Europe must see Slovakia’s elections as a warning: Greater integration must never harm national as well as regional identities

, by Yair Gorni

Europe must see Slovakia's elections as a warning: Greater integration must never harm national as well as regional identities
Robert Fico in 2014. Credits: MGlen, CC BY-SA 3.0 <> , via Wikimedia Commons

Before addressing the subject, some things do need to be pointed out regarding Slovakia’s recent elections.

First and foremost, Contrary to media reports that during the election night crowned one winner (P.S), after the exit polls, and now after the votes are now crowning a different winner (Smer), the outcome of the elections are far from a “pro-Russian victory”. While the Socialist-Conservative-Populist pro-Russian Smer party did indeed win the highest number of seats, the majority of the parties elected to the Slovak parliament are what generally considered to be “pro west” or at least “pro-European”. In addition, and contrary to polls expectation, pro-Russian neo-Fascist parties such as ’Republic’ failed to gain seats, which reduced the pro-Russian strength in parliament to less than a third of the seats.

This means that even if Smer’s Robert Fico will indeed manage to form a coalition (a factor that should not be taken for granted) he will have to include at least one ’pro-European’ party in his coalition. This party, which is likely to be Pellegrini’s Social Democrat-HLAS, which while may care little of foreign policy, sees EU funding as a crucial factor that must be maintained to restable the country. The fact that Pellegrini can choose to form a coalition with other center-right ’pro-west’ parties practically makes him a kingmaker, meaning that even if he will join Fico’s government, he will likely be a key player with unofficial veto power over various policy directions. Indeed, Pellegrini stated that he expects a ’responsible’ foreign policy as a condition for him to enter coalition, meaning that it is far too early to assume that Robert Fico (who in the past proved as pragmatic) shall become “another Orban”.

Nonetheless, one cannot ignore that this is undoubtedly a weakening of liberal forces in Slovakia, who now may head, albeit slowly, towards a similar Eurosceptic path of Poland, Austria, Italy, and Hungary. This shows that the West must understand that ignoring issues such as immigration, religion and national identity will weaken its power in the long run and strengthen ultra-nationalist forces, on the one hand, and semi-Communists on the other, who will promote policies friendlier to Putin’s Russia. Just as the ’small nationalities’ of Central-Eastern Europe dislike Russia (which led them to join NATO and the EU in the first place), so too they dislike undermining the very values they hold dear.

Clearly this doesn’t mean that European progressive forces must abandon their struggle for Women and LGBTQ+ rights. Instead, it would be better to find a strategic political path in which the universal progressive values and traditional and national values may still live in harmony. Greece and Ireland may serve as a perfect example to the matter. In both countries Christianity, Orthodox and Catholic respectably, served as an important factor for nation building and regional church celebrations are now considered to be national ones. Indeed, in both countries the vast majority of its population consider themselves to be believers and see Christianity as an important part of their identity. At the same time, both countries legalized abortions, recognized same sex marriages alongside other more liberal policies which were supported also by the majority of the citizens.

This clearly shows that European progressive liberals must not go the dangerous path of radical progressives in Northern America. While the United States and Canada may have such privilege to quarrel over various radical social agendas and their collective guilt over past grievances, Europe clearly lack such luxury as such divisions serves the interests of Russian imperialism, as much as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as Arab and Turkish sectarian and religious divisions in the middle east serves the interests of the Ayatollah dictators in Iran (whose drones, in Russian hands, are right now butchering Ukrainian citizens).

Unlike the middle east, where only in the last three years we see countries and leaders are trying to build bridges for regional cooperation, i.e., Turkey’s reconciliation with Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and hopefully an Israeli-Saudi peace treaty which in turn will increase Palestinian autonomy and reduce settlement takeover of Palestinian lands, Europe had so far managed to present an admirable unity against Russian imperialism. While in the middle east such unity is promoted through cold real-politic selfish interests, in Europe this unity is truly promoted over shared values and moral principles.

At the same time, progressive Europeans must understand that in times of danger, pragmatic leaders must rise to maintain this unity and assure that Europeans from various political factions and nationalities must stand together against this potential danger. In times of urgent unity, Europe must not allow itself to face another Slovakia, not to mention another Hungary’s scenario. In other words, if we wish to see less countries becoming like Slovakia and Hungary, we need more countries, at least in terms of religion and national identity, to be like Greece and Ireland.

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