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News digest: NATO troops to bring billion-worth technology, but society remains split

Slovakia marks two years of the pandemic. The country has three gold medals from the Paralympic Games.


Good evening. Welcome to the Monday, March 7, 2022 edition of Today in Slovakia with the main news of the day in less than five minutes.

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Slovaks remain split over NATO troops’ arrival

The Slovak public is split over the presence of NATO troops in Slovakia.

While 50 percent of those recently polled by the Focus polling agency said they agreed with NATO’s presence in the country, 45 percent said they were against it. The remaining 5 percent declined to give an opinion.

The poll was conducted for the private broadcaster TV Markíza between February 22 and March 1 on a representative sample of 1,003 respondents, meaning that it was partly conducted before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, on February 24.

On the same day, Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď confirmed that NATO was going to create an enhanced forward defense in Slovakia, consisting of hundreds of NATO troops.

Public opinion, however, is negative when US soldiers are considered: only 29 percent of those polled by the Focus agency said they were in favor of their presence in Slovakia, while 67 percent said they were against it. Four percent of respondents declined to give their opinion.

The poll has also shown that 61 percent of Slovakia’s inhabitants support NATO membership, while 36 percent of those polled were against it and 3 percent did not answer the question.

Meanwhile, PM Eduard Heger (OĽaNO) said over the weekend that NATO troops should arrive in Slovakia with technology worth about a billion euros. Under normal circumstances, it would take Slovakia years to procure this technology, I added.

Heger confirmed the plans that the government had announced earlier: NATO will set up an enhanced forward defense unit in Slovakia, with about 1,200 troops from Germany, the Netherlands, Czechia, Poland, and Slovenia. The German and Dutch soldiers are to arrive with the Patriot anti-missile system, while the Czech soldiers will help Slovakia with cyber security. If the US provides its Sentinel air and missile defense radar system, American troops would be part of the NATO presence in the country.

The exact date of the allies’ arrival is not clear for now. It will depend on agreements within NATO.

Heger also spoke about the possibility of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which the Ukrainian government has been calling for. The Slovak prime minister said that “everything is on the table,” but stressed that a no-fly zone is one step before the last.

President Zuzana Čaputová also commented on a no-fly zone on weekend political talk shows, saying that such a step might result in World War III.

More on war in Ukraine

  • Altogether 128,170 people from Ukraine crossed the Slovak-Ukrainian border as of Monday morning; 6,078 have asked for temporary protection and 153 for asylum. The waiting time at the Ubľa crossing is currently about 10 hours, while people at the border crossings in Vyšné Nemecké and Veľké Slemence are being processed without waiting on the Slovak side, according to the Interior Ministry.
  • A group of Slovak MPs filed a criminal complaint against Russian officials with President Vladimir Putin at the helm, in connection with the invasion of Ukraine on March 4. On Monday, two OĽaNO MPs submitted a criminal complaint against several politicians for their statements concerning war in Ukraine, in which they mostly spread Russian propaganda and defend the steps of the Russians.
  • The state will only pay out a financial contribution for accommodation to people who lodge refugees with temporary protection status, Finance Minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) has said. To avoid potential frauds, limits for the number of refugees accommodated in one unit should be set.
  • The Slovak cabinet has approved the arrival of 50 soldiers and technology from the Czech Republic, who will come to help with the inflow of refugees from Ukraine. They will build a camp with capacity of 400 people near Liptovský Mikuláš. (TASR)
  • During the weekend the police and several media outlets reported a story of an 11-year-old boy from the Zaporizhzhia region who crossed the border alone, carrying a plastic bag, his passport and phone number written on his hand, as his parents had to stay in Ukraine. He was treated by the volunteers, before they called his relatives who later picked him up at the border. Altogether 69 unaccompanied children crossed the border as of Monday, the Sme daily reported.

For a deeper insight into current affairs, check out our Last Week in Slovakia piece published earlier today. You can sign up for the newsletter here.

Two years of living with the pandemic

Yesterday, Slovakia marked two years since the first Covid case was confirmed on its territory, on March 6, 2020.

Even though the situation is improving, and it is possible that the Omicron wave is already on its descent, it is necessary to be careful and protect oneself, chief hygienist Ján Mikas has said.

“Pandemic fatigue, the improving situation as well as new threats encourage one to lose wariness,” Mikas said. “But it’s extremely important to aid the positive trend by adhering to the basic rules of personal protection: covering one’s mouth and nose, washing one’s hands and maintaining social distancing.”

He went on to say that the situation is still serious, as the number of new Covid cases revealed by PCR tests still exceeds 10,000 (especially during weekdays) and the rate of positive tests in the total number of tests is higher than 50 percent.

More on coronavirus and vaccination

  • 3,419 people were newly diagnosed as Covid positive out of 6,564 PCR tests performed on March 6. The number of people in hospitals is 2,547; and 17 more deaths were reported on Sunday. The vaccination rate is at 51.23%, and 2,817,824 people have received the first dose of the vaccine. More stats on Covid-19 in Slovakia here.
  • The hospitals in Trnava and Banská Bystrica will start administering the Nuvaxovid coronavirus vaccine by Novavax on March 10; a day later, it will be administered in the vaccination center in the Prešov hospital and from March 14 in altogether 46 vaccination centers. The vaccine is suitable for those who had contraindications for the previously approved vaccines, according to the Health Ministry.

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Picture of the day

Ukrainian refugees who found refuge at the Inovecká Chata chalet in Trenčín Region cooked borscht as a thank you for the help. 22 women and children have been accommodated in the chalet.

Feature story for today

Business service centers in Slovakia are gradually transforming from unfulfilling, transactional roles to activities requiring special skills and expertise. The story of Henkel’s business service center in Bratislava follows this trend. In 15 years, it has developed into a center that provides advantageous activities for the whole corporation.

The Slovak Spectator spoke with Christian Schulz, President of Henkel Slovensko and Head of Global Business Solutions+ Bratislava, about the impacts of the pandemic and the changing workforce needs of the center he leads.

Qualified foreign workers safeguard jobs in Slovakia in the long run Read more

In other news

  • The rise of the opposition Smer party seems to have stopped. The party remains the second most supported in Slovakia, after Hlas, but it dropped compared to January, as stems from the February poll carried out by the Focus agency for the private broadcaster TV Markíza.
  • The appellate proceeding with Marian Kotlebachair of the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (ĽSNS), in the case of controversial checks worth €1,488, will not take place tomorrow, as originally planned. The reason is Kotleba’s request to learn more about the new evidence submitted by the Special Prosecutor’s Office. Kotleba was sentenced to four years and four months in prison in October 2020, but he appealed.
  • The secondary school leaving exam, known as maturita in Slovak, will be held as planned, but will take distance education into consideration. One of the changes for this year is that both the external (test) and internal (composition) part of the exam, scheduled for March 15-18, will be 15 minutes longer, Education Minister Branislav Gröhling (SaS) said. The ministry has issued a handbook, prepared by an association of secondary school students.
  • The Interior Ministry will purchase technical equipment and information-communication systems for the Ukrainian border worth more than €817,000 from the companies Technopol International, Microcomp – Computersystem and eGroup Solutions. Given the emergency situation, the ministry is using the direct negotiated procedure for the purchase.
  • The number of personal bankruptcies in Slovakia amounted to 732 in February, up by 9.42 percent year-on-year. In monthly terms, it dropped by 0.27 percent, according to the data of the CRIF SK company.
  • Slovakia has already won three gold medals at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing. Two were won by para-skier Henrieta Farkašová (women’s downhill and super combined) and one by para-skier Alexandra Rexová (Super-G).

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