The study deals with the development of the large scale regional disparities in Slovakia in relation to the country’s EU membership, focusing on Southern Slovakia, populated by the Hungarian minority. Before 2004 for almost 8 decades this region had been handled as peripheral by the successive governments of Czechoslovakia and Slovakia.
With the EU membership of the country, a new area-structure appeared, which shows the signs of a new economic and social area-structure and also a transformed regional settlement distribution. Slovakia’s entry to the European Union is a huge, perhaps one in a lifetime challenge and opportunity for the inhabitants of Southern Slovakia, which must be capitalized. However, we cannot expect, that the EU membership automatically means economic and social rise for the region. The EU membership provides only an opportunity to reduce the differences in the level of development of certain regions, an opportunity for a change of structure and an opportunity to catch up. The actual economic and social rise itself depends on the regions themselves, whether they live with the opportunity or not. Naturally if we want to end Southern Slovakia’s peripheral character, we need a favourable central governmental and regional governmental political atmosphere (the period between 2002 and 2006 is the best example for such central governmental level), since during the division of resources (EU or national) and developmental investments, the regions inhabited by Hungarians often fall victim to the Slovak nationalistic political decisions (regions and townships inhabited by Slovaks, which are already more developed, are the major beneficiaries).
Two years after Slovakia became a member of the EU, the indexes of underdevelopment and isolation in Southern Slovakia are still more unfavourable, then the similar indexes in other regions – however, there is a significant change in the processes influencing the tendencies. The regional discrepancies in Southern Slovakia are caused by the structure of the regions’ economy (sectors producing little added value are dominant), by the lack of good quality traffic infrastructure and highly educated human resources, and by the restrictive character of the Slovak-Hungarian relations. Therefore the policy of regional development has to approach the problem in it’s complexity in the following years, and the support must come in a concentrated form, and it must be structurally and regionally targeted. The financial background of the economical-social rise of the regions inhabited by Hungarians may be based on their own resources, on the budget of the townships, the regions and of the country, but most significantly on the resources of the EU. Drawing from these, however requires active systems of information and training/consulting for those involved in the regions. It is also necessary to tame the nationalistic feelings, which flared up on the Slovak and Hungarian side in the summer of 2006 and to restore the mutual trust between the majority nation and the Hungarian minority.