Slovakia: Prime Minister Fico cancels key coalition meeting on health grounds

Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico withdrew on health grounds from an important meeting on Friday aimed at stabilizing his governing coalition, his office said.

It gave no further details on his condition. The 52-year old, who has served as prime minister for most of the past decade, underwent heart surgery last year after complaining of chest pains.

The coalition meeting has been called off, said a spokeswoman for the ethnic Hungarian Most-Hid party, the smallest of the three governing parties.

Party leaders were due to discuss the demands of the Slovak National Party (SNS), which sprang a surprise on Monday by pulling out of the coalition agreement with Fico’s center-left Smer and Most-Hid, and calling for a new deal that would give it more influence.

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The dispute does not mean an immediate collapse of the government in Slovakia, which is a member of the European Union and the euro zone. But a lack of agreement could eventually threaten its survival, leading to talks on a new government or an early election. The next regular election is due in 2020.

SNS is arguing for the introduction of annual bonuses equal to two months’ wages for all employees in the private and public sectors; more government investment to revitalize Slovakia’s thermal spa resorts; and the creation of a national airline.

Independent economists said meeting these conditions could endanger Slovakia’s plans to reach a balanced budget by 2019. The opposition says the SNS is trying to divert attention from a row over the distribution of 300 million euros ($353 million) in EU subsidies by the education department, which it controls.

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The European Commission has sent a warning letter to the Slovak government and temporarily barred Slovakia from drawing money from the program. SNS leader Andrej Danko said last week that allegations of misappropriation of funds were unfounded.

A July opinion poll by Focus agency showed that if an early election were held, Fico’s Smer would emerge as the biggest party with 26.4 percent of the vote but the coalition it currently leads would lose its parliamentary majority.

Source:Reuters.com

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