The votes in the Slovakian Parliament this week show how even though you may be a small player, you may have a lot of “niche” bargaining power.

Slovakia was the last one of 17 nations to vote on the proposed Eurozone extension of the bailout fund, in a context where all 17 countries had to approve it. This, in spite of its size (the country produces just 1% of the Eurozone’s total output) gave it a lot of bargaining power as it was in a niche of “one” – no other government could give this approval and the approval itself was essential for progress to be made.

The initial vote was apparently opposed for local, tactical reasons, the result of which was to bring the existing coalition government down. With this government removed and a massive amount of “push” negotiating behaviour coming from other Eurozone Governments, it wasn’t surprising that on Thursday night a 2nd vote by the Slovakian parliament eventually passed the EFSF bill. It is not difficult to imagine how forcefully expectations were stated and pressures exerted on Slovakia – both of which are typical “push” negotiation tactics.

I wonder though, if the Slovakians realised just how much bargaining power they had? On the face of it, it is slightly absurd that one of the poorest countries in the EU should apparently be required to shoulder an extra €7.7 billion of debt just to bail out the Greeks. If I were them I would have been tempted to use my bargaining power to negotiate an amelioration of their share of the bail-out burden.

The benefits would need to have been subtle so it didn’t look like Slovakia was taking advantage of the situation. However, the Eurozone was in a somewhat desperate negotiation situation, and for those with a “survival” negotiation need, all that is required is a “quick fix” (in this case a positive vote). In return for this, the Eurozone governments might have been prepared to agree quite a lot – trade credits, investment plans, subsidies? If you also consider that the Eurozone was under considerable “deadline” negotiation pressure to get a deal done (so as not to further spook the markets) a pluckier Slovakia could well have sniffed an opportunity to strike a deal which gave the Eurozone what it needed whilst securing some appropriate Slovakian benefits in return…