Marine Voskanyan


Bratislava has got a unique opportunity of becoming the center of Russia-EU intercommunication


The division of Czechoslovakia into two states in 1993, four years after the so-called "velvet revolution" is interpreted in various ways. Some analysts point at the conflict of personal ambitions of two politicians who later became Prime Ministers of Czech Republic and Slovakia – Vaclav Klaus and Vladimir Meciar. It is also admitted that the Czech political establishment was eager to get rid of the poorer "younger brother". At the same time, Slovakian politicians were reluctant to tolerate the "Pragocentric" paternalism of Havel and Klaus.

At the same time, the split of once strong Comecon member state into two parts fits into the "divide-and-conquer" pattern earlier applied in Yugoslavia, reminds Slovakian MP Sergej Chelemendik.

In 1990s, the two governments significantly differed in approach towards the West: while Prague was eager to join the Euro-Atlantic community as soon as possible, Bratislava was inclined to develop relations both with Russia and the EU. Relying upon the public opinion, Meciar did not hurry to join NATO. At the same time, Slovakia's Prime Minister was opposed to privatization of major industries by transnational companies. Not accidentally, his opponents compared him to Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko.

After a series of West-orchestrated anti-corruption scandals, engineered in order to undermine Meciar's reputation, Meciar was forced to concede his post to Mikulas Dzurinda, whose government promptly re-oriented Slovakia's foreign policy. The new leadership entered the EU and NATO, and greeted the US assault on Yugoslavia, as well as the intervention into Iraq. Not surprisingly, this U-turn was followed with austerity measures in social policy, and takeover of major enterprises by Western corporations. Dzurinda's popularity faded in a few years. His opponents identified him as "Bush's sidekick".

At the national elections in 2006, Dzurinda's alliance of rightist parties underwent a scathing defeat. Robert Fico, a talented and eloquent political organizer, built up a new political alliance named "Way to Social Democracy" (SMER Socialna Demokracia). Its pro-labor platform gained broad popularity among Slovakians. By that time, the neoliberal approach had aroused such a strong allergy in the population that the rightist specter was close to extinction. However, it was much easier to declare socialist ideas in the post-Soviet era than to fulfill social obligations. According to Mr. Chelemendik, "the central idea of the socialists that the state can protect the population better than corporate business is nice, but hard for implementation".



The incumbent government coalition includes Fico's SMER, Meciar's LS-HZDS (Movement for a Democratic Slovakia), and Jan Slota's SNS (Slovakian National Party).

The program of the most radical coalition member, SNS, combines pan-Slavonic ideas ("to boost Slavonic cooperation and mutual support"), the anti-Hungarian sentiment, and opposition to "the European super-state or a federation that suppresses ethnic identity". Jan Slota was the strongest critic of Slovakia's integration into the EU. Though having a high anti-rating, reaching 36-38%, Slota enjoys support from a stable 10-12% share of Slovakian voters. This is natural, given the massive disappointment with the eight-year servility towards the West and its social implications for the nation's majority.

The public perception of major parties in strongly personalized. Party ratings correspond with the popularity of the party leaders.

Dzurinda's SDKU (Slovakian Democratic and Christian Unity) is now in the opposition. The once popular Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) has meanwhile lost much of its public support due to political partnership with the neoliberals. Though Slovakia is traditionally Catholic-dominated, the present Christian Democratic Movement’s rating does not exceed 8%. The oppositionist alliance also includes SMK (Party of the Hungarian Coalition). Ostensibly, the EU bureaucracy does not recognize ethnicity as the ideological base of party-building. In fact, ethnic-based parties exist in West European states – including Great Britain, Spain and, ironically, Belgium.

One more opposition party, the Communists (KSS), is more numerous than similar parties in other European countries (it is noteworthy that in most of the post-Comecon states, such parties are outlawed). KSS is enough self-sufficient to stay outside both coalitions.



Thus, Slovakia has twice changed its foreign policy orientation within a decade. Curiously, this double change brought more benefits than losses to the population. On the one hand, Slovaks enjoy positive effects of integration into the Eurozone. On the other hand, the political class has realized that the best option for the country is not to allow it to be manipulated in geopolitical games but to establish a reasonable balance of foreign policy orientation.

Already during his election campaign, Robert Fico declared: "To my mind, Mikulas Dzurinda made a great mistake, deciding to neglect such a great nation as Russia. We reject a unilateral pro-Western strategy. I am convinced that our nation should develop friendly relations with Russia, Ukraine, and China".

Jan Carnogurski, a co-founder of the Christian Democratic Movement, insisted already in mid-1990s that Slovakia possesses the largest freedom of maneuver in foreign policy, as for the whole history, Slovaks have never been in a conflict with Russia as well as with major European states. He believes that in the perspective, his country might acquire a political role similar to that of the post-war Austria, and become the center of productive intercourse between the European Union and Russia.

Due to their specific sober conservatism and reluctance to "follow the way" dictated from outside, the Slovaks managed to successfully survive the destructive European cataclysms, though not possessing natural advantages of Switzerland or Malta. "The Slovaks are staying in the epicenter of European events, being equipped with nothing but the specific and unconquerable Christian fatalism and an impressing capability of resistance to unwanted outlanders", says Sergej Chelemendik.

These specific qualities enable Slovaks to be prepared to challenges of future. Slovakian politicians are reasonably concerned of the viability of European currency. They correctly admit that in case the international financial crisis develops into a disaster for the "old Europe", the major European powers will give away the "neophytes", regardless from their loyalty. The latest developments in the EU indicate that under new conditions, East European countries are likely to seek for a new "place in the sun" independently.

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