reforms. This is important, especially considering the magnitude of problems that Ukraine has to address. And they are often bigger and deeper than were ours. I am proud to note that the present-day Slovakia is a great source of inspiration, in particular owing to the extent and complexity of reforms it has implemented and continues to carry out. This holds even in relation to some "old" Member States of the EU. The development of our country has demonstrated that a relatively rapid and successful transformation in the countries of the former Soviet bloc is possible. I would, however, like to stress that we are not offering ready-made solutions, or formulas that can be simply copied. Nevertheless, they can serve as a model. And they may help to avoid certain mistakes and errors. Our society has not been immune against them, either. We are offering our experience and knowledge obtained in the transformation of key segments of the society, building institutions and administrative capacities necessary for its effective functioning.
Slovakia has actively supported the process of changes in Ukraine, and immediately after the Orange Revolution it entered into active communication with the new Ukrainian leadership. We transmitted a clear message: You should not hesitate to implement the reforms, and should take advantage of pro-reform moods in the population before a certain political apathy and disillusionment with the complexity of the development starts to set in. The Ukrainian leadership that bears responsibility for the stability of the Ukrainian society decided to postpone fundamental reforms until after the parliamentary elections next spring. Although this is not in line with our recommendations, we understand the motives for such decision. Ukraine has unequivocally declared its course towards the European Union. However, we make it clear to our partners that without fundamental social, political and economic reforms, the rhetoric of ambition to enter the EU remains only a futile gesture. Parliamentary elections are getting nearer and it will soon become apparent whether the Ukrainian politicians got a clear message of this recommendation.
Slovakia - a country that has fresh experience with comprehensive transformation of the society . adopted a government-level document that sets out concrete measures and is a complement to the EU.Ukraine Action Plan. In the first stage, it envisages posting Slovak experts to Ukraine, and the training of Ukrainian civil servants in Slovakia. We are ready to help develop anti-corruption programmes, reform of the judiciary, approximation of laws. An important area of cooperation will certainly be the drafting of nuclear energy and environmental legislation. The document was drawn up in close co-operation with the Ukrainian side, because we do not want to offer assistance where our partner does not feel the need for it, and we want to give it where it is most needed.
The support for the fulfilment of the Action Plan will also include assistance in the preparation of projects for TACIS Cross Border Cooperation programmes, including also contacts between local authorities and businesses in border regions. We intend to launch consultations with the Ukrainian side on joint cross border co-operation projects that could be supported from the European Neighbourhood and Partnership instrument. We must find such forms of cross border co-operation where we could draw on the initiative of people. At the same time, the areas lying on both sides of the border will be able to tap on the potential of the entire region. In this regard, we have taken a lesson from our western border. We have pressed for years on our Austrian friends to complete the construction of transport infrastructure on an approximately 50-km long stretch of road between Vienna and Bratislava. Today, even Austrian entrepreneurs express critical comments about the fact that although the Slovak section of the road has been constructed, not even one kilometre of road has been put in use on the Austrian side. Austrian companies located near Bratislava thus may have irretrievably lost their chance to profit from the boom of automotive industry in Slovakia.
Believe me that we do not want to repeat the same mistake in the eastward direction.
Thus, speaking about the already mentioned dividing lines, and the fulfilment of the spirit of the European Neighbourhood Policy as such, we attach great importance to easing the contacts between Ukrainian citizens and those of EU Member States. Slovakia and Ukraine now apply a so-called asymmetrical visa regime, where Slovak nationals do not need the visa to travel to Ukraine, and Ukrainian nationals obtain Slovak visas free of charge. The European Union has currently reached the final stage of the process of reviewing proposals for reducing or waiving administrative fees for the granting of visas to Ukrainian nationals, simplifying visa requirements, introducing uniform time-limits for issuing visa, waiving visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and service passports. The conclusion of such an agreement would be an important political gesture and a signal for the citizens of Ukraine that the Union does not close its door to them, and a real proof of its intention to erase the dividing lines.
Besides Slovakia, Ukraine.s neighbours include other Member States of the EU . Poland and Hungary . that, together with us and the Czech Republic, are members of the Visegrad Group. The development of contacts between this group and Ukraine is highly beneficial also for the attainment of neighbourhood policy objectives. A lively political dialogue is already ongoing at this level. I would like to make a special mention of scholarships for Ukrainian students financed from the International Visegrad Fund. I am convinced that good-quality professional training of the young and coming generation is one of the important prerequisites for further progress of Ukraine.
The European Neighbourhood Policy does not include the perspective of membership in the EU. Nevertheless, Ukrainian leaders have already declared the interest of their country to enter the Union. Obviously, we all know that Ukraine is still facing a difficult journey of social transformation. But, in my opinion, this should not be a reason to deny European prospects to this important country. The crucial indicator of feasibility of this goal will be the results of the reform of the society and compliance with EU membership criteria. The next three years of implementation of the Action Plan may indicate whether Ukraine has truly embarked on the European journey. We must also openly recognise that the prospect of EU membership of Ukraine has not yet received general acceptance from all Member States. On the other hand, our Ukrainian friends and their European ambitions received a certain encouragement with the declaration of the European Parliament of last January mentioning the possible integration of Ukraine into the EU. Slovakia has made efforts at including future membership of Ukraine among the themes to be considered by the Union. If we denounce the open-door principle, the European Union will loose its concentric power. Moreover, the success of reforms in a country like Ukraine, where the changes are driven by the prospects of EU membership, will be a litmus test for the developments in Eastern Europe as a whole. The success of Ukrainian transformation is therefore in our vital interest. Obviously, it will also be essential to regularly monitor Ukraine.s progress towards this goal. This is also the objective of the conference .Ukraine on its Path to the European Union: Expectations, Possibilities and Limits,. which will be held in cooperation with major think tanks and foundations, and with the possible participation of Slovak Prime Minister Mikulá. Dzurinda, Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Oleh Shamshur in Bratislava this November.
Some EU countries do not support the perspective of Ukraine.s accession to the Union, pointing out to the .absorption capacity. of the EU that must be taken into account in connection with future enlargements. I have no intention to challenge this reflection, but let me remind you that the EU has already defined one principle, namely that every country belonging to the compact European area and capable to harmonise its own system with European standards must be given a chance to make its integration ambitions a reality. This principle was not formulated only by chance, as it reflects a thorough political and historical analysis of developments in Europe. The EU enlargement process used to be an engine of positive development both in the Union itself and in the wider neighbourhood in the last decades. We think that the Union must preserve its open-door policy. There is no doubt that this policy had and continues to have a decisive influence on the today.s face of Europe. One of the key concepts, which is sometimes overlooked, is security. When we speak about security and have a real instrument to guarantee it, we must not attach a greater significance to other problems (even at the risk of losing voter support) than they really deserve.
This brings me back to Ukraine one more last time. It is clearly a European country, a country with similar cultural and civilisation roots. As I have already mentioned, insensitive political approaches can potentially create an almost virtual world in our minds. The real world then exceeds our .absorption capacity.. I therefore believe that it is important to leave the door open or at least half-open to the eastward enlargement of the Union. We remember what it means to have to rely only on oneself. And how important it is to have a goal . a strategic vision. We also know how encouraging can be a seemingly small forthcoming gesture of the democratic community. Naturally, if it is justified. Let us not forget that the citizens of Ukraine also need to have the feeling that someone is counting on them.

Slovakia is ready to offer its assistance also to another Eastern European country in fulfilling its tasks under the Action Plan . to Moldova. In this respect, like in the case of Ukraine, bilateral assistance is to be complemented with effective involvement of the Visegrad Group. Our contribution in the form of expert assistance will be based on the needs of and requests from the Moldavian side, and will be primarily focused on the drafting of legislation and on public administration reform. We do not rule out the possibility of participation in the twining programmes on the fight against the organised crime.
We support the territorial integrity of Moldova and the steps taken to make progress in the resolution of the Transnistria conflict. To this end, we have supported the setting up of an EU monitoring mission on the Ukrainian-Moldavian border that will soon start to operate. In our perception, close cooperation with the Moldavian and Ukrainian representatives in the fight against illegal trade in arms, smuggling of goods, organised crime and corruption represents the first concrete contribution of the EU to the resolution of the conflict.

At this time, Belarus does not participate in the European Neighbourhood Policy. The main reason is the non-democratic situation in the country. We are concerned about repressive actions taken against the democratic forces, non-governmental organisations and non-state mass media. I am, however, convinced that the yearning for freedom of the citizens of Belarus will make it possible to overcome all obstacles to the exercise of political and human rights in their country and, consequently, enable its convergence with the EU. In connection with future developments, the international community must take a clear position on the intention of A. Lukashenko to run in presidential elections. In the light of the negative assessment of the last year.s republic referendum in Belarus, we consider it unconstitutional.
The deepening self-imposed international isolation of the current regime prevents us from developing stronger bilateral political relations. We are therefore focusing on contacts at expert and non-governmental level, with emphasis on citizens. associations and the young generation. Of special importance from this perspective are the activities of Slovak non-governmental organisations. A more detailed account of these activities has recently been presented at this Institute by another representative of Slovakia, Pavol Deme., director of the German Marshall Fund for Central and Eastern Europe. With a view to bringing the values underlying the European Union closer to the citizens of Belarus, we attach great importance to cooperation in the area of education and culture. We support the contacts and exchange of experience between various educational institutions, and the stays of Belorussian teachers and students in Slovakia.
It is equally essential to intensify the engagement of the EU in Belarus, also in order to counter the misinformation campaign of Belorussian authorities concerning the EU and its Member States. In this connection, we believe that a Delegation of the European Commission in Minsk should be set up as soon as possible.
Development assistance
The Slovak Republic wants to contribute to implementing the European Neighbourhood Policy also through development assistance. Development assistance has become a new instrument and an inseparable part of Slovak foreign policy. This reflects the depth of changes recorded in Slovakia during the last 15 years. The successful track record of the country gives an answer to all the sceptics who do not believe in the powerful impact of the open-door policy. Slovakia is a source of motivation to many countries, and it has fulfilled the expectations of our partners when they provided development assistance to us. Now, in turn, we are able to transfer the Slovak experience and know-how to selected countries, involve Slovak experts and entities in international development projects by strengthening their activities abroad.
Last year, the Slovak government earmarked SKK 10 million for financing official assistance to Ukraine and Belarus. These funds were used to implement 4 projects in Ukraine and 2 in Belarus. The same amount was provided for these two countries also this year. The projects for Belarus were designed to strengthen mutual contacts between the .think tanks. and civil society organisations, with the objective of defining economic reform strategies in Belarus, and developing communication skills of young Belorussian politicians with a view to improving their chances in the political arena.
Western Balkans
The evidence to the fact that the European perspective can be one of the key factors of stabilisation, democracy and prosperity, is today clearly seen also in the Western Balkans. This region is not included into the European Neighbourhood Policy because the conclusions of the EU.Western Balkans summit expressed in the .Thessaloniki Agenda for the Western Balkans. of June 2003 state that these countries were given a clear perspective of full membership of the EU. Of exceptional significance for further development in the Western Balkans is the launching of EU accession negotiations with Croatia. Slovakia gave its consistent and sustained support to this decision, which was not easy to be born. Yet, its significance for positive changes in the Western Balkans is far-reaching, and we are perhaps still not able to fully appreciate it. In the first place, it gives a clear evidence of the fact that accession to the Union is not only a fata morgana for Balkan states, but a very real future, and it therefore makes sense to reform social institutions and structures, and to build constructive relations with the neighbours. There is no other positive option for the future of the Western Balkans.
Please, do not suspect me of indulging in a dream of beautiful future without giving heed to the complex realities of the day. I can see them very well, and our country wants to contribute to finding a solution. We attach great significance to the continued intensive political dialogues with the countries of the region, both multilateral and bilateral, combined with the support for building market economy, structural reforms, and development assistance. The Slovak Republic provides official development assistance to four Balkan countries (Serbia and Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia . FYROM, Albania). One of the main tasks in our opinion is to build the civil society, which is the solid base of democracy. In this connection, Slovak non-governmental organisations have received high recognition for their very effective work in all the countries of the region.
Naturally, we cannot overlook the fact that the most serious problems in most countries of Western Balkans have an ethnic colouring, and that their solution is complicated by previous, often very bloody conflicts. The only real solution is the reconciliation between the different nations and ethnic groups and parallel building of a multiethnic society on the basis of civil cohesion. This process is neither simple nor short. It is, however, inevitable for peace, stability and democracy in this part of Europe.
We are standing today at the threshold of addressing probably the most serious and the most difficult question of the Western Balkans, Kosovo. I advocate a cautious and patient approach, without undue rush. The decisions that will be adopted should not jeopardise the results that we have been able to achieve in Western Balkans at the price of tremendous efforts. I am even convinced that the importance and influence of the decisions on this issue will transcend the whole region of the Balkans.
The decision on the status of Kosovo will be taken at the UN soil. This does not mean, however, that the EU should not take action and initiative in this matter. Just the opposite. It should make full use of its expertise obtained to date and exercise the authority that it has gained in the Balkans. I am even convinced that the EU will be a decisive factor for the outcome of the entire process. Slovakia as a Member State of the Union and a freshly elected non-permanent member of the UN Security Council is ready to contribute to the successful fulfilment of this mission.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Slovakia's geographical situation in the European Union is rather interesting. Although it lies .on the Eastern wing. of the Union, except for its 90-kilometer border with Ukraine, all its other borders are with the Member States of the Union. This does not mean, however, that we are oblivious to what is happening behind EU borders. We are committed to a stable and secure external environment of the Union, since this will increase our own sense of security. We do not, however, want to build Europe as a fortress. I prefer to see it as a modern and attractive house that radiates peace and inspiration for its surroundings.
Thank you for your attention.

R. Y. Mosny, Co-President, Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club


Corruption impedes the development of markets, drives away the investment, increases costs of doing business, and stalls democracy-building efforts. It can be easily identified as one of the leading reasons for the ongoing failures of the developing economies. Corruption prospers in countries with weak legal institutions, poor enforcement mechanisms, vague and complex laws and regulations, and too much discretionary power at various levels of government. Yet, corruption is not simply a problem of corrupt government officials - the private sector (the supply-side of corruption) also shares responsibility for the corrupt practices that weaken economies and is a victim of the higher and unpredictable transaction costs that come with corruption.

