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TOPIC: slovakia


Kyiv Reality Check: What Ukraine's Friends Say Out Loud — And Whisper To Each Other

Europe's foreign ministers traveled together to Kyiv yesterday to reaffirm their support for Ukraine. It is necessary after the first signs of "fatigue" in Western support, from a Polish about-face to the victory of a pro-Russian prime minister in Slovakia.


PARIS — The symbolism is strong: for the first time ever, Europe's foreign ministers meet in a country outside the European Union. But it looks like a diplomatic ‘Coué’. The Coué method, named for a French psychologist, holds that a person tends to repeat a message to convince oneself as much as to convince others.

In Kyiv on Monday, the European foreign ministers solemnly reaffirmed their commitment to Ukraine, perhaps because it's suddenly no longer as obvious to them as to the rest of the world.

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There has indeed been some hesitation as of late; and it was undoubtedly time for this display of unity, which has stood as one of the major diplomatic achievements since the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Hungarian foreign minister was notably absent from the family photo, due to his "Putinophilia", and his Polish counterpart was officially ill, which happens to coincide with the recent Polish-Ukrainian quarrel. It's also a safe bet that, in a few weeks' time, the Slovakian minister could also be missing from such a gathering, following Sunday's election victory of the pro-Russian Robert Fico.

These nuances aside, there was a message of firmness in Kyiv, embodied by the bit of alliteration from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who predicted that Europe that would soon go "from Lisbon to Luhansk" — Luhansk, in the Donbas region of Ukraine, currently annexed by Russia.

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Why Slovakia's Robert Fico Is Good For Putin — And Even Better For Orban

One man's victory in Slovakia may move the tides of European support for Ukraine, and play into an "illiberal temptation" that is spreading across the continent, with Hungary's prime minister set to cash in on his perennial clash with the EU.


PARIS — Robert Fico, remember this name: you might hear a lot about him in the coming months. Fico emerged as the winner of Sunday's legislative elections in the central European nation of Slovakia, following a highly contested campaign.

To understand the significance, one must only look at who congratulated him first: Viktor Orban, the Hungarian Prime Minister, who had been previously isolated in his pro-Putin stance. On X (formerly Twitter) Orban wrote: "Look who's back! Congratulations to Robert Fico for his impressive victory in the Slovak elections. I look forward to working with a patriot."

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Orban indeed has reason to rejoice. If Fico manages to form a coalition — which is not certain as he only has one-quarter of the votes — the Hungarian leader may feel less isolated during the upcoming European Council meetings. There would then be two leaders simultaneously challenging both the support for Ukraine and the integration projects of the 27 European Union member states. For decisions that require a consensus, they would be two leaders capable of blocking them.

Robert Fico is not a newcomer. He previously served as Prime Minister on two occasions and made a dramatic resignation in 2018 after the assassination of the journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner in Slovakia. This case exposed the infiltration of organized crime within the ruling elite. Meanwhile, we've stopped taking count of how many of Fico's inner circle have been convicted of corruption.

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Bears! The Issue Sneaking Up On Slovakia's Campaign Trail

Slovakian elections set for later this month have been shifting towards an unexpected issue. Bears have been threatening people living near the Tatra Mountains, and how to respond has been dividing politicians.

BRATISLAVA — Slovaks will be going to the polls to select a new parliament on September 30. Among other issues, they will be deciding the fate of the country’s bear populations, which have recently become one of their major political topics. A portion of these animals live along the Polish-Slovakian border.

The growing population of bears in Slovakia and worries about potential attacks on humans have now been addressed by senior politicians. These include not only parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, but also members of the government and even the Slovakian President, Zuzana Czaputova. Czaputova, a well-known environmentalist, has been especially outspoken on the matter.

When a female bear jumped out of a thick bush at a man near the village of Sučany in northern Slovakia while he was out walking his dog, he began to fear for his life. Using a legally held gun, he shot at the bear several times, which killed her. In a second publicized incident that day, a jogger near Liptovsky Hradok reported a bear attack, and had to be hospitalized with an injured shoulder and an open wound on his calf. A few hours later, a forest worker fell victim to a bear attack near the south Slovak village of Drienovo, and was forced to defend himself with a weapon held in his hand.

More incidents involving bear attacks took place in just these 24 hours in mid-July than in the entire year, bringing the total number of bear attacks in Slovakia to eight. This caused widespread public outcry, with social media being almost immediately flooded with videos and photos depicting bear encounters not only in the rural wilderness, but also in villages and cities. The bears are typically unafraid of humans while they forage for food, reports Zprawy Aktualne, and they can often be seen in residents’ backyards. Last year, a bear even made its way into a hotel in the High Tatras, a known tourist destination.

“The situation is serious,” said Environment Minister Milan Chrenko.

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In Slovakia, Snap Elections Called As Pro-Russia Sentiment Is Spreading

Slovakia, which shares a border with Ukraine, saw liberal President Zuzana Čaputová's confirmation that she will not seek re-election, in part because of threats against her tough stance on Russia's invasion. How will the war shape the future direction of Slovakian politics, and vice-versa?

As Slovakia prepares for early elections on Sep. 30, a study published last month has revealed that more than half of Slovaks do not view Russia as the primary culprit behind the ongoing war in Ukraine.

This sentiment coincides with the growing popularity of a pro-Russian party, and the announcement of liberal Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová that she will not seek re-election in next spring's presidential elections. Taken together, these new developments raise questions about the future direction of Slovakian politics, and how these changes could affect the country's stance on the war in Ukraine.

