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Q&A: How did Slovakia become one of the most politically polarised countries in Europe?

The Slovak national flag, left, flutters next to the flag of European Union in Bratislava
The Slovak national flag, left, flutters next to the flag of European Union in Bratislava Copyright Denes Erdos/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Denes Erdos/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Sergio Cantone
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Prominent Slovakian reporter Andrej Matišák tells Euronews about how his country has been engulfed by the wave of political polarisation sweeping across Europe.

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In an on-the-spot conversation with Andrej Matišák, a prominent journalist from the Slovakian daily newspaper Pravda, he explains that the seeds of violence in his country have found fertile ground in a context of deep radicalisation.

Slovakia appears to be experiencing a higher degree of political polarisation compared to other European countries, with a divide between pro-Western liberals and various antagonistic movements on the left and right.

This isn't the first time that Slovakia has been confronted with an act of political violence. Six years ago, the country was shaken by the assassination of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak, who was murdered due to his alleged investigations into the links between political figures and organised crime.

Euronews: What are your predictions for the political landscape in Slovakia following this act of violence?

Matišák: First of all, I wish Mr Fico all the best after this act of unjustified violence. 

The problem is that this crazy act of violence will worsen the situation in Slovakia, which is already an extremely polarised country. We had elections last September; we had presidential elections last March and April, and we are in the electoral campaign for the European Parliament. 

We have been under constant political pressure for more than six months. This government, led by Robert Fico, holds a notably radical agenda on various fronts. It clashes with the EU Commission over matters concerning the rule of law, media regulations, and their approach to labelling NGOs.

There's a parallel debate happening in Slovakia akin to the one in Georgia. It revolves around defining civil society organisations as "entities that receive foreign support."  Commissioner Jurova came to Bratislava three weeks ago and said publicly, "This is against the EU legislation". 

I am afraid that the toxic trends will become stronger. 

Euronews: Could the government potentially utilise this attack on the prime minister as a pretext to justify implementing legislative restrictions?

Matišák: I would expect our allies in the EU to play a moderating role and send a clear signal that this is not the way to move forward.  

Euronews: Is radicalisation deepening due to political leaders' incapacity or systemic issues?

Matišák: External factors like the pandemic and the war in Ukraine have certainly played a role. Slovakia's polarisation intensified during the COVID crisis, fueled by a robust anti-vaccination movement. Prime Minister Fico leveraged this movement for political gain. Concerns have arisen that this government could lead Slovakia down a path similar to Orban's Hungary.

Euronews: Could the perpetrator embody, to some extent, the heightened discontent towards the current government's political actions?

Matišák: It is too early to say. Yet, I wouldn't be surprised if he said that he did this because it was the only way to stop Mr Fico and save the Slovakian democracy.

Watch the interview in the video player above

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