March 2010Slovaks have to think nationally and European
Slovak economy and its development depends on the EU
Stonemasonry School in Pučišća
Abov Business Park Košice
They can do music only
The 2020 EU Strategy: science - fiction, chance or collapse?
Black hole in the state budget?
Unknown St. Gorazd
Fifteen minutes of fame
Camera not as a craft, but as the arts
Drawing in hands of poet’s colours
Andrej Smolák and his world where roses blossom
Bear from Ajax
Slovaks have to think nationally and European
It has begun again. Billboards with mottos and almost all the familiar faces. The only and the same political marketing for twenty years. It attacks a voter displaying photographs and slogans. No change, no new vision. Neither smaller nor bigger political acts performed by the leaders of political parties. The game has just started; the game whose background is now and again full of financial groups and Slovak oligarchs. One of them, who supports (and probably controls) ruling SMER- SD also supports a non-parliamentary union called Únia- Strana pre Slovensko (Union- a Party for Slovakia) that obligatory acquired unsuccessful marketing projects like Slobodné forum and Liga and non- marketing Civil Candidates. And probably, the very same oligarch and his competitor at the back; there are other marketing parties like Sloboda and Solidarity, a party that was established (or could have been established) during the reign of Róbert Fico. The leader of this right- winged bubble, I mean the leader of Sloboda and Solidarity (Freedom and Solidarity), of “innocent moral and responsible theoreticians” is a gentleman who thinks that he does politics. He claims about himself that despite “not being handsome, he is fair”. However, he surely does no politics and it appears he does not know to do one. For instance, he has not understood yet that although he officially fights against SMER- DS but unofficially, he significantly helps Fico´s Party because he ruins electing group of discredited SDKÚ- DS, and like the Union – Party for Slovakia, misleads right- winged and central- winged voters who do not want to vote conservative KDH, or SNS- a provincial party with no conception, or an insignificant and slowly fading HZDS- ĽS. And this is exactly what suits Robert Fico who is still waiting for an alternative against his model of a social state.
Oligarchs, who “play with” SDKÚ- DS, support a new and non- parliamentary Strana demokratickej ľavice (the Party of Democratic Left), which has the largest number of billboards all over Slovakia! Mottos like “For Democratic Left” and having been helped by former structures that had left Liga; they intend to weaken the most powerful Slovak political party in the regions. Nevertheless, it is their only attempt they have managed to undertake so far. However, it is still true that Slovak right, international, civil and national is unable to get united. Moreover, the ethnical Party of Hungarian Coalition is unable to get rid of its dependence on the Hungarian party FIDESZ, and civil Most- Híd which got tired and stuck, compete just for Hungarian votes and they mutually accuse each other who betrayed “ Hungarianship ”. Neither these parties talk about new visions because they only focus on criticism and proving and searching for mistakes in the agenda of social democrats and cases of their common ruling with popular party and nationalists.
And thus three month before the election, it is obvious that oppositional political parties in Slovakia are being destroyed by their stereotypical viewing and thinking of their sick and tired leaders. It is being proved that while Slovak political parties are backed up only by oligarchs and financial groups, quality of Slovak politics will decline and the parties will not be able to serve citizens more. Slovak political parties have not understood yet, that they need to have their , for example, party academies or school offering a unique space for further education of their members, people holding various posts and leaders. If politics is a profession and service, its main performers must have enough qualification and not only immunity .They have to continue in their further education otherwise they will always be spokesmen and prisoners of oligarchs and financial groups and executives of strange scripts.
Slovak politics needs an essential change of contents. It lacks politicians who can get citizens together- young, elder and the eldest to fight for something and not against somebody.
Slovak politics has not got over the values which were supposed to be renewed, formed and developed. Politics has just become a slave of the worse and better short- term reforms; it has become a servant of cynical egoism and individuals who, for example, control structural funds of the EU.
Slovak politics has not even managed to cope the integration of Slovakia in the European Union and NATO. Slovakia plays there very unimportant role, it just listens and nods the head, does not pursue its interests more significantly. It could clearly be seen during the economic crisis in the USA and in West Europe. Slovak politicians are afraid of giving proposals which would revive domestic production, Slovak country, national and regional culture, building new infrastructure and give young people a new meaning of their lives (something else than leaving Slovakia to work abroad). They are waiting passively for the solution from West or Brussels and for the global market and competitive environment to resolve everything.
