Slovakia, formerly part of Czechoslovakia, itself created as a state at the end of World War One, became an independent republic in 1993. As part of Czechoslovakia, and despite the spring uprising of 1968, it had been within the Communist bloc from 1948 to 1989. Since 2004 it has been a member of the EU.
Landlocked, Slovakia has borders with the Czech Republic, Austria to the west, Hungary to the south, Ukraine to the east, and Poland to the north. Vienna is just thirty miles away – within commuting distance – and Budapest and Prague just a couple of hours away.
Mountains dominate the central and northern parts of the country while the south is mainly lowland. It has a temperate climate.
The Foreign Office reports that in 2004, Slovakia was commended in a World Bank report for improving its investment climate, joining the 20 ‘easiest’ countries in the world for doing business. ‘Recent economic policy in Slovakia has resulted in strong growth with falling inflation and budget deficits, keeping the country on course to join the Euro’.
The UK is the sixth largest investor in Slovakia. One major investment was the acquisition by Tesco Stores of seven department stores in 1996, and the more recent major development of a chain of hypermarkets.
Tesco is now the top retailer in Slovakia, and has thirty two hypermarkets and five department stores. Other major UK investors are Shell, Provident Financial, CP Holdings (Slovakia’s biggest health spa, in Piestany), and Tate and Lyle. Next, Mothercare and Accessorize are among the established and well-known franchises that have recently opened stores in Bratislava.
Again the Foreign Office reports a thriving British Council presence in Slovakia. The Council promotes English language teaching, educational partnerships and academic links, as well as exchanges in the arts, science and culture. It works with the Embassy and Slovak partners to foster good governance.
It says Slovakia shares a threat from terrorism with the rest of Europe. ‘Attacks could be indiscriminate and against civilian targets’. However, ‘most visits to Slovakia are trouble-free. The main type of incident for which the majority of British nationals required consular assistance in Slovakia in 2006 was petty theft’.
There is a growing incidence of such theft in Bratislava where pickpockets operate around the main tourist areas, and foreigners are easily identified and targeted.
Visas are not required for British citizens to enter Slovakia. Those intending longer stays should register with the Police within three days of arrival and can apply for a Slovak ‘green card’, which can then be used as proof of identity (otherwise visitors must carry their passports at all times).
Being EU citizens, UK investors can buy property in Slovakia, although there are restrictions on the purchase of agricultural land and forestry.
Property in transferred by way of a pre-purchase commitment to buy when a deposit is paid – followed by a surveyor’s report, completion and registration with the land registry – the Kataster. This last step to formal ownership can take some weeks although it is possible to pay for accelerated registration.
The law requires that registration including a plan and description of the property, the name of the registered owner and details of any charges over the property or restrictive covenants or easements.
Mortgages are available from Slovakian banks. Buying costs are estimated to be between two and 6 per cent.