NewsSlovakia's prime ministerial candidate does not want Ukraine in NATO

Slovakia's prime ministerial candidate does not want Ukraine in NATO

Can Slovakia change its course to pro-Russian after the upcoming elections? In the picture Robert Fico, in the circle Vladimir Putin.
Can Slovakia change its course to pro-Russian after the upcoming elections? In the picture Robert Fico, in the circle Vladimir Putin.
Images source: © Getty Images | Bloomberg, Contributor, Michaela Nagyidaiova

6:32 AM EDT, September 30, 2023, updated: 9:08 AM EDT, October 5, 2023

Russia may soon gain a new friendly leader in Europe - warns Bloomberg agency. Robert Fico, who, for example, does not want Ukraine in NATO, may win in Slovakia. Should Poland be afraid? Dr. Krzysztof Dębiec, the main specialist of the Central European Eastern Studies Center (OSW), explains this.

Parliamentary elections will take place in Slovakia on September 30th. Robert Fico, who has already served as the prime minister, may become the head of government. His party, Direction, is winning in most polls. The candidate for prime minister is controversial. He opposes weapons deliveries to Ukraine and Kiev's inclusion in NATO. Bloomberg agency estimates that Russia may soon gain a new friendly leader in Europe.

The new prime minister of Slovakia may play on two fronts

Fico has promised that if he wins, he will end military aid to Kyiv. In his opinion, the country's president Zuzana Čaputova is an "American agent." He also does not want to see Ukraine in NATO. That is one side of the coin. There is also another. Fico is a politician who maneuvers between the East and the West, pro and anti-Russian stances. This is evidenced by many decisions he made in the past.

Dr. Krzysztof Dębiec, main specialist of the Central European Team OSW, states in his analysis that the upcoming elections to the National Council will decide whether Slovakia will continue to participate in the international political-military coalition in support of Kyiv.

In a conversation with us, he emphasizes that the election result in Slovakia is not predetermined. There is no certainty that Fico will rule, even if his party collects the most votes.

Everything indicates that the arrangement of electoral forces in Slovakia will be very complicated. It cannot be ruled out that early elections will be needed. The most likely scenario is still the formation of a coalition around Robert Fico's SMER party - he says.

He notes that his party belongs to the broadly understood European left, is a member of the Party of European Socialists. - However, it has very strong sovereign features, it refers to national rhetoric. It is leftist primarily in terms of implementing social policy, fighting for workers' rights, or promoting the idea of a strong state - the expert assesses.

According to Dębiec, all signs point to the need for SMER to form a coalition, it will need the support of partners. The key one will probably be the central-left party Hlas. At its head is former Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, who was actually promoted by Fico when he resigned in disgrace following protests after the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak.

It seems to be Pellegrini who, with a good result, could even count on the prime minister's seat, could offset the more radical voice of Fico in such an arrangement - says an expert.

Fica opposed sanctions on Moscow. But also Nord Stream 2

It's hard to unequivocally label the policy as pro-Russian. - Remember primarily that Fico has been an active politician since 1992 when he was elected to the Slovak parliament still within the Czechoslovak federation. He has always practiced a sort of dualism. On the one hand, there was rhetoric directed at the domestic voter, aimed at specific results. He usually responded to the emotions building up in society - emphasizes.

But on the other hand, he never made any radical, controversial decisions that would indicate him as a pro-Russian politician. It is true that he regularly criticized and criticizes sanctions against Russia, and has been doing so since 2014 when these successive sanction packages were imposed. But Fico's Slovakia also accepted them with him as Prime Minister. Like Poland, Fico's Slovakia also opposed the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, although not because it had reservations about Russian gas, but because the pipeline through the Baltic Sea reduced the transit importance of the country - he explains.

Fico introduced Slovakia to the euro

According to the OSW expert, the Slovaks themselves are asking the question: What will Fico do now? - Has he actually crossed the political Rubicon and will not return to the more moderate Fico, who we still remember from the years when he was in office? Or will everything change after the elections because it turns out that actions do not have to follow rhetoric? Fico himself is sending a lot of signals that point to the second option - our interlocutor explains.

Lately, when he is tipped to become the Prime Minister, he increasingly emphasizes the foundations of Slovak foreign policy - membership in NATO and the EU, participation in the core of European integration. It should be remembered that Slovakia has been a member of the euro zone since 2009 and Fico boasts that it was he who introduced Slovakia to the core of European integration - points out Dr. Krzysztof Dębiec.

Ukrainian grain will be a problem for every government

The OSW expert also emphasizes that Slovakia demonstrates a great deal of pro-Ukrainian attitudes. - I would like to dispel a certain myth. On one hand, Slovakia is a country that supports Ukraine in various fields - be it military or general. Slovakia's aid ranks sixth in the world in terms of the ratio of support to GDP - he says.

It notes that the Slovak technical government, appointed by the liberal president Čaputová, has joined a group of countries, such as Poland and Hungary, that were under a grain embargo. And Slovakia unilaterally banned the sale of four agricultural products, including wheat.

In his opinion, this topic was mentioned in pre-election discussions. Even Michal Szimeczka, a representative of Progressive Slovakia, the party most friendly towards Ukraine, believed that the introduction of this decision was justified.

- In any scenario here, I wouldn't expect a radical difference. Slovakia is simply a significant grain producer, 40 percent of grain production is directed abroad, primarily to the EU market, the competition with grain from Ukraine is a serious challenge for them. Now, it's more abroad than in the country - says Dr. Krzysztof Dębiec.

It also emphasizes that no matter what coalition is formed after the elections, it will have to somehow solve the problem of Ukrainian grain.

Indeed, at this rhetorical level, Fico might approximate to Orban's government. Furthermore, Fico points to the eastern policy implemented by Fidesz, the government in Budapest, as a certain kind of model - concludes the expert.

Which of Fico's faces will show up will only become apparent after the elections. It may turn out that his election result will be too weak for his most radical ideas to be implemented.

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