Slovakia is to put a much stronger emphasis on the knowledge-based economy during its next programming period of 2007 to 2013, the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Pál Csáky, has announced. Slovakia is performing well in economic terms, and has seen its GDP growth rate climb from 5.5 per cent in 2004 to 6 per cent in 2005. EUROSTAT expects growth to reach 6.3 per cent by 2007 - the second highest rate in the EU 25. But Slovakia nonetheless lags behind the old EU 15 with regard to its competitiveness parameters. 'The convergence process in the EU suggests that any necessary improvements in competitiveness can be brought about in the forthcoming period only within a functioning knowledge-based economy,' said Mr Csáky on 24 April. In the new National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), which will cover the next programming period, the Slovak government will set out its priorities for matching the funding received from the EU's Structural Funds and Cohesion Fund. 'The most important source of assistance in addressing the lagging behind of Slovak regions after Slovakia's accession to the EU is the support from Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund,' said Mr Csáky. The strategic goal of the next NSRF is 'To significantly improve the competitiveness and performance of the regions and the Slovak economy by 2013, while adhering to the principles of sustainable development.' The goal will be pursued through three strategic priorities: infrastructure and regional accessibility; innovation, computerisation and knowledge-based economy; and human resources and education. Under these three strategic priorities come nine specific priorities. These include: promoting enterprise and service competitiveness through innovation; computerisation of society; research and development; and modern education for a knowledge-based economy.