Dzurinda, Mikuláš (Slovakia)
Mikuláš Dzurinda was appointed prime minister in 1998 as leader of the Slovak Democratic Coalition (SDK). Two years later he founded the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and won a second term of office in 2002. He was credited with establishing good relations with NATO and the EU and for improving Slovakia’s economic and political structure. He left office in 2006 following his party’s defeat at general elections.
Mikuláš Dzurinda was born on 4 Feb. 1955 in Spišský Štvrtok, a village in the east of Slovakia. He graduated from the University of Transport and Communication in Žilina in 1979 and went on to gain a Candidate of Sciences post-graduate degree in 1988. He worked as an economic analyst for the transport research institute and in the Bratislava division of Czechoslovak Railways before founding the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH).
The party was officially constituted in 1990 and Dzurinda became deputy minister of transportation and posts after the Czechoslovak elections of 1991. In 1992 he entered the Slovak national council, sitting on the committee for budget and finance. In 1993, after the establishment of the Slovak Republic, Dzurinda was appointed chairman of the KDH and in 1994 he became Slovak minister of transportation, posts and public works. Dzurinda returned to the opposition benches after the 1994 election. In 1997 he became spokesman for the SDK (comprising the KDH, the Democratic Party, the Democratic Union, the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia and the Green Party of Slovakia). The following year he was appointed its chairman. He led them to victory at that year’s elections and was sworn in as prime minister on 30 Oct. 1998.
In Jan. 2000 Dzurinda founded the Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), made up of the KDH, the Party of Hungarian Coalition (SMK) and the Alliance of the New Citizen. As leader of the coalition, he was elected prime minister again in Oct. 2002.
In Sept. 2000 Slovakia gained entry into the OECD. In Feb. 2001 Dzurinda approved changes to the constitution to facilitate Slovakia’s entry into NATO and the EU. He de-centralized power while increasing the authority of the state audit office. There was greater recognition of minority rights, building on a law introduced in July 1999 to improve the status of minority languages. In Jan. 2002 eight regional parliaments were created in keeping with EU membership requirements. Accession talks were completed at the Copenhagen summit in Dec. 2002.
In May 2003 a referendum gave backing to accession and in May 2004 Slovakia was one of ten new countries to join the EU. Parliament ratified the EU constitution the following year. Slovakia was invited to join NATO in Nov. 2002 and admitted in March 2004. Dzurinda also worked hard to encourage foreign investment. During his first term the US steel industry pledged to invest around US$1bn. and Korea’s Hyundai company were also significant investors. In 2003 Slovakia recorded a 4.5% growth rate, with growth predicted to continue steadily.
Domestically, Dzurinda overhauled the pensions and benefits system. There were cuts in benefits for those not actively seeking employment and healthcare costs rose. The tax system was simplified with the introduction of a 19% flat rate. However, while Dzurinda’s economic overhaul of Slovakia was applauded by the international community, he faced some hostility at home. The average hourly wage remained low and there was little job security. In Feb. 2004 there were riots in eastern Slovakia in protest at benefits cuts. In 2005 several deputies quit in protest at Dzurinda’s leadership and in Sept. 2005 the opposition boycotted parliament in an attempt to force early elections.
At general elections held in June 2006 Dzurinda’s SDKÚ came second, winning 31 seats against 50 for Direction–Social Democracy (SMER). While retaining his seat in parliament, Dzurinda was replaced as prime minister on 4 July 2006 by Robert Fico, leader of SMER.
Dzurinda served as foreign minister from July 2010–April 2012 under prime minister Iveta Radičová. Then in Dec. 2013 he was appointed chairman of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies—the think tank of the European People’s Party.