A Look At Slovakia's Vote To Approve The Bailout Deal

Robert Siegel speaks with Lucia Virostkova, a Slovak journalist based in Bratislava. She blogs for the EUobserver.com. She describes how the Slovakian parliamentary vote to join the eurozone bailout of banks brought the Slovakian government down — and caused the 2014 elections be moved to March.

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GUY RAZ, host: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host: And I'm Robert Siegel.

Slovakia is a country of five million people. For most of the last century it was the eastern part of Czechoslovakia. Over the course of their history, the Slovaks have been ruled by Hungarians, by fascists, by communists. They've been attacked by Franks, moguls, by majars(ph), just to name a few. So it's not a place unaccustomed to the attentions of foreigners. But it's rare these days for little Slovakia to hold center stage in Europe the way it did this week.

Today, the country's parliament voted to join the eurozone bailout fund - something they set out to do on Tuesday - and that makes it unanimous. All 17 European countries that use the euro have now signed on and unanimity is what was required.

Lucia Virostkova is a Slovak journalist who blogs for the EUobserver.com. And she joins us now from the capital, Bratislava.

And, Lucia, tell us first of all, why did it take so long for the Slovakian parliament to approve this deal?

LUCIA VIROSTKOVA: Because we have a coalition government and there wasn't an agreement between four coalition parties. There were three center-right political parties that were in favor of it. But then there was one liberal party which was strongly against it. They campaigned in the previous elections against Slovakia lending its money to other E.U. countries.

SIEGEL: So, effectively, what happened here was the deal was approved but the government fell.

VIROSTKOVA: Yeah, we had the first vote on Tuesday when the deal wasn't agreed. And that was also the way for the parliament to express its no-confidence in the government. And as there was this no-confidence, we will have early elections. But then, one day later, these three parties in favor of the bailout fund met with the opposition party, and they agreed that they would vote again and approve the bailout fund.

SIEGEL: Have Slovaks remarked much on their being, at least for the past three days, the most important country in the entire eurozone?

VIROSTKOVA: Yes, on one hand, there is a lot of shame. People say, oh my goodness, what kind image of we made of Slovakia. Because everyone looks at us as the country which can express no solidarity toward other countries that have financial problems, so people say let's do something to avoid all these negative media coverage.

But on the other hand, people are also saying this is too much foreign pressure on Slovakia. Europe should not put so much pressure on this little country.

SIEGEL: And I'm just curious, did anyone in the parliamentary debates - did any Slovakian politician say anything especially memorable or insightful that you recall?

VIROSTKOVA: The whole discussion about Slovaks helping these fat Greeks, I mean, I think that that was very nasty.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

VIROSTKOVA: The whole idea of us helping Greece, that's kind of nasty because people think that the whole Europe is trying to help Greece, and Greeks are not doing anything - they are just on strike all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

VIROSTKOVA: So this is not very nice because I know that people in Greece are suffering, as well and...

SIEGEL: But you're saying that some unkind things were said about the Greeks during all this?

VIROSTKOVA: Yeah, that was all, yeah, part of the debate, especially of the party that was against the bailout.

SIEGEL: Well, Lucia Virostkova, thank you very much for talking with us.

VIROSTKOVA: Thank you. It was nice to talk to you

SIEGEL: Lucia Virostkova spoke to us from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava. She's a journalist who blogs for the EUobserver.com.

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