quite recently we have witnessed the change in presidency of the EU Council. As you know that is something that happens every six months and this time it is Slovakia led by Robert Fico that is taking over at the helm from the Dutch. While the usefulness of the system itself is debatable, let’s focus more on what we can expect to happen in the next six months.
First of all, we need to ask who is Rober Fico. Fico became the prime minister of Slovakia for the third time just this year, but these elections were quite different than in the past. His social-democratic party is accustomed to quite a comfortable majority, but this year it ended up losing it and had to create a coalition of four parties. The coalition is quite amusing since his leftist party is holding hands with three right-wing parties that are often characterised as near-fascist. In fact, the rise of nationalism and fascism has been worryingly swift in recent years in Slovakia. According to one poll up to 47% of Slovaks consider this coalition as ‘unacceptable’, so that’s probably the best recipe for stable government, right ? A preview to what is to come is probable the fact that almost immediately after Mr. Fico left for Brussels the Slovakian parliament erupted in unrest and tried to depose him and shocked the public with a good amount of foul language.
The second thing we must look at when thinking about the Slovak presidency is the presence of Visegrad Four (V4). Unlike the fantastic four, however, most people have no idea what it is. If you are one of those people you needn’t worry. It is much less cool than the fantastic four. The V4 is a group of four countries, namely Poland, the Czech republic, Slovakia and Hungary. It is a motley crew of post-communist countries that banded together in the 90s in order to coordinate their approach to the European Union. The institution survived the entry in 2004 and continues to have a strong presence in the region. Majority of the people in those four countries have no idea what the V4 is up to with exception of Slovakia. About 54% of Slovaks are said to know about it in contrast with only 17% of Poles saying the same. One could the assume that the V4 politics is close to Slovak hearts.
In his recent speech in the European Parliament, as well as at the official website, Robert Fico has outlined core ideas for the next 6 months. The principles are : economically strong Europe, modern single market, sustainable migration and globally engaged Europe. He has also called for Europe with vision that does better job at explaining itself to regular citizens. In a nutshell, we could say that Fico intends to put forward serious reforms of the EU and while that is exactly what we need there is a catch. Robert Fico is known to be quite the eurosceptic and what he said abroad is slightly different from what he says at home. In a press statement on 1/7/2016 he strongly criticised the growing power of EU Commission, dominance of old powers like Germany and France as opposed to sidelining small countries like Slovakia and most poignantly refused current politics on migration. Many of his statements sound quite similar to ideas of Brexit campaigners and populists. The V4 is led by Poland this year and its program includes strong voice of V4 in the EU, V4 identity and visibility and regional regional security. When put together with the far-right nature of Hungarian leadership and the widely criticised undemocratic reforms in Poland it feels like there are things that Mr. Fico ‘forgot’ to mention in his speech to the EU Parliament.
It is difficult to say what opinions Mr. Fico really has and what he will be able to put forward. While I agree that a serious reform is needed and small countries need stronger voices I hope the Slovaks will make us into dancing partners rather than pins at a bowling alley.