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Parliament begins debating proposal to oust finance minister

The Slovak Parliament on June 25 began a special session to discuss an opposition motion to dismiss Finance Minister Ján Počiatek. The session was convened at the request of 32 deputies from the opposition SDKÚ and KDH centre-right parties. It went ahead despite a demand by the speaker of parliament, Pavol Paška, that the opposition withdraw the proposal since, he said, the reasons for which they were demanding Počiatek's resignation had already lapsed. Paška cited a statement on Tuesday, June 24, by the governor of the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS), Ivan Šramko, which said that information about a change to the exchange rate mechanism governing the relationship of the Slovak crown and the euro became known only after private equity groups had bought large volumes of crowns. The head of one private equity group, J&T, had met Počiatek aboard a yacht in Monaco a few days earlier; his company subsequently made a large profit trading in the currency around the time of the change.

The Slovak Parliament on June 25 began a special session to discuss an opposition motion to dismiss Finance Minister Ján Počiatek. The session was convened at the request of 32 deputies from the opposition SDKÚ and KDH centre-right parties. It went ahead despite a demand by the speaker of parliament, Pavol Paška, that the opposition withdraw the proposal since, he said, the reasons for which they were demanding Počiatek's resignation had already lapsed. Paška cited a statement on Tuesday, June 24, by the governor of the National Bank of Slovakia (NBS), Ivan Šramko, which said that information about a change to the exchange rate mechanism governing the relationship of the Slovak crown and the euro became known only after private equity groups had bought large volumes of crowns. The head of one private equity group, J&T, had met Počiatek aboard a yacht in Monaco a few days earlier; his company subsequently made a large profit trading in the currency around the time of the change.

Paška insisted that opposition claims that Počiatek could have leaked information on the change, to what is known as the central parity, to financial groups was not viable. Paška said the opposition should have dropped the idea of holding a special session in the name of common sense and “the purity of Slovak parliamentarianism.”

According to opposition petitioners, the scandal that erupted over the potential leak in information about the change in central parity would be reason enough in a normal country to necessitate Počiatek's immediate resignation. Prime Minister Robert Fico condemned the minister but refused his offer to resign.

The opposition highlighted the fact that Šramko also confirmed that a few hours before the adjustment of the central parity from Sk35.4424/euro to Sk30.126/euro, atypically high volumes of crowns were traded on the foreign exchange market. According to the central bank, 467 deals took place, valued at about US$1.2 billion (Sk24.5 billion). J&T is reported to have acknowledged that it profited from the trading. The opposition said there are links between the ruling Smer party, which nominated Počiatek to his post, and J&T. In 2001, the party was allegedly provided a loan by J&T Banka. SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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