Slovenia has come out on top in a survey that looked at economic performance in the eight East and Central European countries which joined the EU last year. The Performance Index was prepared by the World Economy Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
For the details, Radio Budapest talked to the director of the institute, Professor Andras Inotai:
"The ranking, of course, may have some subjective elements but we tried to be as objective as possible and we found that according to the general experience, Slovenia was the leading country, followed by four countries that were practically on the same level - Estonia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Lithuania, and the three countries that were lagging behind a bit were Latvia, Poland, and Slovakia."
What does mean for the future?
"Well, we have to be very cautious about drawing long-term conclusions from the first year experience or performance because we did not measure a long-term development of the individual countries. So, this ranking does not necessarily reflect the development level, not even the EU adjustment level of the individual countries. It just showed their first year experience and what country did better or worse in the first year of EU membership, starting from very different levels of development sometimes. So, we should be able to compare next year's performance to the first year's and so on so that we can construct a performance index which, in about five years time, will be a very credible indicator of a medium-term adjustment process as a member of the European Union."
Based on this report, can one assess whether or not EU membership benefited these countries?
"We also assessed how public opinion has changed and what we found was that generally the overwhelming opinion is still positive and in some countries it has even changed for the better. This is particularly the case in Poland, where a large number of those farmers working in the agriculture sector were extremely concerned about the impact of EU membership on Polish agriculture and they were against membership to a large extent. But the first year turned out to be an exceptionally good year for the Polish farmers because their income, mainly due to the direct payment system of the EU and also subsidies from the state budget, went up by 74 percent in one year, which the farmers did not experience for decades. So, this has changed the attitude of the farmers and most of them today support the EU, which is a very interesting development also with respect to the upcoming national elections in Poland."
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