Archive for September, 2011
Slovaks feature as one of the most Europe and euro-loving nations in many surveys. When asked about the credibility of the EU and national institutions, they seem ready to sack the national government, parliament and judges, while soundly proclaiming their trust in the European parliament (in the first place) and other Brussels-based bodies. However, when it comes to voting in the very same EU assembly, Slovakia wins the match for the lowest turn-out. It’s the politicians, argue some sociologists, explaining that Slovaks simply prefer the institutions where Slovak politicians are least represented.
Looking at the current political debate on the EU bail-out fund in the country, one must see some logics in such thinking.
In the last elections in 2010, the current major coalition party, centre-right Slovak Christian and Democratic Union (SDKU-DS) campaigned against the Slovak contribution in the first EU loan to Greece (approved by the previous centre-left government) and eventually managed to avoid the country’s commitment after taking the rule. One year on, the very same party represented by the Prime Minister Radicova and Finance Minister Miklos put their signature under the second EU loan to Greece and the permanent nature of the extended EU bail-out fund.
Ten days after the July Brussels summit, Richard Sulik, the speaker of the Slovak parliament and the chairman of the liberal Freedom and Solidarity party (SaS), passionately described the deal as a “bluff on the Slovak taxpayers” in his widely-read blog. SaS listed their arguments in a reader-friendly pamphlet titled “EU-bail-out fund, the journey back to socialism”. Although several economists and experts slammed their rhetoric as a sheer populism, some paid tribute to simple facts supporting SaS’ claims (“There have been 97 breaches of the Maastricht euro criteria during the 10 years of the eurozone’s history but no country has ever been punished”).
One of the loudest critics of Mr Sulik (apart from the finance minister Miklos) is the ex-PM Robert Fico, of the Social democrat SMER party. He evidently views himself as a great European. Under his government Slovakia joined the euro in 2009. One year before, the Slovak parliament managed to ratify the Lisbon Treaty after months of delay due to the opposition of the centre-right parties that form the current ruling coalition (apart from SaS which did not exist back then). The centre-right block risked the ratification of the major EU reform document as a way to protest against a newly adopted Slovak press law.
Back in 2008, Mr Fico shouted around that only him and his party cherished the European ideals and put them above the national politics. Now he says that the vote against the EU’s bail-out fund is “against Slovakia’s future” and that Slovakia simply “must support” it. However, his party will only support it if all ruling coalition parties do so – meaning, only in case his party’s votes will not be necessary to ratify the EU deal.
The vote in the Slovak parliament will be held after 23 October, according to the latest timetable. Due to the bickering in the ruling coalition, it might be linked with the vote of confidence. The Sulik’s camp insist they will not surrender even if their government should fall, while Mr Fico seems happy not to save the EU’s rescue plan for the alluring prize of early elections.
And what about the Slovak public? Judging by comments of people around, the argument against sending off our money without the prospect of getting it back is very easy to understand and sounds very logical. But then, we are speaking of wars and games by Slovak politicians. Who knows if they really know and can be trusted…
Any of them…
Or their proclaimed love for Europe..
PS: Just before this comment was published, PM Radicova came up with a special compromise offer that SaS party could accept and stop blocking the rescue deal in the Slovak parliament, according to media reports. The vote will be most probably held by 17 October after all – before the European summit in Brussels.