Robert Fico has been chosen as the prime minister of Slovakia for the fourth consecutive time. He will be present at an EU summit in Brussels this week, where other leaders will have a preview of his stance on prioritizing his nation and being a populist.
On Wednesday, President Zuzana Čaputová officially gave her approval to the newly-formed coalition government, led by Fico. Fico’s party emerged victorious in last month’s elections, with promises to discontinue military support to Ukraine and decrease immigration.
Experts anticipate that the nation will align itself more with Hungary’s openly nationalistic approach, endorsed by its illiberal leader Viktor Orbán, whom Fico has expressed admiration for. However, there are doubts as to how much he will actually implement his campaign promises.
Smer, led by Fico, came in first place in the recent election with 23% of the vote. They then joined forces with Hlas, a new party formed by the former deputy of the prime minister, Peter Pellegrini, and the far-right Slovak National party (SNS).
Choosing to rule alongside SNS resulted in the suspension of Smer and Hlas from the socialist group in the European parliament. Additionally, last week, Čaputová rejected the coalition’s initial selection for environment minister due to their skepticism towards climate change.
Tomáš Taraba, a far-right politician and former member of the neo-Nazi LSNS party, has taken the place of Rudolf Huliak, a pro-Russian SNS MP who has rejected the existence of the climate crisis and verbally assaulted environmental activists.
Fico backs humanitarian and reconstruction help for Ukraine but no further military aid. He also opposes western sanctions on Moscow and wants the EU to force peace talks, a line similar to Orbán’s that is rejected by Ukraine and its western allies.
In 2018, Fico was compelled to step down due to widespread public demonstrations following the tragic killings of a journalist and his partner. He has since stated that his main focuses are reducing Slovakia’s deficit, safeguarding our country’s best interests, and decreasing illegal immigration.
Experts and diplomats have proposed various reasons, such as Fico’s previous practical approach while serving as the leader of the government from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2018, which may temper his more radical language, especially in foreign affairs.
According to University College London political scientist Michal Ovádek, both Smer and SNS campaigns have clearly aimed towards illiberalism within the country. Ovádek further stated that this government could potentially bring negative impacts for the LGBTQ+ community, rule of law, and public accountability.
According to Ovádek, there is a possibility that the government’s narrow majority in parliament and their economic dependence on European funding will prevent any extreme actions that go against liberal and democratic values. This statement was made on X (previously known as Twitter).
Although he has criticized Brussels and the US during his campaign, Fico has consistently stated that he does not plan to withdraw his country, with a population of 5.5 million, from the EU or the Nato military alliance led by the US.
The upcoming two-day summit in Brussels for EU leaders will likely focus on maintaining unity in supporting Ukraine and addressing the bloc’s contentious immigration strategies.