The development in the European Union is approaching to the stage, in which politics of the European parties- European socialists, populars, liberals, Christian democrats, federalists and confederalists will head forward and pursue themselves. So far, powerful European nations, mainly Germans, French, Italians and sometimes Spaniard rule Europe. However, soon there will be times when these parties will form their own structures or swallow small parties at the national level in the member states of the EU and European programmes for European citizens and European nations will be pursued through them.
Current Slovak parties are not ready for this kind of development and do not pay any attention to it. That is why they cannot explain to citizens and voters the contents and consequences of for example the Lisbon Treaty on the practical performance of the government and its agenda or legislative contents of the activities of the national parliament.
However, I am delighted that there is a group of activists, keens and personalities that supports a project that could help Slovakia and its citizens. This project is called the European Democratic Party in Slovakia, and its main political goal is strong Slovakia in strong Europe. This new political party does not want to divide but bring Slovak citizens together. It would like to solve problems professionally and not ideologically. It focuses mainly on young people and citizens who do not believe or stopped trusting Slovak politics, implementing political culture and culture of forming relationships among people. This party also invites Slovaks who live abroad. Its representatives are people and personalities in cities and in regions that do not want to earn a living from politics but understand politics as service for other people and the space in the competition of solving alternatives and conceptions of specialists. Although media have behaved unfair to this part and ignored this party, calling them outsiders as it is not backed up by the “marketing project and magician,” its agenda can motivate at least to change our thinking and help us get rid of our 25-year-old stereotypes and bad habits that infected Slovak politics and all in all, they did not help our state, either.
editor in chief
Slovak economy and its development depends on the EU
„ Since July1, 2006, the Government has supported 76 investment projects that created 26,000 new workplaces. We are able to produce anything, however, if there is no one to buy it, we will not move anywhere, “claims Peter Žiga, State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic.
Photo: Jozef Veselý
He belongs to the first post- November generation of Slovak economists who began running their own businesses and thus they got to know entrepreneurial environment in Slovakia and abroad at the times when the basis of the market economy were being born. He set up his business in 1991 while studying at university; he dealt with the interpretation of German language. „ I had a lot of free time and sitting in cafés was not my cup of team I wanted to work on my own development. I used to go to Germany to interpret and thus I learnt about the entrepreneurial environment and company culture, „ he says. He met Mr Fico in 1998 when he was working in VUB (a bank) in Bratislava in the field of marketing. He took part in a team for economic issues; he set up the agenda and the visions of the party and participated in the elaboration of the economic policy of the party. His agenda of a State secretary of the Ministry of Economy of the Slovak Republic involves such matters as investments, industrial policy, energetics and structural funds.
Mr. Žiga, the European Commission introduces a new strategy called Europe 2020 at the beginning of March this year. It main goal is to lead the EU out of the crisis and prepare its economy for the following decade. The European social market economy is determined by three priority areas: growth of intelligence, development of knowledge based economy and innovation, sustainable growth which supports competitive low- carbon economy and inclusive growth in support of economy with a high employment rate. What do you think about this strategy? Is it a new science- fiction to hide incapability to move things forward and just a strategy for strategy that will never be fulfilled?
I am glad, that the European Commission comes up with some progressive ideas and attempts to show the way to the member states. Meanwhile, however, I have to admit that these programmes are too ambitious and require plenty of funds which not all the countries are able to use for this purpose. Europe might not push too hard on some activities and be their leader but it had better focus on competitiveness against the rest of the world.
How can Slovakia apply and implement this strategy? Let’s analyse it more profoundly. Intelligent and inclusive growth - what does it mean?
As it is a new mater, I have not studied it yet to know what the European Commission exactly proposes so I cannot answer this question. However, the conception has not been approved yet. We would rather wait for a final version.
Has Europe learnt its lesson from the global economic and financial crisis? Is the Slovak economy out of real danger?
Naturally, our economies are connected. No member state of the EU can solve global challenges efficiently if isolated. Slovakia exports 80 % of its GDP and 80% of this export goes to the countries of the EU. If big economies are prosperous, Slovak economy is profitable as well. The first figures from the end of the year 2009 and first months of the year 2010 show particular and slight improvement. However, we do not know yet if it will have an increasing trend.
