Greece won eurozone finance ministers' approval on Sunday to draw €110 billion in bilateral loans over the next three years from eurozone countries and the International Monetary Fund (EurActiv 03/05/10).
But eurozone member Slovakia will only vote on financial aid for Greece after the June national election, the country's prime minister said, insisting that Athens must do its homework on spending cuts before receiving any Slovak cash (EurActiv 04/05/10).
Left-wing Prime Minister Robert Fico is seeking re-election on 12 June and is being pressed by the right-wing opposition party SDKU to refuse aid to Greece.
"We say an ultimate 'no' to this aid," said SDKU leader Iveta Radicova on Monday, just after the ministers’ meeting.
Not all member states needed
Speaking at a regular press briefing on Tuesday (4 May), Amadeu Altafaj Tardio, spokesperson for EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn, suggested that other eurozone countries could make their share of the overall eurozone loan available without waiting for Slovakia.
"It is not about all member states being ready by mid-May with their disbursement. I think that’s clear. Some Parliamentary procedures go beyond mid-May. It can be the case. It doesn’t prevent the mechanism from being used or money from being disbursed."
Along the lines of Sunday’s agreement, Greece will receive 30 billion euros from the euro zone in 2010. Athens will get the first funds before 19 May, when it has to pay back 8.5 billion euros in debt.
But the statement adopted by finance ministers on Sunday does mention that "Parliamentary approval, needed in some member states prior to the release of the first tranche, is expected to follow swiftly."
Tardio said the Commission has "full respect for parliamentary debates” taking place at national level, but added that there is "no doubt" that the EU will "have the critical mass in terms of provisional funds by mid-May".
"There is an issue of national sovereignty – parliaments involved have to take their positions," Tardio explained, saying "this affects the disbursement of the national loans that will be pooled by the Commission."
"Procedures will last longer in some member states than in others," he said, adding that "we cannot bypass national governments".
"But it does not affect the decision to activate the mechanism," Tardio stressed. "We will be ready to meet the needs of Greece in terms of refinancing its debts."
Moreover, the disbursement of every instalment will be conditional on the strict implementation of the austerity programme agreed between Athens, the IMF and the euro zone, Tardio said.
The statement came in response to Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who said on Monday that the approval of a tough new austerity programme by the Greek government was not enough to secure Slovak funds. "I don't trust the Greeks," he said. "We want to see laws approved by the parliament."
Eurozone leaders will meet on Friday (7 May) to exchange information on progress in the parliamentary approval process for the loans in their respective countries.
The summit will also give an opportunity to draw lessons from the crisis and flesh out proposals for an "economic government" for the euro zone.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said summit discussions will address the EU’s longer-term response "and have a first exchange of views on the lessons to be drawn in order to strengthen the governance and cohesion of the euro zone," according to a statement.
Speaking on Tuesday, Commission spokesman Tardio denied suggestions that the Greek bailout plan could be used as a blueprint for other debt-laden eurozone countries such as Spain.
"[The aid] mechanism that has been put in place is specific to Greece. It is applicable only to Greece," Tardio said.
EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn will unveil longer-term proposals on 12 May, Tardio said. Those will include a "crisis resolution mechanism" that could be used in future crises, he added.