Category Archives: European Union

“Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred” Václav Havel

One of my first encounters with Czechoslovakia after stepping off a CSA TU-134 (at that time still Československé aerolinie) at Prague airport in January 1990 was with the hundreds of posters of Václav Havel on the walls. And those posters were everywhere in this city that had liberated itself from communist oppression. The posters read “Truth and Love must prevail over lies and hatred”. Václav Havel wore an Civic Forum (OF) badge on his sweater. A badge I was lucky to get back then, and that I still have.

Real life catches up with idealism pretty fast and Václav Havel himself had to see part of his ideals translate into day to day policies that saw Czechoslovakia break up, the difficulties of reforming a communist economy with its social hardships, not to mention petty politics.

He might have been sometimes less considered in Slovakia than in the Czech Republic because of the effects of reforms on a very backwards Slovakia, but still…My girlfriend’s eyes watered when I read to her the titles flashing on the big screen where the 24 hours news network TA3 was being broadcasted. And for a moment, my voice itself became shaky, because of the attention and affection I have had for Czechs and Slovaks.

Some people disregard personal comfort in the name of big ideas. Everyone might have big ideas, but not all of us are ready to make sacrifices for them. He went countless times to jail, and kept firm in his vision. He worked with other freedom fighters in Central Europe to make this region a better place.

A great man passed away today. I pay my respects, and share my sadness of his departure, with the certainty that others are ready to shoulder the fight for Truth and Love.

„Pravda a láska musí zvítězit nad lží a nenávistí“Image


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Filed under Czech republic, European Union

Scapegoating the PIIGS?

A caricature in today’s (August 10th) “Hospodarské Noviny”, Slovakia’s largest economic daily newspaper caught my attention.

A raft carrying 4 well off men drinking champagne floats on some sea called the Eurozone, while a hand and a ragged sleeve sticks out of the sea. “Slovakia” is written on that sleeve while the on the raft are listed the names of four countries that have made news recently: Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal.

The debate if Slovakia should participate in the European safety net for debt stricken countries has been raging ever since the first aid plan. Slovakia’s people have made tremendous personal efforts during the post communist reforms: skyrocketing prices, unemployment, a struggling health and education infrastructure with a breakdown of what was in the past a very conservative society.

It is understandable that being asked to pitch in a State guarantee of almost 4,5 billion EUR makes people pretty angry. As was said at the time of the first bailout, Slovakia is a poor country, and has no resources to spare for countries that have not been able to finance themselves in a reasonable way.

That would be forgetting two important things: Slovakia is issued generous funding from the European Union for its development, infrastructure and education. 11,5 billion EUR are pre-allocated to Slovakia for 2007-2013 (for which 2,2 billion have been paid), and it would be unfair not to count it in the global European package, even if EU does not mean Eurozone.

The drawing does make me uncomfortable. Showing privileged fat guys drinking champagne on their boat while you drown does point towards the idea that the people on the raft are to blame for your demise. Firstly, I don’t think that nations that need the EFSF are “drinking champagne”: they are facing severe recession and high unemployment. They are probably going to live through the same hardships Slovaks went through: no-one remembers it as drinking champagne (a part for a bunch of well-connected moguls).

Now don’t get me wrong: I am as angry at politicians having mismanaged their economies for political gain than at the financial institutions that went bankrupt because of poor judgment. People who have elected politicians without thinking of what their promises were costing the country do need to tighten their belt as they are responsible for letting this happen. But let’s remember that the only reason Greeks managed to drown themselves in debt is that some people lent the money to them. Sounds familiar?

If the recession that has hit us since 2008 leads to a resurgence of nationalist finger pointing, the EU is in much more danger than I previously thought. This crisis is not so simple, and we need to overcome as Europeans, united and in peace.


Filed under Article, central europe, economy, European Union, Slovakia, Uncategorized

Car prices in Europe: evolution and differences between member states: Slovakia prices in free fall, for best deals shop in Hungary

The European Commission has released its car price survey for last year.

The report focuses on pricing differences between EU member countries by comparing price lists of cars in member states, and adapting major equipment differences.

This study has been issued on a regular basis since 1993 and has strongly influenced manufacturers to narrow the price differences of cars between EU member states or face (unwritten) a totally liberalized market.

Major differences occur often in pre-tax prices, since in countries where cars are heavily taxed, competition between manufacturers often drag fully taxed prices down. With the Euro, gaps have been considerably reduced as currency variation could not explain differences any more, and that price variations between countries became more visible to consumers.

Slovenia shines as one of the cheapest markets of the Eurozone after Greece. In the small car, it is the least expensive Eurozone country for 7 models out of 30. When it is more expensive, difference rarely reaches 5% difference with the nearest country.

As for another Euro country, Slovakia, the most important information is that according to the report, prices of new vehicles have dropped more than 17% when average prices in Europe dropped only 2.5%. It is no surprise that the used car market suffered as it did. I recalled on my website some used car professionals talking about sales prices going down one third.

We know that the Czech and Polish markets are highly competitive. The report shows it as the Czech Republic is cheaper than any Euro country for 7 models out of 20 from the small car segment and for 6 models out of 20 for the lower compact segment (Škoda Octavia…). It is to be said that this result is achieved even though the Czech Crown has appreciated against the Euro 3% between January 2010 and January 2011.

But the palm of attractive car prices is Hungary: in the small car segments, it shines as the cheapest country in almost half of the most selling models. In the lower intermediate segment, Hungary is the cheapest market for 5 out of 20 models.

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Filed under Article, automotive, central europe, competition, Czech republic, European Union, Slovakia, Uncategorized