Why Worry About Corruption?

Corruption has been around for a very long time and will be around in the future unless governments can figure out effective ways to combat it. This is not going to be easy. Although the study of the causes and consequences of corruption has a long history in economics, going back 30 years to seminal contributions on what economists call "rent seeking", related empirical work on quantifying the extent of corruption and putting a dollar sign on its economic effects has been limited. This is hardly surprising since most corruption is clandestine. Also, determining just how efficient government institutions are is not what would be called an exact science. As a consequence, corruption is notoriously hard to measure and empirical economic research on the question is fairly incomplete.
Wide publicity surrounding the statements at the multinational financial institutions' 1996 Annual Meetings by the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund that governments must demonstrate their intolerance for corruption in all its forms and by the President of the World Bank that the "cancer of corruption" must be dealt with have stimulated renewed interest in the topic in the 90's, and intensifying today. Researchers have begun to look at so-called corruption indices, which are produced by private rating agencies and are typically based on replies by consultants living in the countries to standardized questionnaires. Obviously the replies are subjective, but the correlation between indices produced by different rating agencies is very high, suggesting that most observers agree more or less on ranking countries according to how corrupt they seem to be. The high prices paid to the rating agencies by their customers (usually multinational companies and international banks) constitute indirect evidence that the information is useful and can have tangible economic effects. On the other hand, the judgment of the consultants who produce these indices may be skewed by the economic performance of the countries they monitor. Substandard economic performance by itself does not argue to pervasive corruption, nor is economic success an infallible sign of innocence of corruption. It is therefore important in analyzing the relationship between perceived corruption and economic variables to be cautious about interpreting correlations as cause-effect relationships. An additional drawback of these indices is their failure to distinguish among various types of corruption: high-level versus low-level corruption or well-organized versus poorly organized corruption. Despite these limitations, the indices provide a wealth of useful information.

Causes of Corruption

Since much public corruption can be traced to government intervention in the economy, policies aimed at liberalization, stabilization, deregulation, and privatization can sharply reduce the opportunities for rent-seeking behavior and corruption. Where government regulations are pervasive, however, and government officials have discretion in applying them, individuals are often willing to offer bribes to officials to circumvent the rules and, sad to relate, officials are occasionally tempted to accept these bribes. Identifying such policy-related sources of corruption is obviously helpful in bringing it under control. The following sources have for some time been well known.
  • Trade restrictions are the prime example of a government-induced source of rents. If importing a certain good is subject to quantitative restriction (for example, only so many foreign automobiles can be imported each year), the necessary import licenses become very valuable and importers will consider bribing the officials who control their issue. More generally, protecting a home industry (such as plywood manufacturing) from foreign competition through tariffs creates a semi-monopoly for the local industry. Local manufacturers will lobby for the establishment and maintenance of these tariffs and some may be willing to corrupt influential politicians to keep the monopoly going. Studies have shown that a very open economy is significantly associated with lower corruption. In other words, countries tend to be less corrupt when their trade is relatively free of government restrictions that corrupt officials can abuse.
  • Government subsidies can constitute a source of corruption. Studies show corruption can thrive under industrial policies that allow poorly targeted subsidies to be appropriated by firms for which they are not intended. The more such subsidies are available to industries, the higher the corruption index.
  • Price controls, whose purpose is to lower the price of some good below its market value (usually for social or political reasons), are also a source of corruption and of ensuing corruption/rent-seeking behavior. Price controls create incentives for individuals or groups to bribe officials to maintain the flow of such goods or to acquire an unfair share at the below-market price.
  • Multiple exchange rate practices and foreign exchange allocation schemes may lead to corruption. Some countries have several exchange rates--one for importers, one for tourists, one for investors, for example. Differentials among these rates can lead to attempts to obtain the most advantageous rate, although this rate might not apply to the intended use of the exchange. Multiple exchange rate systems are often associated with anti-competitive banking systems in which a key bank with government ties can make huge profits by arbitraging between markets. Some countries have little foreign currency and distribute what they have through various schemes, with varying degrees of transparency. If, for example, state-owned commercial banks ration scarce foreign exchange by allocating it according to priorities established by government officials, interested parties may be willing to bribe these officials to obtain more than their fair share.
  • Low wages in the civil service relative to wages in the private sector are a source of low-level corruption. When civil service pay is too low, civil servants may be obliged to use their positions to collect bribes as a way of making ends meet, particularly when the expected cost of being caught is low.

  • In addition to government regulations as an occasion for corruption, other reasons for corruption have been identified.
  • Natural resource endowments (oil, gold, exotic lumber) constitute a textbook example of a source of corruption, since they can typically be sold at a price that far exceeds their cost of extraction and their sale is usually subject to stringent government regulation, to which corrupt officials can turn a blind eye. Resource-rich economies may be more likely to be subject to extreme corruption/rent-seeking behavior than are resource-poor countries.
  • Sociological factors may contribute to rent/corruption-seeking behavior. An index of ethnolinguistic fractionalization (societal divisions along ethnic and linguistic lines) has been found to be correlated with corruption. Also, public officials are more likely to do favors for their relatives in societies where family ties are strong.
  • Consequences of Corruption

    Among the many disagreeable aspects of corruption is evidence that it slows economic growth through a wide range of channels.
  • In the presence of corruption, businessmen are often made aware that an up-front bribe is required before an enterprise can be started and that afterwards corrupt officials may lay claim to part of the proceeds from the investment. Businessmen therefore interpret corruption as a species of tax-though of a particularly pernicious nature, given the need for secrecy and the uncertainty that the bribe-taker will fulfill his part of the bargain-that diminishes their incentive to invest. Empirical evidence suggests that corruption lowers investment and retards economic growth to a significant extent.
  • Where rent/corruption seeking proves more lucrative than productive work, talent will be misallocated. Financial incentives may lure the more talented and better educated to engage in corruption seeking rather than in productive work, with adverse consequences for the country's growth rate.
  • Of particular relevance to developing countries is the possibility that corruption might reduce the effectiveness of aid flows through the diversion of funds. Aid, being fungible, may ultimately help support unproductive and wasteful government expenditures. Perhaps as a result, many donor countries have focused on issues of good governance, and in cases where governance is judged to be especially poor, some donors have scaled back their assistance.
  • When it takes the form of tax evasion or claiming improper tax exemptions, corruption may bring about loss of tax revenue.
  • By reducing tax collection or raising the level of public expenditure, corruption may lead to adverse budgetary consequences. It may also cause monetary problems if it takes the form of improper lending by public financial institutions at below-market interest rates.
  • The allocation of public procurement contracts through a corrupt system may lead to lower quality of infrastructure and public services.
  • Corruption may distort the composition of government expenditure. Corruption may tempt government officials to choose government expenditures less on the basis of public welfare than on the opportunity they provide for extorting bribes. Large projects whose exact value is difficult to monitor may present lucrative opportunities for corruption. A priori, one might expect that it is easier to collect substantial bribes on large infrastructure projects or high-technology defense systems than on textbooks or teachers' salaries.
  • Effects of Corruption on Investment and Economic Growth

    Regression analysis indicates that the amount of corruption is negatively linked to the level of investment and economic growth, that is to say, the more corruption, the less investment and the less economic growth. Several studies show that if the corruption index improves by one standard deviation (equal to 2.38 in this case--a standard deviation measures variation from the "normal" index), the investment rate increases by more than 4 percentage points and the annual growth rate of per capita GDP increases by over a half percentage point. In effect, a country that improves its standing on the corruption index from, say, 6 to 8 ( 0 is most corrupt, 10 least), will enjoy the benefits of an increase of 4 percentage points of investment, with consequent improvement in employment and economic growth.

    Corruption and Government Expenditure

    When many government officials have the option, do corrupt politicians choose government projects on which it is easier to levy bribes rather than those that promise the greatest public good? Does the greed of corrupt politicians affect to any significant degree the composition of government expenditure? Whether a dam is built or an equally costly squadron of jet fighters purchased would make no difference to politicians, who would derive the same bribe from each option. They could afford to act in the public interest. In the real world, however, it seems reasonable to interpret any empirical relationship between corruption indices and particular components of government spending as tentative evidence that bribes can be more readily collected on some types of government expenditure than on others.
    The question whether corruption affects the composition of government expenditure is an interesting one to consider because, even though the empirical literature has so far yielded mixed results on the effects of government expenditure and its composition on economic growth, most economists think that the level and type of spending undertaken by governments do matter for economic performance. Fairly robust evidence suggests, for example, that high rates of enrollment in schools are related to superior economic growth. Is there evidence that corrupt governments may display predatory behavior in choosing the composition of government expenditure? Specifically, is government spending on education negatively affected by corruption?
    Many statistical analysis also show that government spending on education as a ratio to GDP is negatively and significantly correlated with corruption (the more corruption, the less spent on education). Analysis also shows that if a country moves up the corruption index from, say, 6 to 8 (it improves its respectability by one standard deviation), government spending on education increases by around a half a percent of GDP.
    It is possible to speculate that, while bribes are difficult to levy on teachers' salaries, they are easier to levy on the construction of school buildings and other capital expenditures. Most people suspect that corruption leads to high capital expenditure on "white elephant" projects (grandiose presidential palaces, unnecessarily large airports, or vast university campuses).


    The World Bank has identified corruption as the single greatest obstacle to economic and social development. It undermines development by distorting the rule of law and weakening the institutional foundation on which economic growth depends.

    The harmful effects of corruption are especially severe on the poor, who are hardest hit by economic decline, are most reliant on the provision of public services, and are least capable of paying the extra costs associated with bribery, fraud, and the misappropriation of economic privileges.

    Corruption sabotages policies and programs that aim to reduce poverty, so attacking corruption is critical to the achievement overarching mission of poverty reduction. Strong aan effective anticorruption strategy builds on five key elements:

    1. Increasing Political Accountability
    2. Strengthening Civil Society Participation
    3. Creating a Competitive Private Sector
    4. Institutional Restraints on Power
    5. Improving Public Sector Management

    To reduce the corrosive impact of corruption in a sustainable way, it is important to go beyond the symptoms to tackle the causes of corruption. For example, since 1996, the World Bank has supported more than 600 anticorruption programs and governance initiatives developed by its member countries.

    In addition, many big multinational companies already claim to observe strict prohibitions against bribery and influence peddling, and many have signed other pacts opposing corruption. Their main aim is to get all the big players in key industries to work in unison, with all feeling they are on a level playing field, and monitor each other. Organizers are concentrating on the construction, energy, and metals and mining industries because they frequently operate in the developing world and have some of the biggest corruption problems. In addition, they are each dominated by a handful of global giants, so it is relatively easy to get most of the industry leaders into one room where they can work things out face to face.
    (Bratislava, 182. meeting and 61. regular assembly on 14. 6. 2005)


    Medium :
    Dimenzie 06/2005, p. 28-31

    Sensibly, civilly, but always without a trace of pomposity

    ´The goals have not changed. To oppose governmental or oppositional economic policy, in better case strategy, to help the development of the international relationships and thus improve the reputation of Slovakia, ´ says Peter Kasalovský, administrator and executive vice-chairman of NEF- Economic Club
    Matej Kosický

    NEF- Economic Club has belonged to the third sector for twelve years; originally Foundation HNclub (August 1993- July 1997) and the Informal economic forum- HN club (since fEbruary 1999). Although the share of member firms on the industrial production reached 60 per cent for a few years, regardless its personal power, it has never taken part in negotiations of the third sector. After a year or two, none of the members felt obstructed that the club was perceived as a accosiation of a special importance. The reason why it was always ignored is that it has nenver asked or appealed for a financial or other support from abroad or from a home state body or institution.

    Its events are always organized without any pomposity and in civil atmosphere, although many personalities from twenty- five or fifty the most influential countries took part, presidents, prime ministers from all over the world, the best capacities of economic science or the representatives of the world organizations such as World Economic Forum, Forum Universale, OECD and UNESCO. Regardless three Slovak presidents, two prime ministers, many ministers, representatives of coalition, opposition and many irreplaceable politicians. This association has been connected with the name of Dr. Peter Kasalovsky (1951) since its establishment. He is the administrator and executive vice-chairman. From 1993, he was an editor-in-chief of the Hosporárske noviny (the Economic newspapers) for five years and the held the same position at the Hospodársky denník (the Economic Daily). Nowadays, he operates as an counsellor of some foreign and home companies but also international authorities. He is completing the book Bossovia a bosíci (Bosses and bossies) in which he analyses the situation and its creators in both previous and contemporary regimes.

    In August 2003, thirsty-five significant entrepreneurs and officials met in the hotel Forum in Bratislava. They supported your idea regardless political membership or support of any political parites. You worked as a editor-in-chief for the Hospodárske noviny, which should have sealed all those people. Was it really the beginning of the former Foundation HNclub and in July 1997 it was transformed into association Informal Economic Forum- Economic club?
    Yes, it really was its start. Twelve years have passed since then. Sixty- one overall club meetings have been held so far. However, 182 events have been organized. On average, one club meeting took part monthly, what is absolutely incredible. The main reason is that entrepreneurs are away at least three months a year. In January and July, we have always had holidays. After the rise of an independent Slovak Republic, we established all necessary annual awards for both home and international personalities in the field of economy as well as the companies Zlatý Biatec (Golden Biatec; biatec= an old Celtic coin) and Prominent ekonomiky (Economic Prominent). The results of traditional club survey such as Best Bank or The Most Engaging MP of the Slovak parliament SR, the member of the government and World Poitian is fairly responded at home and abroad.

    Their have 200 regular members plus 150 honoured members from home, sixty members from abroad (V.I.P.s) and at least 100 members are in regional or local clubs. We have members and supporters in the Czech Republic since establidshement of the club. WE got new members freom Austria, Germany and Switzerland two years ago. Not saying that some leaders of diplomatic missions in the Slovak Republic are free enter to the club during most club events. This privilege is usually used by ambassadors form the USA and Russia, and in smaller number ambassadors from China, Austria, Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic. Not quantity but the quality matters. We want members of high quality by understanding the club objectives.

