NATO member Slovakia is set to undergo a change in government which is expected to bring about divergent policies in areas such as illegal migration and support for the Ukrainian war effort. Former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and his party, SMER, have signed a coalition deal to form a new government.
Having previously served as prime minister on three occasions, Fico won the election by promising to halt military aid to Ukraine while adopting a tough stance on the issue of rising illegal migration and increased prices. Fico’s party, SMER-SSD (Direction-Slovak Social Democracy), which leans towards the left and holds a populist stance, forged a coalition last week with the center-left HLAS (Voice) and the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS). This coalition will have 79 out of 150 seats in the parliament.
The coalition agreement includes the allocation of cabinet positions, with SMER gaining control of the defense, finance, foreign, and justice ministries. Slovakia currently faces a high deficit, surpassing the euro zone’s limit of 3% of gross domestic product.
Fico voiced his intent to prevent budget tightening from negatively impacting social standards and to create room for investments, indicating a slower pace of fiscal consolidation compared to the recommendations of the outgoing caretaker government. He emphasized the need for Slovakia to support economic growth.
Fico outlined his priorities, which include improving living standards and pursuing a foreign policy focused on protecting national interests. He also declared that the era of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) controlling the country is over.
During a news conference, Fico expressed the urgency of signing the coalition agreement as soon as possible. Despite acknowledging the fiscal and geopolitical challenges that lie ahead for the new government, he stated that their previous experience of ruling Slovakia from 2006 to 2010 and 2012 to 2020 proves their capability to handle these tasks.
Alongside Fico, Hlas chairman Peter Pellegrini also expressed confidence in their decision to form the coalition and emphasized the need for a government that doesn’t waste time bridging extreme ideological differences.
The change in government in Slovakia raises questions about its future stance on military aid to Ukraine as the previous administration pledged to support Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. The new government’s approach aligns more closely with Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has advocated for peace talks with Russia, a proposition rejected by Kyiv and its Western allies. They argue that such talks would only encourage further Russian aggression.
Overall, the new government in Slovakia, led by Robert Fico and his coalition partners, aims to implement policies that prioritize economic growth, protect national interests, and address the challenges facing the country. The divergence in their approach to military aid to Ukraine highlights the complexity of balancing regional alliances and foreign policy considerations in the face of geopolitical tensions.