“On Alert” Over Slovakia
Germany increases pressure on Slovakia. The reason: The new government of Slovakia, a country economically dependent on Germany, plans to discontinue the policy of economic liberalism and tends toward friendship with Russia.
BERLIN/BRATISLAVA (Own report) – In the aftermath of Slovakia’s parliamentary elections, Germany is increasing pressure on the country’s new government, which plans to discontinue the policy of economic liberalism and, even tends toward friendship with Russia. Its incoming prime minister, Robert Fico, declares that his foreign minister will “no longer speak for foreign interests” - especially regarding the policy toward Russia. Arms deliveries to Ukraine, in which Bratislava held a leading position, compared to its GDP, have already been halted. Fico insists that EU and NATO allies must also “fully respect” Slovakia’s “sovereignty.” An influential journalist at Berlin’s daily Tagesspiegel insulted Slovakia’s future head of government as being “basically (…) ‘national socialist’.” The EU social democratic party PES (Party of European Socialists), wherein the German SPD has a strong influence, has already suspended Fico’s Smer-SSD party and its coalition partner Hlas-SD. Following his election, German public radio described Fico as “a sort of Putin’s Trojan horse.”
“Putin’s Trojan Horse”
Already prior to Slovakia’s new governing coalition agreement, a German public broadcaster claimed that Smer-SSD’s electoral victory was “putting the EU on alert.” The former and probably next prime minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, was said to be “a sort of Putin’s Trojan horse.” Moreover, Dietmar Köster, the SPD’s EU Parliamentary Foreign Policy Spokesman, told the Tagesschau news: “Fico’s election success is not good for the EU.” CDU politician Michael Gahler, foreign policy spokesman for the CDU-dominated European People’s Party (EPP), added: “If Robert Fico actually does what he promised during the election campaign, (...) that would be reason enough for us to be concerned.”
“Fully Respect Sovereignty”
During the campaign for Slovakia’s September 30 parliamentary elections, former Prime Minister Fico (in office from 2006 to 2010 and from 2012 to 2018) had raised opposition to his country’s continuing arms deliveries to Ukraine, had advocated negotiations with Russia, and polemicized against both Slovakian banks and food corporations. In the previous three years of liberal governments since 2020, the country’s standard of living had constantly fallen. In the coalition agreement, the incoming ruling parties Smer-SSD, HLAS-SD and SNS (Slovak National Party) agreed to terminate social cutbacks. In addition, Fico declared that the country’s future foreign minister would “no longer speak for foreign interests.” Other countries – including EU and NATO members – would have to “fully respect” Slovakia’s “sovereignty.” Rudolf Huliak, who is being considered as the possible minister of the environment, announced that if he were to lead the government, his first trip would be to Moscow, to “ask forgiveness” for Slovakia sending weapons to Ukraine.
Military Aid for Ukraine
Since the beginning of the Ukraine war in February of last year, Slovakia has played a disproportionately important role in military supplies for that neighboring East European country. Compared to its GDP, it was the sixth largest supplier of military hardware to Ukraine, surpassing even major EU powers such as France, Italy and Spain. However, Slovakia’s deliveries of military supplies into that neighboring country have already been halted. The current technocrat government under Ľudovít Ódor, former Vice Governor of that small nation’s National Bank, currently still in office, had prepared another weapons shipment for Ukraine. On October 4, the President of the liberal conservatives, Zuzana Čaputová, who had appointed Ódor’s government, halted the shipment of weapons. She justified her decision saying that election results must be respected. Germany had thus already lost an important ally in the field of military aid to Ukraine.
In a report on the Slovak election results, the CSU-affiliated Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSS) suggested that German-Slovak relations were strained. “Fico’s statements” – comparing the Bundeswehr stationed in Slovakia, in the context of foreign troops, to the Wehrmacht – will “strain” future “German-Slovak relations.” However, there are few alternatives for a marginal EU country, such as Slovakia. The HSS suggested ways to apply pressure on Bratislava: “Deepening economic cooperation is in their mutual interests.”