    It is all about facts but far too brief. Could you analyse them more? What are the original objectives and medial partners like?
    The goals have not changed. To oppose governmental or oppositional economic policy, in better case strategy, to help the development of the international relationships and thus improve the reputation of Slovakia. A new task was set at the last plenary assembly, i.e. to search for economic and social contacts and use theim in economic practice. We used economically- focused dailies, Hospodárske noviny and Hospodársky denník. to inform public about attitudes and opinions.

    The Proclamation of the Three.

    addressed to the National Council of the SR and the Government SR

    The Government of Laws
    On the part of the entrepreneurs, nothing is more important than the government of laws which guarantees equal rules for all participants on the market in a clear, brief and also sensitive way and effectively cares for their observation. This is how the entrepreneurs understand stability within the entrepreneurial environment. A successful government of laws is characterized by a high quality of standard of laws which is closely connected to the quality of institute of the executive, law-making and judicial powers. A hasty, chaotic and low quality of creation of laws that are not mutually tied up and poorly implemented in the real life, creates chaos in the entrepreneurial environment, which is a fertile ground for sordid methods of gaining entrepreneurial advantages at the account of other entities on the market.

    In Slovakia, the government of laws is not successful. It is not only a consequence of complicated and unexplored process of transformation, but also a week reflection on the part of the governmental and law making power for the real needs of the society, including the entrepreneurs. Following the legislative storm of laws, that were necessary for our entering the EU, a second storm of laws is imminent in the form of the current governmental reforms. Within the second storm of laws it is, first and for most, the wish of small but strong foreign and home lobby groups that gain victory. Thus, injustice is done to the majority, mainly to the small and medium size businesses and tradesmen.
    Complicity, complexity and financial demands for recovering their claims are all in favour of the big, rich and mainly foreign entrepreneurs, but not in favour of the small size businesses, as well as majority of the citizens in Slovakia.

    In doing business time is one of the decisive criteria of success. In creating and maintaining the government of laws, time has double position. Time underestimation in preparation and creation of new laws and the whole legal system, their hasty and non-system implementation obstruct effective and, as for the time, quick resolution of disputes of entrepreneurs. In doing business, a bad preparation, a bad strategy brings about a bad result. The same applies for the government of laws. The lack of consideration, linkage, conception and poor knowledge of essence of the matter breeds poor quality of legal environment and institutes which are supposed to guarantee such a government of laws. Here lies the essence of entrepreneurs recovery of claims.


    As for the complex and concept, Slovakia has a well-built energy infrastructure. It is one of its few competitive advantages not only in the European Union but also in the globalizing world. This situation could also be maintained in the future. However, the current executive power faces a historic decision. By selling the property of Slovenské elektrárne, a.s., (Slovak power plants, plc.), they want to relieve themselves of the responsibility for further development of the energy infrastructure and leave it to the invisible forces of the market and capability and willingness of a new foreign owner to protect the Slovak citizens, as well as entrepreneurs, from possible energy threats to the Slovak Republics existence. The governmental power should realize that the assets in energies are not measured only by the money in the book value or counted according to the methodology of industrial companies property appreciation. The assets of the Slovak energies are by far wider and, above all, innumerable. They lie in their integration, in their unique know-how of construction and in the operation of nuclear power plants built on the basis of Russian, German and French technologies, as well as in the constructed, sophisticated infrastructure of services needed for their reliable and secure operation, in the sophisticated operation of water energies; in addition to that, they also lie in the experience in constructing and operating energy sources on the basis of coal and natural gas.

    No doubt the liberalization of market with energies is necessary; but it is not possible to replace it by absolutely free sale and purchase implementing the rules of the municipal markets. The experience in boundless liberalization in California in the USA, as well as in Italy, is a clear memento for all governments worldwide. At present, Slovakia is not completely dependent on the income from its asset sales in the Slovak Power Plants,. Plc. The sales based on the ideological blindness is the worst thing that can happen to the Slovak energies and Slovak economy. The Slovak energies are in need of minority institutional investor in order to not only maintain its present good quality and competitive ability, but also to develop and strengthen it at the time of liberalization of market with energies in the EU. At the turbulent time of globalization, the energy security of a national state, based on well operating complex energy system, cannot be and anachronism, but and inevitability of healthy, better and secure functioning of the globalized world. This is what the present executive power should be aware of while preparing to get rid of responsibility for the security of future generations on the basis of ideological bias.

    Formulated at the 7th General Assembly and 175th Meeting of the Economic Club (NEF)

    In Bratislava on 27th September 2004.

    Dr. Peter Kasalovský, the Administrator and Executive Vice-President.
    Mudr. Andrej Janco, the member of the Committee.
    Ing. Peter Magvaši, the founding member.


    Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club
    From 1st July 2003 to the 7th General Assembly, held on 27th September 2004
    Dr. Peter Kasalovský, the Administrator and the Executive Vice-President

    Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests,

    the account of the club activities in the twelfth and at the beginning of the thirteenth year of its existence could be characterized as a better average, as for the number of activities carried out, but, above all, as for its contents and their inspiration.

    In the period of time from 1st July 2003 up to now, the following central events have been held:

    161st meeting and 52nd regular assembly held on 16th October 2003 with the topic of “New Russia” opened by the Club Administrator’s introductory speech and the exposé of A. Borodavkin, the Ambassador of the Russian Federation in the SR followed by a moderated discussion; next topic was about the problems of self-government in the Trnava Region at the presence of P. Tomeček, its Chairman.

    162nd meeting, 53rd regular assembly and 10th event of the cycle called “Economic leaders in the SR”, held on 12th November 2003 with the main guest of Siemens Osterreich A.G. at the head with A. Hochleitner, the Chairman of the Board.

    165th meeting and 54th regular assembly held on 16th December 2003; the main point of the agenda was the presentation of P. Kasalovský, the Administrator of the club community who’s topic was entitled “Poverty breeds Poverty”, “On responsibilities of the successful”; other activities where the presentations of ROMOR project by L. Koudelka, the Managing Director of SVIK, Ltd. Svidník and the announcement of new laureates of prestigious prizes the Golden Biatec 2004 and the Prominent of Economy 2004.

    167th meeting and 55th regular assembly, held on 24th December 2004, dealt with two main points: AEUA (Association of employers union’s and associations) with the opening speech of M. Lach, its President, and the Romany “unemployment” and the quality of life in the SR, which was introduced by R. Patkolo, the Chairman of the Romany Initiative.

    167th meeting and 56th regular assembly, held on 6th May 2004, discussed the topic called About the HCP ( Hungarian Coalition Party), the Hungarian minority and Slovakia. Béla Bugár was the author of the opening speech and P. Kasalovský was the leader of the Hungarians. He also began almost one hundred minutes’ exchange of opinions with Béla Bugár, the Vice-Chairman of the NC SR (National Council of the Slovak Republic) and the Chairman of the HCP.

    172nd meeting on 3rd June 2004, there was a gala dinner in honour of electing I. Gašparovič, the President of the SR. Forty members had been invited on the basis of drawing lots out of all members; it is important to say that the Club representation consisted of 55 members altogether. The newly elected President was addressed by P. Kasalovský, the Administrator of the Club. The toasts were proposed by the members of the Committee: S. Hatina, the Chairman of the Board in Slovnaft, plc. Bratislava and L. Sedmák, the President of Tauris,plc., Rimavská Sobota. I. Gašparovič, the President- Elect, expressed the basic ideas of his presidential philosophy. During this event, laureates of the prestigious awards were announced: K. Pavlu, the Honorary President of the ZPS was awarded the Prominent of Economy 2003 together with the publicist E. Drobný, the Director of Perfect publishing house.

    175th Club meeting, 7th General Assembly on 27th September 2004 worked according the following approved agenda:

    1. A. Annual report and the draft of planned activities.
      B. Auditors report on economy of the Club in 2003.
      C. Draft of changes in the Statutes
    2. Expose of D. Lipšic, the Vice-Chairman and Minister of Justice SR dealing with the topic of justice in the SR.
    3. Expose of Ing. Dr. Richard Schenz on Capital market in the EU after its enlargement with respect to the currency development.
    4. Expose of T. Malatinský, the President of the AEU SR about Energy security in the SR.
    5. Presentation of FAB Slovakia,Ltd., Nová Baňa

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    in this period of time, P. Kasalovský, the Administrator, was received by R.Schuster, the President of the SR; he briefed the President on the Club activities. One-hour meeting was held on 10 October 2003 in the Presidential palace. Further, the Administrator was also received twice by Jan Chryzostom , the cardinal Korec who is the honorary member of the NEF Economic Club and laureate of its millenium Golden Biatec. The two-hour meeting took place on 5th February 2004 and the other one was held on 23rd July 2004. The Administrator was also received by J. Sokol, the archibishop of Bratislava and Trnava diocese and the bishop of Trnava on Friday, 27th August. They exchanged their views on the development of social situation , as well as on the factors causing poverty in the SR, and on other issues as well. At the end of last November, there was a traditional social meeting with the employees of Hospodársky denník (Economic Daily), being our media partners, together with employees from other media. Since March, the Administrator of the Club community has regularly held a meeting once in ten days with representatives of some electronic, agency and press media.

    Distinguished delegates and guests,

    from the above-mentioned, it is quite evident that the Club has operated and presented itself in the public by its central activities that were rich with interesting contents and challenges. All in all, it organized six meetings and today’s General Assembly, which is filled with very interesting programme. There is no doubt that the past year was richer again. To be exact, there were three more events , as our Statutes say that , as a rule, four events and one GA should be organized within a year.

    In the past period of time, the election of the members for the Committee of the Club was carried out by ballot through correspondence and the same method was later used in choosing the laureates for the prestigious awards the Golden Biatec and the Prominent of Economy. It is necessary to say that the activities of the Club’s “subsidiaries” in Poprad were highly appreciated because, officially, the rest of regional clubs almost ceased to develop activities whatsoever. However, P. Beck had done a very good job again. In cooperation with some firms in the region and Gerlach hotel Hubert, he organized seven events, out of them, one “sports day” in which many central members took part. Needless to say that it was a stimulating signal towards the Slovak South and East. In addition, J. Sitarčík decided to revive several years’ activities of Novohrad-Gemer Club and initiated a meeting of ten entrepreneurs, held on 7th April 2004. As a result, a meeting of entrepreneurs from several towns was initiated and last Friday’s meeting in Košice was very successful. The Chairman of the new club is with us here today. What is more, new impulses have reached us from the members and supporters in the Czech Republic. Z. Dokulil, an entrepreneur, has decided to continue with the old traditions of friendly contact meetings with the Slovak entrepreneurs in Zlín and its surroundings.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    had it not been for a lot of member companies, we would not have been able to operate at the present range of activities. We would have been forced to limit our activities towards the foreign countries. We appreciate the financial contributions, we received for securing the individual events, from the following member firms: Reding, plc., Siemens, Ltd., Corinex,plc., Hotel Lux Banská Bystrica, START SK agency and the Slovak office of Deloitte. In this year, we have recorded an interest in membership together with universal support for NEF Economic Club traditions on the part of several foreign bank houses and investment corporations, e.g. GutmannBank, Argus and Claridenbank Zurich.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    I believe the Club has survived a second critical moment. The first one occurred in theautumn 1996; it was the year when the community of that time kept silent outwardly- as if it had been the result of social and political situation and the overall atmosphere in the SR. I identify myself with this opinion, yet, I do not feel that we have learnt a lesson from this time. One of big impulses at that time, for changing the situation towards a normal life, was the presence of Professor K. Schwab, the President of WEF, at the Club convention and the accompanying events on 3rd and 4th November 1996.

    As for the second critical moment, which we started perceiving; it happened in November and finished at the meeting with B. Bugár, i.e. after five months. The essence of the crisis appeared to be the individual, however, for the majority of membership unacceptable, speeches of some of the members, mainly in connection with the official reaction of the Club at J. Wolfensohn’s instigation, (the President of the World Bank), in addition to the speech of the Club Administrator ”Poverty breeds poverty”; what was more , was the Club’s interest in activating the Romany ethnic, whose development has caused well-grounded worries of social and economic destabilization so far. Last week, after the inadequate reactions / silence of the responsible officials and ministers of the Government SR, and the foreign institutions and personalities, we had addressed, we turned our attention to the assigned representative of the Secretary General of the UNO, providing him with concrete suggestions for cardinal and meaningful solution of the problems of the Romany ethnic.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    some of our members have not confirmed this year’s membership by paying their membership fee yet, or they have announced that they will not be working in the Club any more. Others have informed unofficially or just hinted that they will come back to the Club only if certain persons are not there. Some have got into trouble with the judicial or police power.

    In this atmosphere, an unpleasant event occurred; the President of the Club enforced the Club’s secretariat to be moved out of his factory premises on 2nd February2004. It was also the day of terminating partnership with Hospodársky denník, whose publishing activities were brought to an end in an unusual and peculiar way by A. F. Zvrškovec, the Chairman of the Board of this publishing company on 31st January 2004.

    Today, it is not important to talk about what assisted the above-mentioned development in organizing the Club activities, as well as outwardly. What is essential is that due to a number of home members and foreign supporters, the idea of above party-political activities has not only been maintained, but also strengthened.

    Checking the membership was a part of this process, carried out originally on the basis of the Committee and its President’s decision on 31st January and later , at the Administrator’s instigation on 30th April 2004. Although the Committee determined further membership to be conditioned by fulfilling all member duties by the end of February, the decision of the Administrator and Executive Vice-President, to prolong the term by two months, proved to be correct. From February to the middle of September, the Administrator and Executive Vice-President in one person, went through several tens of meetings with the Club members, what helped to stabilize the Club.

    Distinguished assembly,

    Since March, I have not spared a week in which, being the Administrator and Executive Vice-President, I visited, at least, one diplomat, an important expert in different branches of human activities, as well as representatives of other non-governmental organizations. It is worthwhile to say that not only an interest but also the registration of foreign entities in our regular membership base is a certain form of appreciation of our traditions and activities.

    In this connection, it is necessary to mention that after 31st January of this year, our web side has become the only communicative bridge, which is relatively regularly visited. On average, thirty to thirty-five visitors join it every day. It is remarkable that the number of countries, the visitors come from, has approached the number of seventy. For example, from April to June, most foreign accesses came from Spain, Brazil, Mexico, Italy, and the United States of America.

