Slovak Minister Resigns After Criticism Over Handling of EU FundsBy
Plavcan quits amid tension in three-party ruling coalition
Governing parties see no other alternative to current tie-up
Slovak Education Minister Peter Plavcan resigned after the prime minister criticized his office over the distribution of European Union aid in a dispute that’s raised tensions in the euro-member state’s ruling coalition.
Plavcan, a nominee of junior-coalition Slovak National Party, announced his resignation Thursday, a day after Premier Robert Fico said “suspicion remains” over the Education Ministry’s handling of tenders to allocate 600 million euros in EU aid for research. Fico asked the party to replace him. Plavcan has denied any wrongdoing and canceled one of the contested procurement processes.
Fico’s accusations come after the Nationalists demanded their ruling partners, Fico’s Smer and the ethnic-Hungarian Most-Hid party, to revamp their coalition agreement. While the Nationalists initially said they’d pull out of the pact, all party leaders have repeatedly said they want to stay together until 2020 general elections and there’s no other alternative to their current tie-up.
“There’s nobody to work with” outside of the coalition, Nationalist leader Andrej Danko said a news conference on Wednesday.
Fico has made the elimination of corruption a key priority in his third term as he seeks to win back angry voters from anti-establishment parties that entered parliament last year. However, his government has been criticized by President Andrej Kiska for not doing enough to investigate politically linked crimes, including allegations of tax fraud by a real estate developer with business ties to Interior Minister Robert Kalinak. The minister, who has faced calls for his resignation at a series of street rallies, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing.