EU urges Slovakia to pass bailout package

 

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The Independent Online

Pressure was mounting yesterday on Slovakia, the eurozone's newest member, to drop its opposition to the expanded EU bailout fund as the country looked set to become the main stumbling block in the way of final ratification of the €440bn package.

Austria yesterday followed Germany in approving the eurozone's €250bn increase to European Financial Stability Facility. That leaves just three of the single currency region's 17 governments – Malta, Holland and Slovakia – still to ratify the measure.

The Dutch and Maltese governments are expected to give their approval soon. However in recent days opposition has surfaced in Slovakia from the junior partner in the country's four-party coalition government.

Slovakia, which joined the eurozone in 2009, is due to ratify the bailout fund in mid October. However, the leader of the country's Freedom and Solidarity Party, Richard Sulik, has threatened to vote against the package. If carried out, his threat would block the bill's passage through parliament as Slovakia's opposition parties have said they will also oppose the measure, and not come to the aid of the remaining parties in the governing coalition.

"The rescue fund is simply buying time in an incredibly costly way, but it's not solving the problems," Mr Sulik told German television on Thursday.

Echoing the views of many MPs in other European parliaments who oppose the project, he added: "If the euro crumbles it will be because of massive deficits in individual countries, not because we rejected the rescue fund." Intense political wrangling is under way in Bratislava in an attempt to persuade Mr Sulik and his party to change its mind. Observers predicted that Slovakia's coalition could be offered a face-saving clause which would enable it to approve the bailout but opt out of its contribution in an emergency.

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