Slovak PM defends 'no' to Greek bailout, wants EU apology

25th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Slovakia's prime minister Wednesday launched a vigorous defence of her country's refusal to help pay for a joint EU-IMF bailout for Greece and demanded an apology from Brussels for criticising the decision.

Speaking in an interview with German daily Die Welt ahead of a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Iveta Radicova said she would call for an "official apology" from the EU for slamming the Slovak parliament's decision.

"The way in which (EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner) Olli Rehn, a non-elected official from Brussels, spoke about the freely elected members of the Slovakian parliament was insulting," she said.

Rehn's spokesman insisted that the commission, as a political body, has "the right to disagree" and that it did not intend to disrespect the Slovak parliament, but he fell short of issuing an apology.

"Mr. Rehn is a member of the European Commission, which is the guarantor of treaties and must defend the general European interest, so to me there is a rather solid legitimacy," said the spokesman, Amadeu Altafaj Tardio.

"There must be a misunderstanding because the commission has never expressed any comments that could be likened to a lack of respect for the Slovak parliament and its sovereign decisions," Altafaj Tardio said.

"What happened was that the commission took note of this vote, but it expressed a regret for what it considered to be a breach of the commitment made by the Slovak government within the Eurogroup," he told reporters in Brussels.

Earlier this month, Radicova's centre-right coalition won a majority in parliament to overturn a decision by the previous administration to contribute 800 million euros (1.0 billion dollars) to the 110-billion-euro fund.

The decision prompted fury in Brussels, with Rehn describing it as a "breach of solidarity."

Merkel, who came under fire for her perceived dithering over whether to stump up the lion's share of the cash for the bailout, has also criticised Slovakia's decision.

"Everyone needs to know that he may one day be dependent on the solidarity of the others," her spokesman Steffen Seibert told the Financial Times Deutschland last week.

Despite refusing to contribute to the Greek bailout, Bratislava has approved a larger framework agreement on a 440-billion-euro package designed to shore up other EU member states that may need help.

And Slovak reticence will not in practice prevent Greece from drawing down the loan since it has already been put in place alongside stiff austerity measures.

© 2010 AFP

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