Slovakia

35

Overview

Slovakia, with one of the EU’s smallest foreign populations (1% 2009), is slowly transforming into a country of labour migration because of the economic conditions before the crisis and future demographic trends.

The country, one of the last EU Member States to adopt even a ‘concept’ of integration in May 2009, has not achieved much progress in policy. Newcomers still experience weak and incoherent policies, scoring third worst of all 31 MIPEX countries. At least the concept raised basic awareness and commitments from different ministries. Because of EU law, immigrants can best integrate in Slovak society by settling long-term with their families, even if discretionary Slovak procedures create more problems than in most countries. Stakeholders have started to work on integration, especially to fight discrimination. Procedures improved for victims in line with European trends, largely thanks to NGO support. The greatest challenge for Slovakia – and Central Europe – is basing procedures on the law and facts of the case. Giving authorities more discretion, as in the amended 2007 Citizenship Act, gives all residents less security about their future, which discourages integration.

Timeline - What's Changed

-12 October 2007
Access to nationality
Amendment to Citizenship Act.
+12 2008
Anti-discrimination
Amendments to Anti-Discrimination Act – new definitions and improved enforcement.
0 September 2009
Minority languages
Language Act criminalises use of minority languages in certain areas.
0 July 2010
Access to nationality
Amendment to Citizenship Act: Slovak citizen cannot subsequently benefit from dual nationality.

Key Findings

  • Integration improves most in Slovakia through better work on discrimination. 
  • Strong enforcement mechanisms can be better used in court, but State commitment to equality is weak. 
  • 2007 Citizenship Act makes naturalisation less favourable for integration. 
  • Policies make labour market least favourable for long-term economic integration. 
  • Family reunion is average, but limited rights for family members in country. 
  • Education area of weakness, as in region, especially access. 
  • Besides voting, few opportunities for immigrants to contribute to politics. 
  • Becoming long-term residents is burdensome, discretionary. 

Score Changes

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Unlike most other new immigration countries (e.g. CZ, PT), Slovakia provides its new non-EU migrant workers with nearly unfavourable policies that could jeopardise their long-term economic integration.With CY, Slovakia scores worst of all 31 countries, alone in getting zeros on access and targeted support. Newcomers are excluded from the public sector and several professions. They cannot access public employment services or touch unemployment benefits and, in principle, must leave Slovakia if unemployed. The jobs that they manage to find could be well below their skills since non-EU qualifications might not be recognised. Their way out may be using their equal right to education and training, one strong point in Slovakia and 8 other MIPEX countries.

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    Newcomers have a legal right to reunite with their families because of EU standards, which Slovakia only follows to a minimum. Reunited family members in Slovakia do not have the full rights to participate in society, unlike in most European countries. Only IE, which lacks any policy in this area, grants fewer rights. Extended families that meet Slovakia’s average legal conditions can still be rejected on wide grounds, with limited legal avenues of redress (as only 5 others). If accepted, they have little chance of an autonomous status before long-term residence. The law can push families into dependency on their sponsor by limiting their access to employment, education and social benefits, as in only HU and IE.

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    Multicultural education: to be implemented...

    To teach all pupils to live in a diverse society, Slovakia goes half-way on intercultural education, further than most in Central Europe, similar to CZ (42). In 2008, multicultural education was introduced as a cross-curricular subject to be reflected in all subjects taught, though this has not fully happened yet. Schools are also encouraged to reflect their diverse student bodies in curricula and in daily life under the 2008 Methodical Regulation, while there is training on intercultural education for qualifying and working teachers.

    Migrant children living in Slovakia are less well integrated into schools than in many European countries, including CZ (44), even if students may receive a better intercultural education in the future (see box). Only migrant children with permitted residence can access full schooling and general support for disadvantaged students. Many can be excluded (only BG, HU, RO are so restrictive). Among the newcomers in schools, not all may be able to keep up with their peers, since only those in the asylum system have guaranteed State support to learn Slovak (unlike most MIPEX countries). They are also not learning their own language or culture, since efforts to profit from new opportunities of immigration are limited. 

