The centre-right governing coalition of SDKU, Most-Hid, KDH and the liberal SaS had a grueling session yesterday evening in the hope of ironing out their differences in order to approve the new conditions for the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF).
No real progress was made, however. The one thing Prime Minister Iveta Radicova did agree on with her government colleagues was the date for the parliamentary vote on the EFSF, and so the coalition now has less than a week until 11 October to sort out the situation, which is drawing increasing attention from around Europe as Slovakia is the only real trouble-maker in the approval of the EFSF, with the remaining two countries of Malta and the Netherlands expected to endorse the changes without problems.
The coalition is hung on the vote thanks to the SaS party, which is staunchly against Slovakia’s contribution to the bailout fund being increased, while also demanding stricter rules and guarantees. Some smaller voices say that party head Richard Sulik is playing a populist game, while others see him as the crusader on the campaign to stop Europe from putting its foot in it again. Sulik is known for being a man of principles who sticks to his belief, so will probably not budge on his ransoming of Europe until he gets some kind of satisfaction.
There was a glimmer of hope last week as Prime Minister Radicova proposed a kind of compromise to Sulik and Co., but that also failed to do the trick. As Sulik arrived at the Most-Hid party headquarters before the coalition leaders meeting, he told the press that his party agreed with part of Radicova’s proposal at least, but without divulging any further details.
Finance minister Ivan Miklos, who could be deemed Sulik’s counter-party in the whole EFSF argument, has used the lack of agreement to target his party colleague Prime Minister Radicova again. Miklos feels that the situation merely points to a lack of confidence in himself and in the PM, as they both acceded to the new EFSF along with the other 16 eurozeon countries back in July, and so a “political commitment has been assumed” he said. Even at that time, though, Richard Sulik was trying to limit Miklos’ mandate to endorse the revamped EFSF, as Sulik’s SaS party was against the new rules from the beginning.
In September the SaS party showed its resoluteness with every MP attending a press conference, at which they unanimously said they would not support the new EFSF in its current shape, and so were even willing to leave the coalition over the issue if necessary.
Robert Fico’s opposition party Smer-SD could easily rescue the rescue fund, and the government with it, but why should he when he can use it to his advantage. His party agrees with the EFSF proposals, but refusing to vote on it unless the coalition splits or early elections are called. Fico may also be getting pressure from his European social democratic colleagues to make sure the EFSF goes through, though, so all a bit of a balancing act.
The coalition will continue talks today, but there is not much scope for agreement when one side is so adamantly against the new EFSF, so some sort of compromise will be required, remembering that it is not just Slovakia in the game, but the whole of Europe.
For more on the EFSF in Slovakia, click here.