Sociologist Iveta Radicova becomes Slovakia's first female prime minister


SOCIOLOGIST IVETA Radicova has become Slovakia’s first female prime minister, at the head of a broad centre-right coalition that plans to cut spending, fight corruption and soothe fractious relations with neighbouring Hungary.

President Ivan Gasparovic appointed Ms Radicova (53) after the first session of parliament since June’s general election, which gave four liberal parties enough seats to oust the previous government led by Robert Fico, the leader of the populist Smer party.

Though Smer came first in the ballot, Mr Fico’s ruling alliance was toppled due to the dismal performance of its coalition partners, including the far-right Slovak National Party that is notorious for its anti-Roma and anti-Hungarian rhetoric.

Ms Radicova’s coalition includes a political party that represents Slovakia’s ethnic-Hungarian minority, and one of its priorities is to rebuild links with Budapest that have been badly damaged by the adoption of contentious language and citizenship laws.

The new government has also pledged to cut state spending and the budget deficit and to attract more foreign investment, while steering clear of tax rises.

“We are ready to take responsibility over the country at a time when it is coping with the impact of a deep economic crisis and the irresponsible decisions of our political predecessors,” Ms Radicova said after the parties signed their coalition agreement.

Ivan Miklos – who is expected to be confirmed as finance minister today, along with the rest of the cabinet – has called Slovakia’s fiscal situation “bad and complicated”.

He has mooted the introduction of strict rules for public debt, and measures to simplify tax collection.

“In the short-term we want to focus on savings on the expenditure side, and in the mid-term over the coming four years on restarting growth,” he said.

He also faces an immediate round of tough talks with the European Union over its plans for a €440 billion safety net for euro-zone members who find themselves in financial difficulties.

The new government has baulked at the expectation that Slovakia will guarantee €4.5 billion of the fund.

Though Ms Radicova has said she will not block approval of the scheme within the EU, she wants to renegotiate her country’s contribution to it.

“All options are open,” Mr Miklos said. “If appointed on Friday, I’m ready to travel to Brussels on Monday to attend the Euro group meeting and negotiate.”