Slovakia's EU accession process got to a late start. Only after Vladimir Meciar was defeated at parliamentary elections in 1998, a reform-oriented coalition brought Slovakia on track, paving the way to the opening of accession negotiations in early 2000.

Besides Mikulas Dzurinda, prime minster from 1998 to 2006, Jan Figel, Slovakia's chief negotiator, played a crucial role in Slovekia's EU accession process. Elena Kohutikova, a former Deputy Governor of Slovakia's National Bank, has led Slovakia - as the first country of the former Soviet block - to membership of the eurozone. Martin M. Simecka, a former editor of Slovakia's leading quality daily SME, has made a major contribution to the reform of Slovakia's media landscape.

Mikulas Dzurinda. cc Marian Gladis

"I don't remember very significant problems. I only remember a big effort - every day, a very big effort."

Jan Figel

"After the split of Czechoslovakia it seemed like the Czechs were going west and the Slovaks east or nowhere.”

Elena Kohutikova

"The Euro is for me a signal that the country has grown up."

Martin M. Simecka

"For Slovakia, in my view, the biggest historical event is not 1989 but 1998.”

To read portraits of "member state builders" from other countries, click here.