21st Sep 2019

Slovakia takes hard look at Greek talks

  • Fico: 'Let no one ask Slovaks who earn €550 to €600 ... to put money together and send out a €1bn' (Photo: formulaphoto)

As negotiations on Greece’s bailout drag on, some politicians in Slovakia say it proves the small euro state was right to stay out of the first eurozone rescue to Athens.

“[Greek PM] Alexis Tsipras is swindling the whole world and this cannot go on forever,” Jozef Kollar, the vice-chairman of the Slovak parliamentary committee on finance, told EUobserver on Thursday (11 June).

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Kollar is one of Slovakia’s staunchest critics of the Greek bailout, arguing that the eurozone is wasting time and money on an attempt “to save what is not saveable”.

“Politics should not be limited to political correctness – it should be based on economic reality. And in reality, the drachma would be a rescue for Greece,” he said, referring to Greece’s former currency.

He said Greece is proving to be different to Ireland and Portugal – two other bailed-out euro states – because it’s not competitive, has a higher level of debt to GDP, and doesn’t stick to agreements.

Back in 2010, Kollar was vice-chairman of the liberal SaS. The party was in the centre-right coalition of Iveta Radicova, which refused to give a bilateral loan to Greece in the first eurozone bailout.

The decision drew strong criticism from Brussels and Berlin, including threats of “political consequences” for lack of solidarity.

A year later, the SaS also refused to increase the EU’s temporary bailout fund (EFSF). But the other coalition parties joined forces with the Social-democrat opposition Smer and approved the plan.

As a result, Radicova’s government fell and Smer won by a landslide in 2012.

Cost of solidarity

Smer’s chief and current PM, Robert Fico, had argued Slovakia must support eurozone decisions and stay in its “political core”. But he recently made clear he won’t agree to change Greek bailout terms if it means Bratislava must pay more.

“If there is a way to restructure the Greek debt without any direct implications for our public finances, we will be very constructive and co-operative,” he said on TV.

“Let no one ask Slovaks who earn €550 to €600 [a month] and get pensions of €250 to €300 to put money together and send out a €1 billion”.

Slovakia’s guarantees under the Greek bailout are around €1.1 billion, according to government officials.

If the guarantee is called in, Fico would have to borrow on the financial markets and increase public debt.

Back in February, Fico also said that he would call a referendum “if we are forced into a Greek debt restructuring”.

For his part, Ivan Miklos, who was finance minister in 2011, has noted that while the eurozone strengthened its capacity to respond to crises, there is “still no provision for a eurozone exit or exclusion of a member state for not meeting the existing rules”.

"We cannot prevent people of these states and their elected representatives to refuse those rules. It is their right, but it should also be clear that such a refusal would be followed by their exit from the club,” he wrote in a recent op-ed for the HN daily.

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