    In the period of time past, however, correspondence of the Administrator with important world personalities continued. He received written views of John Paul II and also exchanged letters with the top representatives of the World Bank and World Food Prize. On the whole, however, the communication with the home government officials, as well as with the majority of the opposition was traditionally more complicated, compared with that of foreign one. bureaucratic at times, or even impossible in some cases and not dignified at all.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    At present, our community has 155 regular members, 46 honorary members, and 51 foreign honorary members. The number of members or supporters in the regions increased to over two hundred persons by the end of August. However, we would like to verify this data by the end of the next month; actually, it is necessary to do so.

    Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished assembly,

    In the last quarter of the year, the traditional surveys, for winners of the Golden Biatec and the Prominent of Economy, will be carried out. Our web page continues with with the survey for the 5th year of Best Bank. The number of voters has reached more than four hundred visitors of our web page and communication bridge altogether. In this year, we consider it the matter of our prestige to discuss one of the most sensitive topics ( in many areas untouched so far), i. e. the entrepreneurial environment, involving all the pluses and minuses, namely the economic criminality and corruption. ( This point will be the main point in the agenda of the nearest meeting). I would like to stress that we have addressed important officials of the executive power, although have not been successful each time; however, we believe that without a dialogue there is no progress whatsoever, and so it has to be provoked.

    Furthemore, we will dedicate time to introducing the genius of spirit and music, Franz Liszt, whose parents and mother tongue were Slovak, and who had never considered himself to be other than Slovak by origin, belonging to the nation and to the public, in general. The Administrator has asked I. Gašparovič, the President of the Republic, Ján Chryzostom Korec, the cardinal, as well as Ján Sokol, the Bratislava and Trnava archbishop and metropolitan in one person, for the support of this idea. In this connection, we appreciate exploring efforts and writing books of Dr. Miroslav Demko, our member-musicologist, university pedagogist and also composer, who lived twenty long years in the Swiss exile.

    In the period of years from 2005-2006, we will pay more attention to the program targets of the club. First of all, we will object to the economic policy both of the government and the opposition. We will also concentrate our efforts on the solution of the most important and tense social and economic issues, on the development of agriculture in the conditions of the EU, in particular. Next, we will resume work with the Romany problems and employment of the Romany. Furthermore, we will follow the issues of capital market, particularly the financial developmental problems and governmental plans, expressed in the PP (Program Proclamation) of the government SR.

    I recommend the following resolution:

    • G.A. ( General Assembly) approves of the annual reports and the plan for the period of time 2004-2006.

    • G. A. confirms the functional structure of the secretariat of the club: the Executive Vice-President, the Economist and the Secretary or TEE ( technical-economic employee)

    • G.A. elected a new auditor, Ing. Štefan Kardoš, for the two-year term through an acclamation.

    • G.A. approves of the submitted draft of changes of the statutes.

    • G.A. assigns the Administrator to bring the activities to work in accordance with the changes in the statutes by 31st July 2005 at the latest.

    • G.A. took notice of the auditor’s report on economy in 2003 and approves of the principles of the budget for 2004 and 2005.

    Bratislava on 27th September 2004

    Annual report

    of the Administrator and Executive Vice-President of Economic Club (Informal Economic Forum) dr. Peter Kasalovský to the Sixth general meeting

    Distinguished assembly,
    the previous general meeting was held on 14 February 2002. Since then we have commemorated in a modest way our tenth anniversary and prepared eleven central and twenty four regional events. In total, since our initial meeting in August 1993, there have been 159 events, out of which 51 involving the whole club.

    Let me mention those of the central meetings which have enjoyed the greatest acknowledgement among the members. They were: a presentation of economic and social ideas of political parties in February 2002, a discussion with H. Mehdorn, Director General of Deutsche Bahn, and a discussion evening with E. Kukan, Foreign Affairs Minister, in January 2003. Equally resonant among the members by its contents and inspirational nature was the meeting with R. Weiser, US Ambassador, in April 2003.

    In the context of regional events what has to be highly appreciated is the willingness of Ľ. Kaník, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, and L. Gyurovszký, Minister of Construction and Regional Development, as well as the effort of J. Uhrík, chairman of the Board of Directors of Volkswagen Slovakia, to maintain permanent contact, permanent communication with the club community.

    The membership base has been stabilised. The number of full members is 231, there are 105 honorary members and 40 members from abroad with honorary membership rights. Quite clearly the most active from among the regional clubs are Poprad-Tatry with chairman P. Beck and Banská Bystrica with chairman D. Dobrota. Further five regional clubs have kept a low profile and met only from time to time. Efforts during more than a year to revive club events in (r)ilina and Trstená have been unsuccessful.

    The club committee has met three times officially, however, the committee members have communicated with each other on a regular basis. For the fourth term of office the President was Slavomír Hatina and I have to say that the co-operation with him was constructive and pleasant in human terms. He has decided not to run for the fifth time and the newly elected committee has to reconcile itself to that.

    Let me inform you about the result of the club election. The following have been elected for the eleventh term of office and in accordance with the Statutes have become members of the committee:

    P. Kasalovský, A. F. Zvrškovec, L. Sedmák, J. Uhrík, S. Hatina, J. Sitek, P. Hrinko and P. Konštiak. Since the number of committee members is given by a key of one member per thirty full club members, eight committee members have been elected. The committee will be supplemented by chairmen from the regions. P. Beck from Poprad-Tatry has already been elected.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    if we were to leaf through the publication about the 2002 club year, the individual issues of Hospodársky denník, which is our media partner, or if we browsed, we would find out that we have been trying to do something tangible in order to achieve the strategic objectives of the Slovak Republic, namely membership in NATO and the EU.

    As a community we have sent out clear signals about our thinking and attitudes not only towards the public in Slovakia, but also abroad. What I have in mind is the original publication Friendly Letters to the White House, which was dedicated to G. W. Bush, President of the USA, and also the sets of information in the form of DVD or CD from last year's annual meeting, including our brief history and the survey Why Yes to the European Union, which have been sent to our honorary members abroad.

    We have been trying to communicate with the present government and we have been interested in the opposition with equal intensity, just as it followed from the tasks adopted by the Fifth general meeting. The outcome has been the meetings with the above-mentioned ministers and with L. Miklós, Minister of the Environment. From the ranks of the opposition it was only V. Veteška who has responded.

    I can tell you openly that several invitations for a discussion that have been sent in the last five years to I. Mikloš, Deputy Prime Minister, have remained without any response whatsoever. Disregarding the fact that I have addressed him several times also in my capacity as Editor-in-Chief of Hospodársky denník and before that of Hospodárske noviny, to ask him to respond to criticism in accordance with our legislation, but the result was zero to all intents and purposes. We do not have to like each other, and we do not like each other, but that does not mean he is not damaging his own image and the image of the government by proceeding in this way.

    Distinguished assembly,
    what I consider positive is the elimination of party influences on the club community. Although we have thus to a certain extent lost an opportunity to lobby for some ideas publicly, in the interest of better solutions to economic and social problems of the society. That is why we particularly appreciate the exchange of ideas with ministers Kukan, Miklós, Kaník and Guyrovszký.

    Another plus has been the opening up of our central and regional levels to non-members, or, to be more precise, to guests from the state and public administration, the academic community and some important companies. They have made a contribution, in particular in the discussions. That is also the way to extending our membership base and bringing in new quality. And it is thanks to this that we do not have to worry that our club meetings might take on a character of mostly embarrassing "creme de la creme" or similar TV shows.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    we stand on the threshold of a hot summer. For some it means a holiday, however, I am sure everyone realises how serious the situation is. In spite of the fact that several companies are already firmly established in the European Union, for the others there starts a major review of their managerial capabilities. We will certainly be sensitive to the outputs of the governing coalition. In other words, outputs in the form of already announced laws and amendments of already amended laws which can have a negative impact on business.

    However, what seems the greatest challenges for the time to come are the following issues: A. enforceability of law including the fight against corruption and other ills, B. conditions for doing business, in particular in terms of taxes and transfers, as well as their overall stability in the stage of real accession of the Slovak Republic to the European Union, C. the efficiency of tripartite communication and other kinds of communication from the perspective of the business community.

    We need a meaningful dialogue with the executive and the representative power at all levels about how to achieve better results and in a whole number of cases on how to survive after our accession to the EU and how to preserve - or rather how to create anew - our economic identity and use the European funds, how to support the generation of "added value" and how to radically speed up the approximation to average EU parameters. These are topics for the central and regional club events.

    They should not only be topics strictly speaking economic. We have seen many times that they cannot be discussed without political and in a way social context. We still have workforce among the cheapest and the best, however, this country would come to an infamous end if we were not to see that only healthy, educated, inventive and cultured people can bring about the desired turnaround in our development and our position in the undeclared competition going on between nations and states.

    All governments which are supported by a parliamentary majority tend to tolerate less and less ideas, suggestions and solutions from those who are in the opposition. Far too often they behave and decide in such a way as though the public opinion did not develop and as though the election outcome was to remain valid for ever. As though it was possible to rule without the understanding and support of the population, without a mutual compromise.

    As an NGO of the civil association type we also have an opportunity to help mutual dialogue between the government and the representative power and the subjects of politics which are and have to be the citizens. Naturally, in the interest of the majority and of such solutions that aim at improving our living conditions. And that can only be achieved through high efficiency of the economy, i. e. by concentrating on what can stimulate it. At present we are in a situation when resources are still missing.

    Our community should be intrinsically interested in preventing the state administration, and to a certain extent also the public administration, from living above standards and from running up debts which cannot be repaid, or debts which get repaid but only by a manifold amount at the last minute in the form of real estate and land (including forests). Officials and their subordinates have to realise they do bear a responsibility for the values they administer.

    It is high time to contribute one's brain, knowledge and experience, more than has been the case until now, to solving the permanent problems in the economic mechanism of the state and also in other sectors so that standard conditions prevail everywhere. This then also concerns a medium-term outline of the needs of the business sector, as specific as possible, and at the same time the most efficient use of the state budget revenues, so that funds get where they are needed most and so that handling them can easily be checked.

    These are suggestions from the members of our community. These remain to be the "major topics" and from our experience it might seem they are eternal and could stretch over several terms of office. It could happen, if business people, regardless of their turnover, and together with them small traders, not to mention other people engaged in work, will keep focusing only on themselves and their own companies, and will only lobby for better solutions when they are directly threatened. The question is to have an opinion and to advocate it as a team.

    Distinguished assembly,
    we have now almost eleven years of activity under our belt. Our relations with foreign institutions, organisations and specific VIP personalities have been relatively good. We have been developing several traditional activities whose value has been growing, which is true above all of the awards for business people or companies and those personalities from abroad who have through their activity helped Slovakia and the world.

    I have to say that due to this activity we have had problems, and this will probably continue to be the case. However, those who criticise the nominations can make their own suggestions. I think that we are surrounded by enough successful and exemplary people and getting to know them could make us happy. Although a success of someone else can generate envy and other manifestations of the narrow-mindedness of human beings. We are in a position to become publicly happy from the success of someone else.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    dear members,
    I submit to you a draft resolution:

    1. The general meeting approves the annual report for the period from 14 February 2002 until 30 June 2003 and the suggested activities for the period until the end of June 2004.

    2. The general meeting notes the information about management in 2002 and on the budget for 2003 (approved by the committee on 27 February 2003)

    3. The general meeting confirms the secretariat for the 11th term of office in the following composition: Administrator P. Kasalovský, economist K. Bartalo1ová and secretary M. (c)iriová.

    4. The general meeting instructs the committee to evaluate the suggestions from the members and on this basis to prepare a framework plan of activity for the annual period.

    5. The general meeting approves the report on management in 2002 and confirms the budget for 2003 approved by the committee on 27 February 2003.

    The environment and the sustainable development in Slovak Republic in last decade
    László Miklós, minister of environment of Slovak Republic

    The specific condition of the environment on one side, and, all the cultural, social, economic, and institutional conditions on other side underwent certain development in the past creating the presumptions for the present state of the sustainable development of Slovak Republic. One basic comparison: if in the time of the revolution in November 1989 the environment - because of its poor stage, and because that many of leading personalities of the revolution had joined environmental movements - was considered the third biggest driving force of the political changes in Slovakia, nowadays the environmental issue became "normalised", showing standard features of most developed CEE countries in transition, with successfully closed chapter of environment, so ante portas of EU.

    This simply characteristic of the last development, however, hides a tremendous amount of work and efforts. From the point of view of policy and institutional development the major stations of this were: the establishment of the Slovak Commission of Environment as the first full powered central body and establishment of 38 district and 121 subdistrict offices for environment in 1990; the transformation of the Commission to the Ministry of Environment of SR to the end of 1992; the strong involvement of the Slovak delegation to the Rio process and participation at the UN Rio Summit in 1992; the institutional strengthening (some periods probably also weakening) during 1993 - 1998; since a mighty attack towards the approximation process, leading to full transposition of the EU environmental legislation to Slovak legislation, finishing with closing the environmental chapter in November 2001. In September 2000 the Slovak Republic became the member of OECD; in September 2002 the Slovak delegation took part on the World Summit for Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Nowadays we are working hard on the implementation of EU directives and regulatives, and we are fighting with the heavy administration of EU funds for environment in order to gain the financial means prescribed for Slovak republic.

    As the result of this effort, the state of environment in Slovakia in the last decade shows a significant improvement of air and water quality and the decrease of waste quantity. The biological diversity in Slovakia belongs to the richest in Europe, the nature conservation is highly developed. Total area of forests is increasing, while their composition is changing towards higher quality, which creates conditions for preferring public interests to production functions. All that has been achieved as a concordance of different factors, including the assistance from European Commission, EU and other developed countries.
    In spite of this positive trends we are aware of still persisting problems, where the sewage water treatment, the communal waste management and the old environmental burdens (landfills, industrial piles) belong to most significant ones. According to the Integrated Approximation Strategy of SR to EU issued in 2001, the needs for investments to the environment sector for the period 2002 - 2035 have been calculated still as high as 188 billion Slovak crowns (4,6 billion EURO), with the maximum around 2008 - 2010. Of course, knowing that, Slovakia counts on the praestructural, as well as with cohesion and structural funds from EC.

