3.4.1 Overview of main structures and trends
After its establishment in 1993, the Slovak Republic focussed, as a basic priority, on integration in Euro-Atlantic political, security and economic groupings (the European Union, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development - OECD). Slovakia cooperates actively with the international organisations of which it is a full member (the UN, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and also attempts to contribute actively to organisations and initiatives of a regional character (the Visegrad Four, the Central European Initiative, CEFTA or new initiatives supporting closer cross-border cooperation and partnerships of countries and communities in the Danube region and the emerging Euro-regions).
Slovakia's efforts to join the European Union had their first success in October 1999, when the European Commission's Regular Report on the Readiness of the Slovak Republic for Accession to the EU recommended the start of accession negotiations with Slovakia. Slovakia received an invitation to begin accession negotiations at the EU summit in Helsinki in December 1999. The intergovernmental conference on accession between Slovakia and the EU began on 15 February 2000. After the successful completion of the integration process, the Slovak Republic became a member state of the European Union on 1 May 2004.
The area of cultural and audiovisual policy was negotiated in chapter 20, Cultural and audiovisual policy. Slovakia's negotiating position was prepared by a working group in the Ministry of Culture. In its Regular Report published in October 2000, the European Commission praised the significant progress that Slovakia had made in harmonising with European legislation as a result of the procedure adopted by Slovakia in the approximation of the European acquis. The Commission's Regular Report for 2001 gave the following positive assessment of the level of approximation of domestic legislation with European law: "In the area of culture and audiovisual policy, Slovakia has reached a high level of alignment with the acquis."
Slovakia participated in European Union programmes in the area of culture and audiovisual policy during the integration process and has continued to do so since becoming a member. These programmes were also open to associate countries and membership of them has determined the main priorities for Slovakia in international cooperation on culture. The Slovak Republic became a full member of the Culture 2000 programme on 9 October 2001. The coordination, documentation and information centre for the Culture 2000 programme in Slovakia is the Culture Contact Point, which was originally established in the International Cooperation Section of the Ministry of Culture on 1 April 2001. Since 1 January 2005, the Culture Contact Point has functioned as an independent office in the Theatre Institute in Bratislava.
In the pre-accession period, Slovakia also began the accession process for programmes in the audiovisual sector - MEDIA Plus and MEDIA Training - for the years 2001-2004. Slovakia's accession to the MEDIA programme was completed by the signing of the document Memorandum of understanding between the European Communities and the Slovak Republic on 10 January 2003. At present, Slovakia is taking part in the new MEDIA programme which entered into force by decision of the European Parliament and Council on 1 January 2007. Activities relating to Slovakia's membership of the MEDIA programme are carried out by a joint office of the European Commission and the Slovak Republic Media Desk Slovensko. The office is a special organisational unit of the Slovak Film Institute.
Slovakia is also an active member of the Council of Europe bodies focussing on cultural issues. The main areas of cooperation between Slovakia and the Council of Europe are culture, cultural heritage and the media. Slovakia has been a member of the Council of Europe Eurimages fund and has a permanent representative on the fund's board of management. The Slovak Republic also has permanent representatives in other senior bodies of the Council of Europe - the Steering Committee for Culture (CDCULT), the Steering Committee for Heritage (CDPAT) and the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC). In addition, Slovakia is represented in the following Council of Europe bodies on culture:
Slovakia also joined the Programme of National Cultural Policy Reviews, within which it produced the National Report on Cultural Policies in the Slovak Republic in 2002-2003.
The Ministry of Culture joined the "Europe, a common heritage" campaign in 1999-2000, focussed on the protection of the common cultural and natural heritage and awareness of its significance. Slovakia has also taken part in other Council of Europe programmes through the Ministry of Culture - it is also developing cooperation in the area of library information technology and library legislation. The Report on the State of Book Culture in the Slovak Republic was produced (as part of the Sectoral Analysis of Book Policy of Member States of the Council of Europe) in 2001. Co-financing was approved for the project to develop a Multifunctional Cultural and Library Centre - Restoration and Revitalisation of the Historic Building of the University Library in Bratislava.
The ratification process of the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (revised) was completed on 31 October 2000 and the convention entered into force on 1 May 2001. On 31 May 2000, the government approved the proposal to accede to the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe; the convention was ratified on 7 March 2001 and entered into force on 1 July 2001. On 12 July 2000, the government approved the proposal to accede to the Protocol amending the European Convention on Trans-frontier Television and certification of the acceptance of the protocol was submitted to the Council of Europe on 31 October 2000.
In the area of the media, cooperation focussed on the accession of the Slovak Republic to the European Convention for the Protection of the Audiovisual Heritage and the related Protocol on the protection of television productions which the Council of Europe opened for signature by member states in November 2001. Slovakia signed both documents on 17 February 2003 and The National Council of the Slovak Republic gave its assent on 10 May 2007. The Convention and the Protocol were ratified by the President of the Slovak Republic on 5 September 2007. The Convention entered into force in Slovakia on 1 January 2008.