Viktor Orbán loses an important ally in Europe

Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister and a left-leaning politician not immune to populism, nationalism and euroscepticism, has distanced himself from Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s hard-line anti-EU and anti-western rhetoric. Most crucially: Mr. Fico confirmed that for him, cooperation and a close alliance with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Germany and President Emmanuel Macron’s France is more important than cooperation among the countries of the Visegrad Group, namely the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. Mr. Orbán has relied on the Visegrad Group to exert joint pressure on the EU, especially in his anti-migrant stance. Yet now, Mr. Fico concedes that he knows what side his bread is buttered on.

In stark contrast to Mr. Orbán’s concept of a less tightly-knit and less integrated EU, Mr. Fico declared that Slovakia’s future is in a deeply integrated EU “core”. This concept refers to an EU of several “speeds,” including a core encompassing member states that seek deeper integration in a federal arrangement and those, like perhaps Hungary and Poland, who will remain on the periphery, as second tier members.

“The fundamentals of my policy are being close to the (EU) core, close to France, to Germany,” remarked Mr. Fico on Wednesday. Mr. Fico did add that Slovakia would continue to play a role in the Visegrad Group, but implied that cooperation with France and Germany, and with a “core” EU took priority.  The Slovak prime minister, ever the pragmatist, may have jumped on the bandwagon of anti-EU, anti-elitist and populist rhetoric a year ago, at the height of a global populist backlash, but with signs that this may be fading in Europe, he is aligning himself with Germany and France, adding that this simply makes economic sense for a small country of just over 5 million, like Slovakia.

Viktor Orbán (left) with Robert Fico (right). Photo: Szilárd Koszticsák / MTI

Mr. Fico governed Slovakia from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012 to the present day. He leads a party called Smer–sociálna demokracia (Direction — Social Democracy) and had traditionally espoused a left-wing nationalism, despite presiding over the introduction of the euro–the first country to do so in the region. Mr. Fico has not been terribly finicky when it came to forming coalition governments with xenophobes and the far-right. including the Slovak National Party (SNS), for which it earned itself a suspension from the Party of European Socialists. It’s worth mentioning here that SNS was also rabidly anti-Hungarian and has tried to spark paranoia among the Slovak majority. In one case, SNS published a map claiming to show areas of Slovakia that the Hungarian minority wanted to “occupy.”

Since 2016, Mr. Fico leads a rather colourful coalition, which includes not only the Slovak nationalists of SNS, but also Hungarian politicians from Most-Híd, a party that mainly represents the interests of the Hungarian minority of southern Slovakia.

There is, however, one area where Mr. Fico has not yet broken away from Mr. Orbán, and this is his relationship with Russia. Mr. Fico, who one spoke of “Slavonic solidarity,” has remained almost completely silent on the actions of Vladimir Putin, including the annexation of Crimea.


  1. More important is what Hungary looses -it’s place among the European democracies and its wellbeing.
    Slovakia caught up and has now overtaken Hungary in almost all economic cathegories: e.g. 20% ahead in GDP/head, more than 50% in disposable income and it shows in the streets. The Poles are overtaking now and the Czechs are miles ahead.

    All this from a Hungarian head start in 1989.

    But the prickly Hungarians shot themselves in the foot. Again.

  2. Let’s not forget the Czechs and the Slovaks were always more advanced !

    • Not so.
      The only country with better figures in the 90s was Slovenia. Czechoslovakia was close behind Hungary and Slovakia was the weaker part there. Now it’s decisively overtaken Hungary.
      Romania is growing 6% at present and closing in, even with the many doctored indicators of the Orban regime.

  3. Yeeee! Fico and Slovaks are cowards, what a victory for humanity! Visegrad stood up for what is right, namely the right of native European cultures to say no to mass-colonization. All native cultures have the right to survive. It is native cultures which make the world the diverse place it is. But evidently there is this “progressive” movement, which became not only mainstream but the new authoritarian, absolutist ideology in the Western World, which believes that distinct native European cultures are not worthy of being part of the diverse global cultural make-up. They feel that we need to be exterminated through mass-colonization. How “enlightened”! BTW, the ones pushing for the mass-colonization of North America two centuries ago proclaimed the process to be “progress”. Progress-progressive…..

  4. Observer, with all due respect, it is during the 2002-2010 period and in the immediate aftermath of the economic mess that was left behind that Hungary lost out massively to the likes of Slovakia. Since 2013, Hungary has actually been catching up again, whether we are looking at GDP, wages and so on. Try to be honest!

    • Peter
      Not so. Read the figures.
      Hungary’s falling behind is most pronounced in the 1990-1993 period (until Bokros/Horn fixed it) and then in the 2010-2014 period (financial crisis of 2008 excluded). The first Orban gaff in May 2010 was stopping the EU cohesion funds projects (to give the contracts to cronies), in July (?) Kosa, Szijjàrto helped shoot down the forint from 270 to 310, etc.
      The 3%+ GDP growth for 2014/15 was achieved by receiving EU subsidies equal to unprecedented 6%+ GDP.
      With smaller EU subs 2016 was only 1.6%.

      Everyhting else is stagnation or going down: investment, productivity, education, health, innovation….

  5. Hungarian political leaders do seem to have a long tradition of betting on the wrong horse. Do we remember World War I and World War II, for two dramatic examples? Somehow the Romanians and the Slavs were more politically in tune to geopolitical reality and were more savvy than the Hungarians. But then, what would Hungarian patriotism be today without the crocodile tears of national victimhood??

    • Lamarck

      Nail on the head.
      Suicidial they are, just as the above Peter example rambles agains progress, while the half baked Orban talks about going back to pre 1944.
      Until WW2 they stil used to say with repugnance that these money, trade and industry things were for the Jews !! Compare to the Dutch and English who established the East India trading cos in 1600/1602 !!

      And the bemoaning of culture – the West Europeans with their vast cultures are not concerned, the little Hun fascists are. Those who restricted and chased away 10 Nobel laureates of Jewish origin and tried to suppress or ignore at best many Hun writers and arts people in the 30s, Bartok included.
      Not to forget the “1000 year” panel, as if not all other Europeans (save for the Balts perhaps) didn’t have much longer history/ culture. Funny enough, even the Bulgarians have 30% more of that (if we take this ridiculous approach).

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