Slovakia's surprising role in the eurozone crisis

Slovak Parliament Speaker Richard Sulik (C) opens a parliamentary session on the eurozone's debt rescue fund on Oct. 11, 2011 in Bratislava.

Kai Ryssdal: Timing, it's often said, is everything. That was certainly the case with the European debt crisis today.

Just a couple of minutes after the closing bell on Wall Street, the parliament in Slovakia said nuh-uh to expanding the European Financial Stability Facility, the big bailout fund that's supposed to help fix things over there. There is going to be another vote -- the package will probably pass -- but still, the fact that the fate of the global economy potentially came down to a former communist country that's the smallest and poorest in the eurozone is interesting.

Anca Dragu is a reporter with Slovak Public Radio in Bratislava. Good to have you here.

Anca Dragu: Hello.

Ryssdal: How did the government try to convince to the public and the other members of the coalition that this is something they needed to do?

Dragu: It has been a very long battle because, of course, Slovakia has been a member of the eurozone for two years, and the prime minister has tried to actually remind people that as a member of this exclusive club, to some extent, Slovaks will have duties. So no matter what they think about helping Greece, for example, their duty is to show some regality with the other members of the eurozone. So apparently she was not 100 percent successful because they have this junior member of the ruling coalition, the liberal party Freedom and Solidarity -- they pretend to be neo-liberals so they believe that markets are in charge of solving all these economic problems. And they think this bailout fund is basically a completely inefficient solution, and a waste of money.

Ryssdal: When you go out on the street, though, and talk to ordinary Slovak citizens, what do they say about the prospect of them having to potentially pay more taxes to bail out a richer country like Greece?

Dragu: That's a very sensitive issue, of course, because ordinary Slovaks like to use this example that, 'OK, my mom or my grandmother has a pension of maybe 300, 400 euro, while some Greek pensioner has some 1,500 euros. So why should I contribute to the Greek pension?' This is the basic argument, I would say. Of course people are unhappy because Slovakia has been undergoing some very painful reforms in the past decade and now the government and Prime Minister Iveta Radicova has a very specific plan to cut the budget deficit. So you can imagine the people have had enough of budget cuts and it's very difficult to sell this idea of even more reforms, even more pain, let's say, just for the sake of saving the eurozone.

Ryssdal: Do you look around at all? Do the media look around and the politicians look around and say, 'how did it come to be that the fate of the eurozone rests on Slovakia?'

Dragu: Well, of course it has been a sort of nation of debate. Although not every single Slovak understands the background of this bailout fund and all the stability mechanism schemes and so on. It's basically up to the national parliament to decide when they're going to vote on this proposal, and Slovakia, due to all these frictions in the ruling coalition, decided to be the last. I guess secretly, they hoped that maybe other countries would give a negative vote so that the problem would be solved before it would come to Slovakia.

Ryssdal: Anca Dragu with Slovak Public Radio in Bratislava, the capital. Thank you.

Dragu: You're welcome.


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