    Very important for Slovakia in this development was the co-operation with the only neighbouring EU member state, with Austria. The Austrian Ökofond assisted to solve some complicated problems of air pollution in early ´90-ies. A number of bilateral Austrian-Slovak projects have been funded from PHARE CBC trilateral (A - SK - H) or bilateral (A - SK) program, there was a strong Austrian participation in PHARE twinning program, strong NGO's co-operation, etc. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between Austria and Slovakia in emission trading within the Kyoto protocol, a regional co-operation agreement between Lower Austria and Slovak Agency of Environment is under the preparation. Since we consider the personal and institutional relations between respective bodies an excellent one, without any doubt Austria will play an important role in the sustainable development of Slovakia also in the future.

    The Economic club year 2002 - the tenth year of activity.

    D e c l a r a t i o n
    of representatives of Economic Club (IEF) about the membership of the Slovak Republic in the European Union and NATO

    After almost five years we consider it useful to recall the then unanimously approved declaration of our community of Slovakia's economic and public leaders. They were the participants of the community's 23rd meeting, who on 23 May 1997 presented to the public in Slovakia and abroad an unambiguous view expressed as a conviction that in present-day Europe there is only one alternative for Slovakia in order to ensure its growth: to get integrated in the European Union and NATO. However, they also emphasised that more effort had to be made for desirable dynamism of the economy, in particular the improvement of conditions for doing business, and for strengthening the principles of democracy in the practical life of the whole society.

    Today representatives of the Economic Club (IEF) again express their conviction that membership in the European Union and NATO is the basic condition for comprehensive development of Slovakia as an independent state. This has been clearly confirmed by the outcome of the parliamentary elections in 1998 and 2002, and by repeated public opinion polls. However, we are of the opinion that the government has so far not met to the desirable extent the requirement to inform the public about our rights and obligations following from the EU and NATO membership. This conclusion also applies to the fact that the government has not done enough for making Slovakia known in the majority of EU and NATO countries.

    The EU and NATO membership is a strategic goal of the Slovak Republic which cannot be put under any doubt. It is indeed inevitable for the Slovak government to appreciate the importance of providing comprehensive information about both of these organisations to the public at large. The requirement is all the more significant that the people will be expressing their will to join the EU in a referendum. One cannot rely on its success so to say automatically. In matters like this or rather in any act of historical significance one has to focus less on one's emotions and opinions and listen more to reason, which even admits the possibility that the opinion of people can be influenced. We should take a lesson from the efforts of some people to launch a referendum about Slovakia's accession to NATO.

    We would like to believe that the present Slovak government is aware of the difficult social situation and life of the majority of inhabitants after a whole series of austerity measures, in particular the increase in the price of energy and cost of each household, as well as a tangible increase of other living costs or introduction of payments for specific needs or services, which can subsequently weaken the awareness and the responsibility of the citizens. It would be imprudent to think that everything is happening the way we would want it to, because the outcome may be just wishful thinking. People are very sensitive, even allergic to the populism traditionally presented by the majority of political parties before an election, and its subsequent "transformation" into government manifestos lacking any ambition.

    However, joining the European Union and NATO is not a minor episode in our modern history. Everything has to be done, and there can be no more delays, for people to perceive it as their own decision which is implemented by politicians elected by them freely and in democratic conditions, who still enjoy sufficient trust. The current government coalition has to be aware that in the final stage of the EU and NATO accession process it has no right for any purely formal expressions or even mutual obstructions or blackmailing on the basis of the status quo, and that it is totally inadmissible to even hint at a possibility of a government crisis whose consequence could be ruinous to the ambitions of our state.

    We have no doubts whatsoever that the necessary majority of our citizens will express their approval with the accession to the EU, which is being reformed and through admitting new members will also receive impulses for optimising some unresolved or open issues. This is because the European Union can become a house for all the European nations with firm fundaments, modern construction and fair internal order. Very little is needed for the EU to provide most healthy atmosphere for its inhabitants. We expect that an equally large number of people will express their clear support to the parliament and the government in ensuring the membership in NATO, as a guarantee of the state security.

    S. Hatina, President of the Economic Club (IEF)
    P. Kasalovský, A. F. Zvrškovec and L. Sedmák, Vice-Presidents
    Bratislava, 20 January 2003


    R e p o r t

    of the Executive Vice-President and Administrator of Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club civil association on activity from 12 January 2001 until 14 February 2002 and intentions for the 2002 - 2003 period

    Distinguished assembly,
    Dear guests,
    you have at your disposal an overview of the main events of last year (from the 4th until today's 5th general assembly of our community). It is true that its content to a certain degree differ from what was approved by the 4th general assembly. However, the Committee has respected suggestions by the members. It was in accordance with them that the Secretariat organised the individual events and other activities.

    * Regular meetings
    Since the 4th general assembly there was the 42nd regular meeting with the participation of F. Piëch, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Volkswagen, 43rd regular meeting - a brainstorming about the state of the economy and its outlook with the participation of M. Dzurinda, Prime Minister of the Slovak Republic, 44th regular meeting with B. Schmögnerová, Minister of Finance, on the approaches to tax reform, and the 45th regular meeting with the following programme: The world after 11 September 2001, by P. Weiss, Chairman of the Foreign Committee of the National Council of the Slovak Republic, Twelve years of transformation, by A. F. Zvr?kovec, President of Dividend Group, and valedictory presentation by G. Holzer-Matzner, Austrian Ambassador. The agenda of today's 46th regular meeting within the 5th general assembly is devoted to an all-club discussion on the topic: How do we see the economy and the development of the society after the 2002 parliamentary election.

    * All-club discussions
    Three all-club discussions have been held in the intervening period: in February with G. Mueller, President of ISI from the United States, in June with V. Mečiar, Chairman of Movement for a Democratic Slovakia - People's Party, and in September with ?. Harabin, Chief Justice, with I. Saktor, president of the Trade Union Confederation on the topic Trade unions in tripartism, and with New Citizen Alliance (ANO) on its economic and social programme. In terms of the efforts of our club we attach special importance to an informal discussion of the club delegation with Cardinal Ján Chryzostom Korec.

    * Regional clubs
    The regional clubs worked according to needs and interest. The Poprad-Tatry regional club has been the most active, with five events more than attractive in terms of their contents. The guests were: J. Schling, Czech Minister of Transport, and J. Macejko, Slovak Minister of Transport, J. H. Goodish, President of US Steel, L. Krajňák, businessman, M. Kováč, former President of the Slovak Republic, and P. ?evčovič, Senior Director from the National Bank of Slovakia. Equally active has been the Novohrad-Gemer regional economic club, whose guests were R. Fico, representative of the SMER Party, and P. Rusko, representative of the New Citizen Alliance (ANO) Party, as well as some important Ukrainian entrepreneurs. The level of activities from previous years has not been reached by the ?ari?-Zemplín, Banská Bystrica and Orava economic clubs. For the time being the ?ilina club does not have a leading personality, however, another regional economic club has been formed: in Ve3/4ký Krtí?. Followers from the Czech Republic have been meeting each quarter in the town of Zlín.

    * Members
    The numbers of regular and extraordinary members have been preserved this year. We have 357 registered members, out of which 268 are full members. Todate 75 per cent of the members have paid their membership fee. The overall number of members of regional clubs has remained more or less the same. We have noted with pleasure that the number of guests at the individual events has increased, as has the number of followers.

    * The Committee
    The Committee has been duly elected by correspondence and secret ballot. Until 31 July 2002 its members, elected by the whole club community, are: President S. Hatina, Executive Vice-President and Administrator P. Kasalovský, Vice-Presidents A. F. Zvr?kovec and D. Dobrota, members: P. Hrinko, L. Sedmák and J. Uhrík. Until 30 September 2001 the following were elected for chairmen of the clubs and members of the Committee: P. Beck (Poprad-Tatry) and M. Gonda (Novohrad-Gemer), later G. Karlín and after he took on his office as member of the parliament, J. Surko?, Lord Mayor of Ve3/4ký Krtí?. The Orava, Banská Bystrica and ?ari?-Zemplín clubs have not elected new committees and their chairmen. The followers and members from the Czech Republic are represented by M. Hrubý. The Committee has today confirmed a co-optation for a Committee member of R. Y. Mosný, the first businessman permanently residing outside the territory of the Slovak Republic. He is one of the first holders of the Golden Biatec and Prominent of the Economy awards and he will be communicating on our behalf with foreign non-governmental and governmental institutions.
    The Committee met either just before a regular meeting or an all-club discussion, and the Executive Vice-President - Administrator has remained in permanent contact with its elected members and with ?. Kardo?, auditor.

    Distinguished assembly,
    Dear guests,
    an important activity of the club community has been the presentation of individual opinions in Hospodársky denník. Those have then found their place not only on the newspaper's website, but also on the site of our community. Increasingly more members perceive the Hospodársky denník space as their own, and there already exists a tradition of presenting the holders of the Golden Biatec and Prominent of the Economy club awards, as well as our prominent members from this country and abroad. Particularly valuable suggestions in terms of global priorities and all-European integration have been contained in the views of H. Maucher, Vice-President of the World Economic Forum, and D. Johnston, Secretary General of OECD, which have been published in Hospodársky denník.
    As Editor-in-Chief of Hospodársky denník I would like to ask you to make more frequent use of the opportunity to present your views - from today onwards each such contribution will also be marked with a header "Member of the Club".

    * Club awards
    The Golden Biatec and Prominent of the Economy, awards appreciated not only in Slovakia but also abroad, have again for the third time been awarded on the basis of correspondence and secret ballot of members of the community and other personalities of the economic and public life who have been addressed. 476 personalities made a decision by their vote about the winners. The fifth edition of the readers' survey Prominent of the Economy, for the third time in co-operation with Hospodársky denník, has proved its justification.
    Last year the Golden Biatec was awarded to J. Chirac, President of the French Republic. It will be handed over to him at the latest by the end of June this year, i. e. after the presidential election in France. The Golden Biatec was also awarded to V. Putin, President of Russia, who promised to participate in person at a club meeting, while he will meet representatives of the club community soon.
    Many of our foreign efforts have been disturbed by the New York events of 11 September 2001.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    Dear guests,
    after two years we are coming back to our communication with G. W. Bush. Shortly before he announced he would run for president we awarded him, as Governor of Texas, Golden Biatec 1993-2000 on the occasion of the final year of the second millennium for manifestations of personal responsibility, for progress of the human society and its humaneness.
    What we had in mind was what links this small country and the United States, whether it be the hundreds of thousands of immigrants before World War II or the hundreds of immigrants and their offspring from the period of 1945-1989, the memory of Americans in the Slovak National Uprising, etc.
    For understandable reasons we have then discontinued our communication until recently. At the end of January I have resumed the communication, in spite of the fact that it is with the President of the United States, so that our prestigious award with consecutive number 29 does not get covered in patina. The quoted justification written on the diploma has been confirmed many times during the previous two years. (I have to point out that since then our award has been delivered to the territory of the United States thanks to UPS, and the person who was taking it over in Philadelphia had considerable difficulties with the Customs Administration because of eleven grams of gold from Slovakia. However, after reading the covering letter and looking at the text on the diploma, it was instantly overcome.)

    Distinguished assembly,
    it is valuable that today's 5th general assembly is again a forum for meaningful communication of personalities of the economy who hold posts either in The Union of Employers' Organisations, The Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry, The Association of Entrepreneurs of Slovakia or The Association of Industrial Unions of Slovakia, or in several of them at the same time, and who for almost ten years now have acknowledged the Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club (previously, in 1993 - 1997, HN Club Foundation).
    The place where we are meeting also has its own symbolism. The Pálffy Palace below the Bratislava Castle was a ruin in 1989, and today it is partly reconstructed. Our appreciation goes to the President of the Association of Entrepreneurs of Slovakia. However, the gems of this palace, including its superb premises, corridors and halls, and above all frescos are below the space where we are now. It is possible that they will also be inside the castle hill.
    However, what is important today is a representative participation of several political entities. I will list them in alphabetical order, just to make sure: Democratic Party, Christian-Democratic Movement, Movement for a Democratic Slovakia - People's Party, New Citizen Alliance (ANO), Party of the Democratic Left, Party of the Hungarian Coalition, Real Slovak National Party, Slovak Democratic Christian Union, Slovak National Party and SMER. Majority of them will have their own deputies in the National Council of the Slovak Republic. I trust they will also be frequent guests of these premises on their way to the Vodný vrch hill, where the parliament has its seat. Above all for a meaningful and fair exchange of opinions with those who so to say keep the economic potential on its toes.
    When we were thinking what would be the most crucial in the nearest year or two, we reached an unambiguous conclusion that it has to be d i a l o g u e. It was with a dialogue that we were starting our club activity at the end of 1993, and when it was going on, we had our lighthouse and more optimism not only as businessmen, but also as human beings. There were months when the dialogue in congress halls and other premises stopped, most often caused by politicians who disliked this form of communication at a real or a fictitious round table. In March last year we attempted a meaningful brainstorming about the state and outlook of the economy with the participation of Prime Minister Dzurinda and Minister of Agriculture P. Konco?. Deputy Prime Minister I. Miklo? was abroad at that point and the other invited members of the Government somehow did not want to engage in this form of discussion. They confirmed it in the following months, when there were enough topics to have been discussed in our midst, for example the communication within tripartism had reached dead end. If I am not interested in a dialogue, maybe only because I disagree with the views of this or that group of businessmen, or I cannot stand someone from the club leadership or the other announced guests, that is the beginning of an end. Not to mention the variant where a politician thinks he or she is something more and cannot be a partner. There have been quite a few like that.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    When the club was being formed in summer 1993, almost a decade ago, it was more than topical to try to set up a non-government community independent of political parties. One which would be in constant opposition to the executive power. Above all in order to find the best, or rather, the most prudent solution to problems. There was interest, but it was always dampened, because our community was being undermined by politicians or circles close to them. In spite of that the voice of the club community has been followed with attention, especially abroad. In each year of our activity, i. e. during the administrations which we have survived: that of Mečiar, Moravčík, once again Mečiar and the Dzurinda coalition. It has not been easy, since under the pressure of the executive power part of the members always disappeared from visible public places, even from places in other national, professional or sector organisations.
    We have made progress in what is the most important, however, there are still some reserves. Above all in coming together on the platform of common goals and analysing our brain potential. Last year a whole number of our members emphasised this intention or rather this goal, because time seems to have ripened for action opinion by the entrepreneurial sector. At least that part of it which cannot be divided and at times even atomised by political parties, whether by being offered state commissions or various advantages.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    Distinguished assembly,
    we would like to recommend to the members to give a mandate to the members of the Committee to evaluate the suggestions from today's all-club discussion and to maybe turn them into specific events.
    We have agreed within the Committee and with several members that for the period up to the parliamentary election it is necessary to talk in a comprehensive way about the state of play of:
    transport, after a span of seven years - in March,
    Slovakia's integration efforts after a span of five years from the memorable club declaration - in April,
    the environment, for the very first time - in June/July. Not only because we have L. Miklós, in my opinion the only generally acceptable member of the Government.
    We have already started preparations for two all-club discussions with personalities from abroad:
    in April, about the experience of other countries with their integration into the European Union, as well as in May-June on the visions of the new world and a dialogue within it. What we will be left with then will be to offer opposition to the economic policy of the new government. The new administration may take lessons from the mistakes of the previous administrations and may communicate in the interest of this country and its citizens.