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    Slovakia does not value immigrants’ civic political participation, besides limited voting. Non-EU nationals with permanent residence have more electoral rights than in many countries (with EE, HU, LT, SI). Still, Slovakia and RO deny more basic political liberties to immigrants than any country. They cannot be members of parties that they vote or stand for as candidates. They face limits on political associations. They are not licensed to broadcast TV/radio programmes without permanent residence, unlike in 28 MIPEX countries. Though immigrant associations helped design the recent Integration Concept, they are not structurally funded or consulted to share immigrants’ experiences (see 15, including new immigration countries IE, PT). Integration work remains largely dependent on projects from the European Integration Fund.

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    Reducing state discretion

    Migrants pass numerous State procedures to integrate e.g. for family reunion, long-term residence and citizenship. Procedures that lack explicit rules give discretion to the administration, which risks being abused. Moreover, applicants are never fully prepared as they do not know what will be asked. The 2009 CZ language test for long-term residence aimed to ensure equal and reasonable conditions. With an attainable level (A1), wide exemptions, free support and professional testers, this model creates conditions for applicants to succeed,rather than creating more bureaucratic obstacles.

    Where most countries converge around the 60-point average, Slovakia’s many conditions and discretionary powers bring down its score 10 points. As in most countries, most migrants are eligible after 5 years to gain equal access to employment and social benefits. However, they cannot prepare properly for language and integration conditions where authorities exert wide discretion in implementing them. These conditions are also more onerous than other Central Eastern countries (particularly CZ – see box). Slovakia’s long-term residents are some of the most insecure in Europe, as discretion continues to govern their fragile status. Leaving the EU beyond 180 days without permission is just one of many grounds for withdrawal, without requirement to consider key personal circumstances. 

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    Foreign residents will see a path to citizenship that is even less based on the law and facts, thanks to the 2007 amended Citizenship Act. They must now wait for one of the longest periods in Europe, complete some of the most subjective and restrictive conditions, and become as insecure in their status as across the region. The interior minister presented the longer wait and subjective conditions to ‘the growing danger of organised crime and international terrorism’ under the pretext of Slovakia entering the Schengen Zone. However, they may be more related to populist-nationalist coalition’s focus on ‘proving cultural acclimatisation’. Rather, these amendments make problems of discretion slightly worse, with slightly more obstacles discouraging integration.

    Applicants must now wait 3 more years on a permanent residence permit. Under the new conditions, they do not know how much Slovak they must write and speak because the law does not have any language standard, as in only 7 other countries. They are also uncertain how to prove their knowledge of the Slovak Republic, without any access to the questions and free courses, unlike half the countries with citizenship requirements (e.g. EE, DE, LV). The level and content are both subject to the discretion of non-specialised administrators at the Commission of the District office, as in only 5 others. The procedure remains difficult, potentially lengthy (24 months), and one of the most expensive (663.50 euros), especially for Central Europe.

    The 2007 amendments have also made applicants more insecure, with security now falling around the very low Central European average and behind the Czech Republic. In particular, the ministry can deem that the migrant never naturalised (e.g. in cases of fraud, crime or where the authorities lacked knowledge of facts that could have substantial influence). It does not matter how long they have been a Slovak citizen, or whether they would become stateless. Luckily for naturalised citizens, they are allowed to retain their original nationality, as in 17 other countries, even after the July 2010 citizenship amendments.

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    2008 amended antidiscrimination law

    Passed with strong NGO support, the law improved Slovakia’s score across all dimensions. By allowing action popularis and enabling the Centre for Human Rights and NGOs to bring actions in the public interest, legal protection becomes a reality for victims, particularly for those unable to bring a case themselves. The Centre can also independently investigate the facts of a case. Protection is more concrete with an explicit definition of equal treatment, now covering discrimination by association and assumed characteristics, and religious discrimination in all areas.

    Integration policy improved most through better discrimination definitions and access to justice (see box). Nationality (citizenship) discrimination remains the key challenge for any country of immigration. Though this ground is not explicitly covered, now race and religious discrimination are in all areas of life. The legal system now has some of the best mechanisms to enforce victims’ rights. Actio popularis is a new possibility, while victims can call on broad NGO support and legal aid. High-scoring countries such as SE and UK continuously work to make these mechanisms easier to use for victims. Notwithstanding the powers of equality bodies such as Slovakia’s Centre for Human Rights (see BG, HU), equality policies remain weak across the region.