Slovakia Holding Out on Helping Greece

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Marco Werman: Greece is counting on getting some help from its fellow Eurozone countries to deal with its debt woes. Almost all of them have endorsed a plan to boost the power of a rescue fund for troubled economies like Greece. The plan needs unanimous approval, but one country hasn't endorsed the deal yet. That's Slovakia. The vote there is scheduled for tomorrow and it is not clear Slovakia will sign on. The BBC's Rob Cameron is following the story from Prague. Rob, I understand that the four parties of Slovakia's ruling coalition ended in tense talks today without reaching an agreement. The Slovak Prime Minister, apparently, even offered to resign. What happened?

Rob Cameron: Yes, that's right Marco. It's a very confused picture coming out of the Slovak capital Bratislava at the moment. And I think it's really a measure of just how divisive this whole issue is; this whole issue of a small country like Slovakia, one of the 17 countries in the Eurozone, the second poorest country in the Eurozone being asked to contribute towards bailing out much richer countries like Greece and other troubled economies in the Eurozone. And, as you say there, those talks among the government partners ended with no real agreement. So we still don't know whether the Eurozone bail-out fund is going to be ratified by Slovakia in that vote in parliament.

Werman: And what is the argument against signing on? What's the parties' argument for not signing this bail-out bill?

Cameron: Well, as you say, one of the four parties in the four-party governing coalition in Slovakia is a neo-liberal party called Solidarity and Freedom. And they say it's simply immoral, it's simply wrong to answer Europe's debt crisis with even more debt, lending even more money to countries that can't pay it back. And this whole idea of solidarity, they say, is skewed. Why should a country like Slovakia which has gone through very, very painful period of austerity measures of its own now be asked to bail out countries which, frankly, have been profligate and have not kept proper accounts, and have been very lazy about trying to reduce their own deficit. So they say it's just wrong; that solidarity is one thing, but this is not solidarity.

Werman: Well, it's not in their logical argument but is it possible for one small political party to, essentially, hold Europe and, some might argue the Globe hostage with their internal wrangling?

Cameron: Indeed. I think many people now are scratching their heads. Many analysts and politicians all around the continent of Europe and indeed at the EU in Brussels are trying to figure out this situation for themselves. But the point is the government has a majority in the parliament of Slovakia; but if one party which has something in the region of 20 lawmakers in parliament decides to vote against a proposal like this one, then the government has to go to the opposition and say, "Will you help us out?" On this matter, the opposition which is a socialist opposition party has said, "No, we will not help you out on this occasion. We may vote for the Euro's bail-out package in a separate vote, in another vote in the future, in the days or weeks to come, but this time round you are on your own.

Werman: Does that mean that we should expect a no-vote tomorrow from Slovakia for this bail-out and, if so, what is its stake for Greece here?

Cameron: Well, it's 24 hours until the Slovak parliament meets, until the 150 lawmakers in the Slovak parliament sit down and discuss this. Things have turned around so quickly. There have been so many U-turns and so many sudden developments, negotiations ending without agreement and then another round of negotiations. I think it would be foolish to try and second guess what the lawmakers are going to decide. But, the implications I think it would certainly be an unwelcomed delay in the Eurozone's efforts to resolve Europe's sovereign debt crisis, to prevent it from spreading. To prevent the 'contagion', as some analysts see it, spreading from Greece to other vulnerable economies in the Eurozone. I don't think it will be the end of the Eurozone bail-out package because I think it would simply be re-submitted to the parliaments and they would ratify it at a later date. But, any delay in resolving what is this huge crisis across Europe is, of course, unwelcomed.

Werman: Would you imagine, Rob, countries like Italy and Spain that are on the 'debt-crisis bubble.' How do you imagine they are looking at this episode in Slovakia right now?

Cameron: With a great deal of nervousness, certainly. And I think, certainly, there is some feeling that, "Well, we helped small countries like Slovakia join the European Union. We were supportive of them. We supported their bid to join the single European currency — the Euro, and now this is how they repay us." So, perhaps also some degree of bitterness among some of the Eurozone members at the moment.

Werman: All right, more to come. The BBC's Rob Cameron in Prague, thanks so much.

Cameron: Thank you.