    Distinguished assembly,
    the parliamentary election cannot change anything in our striving for a dialogue, however, it would not be sufficiently effective to plan more specific events. They will be generated by the development of a whole set of domestic as well as foreign issues and problems.
    We wish that this year be better for us and the whole of Slovakia than last year. The wish can materialise if we are not passive observers of our politicians, and if we do help formulate and also insist on what determines the success of businessmen and at the end of the day also better life of other citizens. Far be it from me to label such intentions, however, I do think that the approaching tenth anniversary of independent and sovereign Slovak Republic is a sufficient challenge to show one's brain. The imperatives are more than clear:
    first: decent democratic parliamentary election,
    second: Slovakia's ambition to join NATO
    third: get closer to the European Union.

    Thank you for your attention.

    Let me propose a conclusion from this report.
    First: The general assembly takes note of the report on activity in the period between the 4th and the 5th general assembly.
    Second: ... approves the orientation of club activity for the next period and the proposed topics for the individual meetings or all-club discussions.
    Third: ... confirms the validity of the basic club documents after 27 July 1997, which ensure the club activity, and perceives positively the activity of the club secretariat since its setting up in July 1998.
    Fourth: ... instructs the Executive Vice-President to evaluate the above documents, in particular the statutes and the co-operation with Hospodársky denník, and according to need in collaboration with regional clubs. Any suggestions to be included in the agenda of the regular meeting before 31 October 2002.
    Fifth: ... takes note of the information about management and budget for 2002.
    Sixth: ... has elected ?. Kardo? auditor for another two year term of office.
    Seventh: ... recommends to regional clubs platforms to apply the club intentions in their plans and to evaluate the activity of their officials by 30 April 2002.

    Done at Bratislava, this 13 February 2002

    Club Year 2000

    The year 2000 was the seventh year of our activity, and from August on, the eighth. And it was in summer that the 100th event was held and at the same time the 2nd meeting of prominent members, i. e. those who have been awarded the Golden Biatec or have been winners of the Prominent of the Economy survey. The attendance sheets of the eleven centrally organised events last year contain more than 650 names of economic and public figures at all levels, of which 47 were from abroad. On average, 138 regular members, 11 honorary members and 17 guests participated in the ten meetings last year.

    16 February 2000

    We lost much time at the start

    Rudolf Schuster, President of the Slovak Republic, who is an honorary member of the civil association Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club, met its representatives on 16 February 2000. In his speech he focused on the most topical issues of Slovakia at present and in the near future with reference to co-responsibility of economic leaders for its development.

    The club community also had a discussion with Michal Sýkora, President of the Association of Towns and Villages in Slovakia, now celebrating its anniversary, and with other representatives on public administration reform.

    The non-regular meeting of this community of citizens, established in August 1993, was attended by Jan Komornicki, Head of the diplomatic mission of Poland, Miklós Boros, Head of the diplomatic mission of Hungary, Yuan Guisen, Head of the diplomatic mission of China and Alexander Aksenionok, Head of the diplomatic mission of Russia.

    The first event of the Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club in the year 2000 was opened by P. Kasalovský, its Executive Vice President. In his introductory address he mentioned among other things that (...) at the end of the second millenium at least one third of the most influential personalities in the Slovak Republic should try to find, so to say, a solid point, a perspective. To put it differently, to confirm out loud the meaning of their life and efforts, but also responsibility for what they have been doing within the scope of their activity. And that should be people, human beings and positive values or tending towards them. Through our education, cultivation, and also psychological and physical capabilities, but above all through the results of our work we can fight for our place among the most important European countries.

    3 May 2000

    Adhering to common sense

    On the 3 May, in the Forum hotel in Bratislava, the 3rd general assembly was held of the Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club, which has since 27 July 1997 been the legal successor of the former Hnclub Foundation and has been continuing in its activity. Apart from Mária Machová, Minister for Administration and Privatisation of National Property, it was also Alexander G. Aksenionok, Ambassador of the Russian Federation, who accepted a special invitation to the closed meeting of regular members of the club community.

    Of the 158 regular members 57 per cent participated in this annual meeting, including proxies. After an internal club discussion, Alexander G. Aksenionok, Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Russian Federation, talked to those present on Russia after the presidential election.

    25 May 2000

    What is Slovak privatisation like?

    In the Congress Hall of the Forum hotel in Bratislava, the 37th regular meeting of the Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club was held. The main topic was the privatisation process and the introductory speech on this topic was made by J. Kojda, President of the National Property Fund Presidium.

    13 June 2000

    Creating trust towards entrepreneurs

    "Only 2.5 per cent of the population in the year 1989 trusted entrepreneurs. In the year 2000 the trust is somewhere around 50 per cent." These were the opening sentences of a presentation on Polish business experience by Z. D. Niemczycki, the top representative of the Polish Council of Entrepreneurs, President and CEO of Curtis Int., Ltd. He spoke about the experience with privatisation in Poland and the birth of the private sector. Together with J. Komornicki, Ambassador of Poland in the Slovak Republic, they thus presented the development of the business environment in their country and potential forms of co-operation with Slovakia. These were mentioned, on the basis of experience so far, also by Ján Bad3/4goň, President of the Slovak-Polish Chamber of Commerce. P. Kanis, Minister of Defence of the Slovak Republic, also made a presentation at this meeting.

    3 July 2000

    On public opinion, ethics in enterprise and the political situation

    On 3 July the guests of the 38th regular meeting of the Economic Club (IEF) were Guy Mettan, President of Club suisse de la presse and President of Emerging Markets Foundation (EMA), talking on media ethics, public opinion and enterprise, and Róbert Fico, leader of the Smer party, presenting his political opinions.

    9 August 2000

    The 100th event of the club

    In the year 2000 Gerling, with anticipated volume of insurance business in the amount of DEM 18 billion and with more than 11 thousand employees, offers partnership in Slovakia and in the world in industrial insurance and risk management. Much has already been achieved. However, much more is still ahead. Gerling has been investing in risk management. Let us do it together. Björn Jansli, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gerling AG

    P. Kasalovský: Three years ago the original foundation changed into a civil association, in accordance with the relevant Act. However, to organise the club community on the citizenship principle has not been a formal matter. It has created new opportunity to achieve its main objective.

    8 September 2000

    Strong accent on globalisation

    Jean-Pierre Jobin, Managing Director of the Geneva international airport, and his opinion about the development of air transport, Peter Magvaši, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, and the labour law reform under way - these were the main guests and the topics of the 101st meeting of the civil association Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club in the Danube hotel in Bratislava on 8 September. Among others, it was attended by Yubomír Foga1, Deputy Prime Minister, Mária Machová, Minister for Privatisation, and State Secretaries Ján Sabol and Roman (c)ipoš.

    18 September 2000

    Car industry going through a crisis

    The car market in Slovakia has disintegrated due to non-systematic restrictive measures of the government. The declining trend in the sales of personal cars has been continuing, qualified estimates for this year are for 52 thousand units, which is the worst result since 1995 - this was said on 18 September in the Forum hotel by the participants of the 102nd event of the Economic Club (IEF), organised in co-operation with the Slovak Association of Automobile Industry. Jozef Uhrík, its President, talked about the position and perspectives of automobile industry in Slovakia, while Ľudovít Ujhelyi, the Vice President, analysed the problems of import and sales of vehicles in Slovakia and their impact on the state budget.

    24 November 2000

    Fanfares for prosperity and agreement of the whole society

    Because of the announcement of the results of the 6th edition of the all-club survey and 4th edition of the readers' survey Prominent of the Economy and winners of the annual Golden Biatec 200 - 2001 prize, the atmosphere at the 40th regular meeting and an overall 106th event of the Economic Club (IEF) was solemn. The Congress Hall of the Danube hotel in Bratislava saw more than two hundred members and guests. They welcomed M. Kováč, the first President of the Slovak Republic, members of the government B. Schmögnerová and P. Magvaši, as well as several State Secretaries and representatives of diplomatic missions in Slovakia. At the beginning they all listened to a presentation by J. Figeľ, State Secreatry of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, chief negotiatior of the Slovak Republic with the European Union.

    6 December

    Diagnosis: Khazbulatov

    Professor R. I. Khazbulatov, Russian citizen of Chechen origin and a personality of the global economic science, met representatives of the Economic Club (IEF). The ceremonial dinner held in his honour changed into a free exchange of opinions on globalisation and its priorities, the economic development of Russia and its former satellites, the processes of European integration and security as such.

    13 December

    Honour, prestige and tolerance cannot be bought

    One of the last events of the second millenium was the 41st regular meeting and an overall 108th event of the Economic Club (IEF) on 13 December 2000. Its topics and guests were symbolic, although purely work-related. The 140 members of the club community present, Georges Vaugier, Ambassador of France in the Slovak Republic, representatives of the diplomatic missions of the USA, Russia, Poland and Sweden, representatives of Slovak and foreign financial and business sector, were able to listen to Mikuláš Dzurinda, the Prime Minister. He spoke about the state budget of the Slovak Republic, approved at that time in the parliament, the restructuring of the banking and corporate sectors. He touched upon the negotiations on the enlargement of the European Union in Nice, of which he gave a very positive evaluation.

    E. Kukan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, spoke about the achievements of foreign policy of Slovakia and its framework.

    R e p o r t of the Executive Vice President and Administrator of Economic Club (Informal Economic Forum) to its 4th general assembly on activity between May 2000 and January 2001

    Distinguished assembly,
    Distinguished guests,
    Ladies and gentlemen,
    it is my honour to open today's 4th general assembly of the civil association Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club. It is my duty to submit to it a report on activity from February 2000 until January 2001. It contains some proposals for enriching our activity, which have been initiated by several full members. The management report for last year and draft budget for 2001 will be read by (c)tefan Kardoš, auditor.

    Out of the total number of full members as at 31 December 2000 .................., i.e. ......... per cent are present. That means that in accordance with the Statutes of our community, registered at the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, we constitute a quorum. The committee at its meeting on 11 January approved the submitted report unanimously.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    the third general assembly was only held on 3 May and it assessed the period since 4 December 1998 until 16 February 2000. It approved intentions for activity for the period until the end of 2001.

    On 1 August the 8th one-year term of office of the committee started, part of the committee having been elected by secret correspondence ballot and part, representing regional clubs, co-opted. The results of the election were published in Hospodársky denník and confirmed by majority of full members at the 38th regular meeting on 3 July 2000.

    The committee held a meeting before each regular meeting of the club community. After electing its officials on 24 November it started the election of Vice President for the activity of the regional clubs. Daniel Dobrota, the Banská Bystrica Economic Club President, was elected the Vice President, as proposed by the Executive Vice President.

    Regarding the membership development it has to be said that it has been improving on the central club level. The number of the members has been stable, i.e. ................., however, compared to the previous year there has been a changeover of about one third of the members. The main reason has been the unwillingness to fulfil membership obligations in time, a disrespect of the legal status quo in terms of other entities trying to take over our activity, but also a realisation at a certain point of a discontent with the most important principle of our community, which can be put simply: we have been putting together business people and other personalities of the society without a regard for their party preferences in the interest of Slovakia's prosperity.

    It is a fact that non-payment of the membership fees and keeping the invoices has been causing us substantial problems, not only technical and administrative, but also a financial deficit. Among other things also because we have substantially exceeded the plan as to the number of events. The plan anticipated four central events.

    Activity in the regions varies. Viable at the moment are the following (in alphabetical order): Banská Bystrica, Novohrad-Gemer, Orava and Poprad-Tatry, while the activity of the (r)ilina and (c)ariš-Zemplín Clubs has been minimal. Traditional events of the members and followers of our community in the Czech Republic have been organised once every two months by M. Hrubý, member of the committee.

    Distinguished assembly,
    in the assessed period, altogether 9 all-club events have been held, two social events and a whole number of events on the regional level. Let me remind you what has been on our programme.
    3 May: 3rd general assembly and a presentation by A. Aksenionok, Ambassador of the Russian Federation;
    25 May: discussion with J. Kojda, President of the National Property Fund Presidium, on privatisation;
    13 June: presentation by P. Kanis, Minister of Defence, presentation by J. Komornický, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland, and presentation by Z. D. Niemczycky, President of Polish Council of Entrepreneurs on common objectives of the business sector in European integration processes;
    3 July: discussion on media ethics, public opinion and enterprise with an introductory speech by Guy Mettan, President of Club suisse de la presse and presentation of SMER by R. Fico, its Chairman;
    9 August: 100th event and 2nd assembly of prominent members: Insurance in the globalisation process, with introductory speech by B. Jansli, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gerling AG;
    8 September: International airport Geneva and the development of its position, presentation by Jean-Pierre Jobin, Managing Director; Realities and ideas about civilian air transport in the Slovak Republic according to V. Veteška, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Slovenské aerolínie; discussion with Peter Magvaši, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, on recodification of labour law;
    18 September: The position and perspectives of automobile industry; The Issues of imports and sales of vehicles and their impact of the state budget of the Slovak Republic, in co-operation with Slovak Association of Automobile Industry;
    24 November: presentation of J. Figeľ, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, on the results of the EU accession process;
    13 December: presentation of E. Kukan, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic, on results and intentions of the Slovak Republic foreign policy, presentation of M. Dzurinda, Prime Minister;
    and today, 12 January, the agenda includes the current report and in the second part a presentation by F. Piëch, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Volkswagen AG.

