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Slovak PM defends 'no' to Greek bailout

(BERLIN) - Slovakia's new Prime Minister Iveta Radicova offered a spirited defence of her country's decision to refuse to lend money to Greece under a joint EU-IMF bailout, in an interview published Friday.

Radicova told the German daily Financial Times Deutschland that she believed Bratislava was speaking for a silent majority in the European Union that had serious reservations about the rescue.

"Yes, we were the only ones who loudly said 'no'," she said.

"But I am sure that our 'no' was also in the heads of all the representatives of EU countries."

Her centre-right government secured a majority in parliament Wednesday to overturn a decision of the previous leftist administration to contribute some 800 million euros (1.0 billion dollars) to the 110-billion-euro bailout.

The Slovak parliament nevertheless approved a larger framework agreement on a 440-billion-euro loan mechanism designed to shore up other member states that may need help.

The move caught the EU off guard, with officials from the 27-country bloc accusing Slovakian lawmakers of being in "breach" of legal commitments to assist Greece.

Radicova heads a coalition of four parties which secured a parliamentary majority in a general election in June with a pledge to bring the crisis-hit economy back on track.

She told the newspaper that the former communist country had adopted tough austerity measures in the run-up to joining the EU in 2004 and adopting the euro in 2009.

"We had a difficult time with fundamental reforms between 1998 and 2002," she said. "And no one helped us. We did not get a cent. Nothing. It was our citizens who had to carry the burden and it was not easy.

"But we got through this phase with very unpopular, painful reforms. How should I tell our citizens that we should now help those who are not prepared to do something themselves?"

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, which is paying the lion's share of the bailout package, slammed Slovakia's decision as short-sighted.

"Everyone needs to know that he may one day be dependent on the solidarity of the others," her spokesman Steffen Seibert told the newspaper.

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