Karel Hirman, the newly nominated economy minister of Slovakia, has his work cut out, as only days into his entry to top politics, the country’s Prime Minister has announced that without EU intervention, Slovakia’s economy will not withstand the pressures brought on by skyrocketing energy prices.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Eduard Heger complained that the energy crisis could “kill” Slovakia’s economy. Heger is asking Brussels to release 5 bn euros worth of unused regional development funds and also to share profits from windfall taxes, which could mean an extra 1.5 bn income for the cash-strapped country.
The Slovak government is facing a perfect storm on all fronts, including that of security, finances, and politics. After the Slovak liberals of the SaS party left the government in September, the minority government of Eduard Heger is at the mercy of its former allies, who could bring it down at any moment by joining a simple no confidence motion.
Not so long ago though, the country’s leaders were bullish about the need for energy sanctions against Russia, trusting in an economically viable solution negotiated by Brussels. They have even sent the most valuable stocks of the country’s weapons systems to the Ukrainian battlefield, such as the expensive S-300 air defense systems, or their entire fighter jet stocks made up of now mostly obsolete Mig-29s (currently in progress).
The Slovak government, which included the liberals of the SaS party, have been reluctant to present a united front with their Visegrad partner Hungary, who have called for caution with regard to Russian energy sanctions. Slovakia, alongside Hungary, eventually received an exception from under sanctions banning the purchase of pipeline-based energy carriers from Russia; nonetheless, gas and electricity prices have skyrocketed to the point where schools and hospitals face closure due to their inability to pay utility bills.
It is unlikely that Brussels would budge to the Slovaks’ demands for the release of billions of euros from the common coffers. Moreover, their problems could be exacerbated by the fact that the economic ministry has been entrusted to a politician who has until recently been spreading alarmist and entirely unfounded allegations against Slovakia’s southern neighbor, Hungary.
Photo: Karel Hirman, Facebook
Karel Hirman, in an article written for the news portal Postoj, claimed that “Putin expressed his support for Orbán ahead of the upcoming Hungarian parliamentary elections in a very diplomatic but nonetheless supportive manner. They both share a common strategic goal: to move their countries’ borders with their neighbors to eliminate the losses they have experienced after the turbulent events of the 20th century.” Hirman was implying that the government of Viktor Orbán has a deal with the Kremlin regarding the re-annexation of Ukrainian territories that it lost after the 1920 Versailles peace treaty.
The nomination of a person to the top economic post in government, who accuses its neighboring country of revisionist intentions without presenting any proof to support these speculations, does not bode well for the economic recovery of Slovakia, that is more dependent on regional co-operation than ever before. His presence in an already weak government means that Heger has not yet learned the lessons needed for the recovery of Slovakia’s economy, and is still weaving dreams about joining the top team of leading players on the world stage, instead of rediscovering the importance of the Visegrad 4 alliance.
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