Der slowakische Ministerpräsident Robert Fico ist das jüngste Problem der EU

Daniel Martínek (IDM) erläutert für den Fair Observer die Hintergründe der aktuellen Proteste in der Slowakei und beschreibt die ersten Schritte der Regierung des alt-neuen Ministerpräsidenten Robert Fico. Kritiker argumentieren, dass die vorgeschlagenen Reformen darauf abzielen, die Macht der Smer-Partei zu festigen und Ficos Netzwerk zu schützen. Ficos nationalistische Agenda stößt auf Widerstand sowohl bei inländischen Protesten als auch bei der EU. Die bevorstehende Präsidentschaftswahl ist daher umso entscheidender für die demokratische Zukunft des Landes. 

Lesen Sie den Artikel hier. 

Dynamics of the Visegrad Group. Navigating Political Shifts, Challenges and Prospects for EU Enlargement

The upcoming European Council meeting on December 14–15 will see key decisions made on EU enlargement – will the Visegrad Group (Czechia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) stay (dis)united? Kinga Brudzinska explains what can be expected in her newest piece on the IDM blog. 

The political differences in the Visegrad Four (V4) countries that emerged as a result of the elections in Poland (15 October 2023) and Slovakia (30 September 2023) will not significantly impact the dynamics of cooperation among the group. The format remains in crisis due to Hungary’s pro-Russia foreign policy stance and its sceptical approach to the EU’s pro-Ukraine policy direction.

The upcoming European Council meeting on December 14–15, which will see key decisions made on EU enlargement, will once again highlight the lack of unity and cohesion among V4 group members, with Hungary being the outlier. As a result, the V4 will continue to serve as a platform for regional cooperation, but one should not expect a revival of coordinated foreign or European policy as seen in response to the 2015 migration crisis or the “Nutella crisis” in 2017 when the V4 mobilised to fight against the “double standards” of imported food sold in their countries.

What is more, in the long run, the ideological differences are not likely to divide the countries that created the V4, regardless of the political preference of ruling governments. For example, the International Visegrad Fund (IVF), co-managed by V4 countries and supporting regional cooperation projects in the region, or formats such as Think Visegrad—V4 Think Tank Platform, a hub of V4 joint analysis, remain an important aspect of cooperation. On the other hand, there is a threat that due to persisting political differences, the individual V4 countries will seek to engage in alternative formats of regional cooperation. For example, Slovakia and the Czech Republic will most likely invest in the development of the Slavkov Triangle or Central Five Initiative (C5), involving Austria. Poland will focus on rebuilding relations within the Weimar Triangle and will remain active within the Three Seas Initiative (3SI) until the end of President Andrzej Duda’s term in 2025.

What will change and what will not

Poland and the Czech Republic will not allow Hungary, and perhaps Slovakia, to appropriate the V4 as a Eurosceptic or even anti-Western platform. Furthermore, Slovakia will not replace Poland to the same extent as an important partner in activating the V4 format or advocating Slovakia’s own position on the international stage. After its initial declaration, Slovakia will most probably not stick to all its electoral promises related to withholding military aid to Ukraine or pursuing a more assertive European policy. This is because Slovakia does not have a tradition of conducting proactive foreign policy, so it is unlikely Bratislava would use its veto power in Brussels to back Hungary. As the V4’s only eurozone country, Slovakia traditionally advocates for a constructive European policy based on consensus. Robert Fico demonstrated such an approach during his previous term.

Polish-Hungarian relations will not improve, and Hungary will be isolated within the V4 over Russia. Prime Minister Orban deliberately plays the role of a disruptor in the EU and NATO decision-making process, openly challenging the model of liberal democracy and steering the country towards an authoritarian regime. On the other hand, soon-to-be new/old Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk is known for his critical stance towards Viktor Orban. Bilateral disputes between Slovakia and Hungary (related to Orban’s controversial historical policies) further complicate the situation and isolate Hungary within the V4.

The V4 also faces an image problem in the EU, with a prevailing negative perception of its member countries. Therefore, Poland is not likely to heavily leverage the V4 in the coming years. In recent years, other formats such as the Bucharest Nine (B9), Three Seas Initiative (3SI), Slavkov Triangle, or Central Five Initiative (C5) have gained prominence, with V4 countries actively participating.

