The European Union works on the basis (most of the time) on consensus. When this works, it means that nations march forward in unison, but, as ever, the devil is in the details. Finding an agreement which meets the diverse needs of 27 states for EU-wide agreements or all of the 17 member states which make up the Eurozone can be tricky to say the least.
Slovakia has only existed as a modern country since 1993 when it dissolved from Czechoslovakia – the other partner forming the Czech Republic. In 2004, it was in the most recent raft of countries to join the EU and adopted the Euro as recently as 2009. Slovakia is one of the smallest members of the EU, yet a decision taken by its parliament yesterday could derail efforts to stabilise Europe’s financial crisis.
All Eurozone members are required to ratify expansion of the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) before it can come into force. The agreement had been given the green light in 16 of the 17 members with Slovakia last to vote. The governing coalition had been supporting the approval of EFSF expansion and had decided to link the decision to a vote of confidence in their administration. They lost the ballot by 21 votes and are expected to stand down. Ironically, Slovakia seems to be keen to pass the EFSF legislation which will be presented to parliament again; however the time line for this is uncertain. Slovakia is the second poorest member of the Eurozone and there is popular anger at the idea that Slovakia should be bailing out richer nations. This would hardly be the case, but Brussels bashing is the stock of all European politicians (including the Belgians, amusingly enough) and an easy way to gain popularity. None of the measures to shore up Greece, Ireland or Portugal have involved “gifts” from other EU partners, but merely provision of funds (with strings attached) at modest levels of interest – but that’s not nearly such a good story!