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Slovakia: Bank Privatization Law Returned To Parliament

  • Genevieve Zalatorius

Bratislava, 27 February 1997 (RFE/RL) -- The Slovak government sent back to parliament a law banning privatization of the country's three largest banks and an insurance company.

The Slovak government has significant or majority holdings in the largest of the country's banks. RFE/RL's correspondent in Bratislava reports over 51 percent of the Vseobecna Uverova Bank (VUB) is controlled by the Slovak National Property Fund, with almost 48 percent; and the Slovak Restitution Investment Fund holding an additional 3.6 percent.

RFE/RL correspondent says information released this week indicates the National Property Fund also has a 35 percent stake in Slovakia's National Bank and Kosice-based steel giant VSZ holds a 14.6 percent stake. National Bank spokesman Ivan Paska also tells RFE/RL that other shareholders hold less than 10 percent each, he said.

RFE/RL correspondent says the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reportedly believes that Slovakia must privatize the banking sector if the country is interested in OECD membership.

Analysts suggest the government's decision to return the law banning bank privatization to the parliament may be seen as a way to try to mend the rift between some government coalition groups.

In televised comments on Markiza TV two days ago, and in comments reported by CTK, a Slovak Foreign Ministry official said OECD officials implied Slovakia's entry into the organization could vary from six years to six months depending on how quickly the country's privatization process proceeds.

Two weeks ago, the Slovak parliament voted to delay privatization of VUB, Slovenska Sporitelna, Investicna a Rozvojova banka (IRB) and the Slovenska Poistovna insurance company until the year 2003. The vote was 75 to 64.

After parliament approved delaying privatization, CTK reported Prime Minister Meciar saying that privatization of banks was "an essential matter" for his government. Early last year, Slovak Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar announced that the entire banking sector would be privatized, with the exception of the National Bank of Slovakia. At that time, Meciar said the privatization process would be completed by the middle of February of last year.

This week, Meciar is said to have been disappointed that his far-left ally, the Workers Party of Slovakia (ZRS) aligned with opposition parliamentary members from the Hungarian Coalition and the Christian Democratic Movement to pass the bank privatization plan. RFE/RL correspondent reports Meciar as saying, "We have warned the ZRS that in essential matters you cannot behave as if you are married to one person, but can go off with another, when you feel like it."