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Europe

Brussels hits out at Slovakia over U-turn on Greek rescue deal

Slovakia's new government has turned back on its predecessor's decision to take part in a eurozone loan package for Greece. The EU's economic affairs commissioner hit out at Bratislava for breaking a commitment.

A Slovakian flag with the EU stars superimposed

Slovakia's parliament voted down the EU's Greece package

European Union officials have accused the Slovak government of breaching legal commitments, after it rejected participation in a bailout loan for Greece.

The Slovak parliament voted on Wednesday to confirm the country's refusal to participate in the lending package drawn up by the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF). Slovakia was to commit 800 million euros ($1 million) to a 110-billion-euro fund.

Iveta Radicova

Prime Minister Radicova criticized Greek policies

EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn described the decision as a "breach of the commitment undertaken by Slovakia in the eurogroup," and said that the finance ministers of all 27 EU members would "return to the matter in their next meeting" early in September.

The Slovak parliament did, however, approve a potentially greater framework agreement on a 440-billion-euro loan mechanism aimed at stabilizing other member states that may need help in the future.

"It is somehow surprising because the underlying principle for both is exactly the same," a spokesman for Rehn's office said.

Rehn said that Bratislava's move would not prevent other countries from bailing out Greece, as the loan has already been put in place alongside stiff austerity measures.

Only two votes in favor

The bill on Bratislava's participation in the EU rescue package gained only two approving votes amongst the parliamentarians present at Wednesday's session; 69 deputies voted against participation, with 13 abstaining.

Olli Rehn

Rehn voiced concern that Slovakia had gone back on its commitment

The German government said it regretted the outcome of the Slovak vote. Government spokesman Steffen Seibert told the German edition of the Financial Times' Chancellor Angela Merkel would address the issue in talks with the Slovakian government on a visit to Bratislava later in the month.

Slovakia's previous government, under Social Democratic Prime Minister Robert Fico, pledged in May that Bratislava would fulfill its share of the Greek loans but delayed a final decision until after parliamentary elections in June.

The center-right government under Prime Minister Iveta Radicova then took power. Radicova had criticized Greece's "undisciplined budget policy" and sought to overturn the previous government's decision.

Slovakia is the newest member of the eurozone, having adopted the currency in 2009. The country joined the EU in 2004.

Author: Thomas Sheldrick, Richard Connor (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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