Last week, when it seemed that the Slovakian parliament voted ‘um… no’ on extending a carrot to Greece in the form of more money for the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF),* news portals around the interwebs shook with a kind of bliss only reached through schadenfreude. How can a country as seemingly insignificant as the Czech Republic’s former bedmate cause an issue as significant as the future of the Euro to flounder and possibly even unravel?
Not only had Slovakia failed to extend a bailing hand to her southern play-mates (the kind of insolence the internet loves), but her prime minister, Iveta Radičová, went so far as to tie the EFSF vote to a vote of no-confidence for her government. When the bail-out bail stopped bailing, the government too stopped governing.
Over at Eastern approaches (a blog I greatly enjoy), this was an amusing event in that for just a moment people cared about Slovakian politics. Because as everyone was aware, eventually “the world [would] return to its default stance of ignoring Slovakia.”
Now I can’t say I didn’t laugh reading this. It is true that Slovakia plays a largely irrelevant role on the world stage. Furthermore, the period of paralysis that the eurozone went through while the Slovakian parliament fumbled the vote around, after all the other eurozone members had ratified the measure, is indicative of a larger, and potentially more sinister aspect of the eurozone. And that is that a country that produces less than 1% of the single currency bloc’s total output can derail legislation at will.**
So what then is the point of all this (other than that it probably is a good thing that Slovakia recognized her eurozone responsibilities)?*** Only two days after voting no, the Slovakian parliament turned around and ratified the EFSF measure. Various wheelings and dealings typical of the parliamentary process enabled this rapid and rather drastic change of heart.
Yet after this ratification, no much was heard around the internet. Is it simply the case that there were other things for the internet to discuss? Or is it in fact another example of the internet only paying mind to those schadenfreudeal issues sure to supply ‘hits’? No one cares about a relatively functioning European system; it’s only when events seem to support the idea that thing x is dysfunctional that the internet turns her fickle head and offers an ear.
* The measure, among other things, consisted of raising the total funds available to the EFSF for buying up member state debt and recapitalizing European banks from €440 to €780 billion. The Slovakian commitment rose from €4.4 to €7.7 billion.
** Of course this is also a procedural issue with the EU more generally in that any proposed piece of legislation also has to be ratified by each individual member state. This drives European politics, already fairly slow insofar as they’re mostly parliamentary systems, to the point of almost complete stasis.
*** In the same way that in America ‘rich’ states basically subsidize ‘poor’ ones, the eurozone is beginning to follow suit.