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Sunday, May 28, 2023

V4 country faces imminent government crisis?

By: V4 Agency

The individual procurement of vaccines, which the smallest coalition party has described as a move orchestrated by the premier and the health minister, may cause a crisis in the country’s coalition government. Although the prime minister says the vaccine procurement was approved by the party’s leadership, the economy minister talked of a need to restructure the government.

“Sometimes doing the right thing only takes one thing: courage,” Slovakia’s prime minister wrote when the first dose of the Sputnik V vaccine arrived in the country from Russia on 1 March.

The 200 thousand vaccine doses were received at the Kosice Airport by PM Matovic and Health Minister Marek Krajci (OĽaNO). Mr Matovic then said that a total of 2 million jabs will arrive in the country by June, which will be enough to inoculate 1 million people. The use of Sputnik V vaccines was also approved by the health minister on 2 March.

This is a spectacular turn of events in light of the Slovak premier’s bitter announcement only ten days ago, on 18 February, when he said Slovakia will not receive Russian vaccines, even though he wanted to give it the go-ahead. Ironically, the use of the Sputnik V vaccine was authorised on 2 March, only 11 days later.

The issue of procurement has clearly divided the 4-party coalition government. It was mainly the smallest coalition party, Za l’udí (For the People), which protested against Sputnik V. Party President Veronika Remisova has stated several times that she would not vote for the procurement of this jab until the European Medicines Agency approves it. In response to the arrival of the first shipment of Russian vaccines MP Tomas Valasek, chairman of the parliamentary committee for European affairs, announced that he would leave the coalition as well as the Za l’udí party.

PM Igor Matovic, however, drew attention to an interesting point in a press briefing on 2 March regarding Za ľudí’s protest. Mr Matovic acknowledged that the procurement process has caused tensions in the coalition, but stressed that Marek Krajci had received approval from Za ľudí’s leadership to purchase the Sputnik V. Although Za ľudí rejected the proposal to procure the vaccine at the government meeting, “they said Krajci is free to buy the vaccine if he wanted to since he possesses the necessary competencies,” PM Matovic said, adding that neither Krajci, nor he can be accused of making an arbitrary decision.

In her response, Za ľudí chief Veronika Remisova stresed that “Za ľudí did not support the idea of procuring unregistered vaccines,” adding that they have made their position chrystal clear”.

Economy Minister Richard Sulik, who is also head of the Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, criticised the prime minister’s move, saying this is not the right way to run the country. Sulik convened an extraordinary party meeting and, during his Wednesday morning press briefing (3 March), he said he thought the government should be reshuffled. To discuss the option, he wanted to meet lawmakers from the We Are Family (Sme rodina) party, as well as certain members of OĽANO. He also noted that his party did not support the idea of holding snap elections because, as he put it, his party could benefit more from it than the Slovak society.

Foreing Minister Ivan Korcok (SaS) also expressed concerns over the Russian vaccine and noted with regret that he had not been informed about the procurement. Korcok said he considered the purchase of the Sputnik V vaccine a tool in Russia’s hybrid warfare. Mr Matovic replied that politicising the issue was completely inadmissible, adding that the Russian vaccine was a medicine, just like any other jab.

The Slovak Medical Chamber (SLK) agreed with the latter statement. SLK President Marian Kollar welcomed the arrival of a new batch of vaccines. He stressed that doctors didn’t care which country a vaccine comes from, they only care if it is indeed effective. “If the vaccine saves at least one human life, then buying it was the right move,” he said, adding that stepping up the vaccination programme was the only way out of the critical situation for the country.

At a press conference on Tuesday evening (2 March), Marek Krajcí also announced changes in the country’s vaccination strategy. From 8 March, administering jabs will proceed according to age groups, and vaccination will no longer be scheduled according to occupations. The minister also announced that Slovakia will receive additional vaccine shipments in March: 413 000 doses of Pfizer, 75 600 doses of Moderna, 356 864 doses of AstraZeneca, and  200 000 doses of Sputnik V vaccines.


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