I think that Slovak economy has many healthy basis and positive elements inside but it does not change anything about our dependence on the EU market. We are able to produce anything, however, if there is no one to buy it, we will not move anywhere. The state can make payment mechanisms, terms and conditions of contracts and frames; however, it cannot do business for entrepreneurial subjects. It is the man role of entrepreneurs. If one thinks that the state is supposed to that for them, go to run your business in North Korea!
Does the Government plan any anti - crisis measures until the end of this electoral period?
The government within solving anti - crisis measures has brought three sets of measures - altogether 62 measures which primarily solve the negative impact of crisis on the unemployment rate, eliminating impact on social disadvantageous groups, creating conditions for entrepreneurs so that they support growth of GDP, to stabilize financial sector. First of all, we decided to increase domestic demand through elaborated or approved large structural projects such as construction of highways, completion of the construction of Mochovce and the airport in Bratislava.
What is the current state of carrying out these projects? How did they initiate the domestic demand?
Some measures were short- termed and they have already been carried out, some of them were of mid-termed and long-termed character and they are still being implemented. The base is that the government will not pass new measures as the economy shows first features of revival which is also reflected in the growth of GDP and production revival. I suppose that the increase in the employment rate is expected a bit later- in the third and last quarters this year.
So far, the current government has supported only three important investments which realization is considered important within the public interests. Construction of the production plants belonging to the companies such as Yazaki Wiring Technologies Slovakia, Samsung Electronics Slovakia and AU Optronics (Slovakia). Have they not been very few of them for over three years and six months?
It is a deep misunderstanding. Since July1, 2006, the Government has supported 76 investment projects that created 26,000 new workplaces.These investments have reached the total amount of 3 billion Euros. The fact that three of them used the institute of important investment which had something to do with the process of project or realization preparation when this institute helped to purchase these lands or when making the processes of approval faster. We really appreciate each investor and we try to give each such services so that the investment was carried our successfully.
The state help preferably focuses on big investments, domestic small and medium investors and entrepreneurs complain about being forgotten…
Large projects are an opportunity for small companies as well - for example sub- suppliers in case automotive factories and production of electronics. When we want to support economy, we have to do systematically. We cannot support micro - enterprise which, although it had the added value of 200% but on the volume of a million Euros. We need 20% but in the volume of a billion Euros. We want to support big projects on order to feed small ones as well.
What big projects are going to be supported by the government this year and according to which criteria?
The government attempts to support investments that create new workplace and eliminate differences among regions in Slovakia. Investors are much more careful in the times of crisis. While two years ago, the negotiations lasted for two or three months, now it takes much longer time. In terms of their publicizing, there is a rule saying that if everything has not been agreed yet, nothing has been agreed. So, do not expect me that I will reveal the facts about the potential investors in Slovakia. Try to understand that investments and investors are in the competitive environment and our country, Slovakia, also competes other states for placing the investment.
Our resort elaborated the action programme of eliminating administration burden for entrepreneurs by 25% until the year 2012. How exactly will it help entrepreneurs?
Our resort is tightly cooperating with entrepreneurs. The main objective of this project is to help little, small and medium enterprises. They are companies with the annual turnover up to 50 million Euros with fewer than 250 employees. Slovakia is approaching to successful fulfilment of its resolution which the country had given to the European Mission- to decrease administrative burden of entrepreneurs in Slovakia by 25 per cent until the year 2010.
Completion of the two (out of three) phases of the project showed that administration burden presents 91.103 million Euros annually. Entrepreneurs perceive this burden as needless activities that they are forced to do due to imperfect laws. It is, for example, providing various state offices the same information what requires both time and money. The study revealed that the biggest burden for entrepreneurs are payments to funds and mainly their duties based on the Law on Health Insurance.
In cooperation with entrepreneurs, we have selected 48 issues of legal measures that we are going to change. They concern business and civil laws, accounting, deductions, financial regulations and other areas. The third phase involves our preparation of materials which will include particular proposals of recommendation for eliminating the burden which is no good for entrepreneurs.
Do you know what will be the biggest priority?
