New Slovak education minister appointed after coalition crisis

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 13, 2017 6:01 AM

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia's president appointed on Wednesday the candidate of a junior coalition party as new education minister, defusing a month-long political crisis that had threatened the survival of the most pro-European Union government in central Europe.

Martina Lubyova is the candidate of the Slovak National Party (SNS), a member of the ruling coalition that also includes Prime Minister Robert Fico's leftist Smer party and the ethnic Hungarian party Most-Hid.

The SNS rattled the coalition on Aug. 7 by withdrawing its support for the government and calling for a new deal that would boost its role in decision-making.

The conflict then escalated when Fico asked then-education minister Peter Plavcan of the SNS to resign after criticism from the European Commission that the ministry had chosen several companies with no history in research or innovation as recipients of EU subsidies aimed at supporting science.

SNS leader Andrej Danko denied any funds had been misappropriated but agreed to replace Plavcan. Lubyova is a former director of forecasting at the Slovak Academy of Sciences.

A new coalition deal struck this week also establishes regular weekly meetings and new communication rules within the coalition. They will be tested next month when the government is set to discuss a budget framework for the next three years.

SNS has argued for more government investment to revitalize thermal spa resorts and wants to set up a national airline for Slovakia, a euro zone member state, but Smer says spending must not endanger the goal of reaching a balanced budget by 2019.

The government needs the votes of all three coalition parties to maintain its majority in the 150-seat parliament.

(Reporting By Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Gareth Jones)