Is Slovakia learning to become European?

Posted on 28. November 2011

by Veronika Sobolova

veronika-sobolova-modifieedIt was suspenseful and unpredictable. Politicians in all European capitals and media from around the world were watching the voting of the parliament in one of the smallest countries of the eurozone. Slovakia was the last of 17 eurozone countries to approve the European Financial Stability Facility. The debate in Slovakia was different; it was not just about the necessity of approving the bail-out fund, but the Slovak Prime Minister Ms Iveta Radicova coupled the vote on the bail-out fund with a vote of confidence in the government. There was a lot in this game.

The eurozone’s bail-out mechanism was rejected by Slovak parliament on 11 October because one of the coalition parties, the neo-liberal party, Sloboda a Solidarita (Freedom and Solidarity, SaS) abstained. Mr Richard Sulik, leader of SaS (Speaker of the Slovak Parliament) never agreed with the eurozone’s preliminary bail-out mechanism, arguing that one of the poorest and smallest members of the eurozone should not be paying for the huge debts obtained by excessive spending in wealthier states. This argument is true;, it might be emotive, but it is surprising that the party, which even has the word solidarity in its name, refused to be solidary to other European countries. We went through a lot of tough reforms in recent years but it still might be us who ask one day for the help and solidarity from our neighbours , fellow EU countries. Can we expect solidarity from other countries of the European Union if we are not able to be solidary?

However the vote on 11 October was not successful also because the biggest opposition party, SMER, led by the former Prime Minister Robert Fico, abstained from voting, although it had expressed its support for the eurozone’s bail-out mechanism previously. As a result of their abstention, three of four Slovak coalition parties supporting the bail-out fund were left short of the majority that they would need for the approval of the EFSF and it also caused the government to fall by depriving it of the quorum.

From the steps taken by SMER, it is obvious they wanted to bring down the parliament. Mr Fico perceived the opportunity to gain more preferences in early elections and it really seems the SMER party did not bother whether their proceeding influences the future of the bail-out mechanism and the countries which are in trouble and it could bring the whole eurozone down. They abstained, but just for the first time. The Slovak Republic was urged to vote on the eurozone’s bail-out mechanism for the second time. In the second vote, the members of the SMER party “changed” their minds.

The second vote was finally successful as the three Slovak government parties gained the majority with the support of Mr Fico’s party and on 13 October, Slovakia became the last country in the eurozone to approve the temporary bail-out fund.

How does Europe look at Slovakia now? It slowed down the decision-making in the eurozone and it nearly vetoed the decisions of sixteen eurozone governments. Unfortunately, in Slovakia it was not just a question of solidarity, it was also a fight for political power that discredited the image of the country in other politicians´ and investors´ eyes.

Does such a tiny country have the right to block the proposals of Brussels and other big European players at all? When sixteen other countries had opted for the same, can the parliament representing just five and half million people become a setback? The unanimity principle guarantees that all parties must be of same opinion during decision-making. Meanwhile, during the critical days, Slovakia was urged to vote for the second time, although there were misgivings about whether it was legal and constitutionally right according to the Slovak constitution to re-vote about this international obligation again in a few days, but the complainants did not gain enough MPs for successful complaint to the Constitutional Court. Mr Sulik said that our government was just trying to satisfy Brussels as they had been blackmailed.

I felt really sorry to hear things like this about my country at a university in Germany.
“There has been no development in thinking in the Slovak society for the last 20 years”. We are progressing and growing economically but is our thinking still communistic? Do we fill the commands from the Union or do we just try (learn) to think “European” on our own?