Electronization of communication with civil service at the expense of used letter forms and personal contact. These solutions have already been implemented gradually, a low rate of use proves the fact that there are some gaps regarding their propagation or in entrepreneurs’ sub-consciousness. These require that particular offices exchanges information among one another without the need of interactivity of citizens themselves. There were also proposals to simplify various forms, their clearness, available on-line with satisfactory instructions and explanations.
In spite of that it is optimistic that Slovakia monitored 250 duties and we did not came last compared to other countries. For example, in the neighbouring Czech Republic, administration burden coming out of 2,000 chosen duties, the sum of 3,4 billion Euros, in Hungary (150 duties) 3 billion Euros.
Do you think that it is right to focus Slovak industry on the automotive and electro- technical industries? Why are processing, clothing, and wood-processing and shoemaking industries important, too?
Slovakia as the other post- communistic counties has gone thorough its development from heavy and energetically demanding industries to the current status in which we concentrate our attention to automotive. Electro - technical and chemical industries? Each country has conditions and historical background for each branch of industry. I do not think that processing and wood- processing industries were not important, well, actually, many people work in this branch but the most important and profitable are the other ones.
Is there a chance to revive these branches and partially slow down import of goods that Slovakia can produce? Or is there a problem that the EU is unable to protect its market and interests of its entrepreneurs as Asian producers do not want to increase the price of work mainly and use this competitive advantage against the EU?
In terms of clothing and shoe- making industries, we must be aware of the fact that firm operating in these fields have to face the competition of the global market (mainly Asia) and they will either be able to resist in this competition or competitors will push them aside or eliminate them. However, the state cannot interfere by its involvement, which good for healthy behaviour of the market.
According to the strategy, the share of people completing their school attendance too early should be deceased under 10 per cent and at least 40 per cent of young people should have a university degree. Slovakia might seem not to have a problem to meet this goal, however, the question is whether Slovak university education is not behind the European Union in terms of quality…
School should not be automatic “producers” of graduates out of whom many are simply unable to establish themselves in the labour market. It should work the other way round as well- the number of student should be “given” by the demand of the labour market. And its has already happened in some areas. Some investors who came to Slovakia or just consider coming here are also interested in the structure of studying programmes of secondary schools, schools of higher education and universities in the region. We know a few examples when school had to open new studying programmes- for example Secondary Vocational Metallurgical School in Košice for the company Getrag Ford or at the Technical University within the cooperation with companies like the U.S. Steel, Volkswagen Slovakia and T- Systems.
The European Commission puts pressure to develop the industrial policy for “green growth”. In the area of climate and energy, we should reach the goals of 20: 20: 20 ratio. Europe would like to use sources efficiently and gradually switch to low-carbon economy. Is it really possible and pursuable?
Based on its abilities and opportunities, each country of the EU negotiated an exact percentage of shares for producing energy from renewable sources. Slovakia so far in the volume of 14 per cent. The goal of the European Commission is pursuable but the question rises up: For what price? Energetic efficiency from renewable sources, i.e. production of the electrical energy, is not as highly efficient as it seem to be. Yet low- carbon technologies are not developed so much and applicable so that they became the cheapest source of energy. To produce solar energy through photo-voltaic connectors is three time more expensive than from the nucleus. Obviously, this way of energy production required high state subsidies (i.e. money coming from tax payers) and all in all the energy produced in this way will be much more expensive.
Is the importance of renewable sources overvalued? What is cheaper- nucleus, gas or renewable sources?
Surely, the nucleus is cheaper regarding production of electrical energy. Nevertheless, construction of a nuclear power plant requires a great deal of money. 3 billion Euros is required to complete the construction of power plant in Mochovce. Gas is not so expensive either but we perceive it as carbon fuel whose capacities and resources are limited for 30 or 40 years. Gas is expensive in case if it was used for power energy. We can use water sources, they have a great potential in Slovakia and unstable sources like wind and sun based on which we cannot build up energetic conception.
How do you evaluate present energetic conception in Slovakia? Who is responsible - the government or energetic companies?
When we came to the Ministry in 2006, we said to ourselves that we would have to elaborate long- term energetic conception. Its proposal was commented by various companies and specialists, by entrepreneurial environment. We wanted to have a clear vision against the EU want energetics should be like in the next 20 year, how to behave and develop it. The government gives the limits where we should go but we have to closely cooperate with energetic companies. We invited all important players, 100 people were the opponents (they were all specialists from the private sector, academia, state offices and self- administration) of the government conception. Discussion held in the joint sector did not deal with bad situation but defining details, professional “fights” were led during the preparation. We did not refuse discussion.
