BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovak government leaders agreed on Friday to amend a coalition agreement to lure back a junior party which withdrew its support for the alliance three weeks ago, provoking a political crisis.
The Slovak National Party (SNS), junior member in a three-party coalition, canceled the coalition agreement on Aug. 7, calling for a new deal that would give it more say in decision-making.
Now leaders of the three parties -- Prime Minister Robert Fico of leftist Smer, ethnic-Hungarian party Most-Hid leader Bela Bugar and SNS’s Andrej Danko -- have agreed to hold regular weekly meetings to meet the SNS’s appeal for better communication within the coalition.
Danko also complained on Thursday that co-ruling with Fico’s Smer was difficult because both parties address the same voters. According to opinion poll by Polis agency, SNS support fell to 7.2 percent in August from 8.6 percent in March 2016 election.
The government needs the votes of all three coalition parties to maintain a majority in the 150-seat parliament and Fico struck a conciliatory tone on Friday.
“There is no alternative to this government. We have to find new ways to communicate, to understand each other better,” Fico told journalists.
SNS has argued for more government investment to revitalize thermal spa resorts and wants a national airline to be set up while Smer says spending must not endanger reaching a balanced budget planned for 2019.
Opposition lawmakers have alleged the SNS pulled out of the coalition to divert attention from a row over the distribution of 300 million euros ($351.69 million) in EU subsidies by the education ministry.
The conflict escalated last week when Fico demanded Education Minister Peter Plavcan’s resignation over the alleged mismanagement of the subsidies managed by his department.
Slovak media have reported that the ministry chose several companies with no history in research or innovation as recipients of EU subsidies aimed at supporting science.
SNS leader Andrej Danko said the allegations of the misappropriation of funds were unfounded but agreed to replace Plavcan.
Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Richard Balmforth