Friday, January 1, 2021

The Velvet Divorce

Happy Czech Independence Day!  Happy Slovak Independence Day too.  It's been 28 years since the Velvet Divorce on 31 December 1992 which let to the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

Following the Velvet Revolution, and the removal of the Communist regime, the country became the Czech and Slovak Federative Republic (ČSFR).  So there was a Czech Republic and a Slovak Republic and both were governed by a Federal Assembly in Prague.

In the 1990s, Czechia's GDP was 20% higher than Slovakia's.  I understand that some Czechs felt that the Slovaks had too much say given the size of the population and were weighing them down.  In 1991, Czechia stopped making transfer payments to Slovakia.  Slovaks wanted wanted greater decentralisation while Czechs were happy to maintain control from Prague.

In 1992, Václav Klaus became the Czech Prime Minister and Vladimír Mečiar became the Slovak Prime Minister.  Klaus wanted continued integration while Mečiar was a separatist whose party, the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS), wanted independence.  

At the time, only 37% of Slovaks and 36% of Czechs favoured dissolution of the country.  However, Klaus and Mečiar were unable to agree on how to move forward.  In July 1992 the Slovak Parliament adopted a declaration of independence.  About a week later, Klaus and Mečiar agreed to split up the country without ever putting forward a referendum for people to vote on.  Probably because they knew that a referendum to split up the country would have failed.  Václav Havel was opposed to the split so he resigned because he didn't want to be the President of the broken state.  In November the Federal Assembly agreed on the dissolution of the country effective 31 December.  At midnight there were two new countries.  The Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.

Like in any divorce, the assets needed to be divided.  Most everything, including military equipment, was split two to one in line with the populations of the two countries.  Unlike the break-ups of Yugoslavia and the USSR, this one was smooth.

People living in Czechia became Czech citizens and those living in Slovakia became Slovak citizens.  People then had one year to decide if they wanted to switch or not.  There was a customs union between the two countries that lasted until 2004 when both joined the European Union.  There were border controls between the two until 2007 when they both joined Schengen.

Today only about 46% of Czechs and 44% of Slovaks think that the split was a good thing.

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