Finally, Poland is not necessarily seen by other Visegrad countries as a leader in the region. Poland’s reputation has also been damaged due to the deterioration of the rule of law (Slovakia, under the previous government, became more sceptical of Poland’s actions and pushed V4 activities aside) and the conflict with the Czech Republic over the Turow coal mine.

To sum up, looking back on 2023 and trying to foresee the developments on the international stage in 2024, we can be sure that the V4 will stay on the map of regional groupings in the EU in the years to come and will keep being used as a passive platform for regional cooperation. However, one should not expect a revival of coordinated foreign or European policy among the V4 unless Hungary adjusts its stance on Russia to align with the European mainstream.

Robert Fico Returns: Will Slovakia Become the New Hungary?

Left-wing populist Robert Fico, who was removed from power in Slovakia in 2018 after corruption scandals, has returned to power and formed a coalition with leftist and nationalist parties, which could have significant implications for Central Europe and the European Union.

Read the whole article by Daniel Martínek and Péter Techet here.

The Slovaks Opted for Stability and Peace – Will It Work?

For months, Slovaks have been worried about the chaos and confusion affecting their country. Three and a half years after the last parliamentary elections, Slovakia stands at a pivotal juncture in its political journey. 

To find out more about the political situation in Slovakia, continue reading Kinga Brudzińska’s article:

The Slovaks Opted for Stability and Peace – Will It Work?

En quête de stabilité et de paix : les Slovaques ont-ils fait le bon choix ?

Parliamentary Elections in Slovakia 2023

Read the briefing by Daniel Martínek here:

The whole discussion will be available on the YouTube channel of the IDM:

 

Wieder keine ungarische Partei im slowakischen Parlament?

Bei den Wahlen in der Slowakei Ende September hat keine der antretenden Parteien der ungarischen Minderheit eine Chance, in das Parlament einzuziehen. Warum wird die ungarische Minderheit keine Vertretung im neuen slowakischen Parlament haben?

Unser Kollege Péter Techet über die Nachbarländer Österreichs:

Eastblog

DerStandard 

Daniel Martínek über die Wahlen in der Slowakei für den Eastblog und DerStandard

Im Nachbarland Österreichs finden im September Parlamentswahlen statt. Unser Kollege Daniel Martínek analysiert die Stimmung in der Slowakei und mögliche regionale Auswirkungen für den Eastblog der Forschungsgruppe Osteuropa am Institut für Politikwissenschaft der Universität Wien und DerStandard. 

Eastblog

DerStandard

 

Dieser Text wurde auch ins Englische übersetzt und ist hier abrufbar.

Global Fragility: An uncertain future

 

Continuing support for Ukraine, resilience of Europe in the face of war and mitigating the global consequences of the conflict in a global dialogue were three overarching themes of GLOBSEC Bratislava Forum that took place on 29-31 May 2023 in Bratislava, Slovakia.

In light of the ongoing war in Ukraine and its consequences felt across, rebuilding stability, keeping unity and re-establishing links in Europe is more important than ever before. GLOBSEC Forum was designed to provide platform and create synergies among different stakeholders to respond to the challenges of today and foremost tomorrow.

The IDM was a content partner of the Forum and contributed to a high level exclusive thematic dinner “Echoes of War: Unraveling Global Consequences of the War in Ukraine”. What is more, Sebastian Schäffer, the IDM’s Managing Director was a panellist at timely side event: “The

European Political Community as an Inclusive Forum for Dialogue: Is this Enough?” co-organized by GLOBSEC and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Finally, Director Schäffer took part in the activities related to GLOBSEC Danube Tech Valley Initiative.

The Implications of President Joe Biden’s Visit to Warsaw: national and regional perspectives  

President Joe Biden is coming to Poland this week, almost exactly one year after the Russian invasion in Ukraine started. On 21 February Biden was also in Kyiv on a surprise visit, for which he used Rzeszów in Poland to transfer to Ukraine. But the visit, despite being symbolic, has some domestic and regional implications. 

