We are not Slovenia!

That’s what organizers of the pre-congress tour of the International Federation of Agriculture Journalists (IFAJ) in Slovakia are aiming to prove to the delegates that arrived in this tiny country on the eastern edge of the European Union yesterday.

Slovakia is formerly part of Czechoslovakia, which broke apart January 1 1993 following its Velvet Revolution. Its name, to the untrained ear, sounds a lot like that of Slovenia, a former Yugoslav republic in the same part of Europe that we’ll be visiting later on during this trip.

But, as the president of the Slovak Agricultural Journalists Guild put it to us last evening, Slovakia is to the north of Austria, Slovenia is to the south and Slovenia has the sea, while Slovakia does not.

I am sure there are many other differences that we will discover over the next three days of touring through the Slovak countryside. But a major one currently gripping the country is the upcoming introduction of the Euro.

Slovakia joined the EU in 2005 and will be officially switching over to the new currency in January 2009. At the moment, it is law for retailers to post all prices in both Slovak Krowns and the Euro – and they should accept payment in either currency. To ensure compliance, currency cops are out in full force on Slovakia’s streets. Once the Euro becomes the official currency, Slovak Krowns will be gradually phased-out.

Canadians often complain about the added cost of doing business in our country compared to the United States. But this adds a whole level of costs and complexity that I’m sure most of us can’t even really comprehend. Maybe the grass isn’t always greener?

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