Slovakia would like to renew its self-sufficiency in production of electrical energy. How do you want to reach it? Is it your priority?
Slovakia had been self- sufficient in production of electrical energy for many years. However previous governments reached a decision that safe and relatively sufficient nuclear source of energy in the nuclear power plant in Jaslovské Bohunice would be shut down within meeting the criteria for the integration of Slovakia to the European Union. I consider it a very big mistake and incapability of that former government to negotiate with Brussels about better conditions.
Once one Slovak economist said that we did not need our own production that everything could be purchased. Yes, but you do not have to even buy a car because you can get a taxi. If your child was seriously injured or ill and you had your car key, you would be able to take him to hospital immediately and you did not have to wait for the taxi to arrive.
Energy is one of the strategic tools which can be used for blackmailing. So far, we have been living in peaceful Europe. But what if the situation changed… Slovakia should not be dependent on its surrounding. Slovakia used to be an energetically self-sufficient country which exported electrical energy. Why should we not be self- sufficient, independent again and thus improve payment balance in the sector where we have specialists, traditions and a great deal of experience.
Our priority is to complete construction of the power plant in Mochovce so that two new blocks are put into operation in the years 2010 and 2013 and starting up the operation of a new block in Jaslovské Buhunice in 2020. Just a study has been elaborated so far. When we modelled a graph of electrical energy based on the existing results, at present we have to import between 5 and 10 per cent. Obviously, it all depends on the state of industry. On the other hand, we know that heating power plants will be slowly shut down and will require new investments or total closedown of the operation. I am talking about the power plants in Vojany and Nováky. We know that until the year 2030, somehow the industry will be growing and we will need new source.
Why don you not consider construction of the nuclear plant in the east of Slovakia? Are we waiting for erection of a new power plant in Ukraine so that the Slovak distributional companies purchase electricity from Ukraine?
Electrical energy is imported to East Slovakia indirectly, via Hungary and Poland. Ukraine produces unstable energy and in different frequency. Even during socialism, there was a project elaborated to construct a nuclear power station in Kecerovce near Košice but after the tragedy in Chernobyl and unsolved problem with water so necessary for cooling, the entire plans were cancelled. However, I can imagine using steam - gas cycle and construction of smaller geothermal power plants in the east of Slovakia.
Energetic Safety Strategy approved by the Slovak government of the SR, introduces the outer diversification - the “Project Nabucco (possible also from a diversified source), the Project South Stream and the Project o Terminal LNG Adria from the island of Krk (Ruhrgas and OMV). Which project is more suitable for Slovakia- Nabucco to use the Caspian gas to Austria through Balkan states or the project of Gazprom - South Stream from the Black Sea though Georgia and Bulgaria to Italy? Both projects avoid Ukraine and Slovakia. Will it have a great influence on the revenue into the national budget from transit fees?
Diversification is necessary due to safety as we could experience it like “Gas Crisis” in January 2009. It had consequences not only in Slovakia but also in Bulgaria and Serbia. We support the projects Nabucco and Adria are international projects, however, in which Slovakia is not an opinion forming country. These projects are not elaborated overnight. They are long-termed and give opportunities that in case of political crisis and natural disaster in Ukraine, countries were dependent on the only source of import and transit of Russian gas.
Transit fees are not so important as safety and stability if supplies. Naturally, Slovakia is (after Ukraine) the second biggest transport country of Russian gas to West Europe but let’s be aware of one fact. Annually, Slovakia needs only 10 per cent out of 80 billion cubic meters of gas transported through our country. We are in the global market. Everyone concerned with safety and stability in supplies of Russian gas and it really does not matter from which sources or though which countries the gas pipeline will go. At present, Europe depends on Russian gas at the level of 40 %; in 2050 its dependence will increase up to 60 per cent.
Has Slovakia gained control over the existing tanks in the west of Slovakia which are under the control of Gaz de France and Ruhrgas through SPP, a.s.?
