Finncham interviewed H.E. Mr Tibor Králik, the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic

Which kinds of business opportunities there are for Finnish companies in the Slovak Republic?

Although there is an inevitable shift to the service based economy in Slovakia, as is the case in many modern developed countries around the world, the manufacturing and the industry will continue to play a significant role in the years to come. The Slovak Republic has a long tradition in mechanical engineering, machinery, which has gradually transformed to the renowned automotive industry. Extremely favourable business environment still lures major stakeholders, Jaguar Land Rover amongst the latest. Vehicle production, followed by electronics industry, are two fundamental pillars of the Slovak economy. Having said this, I have to add, that the government and the society closely follow the future trends, the ongoing technological revolution including automation, robotics, digitalisation, smart cities. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity and our competitive edge. Slovaks have thirst and desire for innovations and it is the government’s top priority to attract investments withhigh added value and innovation potential. The authorities continuously develop support programmes and incentives for valued partners, who bring substantial shares of new technologies along, or who wish to establish technology centres in Slovakia. Furthermore, we promote collaboration in R&D field through cooperation between enterprises and research institutions focusing on strengthening the role of applied research - naming material research and nanotechnology; and biomedicine and biotechnology, as two examples. 

How to enter the Slovakian Market as an exporter or an investor?

Slovakia is the member of the European Union and the Eurozone member, as one of the few countries on the Central Eastern Europe region. Hence, Slovakia is an integral part of the European single market and generally speaking the conditions for operating businesses in our country are rather similar to those in other European states. Being a party to many international and multilateral organizations including the OECD and WTO, the Slovakia adheres to rule-based free trade.

Central location in the heart of the continent can be considered as an important asset as well, and many investors took an advantage of this fact in the last decades. In the 1000 km radius, companies established in Slovakia can approach more than 20 states, which translates to 300 million customers in their direct reach. 

The Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency SARIO is the first essential contact point for potential investors. The agency provides inter alia various corporate development services and assistance. And not to forget, the Slovak Embassy in Helsinki stands ready to provide information to companies interested in entering the Slovak market.

Which kinds of cultural challenges Finnish enterprises face when entering the market in the Slovak Republic and how to overcome them?

Through my personal experience I dare to say that Finns and Slovaks are rather similar in their natures, characters and as a result there are not any insurmountable cultural differences to tackle. Entrepreneurial culture is comparable to the Finnish one; among minute variations I would mention, that the communication between partners is quite formal, at least in the first stages of negotiations, while partners address each other by their surnames. 

Two elections (regional and parliamentary) have been arranged in the Slovak Republic in 2017 and 2016. Which kind of influence these elections have hadon business environment in the country?

To describe the developments in the broader perspective, I must say that the majority of relevant political parties, since Slovakia acquired its independence in 1993, and especially after 2000, had the same political goal - to join the EU and NATO. This aim required thorough and sometimes painful transformation of the economy, along with societal, legislative and business environment updates. As a result, Slovakia offers today stable political and healthy financial conditions, as well as favourable possibilitiesfor long-term business decisions.Obviously, the world advances fast, and if we want to stay in close touch with our global partners, the Slovak government has to adapt rapidly to new trends. There is a constant push for better services, better legislation, so called one-stop-shops etc. I would like to highlight the fact that the 2016 general elections brought important advancements in the field of e-services to citizens and businesses. Admittedly, the Slovak experts have searched for inspiration and best practice in Finland amongst others. 

How Slovakian enterprises have been able benefit from the Free Trade Agreements the Slovak Republic has signed separately or as a member of the EU?  

I would rather rephrase the question and claim that Slovakia in general has benefited significantly from the membership in various international organisations due to enhanced credibility, accompanying reforms and other measures.

We know Bratislava as a great tourist destination very well. Which other towns and regions you would recommend us to visit and why?

It is not a cliché to mark Slovakia as a little big country. Every corner of the country offers vast varieties of diverse opportunities for visiting tourists. Whether one wishes to explore unique cultural heritage, enjoy the countryside including dozens of national parks and reservations, ski in the top-notch winter resorts in Tatra mountain ranges or just take it easy in the spa, Slovakia offers everything in one place, in a compact edition. I would like to invite Finns to visit Slovakia, to explore our culture, quirks and peculiarities of different regions, irrespective of the season. Spring or summer are a natural choice for holiday makers, but autumn and winter have their very own charms.

Questions: Anne Hatanpää

Answers: H.E. Mr Tibor Králik, the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic

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EuropeAnnemarie Hjorth