“Communist” and “National Socialist”
The so-called diplomatic correspondent of the editor and chief of Berlin’s Tagesspiegel went so far as to say that Fico is an “ex-communist head of government.” The young Fico had joined the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia (KSČ) in 1986. At the time, he was a military investigator in the Czechoslovakian Army. He first became head of government in 2006, when Slovakia had already joined the EU and NATO. He was already head of the social democratic Smer Party. According to an influential author at the Tagesspiegel, Fico is not only an ex-communist, but also a National Socialist: “The left is appropriating the national idea (...). Actually, they should be referred to as national socialist”. Such insubstantial insults are common in Germany’s liberal-conservative mainstream, as soon as heads of states and governments in Central Europe, the classical backyard of German great-power policy, deviate from Germany’s foreign policy.
Suspension from the PES
After the coalition agreement was announced in Bratislava, the EU’s Social Democratic Party, PES, (Party of European Socialists), wherein the SPD plays an important role, suspended the membership of the two Slovak parties, Smer-SSD and Hlas-SD. The European Parliament’s S & D (Socialists & Democrats) group announced that the Smer and Hlas parliamentarians should also be expelled from their group. The reason given in both cases was that the two Slovak parties have entered a coalition with the national-conservative Slovak National Party (SNS). Katarina Barley, former German Minister of Family Affairs, SPD parliamentarian and Vice President of the EU Parliament, has “called for a tough course” in the case of the Smer and Hlas parties. When, from 2016 – 2020, the Smer– at the time the Hlas had not yet split off – had joined the largely neoliberal government with SNS, Smer membership in the SPE and the S & D had not been suspended.
The attempt to apply pressure on Slovakia is made a bit more difficult, due to the special significance that this Central-East European country has for Germany: It produces the most autos per capita in the world. In Slovakia – with a population of a bit more than 5 million citizens – various auto manufacturers produced one million cars last year. In the Volkswagen Slovakia factories, for example, Volkswagen, Audis, Porsches, and Škodas are produced. According to company information, “more than 99% of the production” is exported. One of the most important export markets is Germany.
 Matthias Reiche: Warum Fico die EU in Alarmstimmung versetzt. tagesschau.de 02.10.2023.
 Jakub Bokes: Die Wahlen in der Slowakei drehten sich um mehr als Russland. jacobin.de 16.10.2023.
 Populist Slovak ex-prime minister signs coalition deal with 2 other parties to form a new government. apnews.com 16.10.2023.
 Matúš Beňo: News digest: Fico’s government is in the making, here are the basics. spectator.sme.sk 16.10.2023.
 Pavel Bartůšek: Riskante Veränderung der politischen Orientierung bei vergangenen und kommenden Wahlen. voxeurop.eu 16.10.2023.
 Vladimír Šnídl: Na obrane zvažovali ďalší vojenský balík pre Ukrajinu, podľa prezidentky treba rešpektovať výsledky volieb. dennikn.sk 04.10.2023.
 Markus Ehm: Schwierige Regierungsbildung in der Slowakei. hss.de 02.10.2023.
 Christoph von Marschall: Deutsche Einheit, Slowakei und USA: Gefährliche Drift in den Populismus. tagesspiegel.de 02.10.2023.
 Thomas Gutschker: Europäische Sozialdemokraten suspendieren Wahlsieger Fico. faz.net 13.10.2023.
 Die S&D-Fraktion plant die Suspendierung ihrer slowakischen Europaabgeordneten. socialistsanddemocrats.eu 12.10.2023.
 Eric Bonse: Rauswurf für Ficos Genossen, blogs.taz.de 14.10.2023.
 Jana Liptáková: Slovak car industry keeps momentum. spectator.sme.sk 18.01.2023.
 Profil der Volkswagen Slovakia. sk.volkswagen.sk (ohne Datum).