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová won the 2019 presidential elections by committing herself to honesty and integrity. This message resonated with the Slovaks, who were shaken by the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée in 2018. His death sparked public outrage and triggered political turmoil, with allegations of government links to organized crime (which Kuciak was investigating) and the subsequent resignation of leftist-nationalist Prime Minister Robert Fico.

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While the investigation into Kuciak’s murder continued in Slovakia, Čaputova’s presidency was also marked by other challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine — with which Slovakia shares a 97-kilometer border — as well as a continued flow of refugees and concerns about inflation and rising prices.

There had long been speculations that Slovakia’s first female president would not run for re-election, despite being considered the most trustworthy politician. Nevertheless, when Čaputová finally did announce earlier this month that she would not seek a second term, it upended the nation's politics.

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Pierre Haski

The Widest Europe: The Meaning Of Moldova In The Face Of Russian Aggression

Europe's leaders are in Moldova as tensions increase with Russia and in Kosovo. The summit is already making an impact as Europe pushes back against Russian interference.


CHISINĀUOne should never underestimate the power of symbols. All of Europe has gathered on Thursday in Moldova, just a few kilometers away from the separatist region of Transnistria, where Russian troops are stationed. The Balkan countries, the United Kingdom, Turkey, and of course, Ukraine, are present as well.

The European Political Community (EPC) is an unprecedented entity launched last year on a French proposal and currently in its second summit. No one knows for sure yet what the future holds for the EPC, but everyone benefits from its informal nature, allowing for valuable exchanges at a crucial moment for Europe.

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The summit comes at an opportune time, as a crisis has erupted between Kosovo and Serbia, leading to the deployment of NATO reinforcements following street clashes. The issue at hand is the appointment of ethnically Albanian mayors in Serbian neighborhoods, a misstep by Kosovar Prime Minister Albin Kurti, which has drawn criticism from NATO allies.

The summit has already made an impact, as the Kosovar Prime Minister mentioned the possibility of holding new local elections in the tense areas. His intention was to try to defuse the crisis before Thursday's summit. Yesterday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would meet with the Kosovar Prime Minister alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. That’s what summits are for!

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Philipp Fritz

Inside The Polish-Led Push To Send Fighter Jets To Ukraine – Bypassing Germany

A bloc of eastern European countries has distanced themselves from Western Europe — Germany in particular — by sending Soviet era jets to Ukraine, part of growing push to supply the country with Western-made fighter jets.

Following Poland’s lead, Slovakia has now declared its plans to send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The U.S. may well have been kept informed of the decisions, but Warsaw did not tell the German government. Some Eastern European allies are distancing themselves from Western Europe. And there’s a good reason for that.

Once again Poland is pushing ahead with supplying weapons to Ukraine. “We can say that we will shortly be sending MiG fighter jets to Ukraine,” said President Andrzej Duda on Thursday in Warsaw, during a visit from the Czech President Petr Pavel – announcing it almost in passing, as seems to be Duda’s way.

Duda went one step further than his Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, who only the day before had set out a timeline for Poland to provide jets. He said it would take four to six weeks, then the President and commander-in-chief announced a shorter timeline of only a few days.

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Viktoria Großmann

Slovakia's First Woman President, Another Velvet Revolution?

Zuzana Čaputová becomes the country's first female head of state, and brings hope to Slovaks looking to end to corruption and to others for a response to populism across Europe.


With Zuzana Čaputová, Slovakia enters the world political stage as a bearer of hope. Nothing similar has happened in Central Europe since Václav Havel became president of Czechoslovakia after the Velvet Revolution.

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Monica Perosino, Federico Varese, and Giuseppe Legato

Slain Slovak Journalist: How Italian Mob Expands Into Eastern Europe

Slovakian authorities are investigating ties between politicians and the Calabria-based Ndràngheta crime syndicate following the killing, last week, of an investigative reporter. Mobsters have been siphoning EU development funds.

BRATISLAVA — In early morning raids across the small towns of Michalovce and Trebišov, in eastern Slovakia, police this week arrested seven Italian men linked to the recent killings of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his partner, Martina Kusnirova.

Kuciak was gunned down last Thursday in his home in the town of Velká Maca, east of the Slovakian capital of Bratislava. The journalist had been working on an article that describes the vast Slovakian operations of the Italian "Ndràngheta crime syndicate, including its dealings in agriculture and ties to high-ranking politicians.

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Florence Beugé

Can Slovakia, Eurozone's Former Black Sheep, Maintain Its Miracle Growth?

In less than a decade, Slovakia has gone from bottom of the class to best in show, with a 2.5% growth in 2012. Will it be able to keep up the miracle, or will it turn out to be just a mirage?

The past ten years have been a success story for Slovakia. The country was the last to arrive in the Eurozone (in 2009), and here it is, taunting Europe. Industrial production is still growing: +2% in May, +10.8% yearly, according to figures published on July 10. In 2012, the growth rate was approximately 2.5%, far from the other, considerably feebler European economies.

Who remembers that in October last year, Bratislava rejected the European Financial Stability Facility before forcing itself to approve it, at the cost of a political crisis? In June, Slovakian parliament ratified the European Stability Mechanism, to which it will contribute 659 million euros over five years. “We’ve often been considered the black sheep of Europe! And now we are the good guys!” says Juraj Karpis, an analyst at the Institute for Economic and Social studies in Bratislava.

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