    Some social events have been held, but the two central deserve to be mentioned: 6 December a working dinner - discussion with Professor R. Khazbulatov with 29 club members present, and a meeting of the Economic Club representatives with Hospodársky denník and its business partners on 13 December last year.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    before the 3rd general assembly, on 16 February 2000, a discussion with R. Schuster, President of the Slovak Republic, was held, on the topic Slovakia at present and in the near future, with a reference to co-responsibility of economic leaders for its development.
    Today F. Piëch, an industrial genius, will be our guest. I cannot imagine with whom else we could be starting and ending a club year.

    As far as guests and communication with other countries are concerned, we have reached the limit of our possibilities, although, as the Inuit say, sagely, "nothing is impossible". We will continue to establish contacts with the most interesting people of the global or European economy and politics.

    We have had some problems at home with representatives of the government. We appreciate the attitude towards the club membership in the assessed period by Minister M. Machová, Minister P. Magvaši and the relations with resigning Minister P. Kanis, Minister E. Kukan, and Prime Minister M. Dzurinda.

    I. Mikloš, Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy, has been ignoring our invitations for over two years, although he did meet the Banská Bystrica Economic Club members. Minister Ľ. Harach has announced his participation several times, but he failed to appear. Again, he only went to Banská Bystrica.

    Similarly one could talk about pendulum effect in connection with the participation of the opposition, which has been more than problematic. Members close to the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia have disappeared, members from the Slovak National Party are few and far between. SMER has not reacted either. They all seem to be waiting for special invitations. There will not be any, because in spite of ambitions of the ones and the others there is no reason for that. They either want to communicate and do something for a nonpartisan dialogue, or they do not.

    Some of the present leaders do not want to forget that we (or me personally) did not ask them to participate at a time when they were in opposition, or they have disappeared from the corridors of domestic politics and have limited their public appearances to the barest minimum. This applies to the whole time that our community has existed.

    Distinguished assembly,
    we have kept in touch with several heads of diplomatic missions. After repeated meetings during the assessed year with Ambassadors of Russia, China, but also Hellenic Republic and Italy, the secretariat of the club and our Hospodársky denník were visited before Christmas by Carl Spielvogel, Ambassador of the United States, and together with him R. Thomson, Editor-in-Chief of Financial Times.
    It is nice that C. Spielvogel, following the example of his predecessors Russel and Johnson, has promised to make a presentation on foreign policy for one of our spring meetings.

    This has been the basic information about the club activity during the eleven calendar months and now let me express some suggestions on the organisation and contents of the individual events or the club activity as such.

    Distinguished assembly,
    in March we will use the opportunity of an all-club discussion with Prime Minister M. Dzurinda and his collaborators on the current state of the economy and the society.

    At the end of April there will be a discussion on capital and financial market of the Slovak Republic in co-operation with Tatra banka.

    In June we would like to welcome in our community representatives of parliaments of some western countries and exchange opinions on the possibilities of meaningful co-existence of the political and economic sectors.

    We intend to supplement two out of these three events by satellite discussions with prominent international politicians or proponents of progressive trends within the world economy.

    The leaders have agreed to make the satellite visit quite some time ago. By the end of January specific conditions should be agreed, including the dates and technical details.

    By June we would like to invite representatives of regional authorities to the regional clubs and formulate possibilities of improving their mutual communication.

    After summer, when nine committee members for its 9th term of office will again be elected by secret ballot, we would like to present to the public the vision of part of the club membership as to what has to be done for the dynamism of the whole economy.

    Towards the end of 2001 there will be the traditional assembly and the announcement of new laureates of Golden Biatec and winners of the 7th edition of the all-club survey Prominent of the Economy. For this date we have been arranging a particularly prominent satellite guest.

    This is the framework of main events for the year 2001. They will be organised by the club secretariat in the same way as in the previous three years and in co-ordination with officials of our regional clubs.

    It has to be pointed out that the club lives not only through its meetings, but also through the work done between the meetings. In terms of both social life and work, among other things by keeping contacts with other countries, and communicating with numerous followers in this country.

    The Club appreciates communication with M. Ľach, President of the Association of Employers Organisations, J. Uhrík, President of the Association of Industrial Unions, P. Mihók, President of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as good relations with K. Paulu, President of the Association of Entrepreneurs of Slovakia. However, what I would like to emphasise today, applies to them too.

    The major objective for prudent, successful and wise people in an economy is constant shaping, even unification of all its entities. There still is a chance to increase the awareness of economic leaders of their co-responsibility for the overall development of this country. However, it will not last forever, and the current favourable conditions may not be utilised.

    We have all the conditions for a new social startum, the business stratum, to finally come into existence. One which will above everything respect those who have the ability to organise and implement production, materialise ideas so that all the people of work can benefit from them. One which will be a real partner for the executive power.

    Ladies and gentlemen,
    higher quality of our activity can be ensured even by a lower number of members. Part of our former members have started looking inwards and figuratively speaking they are in a shell, without realising their own vulnerability. Whether this be due to the operation of pressure groups and lobbies, bureaucracy or organised crime.

    A platform of owners of prominent companies who feel a need for closer and more active environment than our current club has started forming out of our members. Part of the membership is so bogged down with struggle for survival that they lack inner strength and motivation to get involved in the direction outlined. Others are so to say passive spectators vis-a-vis the public, but also vis-a-vis the club itself.

    We are realistic and we do not intend to build "castles in the air". It would be a success if we managed to cause, or provoke, at least once a year a common event of the Association of Employers Organisations, the Association of Industrial Unions, the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Association of Entrepreneurs of Slovakia and the Economic Club. This idea was presented recently - in September last year - also by J. Uhrík on behalf of the Association of Industrial Unions.

    We have here a specific support of what was said in last year's report to the general assembly. Today, sitting here, we have P. Mihók, President of the Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representatives of the Association of Employers Organisations and also the Association of Entrepreneurs of Slovakia. We have been considering whether not to organise a joint discussion meeting with the Prime Minister, which would highlight why we enjoy such credit.

    We have been putting people together, we put people together, and we will continue putting people together. Disregarding party preferences and in the interest of focused effort for a fuller use of their capacity to achieve higher quality of life in Slovakia. Its current level could in a year or two cause us significant social problems and also further disintegration of morals.

    This is exactly what I meant to outline in front of this assembly today.

    Could I ask for expression of approval for this summing up of the club activity.

    Could I also ask for approval of the report on the budget execution during last year and draft budget for 2001.

    Thank you.

    Annual report

    of the Executive Vice President of the civil association Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club from 3 December 1998 (the 2nd general assembly) until 30 April 2000 (3rd general assembly)

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    it will be seven years in August since the initiative meeting of businessmen and politicians at which I declared the establishement of our community under the patronage of the publishing company Ecopress and under the patronage of the only daily on economics and politics at that time. However, I have to emphasise that the club activity has since the first day been a matter of the members and their own finances.

    Today Informal Economic Forum - Economic Club is six years and three quarters old, where the period after the 2nd general assembly can be considered the richest. In spite of efforts to take over its activity, which are a subject of a court action. We will see how long it will take the judiciary before it starts dealing with this and other actions.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    in keeping with the conclusions of the annual meeting there were three regular meetings, two non-regular meetings and today's 3rd general assembly. There were 5 centrally organised events. Since 9 January 1999 until today the programme included discussions with Ján Čarnogurský, Minister of Justice, Peter Magva?i, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family, Pavel Ham?ík, Deputy Prime Minister and 1/4ubomír Foga?, Deputy Prime Minister.

    In March 1999 the guest of the club was W. Stadler, member of the Board of Directors of Investkreditbank Wien, and in October 1999 F. Lacina, ex-Minister of the Austrian government. At the 34th regular meeting there was a satellite discussion with professor J. Sachs on global priorities and the positions of countries in transition and a discussion with Pavel Konco?, Minister of Agriculture. At the 35th regular meeting in July 1999 there was a discussion with Brigita Schmögnerová, Minister of Finance.

    The topic of the non-regular meeting in August 1999 were topical economic and social issues. Participating in the discussion were ministers of the Government of the Slovak Republic 1/4udovít Černák, Mária Machová, Ján Čarnogurský, Peter Magva?i; M. Jusko, Governor of the National Bank of Slovakia, and Ivan Saktor, President of the Confederation of Trade Unions.

    The guest of the first part of the 36th regular meeting was Helmut O. Maucher, Vice President of the World Economic Forum, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestlé. Laureates of the annual Golden Biatec 1999 - 2000 award were announced and on the basis of the 5th year of the club questionnaire the holders of the title Prominent of the Economy '99.

    At the non-regular meeting in February 2000, Rudolf Schuster, President of the Slovak Republic, had a discussion with members of the club and another topic was the reform of public administration and the opinions of the Association of Towns and Villages in Slovakia represented by its Chairman Michal Sýkora.

    The agenda of the 3rd general assembly includes the report of the Executive Vice President on the activity since the 2 nd general assembly and a proposal for the orienation of the club activity in the years 2000 - 2001, management report for 1999, budget for the next period and information about the election of the committee for the 8th term of office from 1 August 2000 until 31 July 2001.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    in the previous period there worked regional and local club communities. The most active were communities in Banská Bystrica, ?ari? and Zeplín, Poprad - Tatry, Orava and ?ilina. During the same period the Novohrad-Gemer community in Lueenec stagnated. The activity of Upper Nitra Economic Club in Topo3/4čany did not develop. Informal meetings of members from the Czech Republic were taking place regularly each quarter in Zlín. In connection with the activity of the ?ari? and Zeplín Economic Club their cooperation with the regional Slovak Chamber of Trade and Industry has to be acknowledged.

    In connection with club activities in regions it has to be emphasised that they are based on the needs of their businessmen, small traders and public officials, and on the moral support of the whole civil community. It is a fact that their influence and prestige are directly dependent on such club representatives as D. Dobrota, M. Vysoký and S. Eorej, P. Beck, J. Sitek, 1/4. Valach and M. Hrubý.

    The intention to create more clubs in the Pova?ie region and in Ko?ice did not materialise. First of all due to the complexity of the economic and social situation, but probably also because the central events by their number and contents provided sufficient room for satisfying also the local interests of the members.

    Distinguished members,

    the committee worked in the following composition: S. Hatina, P. Kasalovský, A. F. Zvr?kovec, J. Gabriel, 1/4. Valach, P. Hrinko and J. Kasper. Members for the regional clubs are: D. Dobrota, M. Vysoký, J. Sitek, M. Gonda, P. Čatlo? and M. Hrubý.

    The activity of the committee members varied considerably. There was one member of the committee with whom I was unable to get in touch in a period of one to three months. Towards the end of March, J. Gabriel, who was elected Deputy Chairman of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, gave up his post of Vice President and member of the committee.

    On the basis of the result of the secret ballot ?. Kardo? became an auditor for a two year term of office starting from 1 December 1999. His term of office will only finish at the end of 2001.

    With regard to the implications of the decision of the committee that full members who do not fulfil their membership obligations by 20 February 2000 will be removed from the membership register or will only be invited to the club events sporadically, which is made possible to many by their honorary membership in the club, the number of its elected members remains unchanged. The elected group will be automatically complemented by 6 representatives of the regional clubs.

    The number of full members is 158, there are over 120 members with honorary club rights from the Slovak Republic and there are 65 members from abroad. Almost 100 members are registered in regional and local clubs. It is recommended that contributions for activities in 2001 remain at the level of this year.

    Through the club web page on the Internet and in a special way the following nominations were made for the committee for the 8th term of office so far: S. Hatina, P. Kasalovský, A. F. Zvr?kovec, P. Hrinko, P. Sobotka, P. Beck, J. ?ramek, J. Sitek, D. Dobrota, 1/4. Valach and J. Majský.

    You will receive your ballots by 15 May. For several more days you will be able to nominate members of the committee whose names will be on all the ballots. The election is by correspondence and by secret ballot, where the code mark on the ballot will only be known to the Executive Vice President and the secretary of the club secretariat.

    The result of the election will be announced on the web page, in Hospodársky denník and officially at the 38th regular meeting on 14 July 2000. The validity of the election of the new committee is conditioned by majority participation and place 1 to 7 according to the number of votes received.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    the administrative and organisational activity of the club has been ensured by its permanent secretariat on the basis of contractual relations: elected Executive Vice President, then secretary - clerical, and an economist. This number is sufficient also for the forthcoming period.

    The activity of the secretariat concentrates on organising the regular meetings, non-regular meetings and general assemblies, meetings of the committee, election for the bodies, implementation of nominations and the granting of the prestigious Golden Biatec award, the club questionnaire Prominent of the Economy, informing the members and the public as well as domestic relations and representation abroad.

    The statutes for the annual Golden Biatec award and the club questionnaire Prominent of the Economy are valid until 2005 and are published on the Club web page on the Internet. However, the committee has reached a decision that for this year it would be beneficial to reduce the number of annual Golden Biatec awards to domestic entities to a maximum of seven.

    Distinguished members,

    in this final year of the second millenium, which in terms of economic situation in the Slovak Republic still remains more then difficult, it would be beneficial to adhere to proven forms of activity.

    In the year 2000 I would recommend to keep organising events on special topics for select members and for those who are interested, to convoke three all-club meetings (one delegate per seven members of the regional and other Economic Clubs).

    The main topics should be: topical issues of the development of society in transition and its economy, especially knowledge and experience from privatisation, enforcement of law, integration processes, foreign investment and the activities of interest or professional associations and organisations.

    Further topics will as always be suggested by life itself and they will also follow from occasions linked with the participation in international events or from negotiations with foreign economic or political leaders.

    We have already started preparing events on special topics with Polish businessmen, economic and political personalities of USA, Germany, Russia, Switzerland and the trade sphere of Southeast Asia.