Slovakia lost this control during privatization. Present government respects international contracts and agreements. It can gain a control of gas tanks only if they wanted to sell them to our state. It is unreal so far. Based on the gas crisis the government changed the legislation so that consumers and firms in Slovakia were given gas from those tanks as first. During the crisis, gas was exported away from Slovakia.
Gas crisis revealed that SPP, no matter if as a state or privatized company, had never constructed new tanks in East Slovakia. When are they going to be built?
Anytime, whoever can come and do geological research of the area and can say that he has found a suitable location for constructing the gas tank. Nevertheless, the question is whether the investment is to too high or if it will be efficient.
The Operational Programme Competitiveness and Economic Growth are in competence of your resort. What is the situation with using the European funds like for three priority axis- energetics, tourism and innovations?
Until 2013, we have 772 million Euros available from the European Union and other 136 million Euros from the national budget. So far, appeals used for using more than 600 million Euros have been signed. It takes three or four month so that the enterprise Strategy of Atelia submits the projects, their formal control takes a month, which is followed by evaluating process. It lasts other 3 or 4 months until the commission approves a project. Then the whole process is followed by negotiation within contracting. And after that the entrepreneur will have two years to use the funds and applied for payments. And that is why, at the moment, using funds is at the level of 6 %, however, other 20% of funds are included in the contract. Appeals that will have been offered by the end of this electoral period will be at the level of 80 % of allocated sources of our Operational Programme. Funds are usually for entrepreneurs but also for a public sector - for constructing industrial parks and modernization of street lighting.
Who is Ing. Peter Žiga
He was born in Košice, on 27 July 1972. He graduated from The Faculty of Business Economics with seat in Košice at the University of Economics in Bratislava. In 1991, he attended a course for students from East Europe in St Gallene under the patronage of the Union Bank of Switzerland. As an undergraduate, he represented two Slovak companies in Germany. For over ten years, he worked for the family company Taper which specializes on wood and woos products trading. Between the years 1997 and 1998, he was an advisor of the vice president and the director of the Public relations department at VÚB, a.s. Bratislava. He was also advisor of the CEO of the Slovak Investment and Trade Development Agency. He is married and has two children. He speaks German, English and Russian.
Stonemasonry School in Pučišća
There are only three secondary stonemasonry schools operating in Europe. One of them is in London, the second one is in the north of Italy and the third is in Croatia on the island of Brač which has become very popular among tourists and various self-learners over the past two years. It is situated in the village of Pučišća near the stone quarry where white stone is mined. The quarry employs almost everyone out of two thousand people from the village with two settlements- Gornji Humac and Pražnica.
Brač natural stone is very precious. It is soft and fictile but also hard and resistible. This stone has been use as a basic material in stone masonry and architecture in the Mediterranean area for centuries. Famous sights such as Diocletian’s Palace in Split and Roman Solin, its suburb, Cathedral in Šibenik, parliaments in Vienna and Budapest and even the White House in Washington are all built from this stone. And so are many houses on the Croatian coast.
It is just the Stonemasonry School in Pučišća which tells so much about significant history, traditions and fame of Brač stone. It still uses tools two thousand years old dating back to the Roman times. This school was established in 1906 by people keen on stonemasonry in cooperation with the School of Crafts in Split.
Since then, the school has permanently been training new stonemasons who work all over the world.
“Every year, a hundred new students enrol to our school, over the past years; girls have been interested as well. A half of them come from Pučišća and other towns in Brač, another half have come from various parts of Croatia- from Dubrovnik to Rovinje. From Korčula to Zagreb, Varaždín, Slavonic Bros and Bjelovara,” says Prof. Tonči Vlahovič, a school head master who came up with an idea to open this school for tourists.
“At present, the Stonemasonry School is a modern institution wit h a well - equipped cabinet of informatics, with classroom with sufficient technical and teaching aids and tools, with a rich library and well - equipped workrooms for hand - made processing of stone,” he adds.
Every year, this school is attended by 6 - 10,000 people from all over the world. Apprentices´ works are shown regularly at the exhibitions on Zagreb and Paris as well as at the exhibitions of stone in Verona and Nuremberg, at craftsmen’s fairs in Munich and Split.