 

According to the information available today, in Poland President Biden (POTUS) will hold bilateral talks with the leaders of the ruling camp (including the Polish President, Andrzej Duda), make a public address to the Poles (at the symbolic place near the Royal Castle in Warsaw), and take part in the meeting of the so-called Bucharest Nine, a group of nine NATO countries in Eastern Europe. Just as it happened on 26 March 2022, the upcoming visit will focus on security issues, and its underlying theme will be the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

 

Biden will be the first US president to visit Poland again in less than a year after the previous one, although Barack Obama visited Poland three times: in 2011, 2014, and 2016. Poland was chosen as a destination for the POTUS visit because it has become a hub for international support for Ukraine. Nowadays Poland is a territory through which Western supplies are entering Ukraine, be they humanitarian or military. Moreover, the country is important as it received one of the biggest numbers of refugees (around 950 thousands so far) among EU countries and in the region. Apart from Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria are hosting significant numbers of refugees, but they are significantly lower: 432 thousands and 147 thousands respectively. 

 

Poland is also one of the most hawkish countries in Europe as regards Russia on the international stage. It has proposed far reaching sanctions and other measures that NATO/EU allies could implement (such as the transfer of MIG-29s). Along with the Baltic republics, Poland was also one of the biggest and most active proponents of the EU membership candidate status for Ukraine.  

 

The visit is not free from certain controversies, however. Many Poles as well as commentators in the West do not like the fact that Biden will probably strategically turn a blind eye to the policies of Poland’s ruling government that deteriorate the rule of law and democracy at home. The visit will strengthen the image of PiS as a party that has a special relationship with the US, while the country positions itself on the margins of the EU. In fact, Mr Biden once criticised Poland, listing it alongside Belarus and Hungary as examples of “the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world.” By contrast, ahead of Mr Biden’s visit, White House spokesman John Kirby rightly applauded Warsaw for being “a strident ally and a tremendous supporter of Ukraine.”  

 

In short, the PiS government will be able to present themselves as those who improved Poland’s position in the alliance, and this in turn would play in the government’s favour during the election year. It is important for the PiS government to present the relations with the US as better than ever before because the politicians of the Polish right want to be seen by the domestic audience as world leaders. President Biden’s second visit to Poland in less than a year will only strengthen this view. 

 

In the region, Poland is already perceived as a country that has a leading role in supporting Ukraine. Moreover, while Poland perceives itself as a natural leader in Central Europe, this is not the view of countries like the Czech Republic or the Baltic States. The backsliding of democracy at home does not strengthen Warsaw’s role in the region.  

 

One of the important platforms for regional cooperation – the Visegrad Group – is already struggling to speak with a coherent voice on a Ukraine policy as Hungarian policy has drifted away from Polish, Czech and Slovak approaches. The Czech Republic and Slovakia are also distancing themselves from Hungary and Poland at the EU level, and are more and more interested in engaging with Austria in the Slavkov/Austerliz format. Warsaw is also a supporter of the Three Seas Initiative, a platform of cooperation in Central and Eastern Europe, supported by the US, but which is not so popular, for example in Slovakia. The only platform through which Poland can showcase its leadership is the Bucharest Nine, which became the vehicle of regional governments to demonstrate their interest in helping Ukraine. We should not expect many changes in internal dynamics in this grouping given President Biden’s presence in Warsaw. But without Warsaw reversing the backsliding of the rule of law and democracy at home, Poland will not be seen by other countries in the region as a “leader” in Central Europe. 

 

In a public speech, Biden intends to express his thanks to Polish society for the universal, direct support for refugees and humanitarian aid sent to Ukraine. This is, of course, a praiseworthy attitude, but it is rather the society itself that should be credited for extending a helping hand to Ukrainians. The Polish government’s record is more mixed in this respect. Recognition from the US president will allow the authorities to dismiss accusations of inhumane treatment of migrants on the border with Belarus.  

 

When it comes to the region, President Biden’s visit to Warsaw underlines that fact that NATO’s eastern flank has finally found its voice as it proved to be right about Russia’s intention towards Ukraine in the past. However, as Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavský told Politico, Western countries are still “much stronger” on the economic and military front” and they have the financial capacity to help Ukraine.  

 

In short, this visit is important and symbolic but fraught with national and regional sensitivities.