    Most of all one should concentrate on publishing communiqués from the discussions at the regular meetings expressing club opinions and specific recommendations or suggestions, with a specific addressee. Ladies and gentlemen, it is as though we were succumbing to depressive pressures from the implications of the present government policy and its results.

    Part of our members does not want any problems with the executive power, because just as in the previous periods it is afraid of its criticism and its potential impact on their economic activity. Already several times since the formation of our community there has been a time when the substantial ideas were only voiced behind the scenes.

    One has to ask a question what is more important. To be on the same wavelength behind the scenes or to stick out, so to say, and lose opportunities? There are too many things which depend on partisan approaches and lobby groups, which are a reality. The question could be whether it is a standard procedure comparable to other countries.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    we are a nonpartisan forum. Although I admit it can be ambiguous at times. It is logical that often the governing power gets more space. Members from the opposition bank or from an imaginary island between the coalition and the opposition have to fight for their space. Above all by strict logic and their "truth".

    The management of the club has considered this phenomenon, otherwise quite usual. At the beginning of 1999 we reached a conclusion that we should not be substituting activities of the Association of Employers Organisations, the Association of Businessmen of the Slovak Republic, Slovak Chamber of Commerce and Industry, various associations or the Association of Industrial Unions, formed last year.

    Not only because part of our members is in the bodies of these institutions in the broader sense of the word. We expected they would be exerting pressure on creating standard climate in this country, which the government power improves by measures supporting the development of business activities and economy as such.

    Unlike a whole number of developed democracies, in our situation it has been taken for granted that it is only politicians and businessmen loyal to them who make or do not make decisions about concrete solutions, but they refuse the resposibility. When you challenge them for a dialogue, they avoid it and are capable of accusing anyone of antagonism towards the government and the sacred aims.

    It is symptomatic for governments in countries in transition that they refuse to accept that they are inefficent in their activity and they refer the economic sphere, and the whole society to better times. They have a tendency, which has become rather a rule, of claiming that all their steps support integration, efforts for membership in OECD and NATO.

    Export has been increased, so it is a merit of the government. That is a logic which suits politicians and also those from abroad who make assessments. As though in a number of cases it was not merely the fruits of an almost desperate effort and stubornness of our people to come to terms with the conditions for doing business which are much worse than anywhere else in the civilised and economically developed world.

    Members in the Banská Bystrica, Poprad - Tatry and ?aris and Zemplín clubs could revive their discussions with some members of the government. At the central club level there were also some discussions which ended with mutual misunderstanding, while it should be our members who should be a natural ally of the government especially during the period of transition.

    When in February 1999 our Banská Bystrica plenum with a whole number of guests from other clubs suggested to the Minister of Finance to reduce the tax burden, she called their opinions "an unacceptable risk". In the end it turned out that the Minister was wrong. It similarly applies to the original thesis of the government to suspend the finalisation of the construction of motorways for financial reasons.

    We could point out more cases where it was unequivocally confirmed that the government representatives are more interested in their political rivals than in specific problems which are getting out of hand. It was during the 2nd general assembly, but also a year ago in the company of four ministers that we pointed out the potential catastrophic unemployment and its implications, the absurdity of non-enforcement of law and at the same time the possibility of prevention of these realities.

    Distinguished members,

    if I have mentioned the fear of consequences of criticising the government power, which was at its peak in our community in the first half of 1995, we are coming close to it today. It should not be our ambition to survive as individuals or in small groups, but as a stratum of the society whose voice has to be respected. Also because through its activity it keeps the society alive.

    In the past the politicians were content that businessmen have to do business, and that makes them in a sense modern slaves. Slaves of the political power and then of the strata which expect work and also earnings, social advantages, etc. from them. A whole number of businessmen are so tired of the domestic situation that they may decide to take a "permanent leave".

    I am sincerely glad that it is my privilage to know a whole number of businessmen who have been on the line of fire for years and who do not give up the goal to achieve success, to be beneficial for their surroundings, to feel responsibility and be co-responsible from their own will for the development of public matters. Naisbitt's visions on new personalities of the beginning of the new century are after all corroborated, at least on some examples.

    I have listed some suggestions for the nearest future. In 1996 we declared unambiguously as club community that we consider the integration of the Slovak Republic to the European Union, other pan-European and trans-Atlantic security structures a priority. I would like to emphasise that all members, regardless of their party orientation, voted in favour of this declaration at the time.

    That is a fact which is perceived in a more positive way abroad than at home. Nothing has changed in our attitude, but we have to remind the politicians that our greatest enemy on the road the the above mentioned goals is ourselves. Are we more stable in terms of politics, stronger in terms of economy and is the society as a whole further ahead than in 1996?

    Our club community will have to influence to a greater extent the thinking of the population at large. Even at the cost of considerable unpopularity it will have to insist on new thinking and refuse false solidarity or the government fear of social tension. It is high time to be telling the truth, to be using common sense.

    I have in mind above all the removal of the article in the Constitution about free health care and free university education. First of all they are not free and both are at the moment an example of misunderstood social fairness.

    It applies similarly to a part of the unemployed, some of whom in the South of Slovakia make their living by agricultural activity while receiving an unemployment benefit or other social benefits on top of that. The stereotypical thinking, perception of this problem and incomprehensible political laziness empoverish us no less than economic crime.

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    let me mention the cooperation with the Hospodársky denník daily. I would like to emphasise above all the fact that it was established immediately after the 2nd general assembly on the instigation of members of our community. 50 of our members are its shareholders. Its existence, and above all the possibility of presentation of own opinions, may not be fully appreciated by many members.

    The contract-based cooperation of the publisher, share-holding company Theben, and our civic association is mutually beneficial. It has to be continued. Without cooperation with a daily the club activity would only be a "club venture". However, Hospodársky denník has to provide more information on companies, above all with club membership, it must be more proactive in insisting on specific topics from life and problems to be solved.

    In yet another year of our activity we should make an effort to use the club more actively, especially for output targetted at the public. In this connection it turns out as very important to find time and finance for the young generation, which is our source of perspective. However, the source will only be usable if it is rich in terms of values and education, physically fit and resilient. That is a suggestion for the regional clubs, while the central club should set an example.

    Distinguished members,

    I have submitted to you information and knowledge on the activity of the club community during 17 months. Since we are meeting at the 3rd general assembly with a time delay caused by organising the discussion with the President of the Republic and by work on the preparation of other events which could not have been postponed, a change of date of one event, within which the general assembly should have been held, I recommend the following conclusions:

    1. the general assembly takes note of the report of the Executive Vice President on activity between the 2nd general assembly and the 3rd general assembly,
    2. the general assembly confirms the decision of the committee on holding the election for elected officials for the 8th term of office, its date and the manner of voting,
    3. the general assembly confirms the decision of the committee on membership issues, through which those who have not fulfilled their membership obligation as a rule by 20 February will be removed from the club register,
    4. the general assembly approves the framework for activity for the year 2000, accepting the known dates of regular meetings - 25 May (topic: privatisation in the Slovak Republic), 13 June (topic: Slovak-Polish economic relations) and 14 July 2000 (topic: USA before the presidential election and its economic role in the world economy) and the date of the non-regular meeting within the scope of the Executive Vice President (topic: Swiss democracy),
    5. the general assembly approves the amount of the membership contribution for activity in the year 2001 as the same as in 1999, payable by 20 February 2001,
    6. the general assembly charges the Executive Vice President to inform all domestic and foreign representatives with honorary membership rights about the 3rd general assembly by 31 July 2000,
    7. the general assembly charges chairmen of regional clubs to evaluate their activity since their establishment and elect new committees by 30 September 2000,
    8. the general assembly charges the Executive Vice President to ensure informing the public about the 3rd general assembly by 31 May 2000.
    Bratislava, 30 April 2000

    The HN Club Foundation was transformed into a Civil Association, Informal Economic Forum (IEF) - HN Club, on July 27, 1997 as prescribed by law. From February 22, 1999 its name changed to Civil Association IEF - Economic Club - legal successor to HN Club.

    The key information source is Hospodársky denník. This daily news paper started to be published on the initiative of 46 members of the Association, shareholders of Theben publishing company. Hospodársky denník appeared for the first time on February 17, 1999.

    Between January 1, 1996 and August 31, 1999 the Committee was chaired by J. Gabriel, former President of the VÚB Bank, currently a deputy of the National Council of the Slovak Republic (Parliament). The posts of Committee Vice-Chairmen are held by A. F. Zvrškovec, President of the Dividend Group, and P. Kasalovský, ex-Editor-in-Chief of HN daily and current Chief Editor of Hospodársky denník. The post of Committee Chairman has been held since September 1, 1999 by S. Hatina, President of Slovnaft a.s.; Committee Vice-Chairmen are J. Gabriel, P. Kasalovský and A. F. Zvrškovec.

    Civil Association IEF - Economic Club associates 369 regular members and a number of members who hold honorary club rights. These rights have been conferred also on the recipients of Golden Entrepreneurial Biatec, prestigious award of HN daily and HN Club Foundation, currently that of Civil Association IEF - HN Club, awarded for the first time on January 21, 1994. Since March 1,1999 these rights have been conferred upon the holders of prestigious annual award Golden Biatec of Civil Association IEF - Economic Club.

    The same rights are held by the winners of the annual Club and readership survey, Prominent of the Economy, conducted for the first time in 1995.

    From November 15, 1999, the Club community has the following regional clubs:
    Novohrad-Gemer Regional Club at Lueenec, (c)ariš-Zemplín Regional Club at Pre1ov, Banská Bystrica Regional Club at Banská Bystrica, (r)ilina Regional Club at (r)ilina, Orava Regional Club at Trstená, Upper Nitra Regional Club at Topoľčany, and a group of members at Zlín (the Czech Republic).

    Foreign recipients of honorary club rights
    and of the annual Golden Biatec award between December 12, 1997 and November 15, 1999:
    Donald J. Johnston, Secretary General of OECD
    Ralph Johnson, U.S. Ambassador in the Slovak Republic
    John Naisbitt, U.S. political scientist
    Federico Mayor, Secretary General of UNESCO
    (c)tefan Roman - In Memoriam, Founder and President of the World Slovak Congress, Canada
    Jeffrey Sachs, Director, Harvard Institute for International Development, USA
    IBB - Radio Voice of America, Washington, D.C., USA

    Major events of the EconomicClub after December 12, 1997

    First General Meeting (26th Regular Meeting), December 12, 1997
    On-line discussion with OECD Secretary General D.J. Johnston; remarks by Z. Somr, President, Economic Chamber of the Czech Republic; presentation on the National Property Fund of the Slovak Republic and discussion on the development of road, railway and water transport with Minister J. Jasovský

    27th Regular Meeting, January 22, 1998
    Discussion with U.S. Ambassador R. Johnson on foreign policy; presentations of Nafta Gbely a.s. and J. Hílek Company of Senica

    Dinner given in the honour of T. Ba"a, February 3, 1998

    Professional auspices over the conference on Managers v. Owners, March 5, 1998

    28th Regular Meeting, March 16, 1998
    Discussion with U.S. political scientist John Naisbitt, co-author of Megatrends 2000, remarks by Z. Kramplová, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic

    29th Regular Meeting, April 17, 1998
    Presentation of economic and social programme of the Party of the Democratic Left - J. Migaš, B. Schmögnerová, P. Weiss, P. Magvaši, P. Koncoš, and others, discussion on the situation in the Slovak Railways and presentation of DMD, a.s. Trenčín

    30th Regular Meeting, May 15, 1998
    Remarks by UK Ambassador P. Harborne; presentation of economic and social programme of the Democratic Union and SDK (M. Dzurinda, R. Kováč, Ľ. Černák, V. Vaškovič)

    Brainstorming on nuclear policy in the Slovak Republic with the participation of diplomatic missions of the Czech Republic, Republic of Hungary, Republic of Austria and Federal Republic of Germany, June 8, 1998

    31st Regular Meeting, June 19,1998
    Remarks by G. Holzer-Matzner, Ambassador of the Republic of Austria; V. Tkáč, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic; presentation of economic and social programme of the Slovak National Party

    Discussion with V. Masár, Governor of the National Bank of Slovakia, July 22, 1998

    32nd Regular Meeting, September 24, 1998
    Presentation of the University of Economics, Bratislava

    Luncheon given in the honour of R. L. Mallet, Deputy Secretary of U. S. Department of Commerce, November 9, 1998

    2nd General Meeting (33rd Regular Meeting), December 3, 1998
    Remarks by J. Migaš, Chairman of the National Council of the Slovak Republic

    Discussion with J. Čarnogurský, Minister of Justice of the Slovak Republic , January 22,1999

    Discussion with P. Magvaši, Minister of Labour, Social Affairs and Family of the Slovak Republic, February 23, 1999

    Discussion with W. Stadler, member of the Board, Investkreditbank Wien, March 15, 1999

    34th Regular Meeting, May 28, 1999
    Discussion via satellite with Prof. J. Sachs, Harvard University, United States; remarks by P. Koncoš, Minister of Agriculture of the Slovak Republic; presentation of the Slovak Gas Industry (SPP) and Becherovka of Karlovy Vary

    Discussion with P. Ham3/4ík, Deputy Prime Minister, on the integration into the European structures, June 21, 1999

    35 Regular Meeting, July 16, 1999
    Discussion with B. Schmögnerová, Minister of Finance of the Slovak Republic

    Extraordinary Meeting, August 16, 1999
    Discussion with Ministers Ľ. Černák (Economy), M. Machová (Privatisation), J. Čarnogurský (Justice), P. Magvaši (Social Affairs); I. Saktor, President of Confederation of Trade Unions; and M. Jusko, Governor of the National Bank of Slovakia, on current economic and social issues

    Discussion with Deputy Prime Minister Ľ. Fogaš on legislation and with F. Lacina, former Austrian Cabinet minister, on foreign investment, October 21, 1999

    36th Regular Meeting, December 17, 1999
    first part - remarks by Helmut O. Maucher, Vice-President of the World Economic Forum Foundation and Chairman of the Board of Nestlé, S. A., second part (under preparation): satellite discussions with prominent personalities in the United States and the Russian Federation