Training of stonemasons is developed in three branches what results in three professions- stone technician, stonemason and miner of quarries. Stone technicians study for four years and after completing their secondary studies they can continue studying at universities, at faculties focused on civil engineering, mining, architecture and fine art. Miners and stonemasons study for three years. After next three years of practice, they can pass special master’s examination.
Practical training involves hand- processing of stone according to the rules of the Ancient Roman School of stonemasonry and with traditional hand tools. Teachers are experienced stonemasons who are very skilled knowing various stone work and techniques. One master supervises the group of ten students and it is individual studying. The school closely cooperates with the local company Jadrankamen (The Stone of the Adriatic) who supplies the school with stone units to be used for practical training. During summer practice, students work for firms in order to know the most modern technologies of machined processing of stone.
Abov Business Park Košice
It will be the biggest shopping, social and business complex in the east of Slovakia that will attract customers from Poland, Hungary and Ukraine. Slovak and foreign investors want to participate providing both their capital and know- how. One of the most significant contributions to civil equipment will be a park for families and high- standard playgrounds for children.
Photo: the author
In Košice, František Knapík (KDH), a Mayor of Košice, is expected to sign a contract of purchase for selling 50- hectares of the wood in the housing estate Ťahanovce with Fordin, s.r.o., a project company, which will prepare ( from developer’s point of view) the construction of the largest entertaining complex in the east of Slovakia called Abov Business Park. More than 330 million Euro (10 billion Slovak crowns) is expected to be invested in this project. When construction world start in 2013, the project will also be representing so far the biggest investment in the field of building retail parks in Slovakia.
For its project, the developer has chosen an area with a part of a wood seriously damaged by the nearby motorway, former magnetize plant, illegally built cabins built by Romany people and plenty of waste. Instead of demanding revitalization, for which the city does not have any funds, it offers new and modern infrastructure providing services for citizens and entrepreneurial subjects.
In March 2009, selling this location to the firm Fordin, a subsidiary of a company in London, was already approved by the members of the City Council and members of the Housing Estate Ťahanovce. The company offered 16.6 million Euros (500 million Slovak Crowns) for this area. The company wants this area to become a significant impulse for the development of the entrepreneurial environment in Košice and its surroundings. “At present, the total value of the area is at the level of 1.66 million Euros (50 million Slovak Crowns). The City of Košice obliged itself to change the territorial payout and support the project while all the costs concerning this matter will be paid by the investor, “ says JUDr. Štefan Šalapa, an executive of the company Fordin.
Department stores and multifunctional zone
The construction of the complex will continue gradually and will be divided in a few parts.
A big shopping and entertaining centre of the area of approximately 150,000 square metres will be built in 30 hectares. There will be the biggest food shop chains shops with electro-techniques, chains with various goods, houses of furniture, multi-complexes, entertaining centres and relaxing centres. The complex will include a stone shopping centre (Shopping Park) which the area to be offered to 300 people to rent. Moreover, there will be retails and wholesales networks and chains of outlets that are not presented in Slovakia yet.
The second part of the complex (20 hectares) will be covered by a so-called multi- functional zone with a two or three storey buildings where hotels, restaurants, cinemas, cafés, halls with resting and relaxing zones, administration and residential parts. The investor has already addressed foreign operators who are thinking of establishing congress and training centres.
“One of the most significant contributions to civil equipment will be a park for families and high- standard playgrounds for children that are missed not only at the housing estates but also around the shopping centres. The majority of people living in Ťahanovce belong to younger generations, young families and small children. We will build safe and peaceful park which they will like and where they will play,” Mr Šalapa continues.
Anthony Caine - American developer and architect takes patronage for this project
The project company Fordin is contractually managed by the English company Regio Enterprise Ltd., a Czech and American Development Company Acred and Hrivis Holding, the biggest Slovak developer in the field of retail parks. Anthony Caine, the graduate from prestigious Princeton Architectonic University, a well- known American developer and architect took patronage for the conception of Abov Business Park. Mr Caine mainly operates in New York, but he also has a lot of experience with the European market. In the Czech Republic, he participated in carrying out the project of the company Acred. The investments reached billions- for example the construction of the International American School in Prague, residential and apartment zones in Prague (Villa Bianca Apartments, Terasy Červený Vrch Apartments) a business centres (for Toyota Motors, Portheimka Center, Pivovarský Dvur Office Park, Centrum Dolní Březany, Avalon Business Center in Plzeň).
