Bratislava, Slovakia – Slovakia may rank among the fastest-growing economies in Europe, the wealth gap between its regions is among the highest in the EU, as exemplified by the case of Presov in the east.
Presov as an illustration of widening regional disparities in Slovakia
The best illustration of this? Slovakia’s eastern province of Prešov, which is part of the European Commission’s “Catching up Regions Initiative” launched in 2015 and aimed at improving the development of the EU’s main low-income and/or low-growth regions.
Last month, the EU Commission released its findings of the program, which earmarked 1.3 million euros of EU funds to support the economic transformation action plan designed by EU experts along with Prešov’s regional authorities.
While Slovakia has been among the fastest-growing EU countries in recent years, the Prešov region is still held back due, according to EU experts, to several factors including low productivity, lack of integration of its sizable Roma community and inability to benefit from the foreign investment-driven growth that fueled Slovak growth in the past decade, including in the flagship manufacturing and automotive sector.
Prešov, which accounts for over 15% of the country’s population and more than 18% of its territory, does have achievements to boast, including an unemployment that dropped from 24% in 2001 to 10% today. But the region still has the highest rate of people at risk of poverty in the country, the second-highest unemployment rate while its annual economic growth consistently remains below the national average.
Slovak economy still largely centralized around Bratislava
The GDP per capita of the capital region of Bratislava, the 8th richest in the EU, is more than four times that of Prešov, with the gap even widening over the years. “While Slovakia is considered one of the EU’s economic stars, it also has some of the union’s highest regional disparities”, reads the report.
Overall, Slovakia’s economy roughly doubled in size since 2000, but there hasn’t been any sign of convergence between Bratislava, the economic powerhouse of the country, and other regions.
Although the regional GDP of Prešov is rapidly growing, it remains well below the Slovak and EU average, according the European data. Eastern Slovakia as a whole – comprising both the Presov and Kosice provinces – accounts for over 21% of national GDP, but has a GDP per capita of only 11,100 euros (compared to nearly 37,000 euros in the Bratislava region).
For more information about the development of the Prešov region and regional disparities in Slovakia, you can read the full report here.