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Fico: Government, U.S. Steel close to deal

The Slovak government and U.S. Steel’s top representatives are close to striking a deal whereby the US company would continue to operate its steelworks in Košice, the TASR newswire learned on Monday, March 25.

The Slovak government and U.S. Steel’s top representatives are close to striking a deal whereby the US company would continue to operate its steelworks in Košice, the TASR newswire learned on Monday, March 25.

"We're on the right path. Experts from both sides need to work out some details in the hours to come. If this is attained, we'll be able to announce good news to U.S. Steel staff and their relatives this week, possibly even tomorrow," said Prime Minister Robert Fico following his talks with U.S. Steel top officials in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Chief executive officer and chairman of the board of U.S. Steel John P. Surma also said that he believes that an agreement is near. He went on to voice his appreciation for what he called the maximum efforts of the Slovak government and U.S. Steel to keep the company's unit in Košice.

According to Fico, the economic situation in Europe is so critical that the government needs to fight for every job. He added that U.S. Steel is a company with major influence over the Slovak economy. He went on to say that the government will not hide any details of a prospective deal from the Slovak public. He also gave assurances of his government's commitment to make sure that no funding from the budget or from money earmarked towards job creation is spent on this initiative. "We can't speak of any kind of tax holidays either. We're bound by European legislation. But we're seeking other ways to make the business environment in Slovakia more appealing for this significant investor," said Fico. Fico, Environment Minister Peter Žiga and Finance Minister Peter Kažimír left for the USA early Sunday as the talks with U.S. Steel representatives began on Monday morning.

The Sme daily wrote in its Tuesday issue that the US concern should not sell the factory to a Russian or Ukrainian buyer, as had been speculated last fall. Fico said, according to Sme, that a potential Russian or Ukrainian buyer would lay off as many as 7,000 workers at the facility – i.e. half of the current number. He did not want to specify, but the signing of a memorandum is expected on Tuesday – or by Easter at the latest. The Slovak Government is expected to ease the conditions for the US steelmaker regarding energy prices and environmental protection; that is why Fico took also Žiga to the US. However, he did not include Economy Minister Tomáš Malatinský, who until recently had been leading the negotiations.

Expert of the “energy analytics” analytical centre Michal Hudec opined for Sme that the issue is not just about one company staying or leaving, but also how dearly it could cost the Slovak social system and how it would impact the energy distributors and producers.

(Source: TASR, Sme)
Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
The Slovak Spectator cannot vouch for the accuracy of the information presented in its Flash News postings.

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