Greece living in Slovakia’s pocket?
The EU is agonizingly close to accepting a new bailout plan for debt-strapped nations, but the final step could be a tough one. Little Slovakia is the stumbling block, the last country to ratify the agreement and push the deal through.
All eyes are today on whether Slovakia’s politicians will vote positively on the European Stability fund, to aid ailing countries like Greece. Slovakia's decision, as the last state to vote, is crucial.But a TV ad for a popular Slovak beer announces: “To want to borrow from everyone, that is Greek; not wanting to lend to Greece, that is Slovak.” Though tongue in cheek, it has captured the mood of the people here perfectly.“Slovakia is not a rich country, we need money for our healthcare system, for our homeless and for our elderly,” emphasized an elderly homeless local.Living in the second-poorest country in the Eurozone, the Slovaks see no reason why they should help bail out the richest nations who they view as having spent more than they could afford.And political dissent has meant there is uncertainty about whether the leading coalition party will be able to get the votes they need. But for the bailout fund to go ahead, the approval of all 17 countries that use the single currency is needed. “Slovakia doesn’t want to look like the member state that would erase this second bailout or not enable it, so I see it as strong pressure from other European countries and Slovakia is probably too small and too weak to resist this pressure,” said Juraj Karpis from the Institute of Economic and Social Studies.If it does approve the plan, Slovakia would be expected to contribute about 7.7 billion euro to the pot which will total about 440 billion euro. But with Eurozone countries like Spain and Italy looking increasingly unstable, many critics are saying even this would not be enough.“It’s a dead end. Every so often they announce the final solution, and they say we’ll take these measures and this will be the end of it and there’s light at the end of the tunnel and what we see is an endless circle of austerity leading to more depression, and people realize now that you have to break out of that,” Economics Professor Tsakalatos Efkilidis told RT.Despite facing an outpouring of public discontent, Germany managed to pass the measures at the end of last month. But some in Slovakia’s ruling coalition have remained strictly opposed to boosting the fund – and do not want their taxpayers paying a penny.“I hope they will say no if the situation is not sustainable in Greece, I hope they will say no if the amounts that are to be pledged are so huge that it doesn’t make sense to pledge them. I think the Slovak politicians will see that there are also other alternatives. Let’s look at the Czech Republic – they don’t have the euro and they are doing quite well without this common currency and they don’t have to send money and pledge loans to other countries,” stated Karpis.The decision of this small member state today could have a big impact on the plans for the bailout fund. But as the debt crisis continues to be felt, from the richest member states to the poorest, there is now global concern about just where this will all end.