He also has a large amount of experience with hotels, houses for seniors and logistic - producing parks. Acred’s most important partners and investors are Europa Capital Partners (one of the biggest real estate funds in Europe), Toyota Motors Corporation, ING Real Estate, Raiffeisenbank, Expandia, a.s. and the Czech science Academy. The retail part of the work is managed by the Slovak development company Hrivis Holding which prepared tens of retail parks in Slovakia. According to Mr Liška, a project manager of the project, in case of Abov Business Park, it is a technically very demanding, however, it can be carried out. Region Enterprise Ltd. Covers funding from abroad due to the current situation in the market.
New wood and fly - over crossroads
Fordin is trying to communicate with the city and the housing estate Ťahanovce and solve other problems that in the times of the financial and economic crisis, the estate, the magistrate and the members of the city council suffer from. “Consider it a compromise, we are ready to pay the entire costs for the change of the territorial layout, preparation of territorial decision and constructing a new road and a fly- over crossroad that will connect the park with the housing estate and will connect it to the motorway conduit and will significantly relieve the only overcrowded road from the housing estate to the city centre,” says Štefan Šalapa.
The company Fordin has already been cooperating with the company Hrivis Group and they both participate on the development of a retail park with a food shop chain, a shops and fast food chains at Sídlisko nad Jazerom. “Of course, much healthier and more precious wood will be used and implemented in our project and we will plant new trees and green. The city plans to used the money gained from selling the land, to fund construction of a new, healthy 50- hectare wood in another location but at this populous, most modern and the biggest housing estate in Košice,“ he adds.
Decrease in high unemployment rate
This significant investment project will ensure the city of Košice the income of 16. 6 million Euros (500 million Slovak Crowns). Abov Business Park can be the most important impulse for stagnating labour market in the Košice Region. The Offices of Labour registers roughly 70,000 unemployed caused by the global economic crisis. Chains of shops, producing firms, logistic centres, fast food chains and other firms will crate more than 1,500 workplaces and indirectly other 4,000 workplaces through suppliers of construction works, request for logistics, warehouses and producers.
“In case that all promises, the investor made, are kept, it will be the most advantageous investment for our city. At present, the negotiations are being held in order to implement them in the purchasing contact. The city set very tough conditions for the investor and hardly any are able to meet them. The connection of the housing estate to the motorway conduit by fly-over crossroad will cost 16.6 million Euro. During the last electoral period, previous mayor was thinking of selling wood owned by the city spreading on the area of 22,000 hectares and just for 9 million Euro (1 Euro per a square meter). Present MPs offered to sell only 50 ha of wood in Ťahanovce for 67 Euro per square meter. This price is 80-times higher than the price set by a specialist. Any doubts about benefits of the project for the citizens are inappropriate and can be made up by other competitors, i.e. developers’ companies,” adds Ing. Ľuboš Pajtáš, the chairman of the MPs’ club SDKÚ - DS and the chairman of the Commission for Transport and Construction operating at the City Council.
Technical preparation has already begun
So far, Fordin, s.r.o. has invested approximately a million Euros in the technical preparation of the whole project - mainly in the elaboration of qualified experts’ references (that did not prove it is a location with protected bio-topes), geological research, GPS measurements, construction studies, legal and technical audits and solutions of a very complicated transport connection. A project team of the investor consisting of Slovaks, Czechs, Englishmen and Americans has already prepared the whole project in cooperation with reputable architectonic companies. During the preparation phase, the investor has already led negotiations with final users of the future park. The company plans a public presentation of the project and expects to sign the contract with the Košice City in the near future. Mr Šalapa gives the answer to our question whether he admits not signing the contract and possible cancelation of the resolution as following: “ We are facing the era in which every city and town welcomes an investor. In our case, the investor declares to show as much endeavour as possible. The investor appreciates helpful attempts of the city during negotiations. We do not suppose and admit the cancelation of the resolution. Could you tell me, please, what does the city risk? All costs concerning the chance of the layout, preparation of the territorial resolution are paid by the investor including attracting some new investors and hundreds of workplaces. It would be a political suicide if the city cancelled this resolution. On the contrary, based on our talks with the citizens of the city and East Slovakia we know that most of them support this project. “
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