"31.05.2005 Robert Fico: Slovakia Is Not State 51 of America
Sami Rosen, AIA Israeli section
According to the recent opinion polls, Robert Fico is the most popular politician in Slovakia. He was once a member of the Communist party, but in 1999 he established his own social-democratic movement - SMER. Today it is the largest opposition party in Slovakia, holding 27 seats in the Parliament. The polls show that SMER has the best chance to win the 2006 elections, which will make its leader, Robert Fico Slovakia's next prime minister.
Fico is seen as a pro-European politician, criticizing the pro-American stance of the present Slovak government. However, there were some controversial publications in the local mass media as to Fico's critique of the European policy.
In his recent interview over Israeli radio, Fico said that his party can be seen as pro-European. However, he followed with, "On the other hand, shortly before our entering the European Union, they opened some questions concerning the conditions under which Slovakia should enter the EU. It is true that in some areas we were very critical, for example, on the issue of nuclear power stations in Slovakia." According to him, Brussels demanded the closure of two blocks of these power stations in spite of the fact that they were completely safe, and produced electricity at a low cost. He added that despite the critique and the attempts to open this issue, his party finally respected the decision of the government on this subject. "Now our party has three members in the European Parliament, all of them are in the socialist camp" Fico stated in the interview, adding that recently the SMER Social Democratic party was adopted as a regular member of the Party of European Socialists. "So, my party can be seen as a normal European
What Future for Slovak Politics?
Fico avoids making any predictions concerning the 2006 Parliament elections in Slovakia. According to him, it is very difficult to estimate how many people in Slovakia support left-oriented and how many support right-oriented political movements. "But people can see in real life what it means to have a right-wing political coalition," Fico said.
He then voiced criticism of the present conservative government. "You can follow results of this type of politics in Slovakia. For instance, we have poverty, something we did not have in the past. 21% of Slovak people are living in poverty. You can also see very low salaries in Slovakia, as well as a very bad social situation. These are the real results of the conservative government's policy in Slovakia, he said."
According to Robert Fico, these are also the reasons why the SMER party, "situated from the center to the left" of the political spectrum, has such significant support in this country. He admits that his ambition, and that of his party, is to win the next election in such a way as to allow the formation of a stable and potent coalition.
External Priorities: EU, Russia, Ukraine
As far as external policy is concerned, SMER's leader thinks his country is too small and not sufficiently strong politically and economically "to change world politics." Nonetheless, Fico's program. In the event of his election, is to change the "totally US-oriented" priorities of the present Slovak government. "We are currently a member-state of the European Union, but sometimes you find yourself asking, 'Are we in Europe, or are we the state number fifty two of the United States?'"
Fico argues further in the interview over "Voice of Israel" radio. According to him, if elected, his external policy would be oriented towards European issues. Fico stated that his party supports the EU foreign and military policies, urging that all the international issues must be solved in the framework of the European Union, "as we are now members of it."
Robert Fico stands for the strengthening of Slovakia's relations with Russia. "I visited Russia several times, and my ambition is to use these relations as much as possible. It is a big mistake of the conservative government to orient Slovakia exclusively toward the United States. There must be some balance in the foreign policy of Slovakia. I do really believe that in the event of our victory in the elections, planes will fly not only to the United States, but they will fly also to Russia, Ukraine, China, Japan, India."
Fico further reminds us that before 1989, Czechoslovakia was very successful in Third World countries in Africa and Latin America..
According to him, it would be right for Slovakia to continue this tradition, and he said that SMER "will do its best to continue this experience."
Ukraine's Possible Membership in the EU: A Threat or a Partner for Slovakia?
Slovakia should support any country that strives to become a member of the European Union, and Ukraine is not an exception, Robert Fico states. "On the other hand, I should say that we follow very closely all that happens in Ukraine, including this 'orange revolution'. And there is one thing I want to say to the Ukrainian people: please do not follow the Slovak experience concerning privatization, and in extensive relations with the United States. Keep balance. Keep balance between state ownership and private ownership. Keep balance as far as the social issues are concerned," - Robert Fico urges.
He further says that Slovakia seeks good neighbor relationships with Ukraine. In his opinion, although the two countries share only a short section of border, it is very important from the point of view of people's movement from Eastern to Western Europe. He expresses concern about the existing border control procedures, saying that in the future he will try to solve this problem.
Mr. Fico does not see a threat for Slovakia's position in the EU if Ukraine enters the Union. "To be in the European Union is a chance for every country. If we are now in the EU, it is up to us to use this chance as much as possible for the benefit of our country and our people" Fico says, adding that he is not afraid of Ukraine's entering the EU. "It is a chance not only for Ukraine, but also for Slovakia.
Speaking openly, at present, Slovakia attracts the investors because of the cheap labor force. Probably Ukraine will do the same." "