INSTEAD of the widely anticipated announcement on whether he would run for presidency or remain Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico offered the delegates of the ruling party Smer’s congress two priorities that his government is supposed to pursue: pushing unemployment to the average of the eurozone by 2016 and boosting wages. In order to meet this ambition, the jobless rate, currently standing at 13.66 percent in October 2013, would have to be trimmed down to 12.1 percent to match the eurozone’s average unemployment.

Fico on December 7 also rejected what he called claims that 2014 would be a break in fiscal consolidation followed by another dose of austerity, arguing that 2015 is an election year and having severe cuts then would go against the political logic, the SITA newswire reported.

Smer orchestrated its congress around its 2012 election slogan, “People deserve certainties”, with Fico arguing that in the first two years of the rule of his government there was no room for improving social standards. However, he said that in the next two years Smer, which is the first party since the fall of the communist regime to rule without coalition partners, aims to push through more in this area.

“Smer has never been enthusiastic about the European recipe for crisis, which is the cuts,” Fico told the congress, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

According to Fico, 2014 will be a year of symbols and elections as well as the fight against tax evasion. The Smer leader referred to the fact that next year his party will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its establishment and 2014 will mark 25 years since the Velvet Revolution. The year will also see the presidential elections, elections to the European Parliament as well as municipal elections.

Yet, Fico also warned Smer members about avoiding mistakes for which the party might pay the bill, as reported by the Sme daily on December 9, while referring to the marathon parliamentary discussion when the opposition made an attempt to have the government sacked.

During the mid-September debate, in response to Fico’s departure from the parliamentary discussion hall, leader of the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities group (OĽaNO) Igor Matovič put up an effigy of the prime minister in front of the speaker’s desk. As described by Sme, the cardboard cut-out of Fico spurred a late night skirmish on September 18 between Igor Matovič, OĽaNO Deputy Jozef Viskupič and a group of Smer deputies when the latter tried to remove the effigy from the discussion hall. OĽaNO members, citing a trash container full of empty liquor bottles, accused the Smer deputies of excessive alcohol consumption, as reported by Sme. While Viskupič claimed that he was attacked by Smer deputies Jozef Valocký and Ivan Varga, they denied the attacks.

“I am asking you Mister deputies for a greater degree of caution; do not allow us to be provoked,” said Fico during the congress, as quoted by Sme.