The rise of “pro-Russian” parties in Austria and Slovakia: a “disaster” for the European Commission, which would penalize aid to kyiv

The rise of “pro-Russian” parties in Austria and Slovakia: a “disaster” for the European Commission, which would penalize aid to kyiv

2023-06-10 11:00:00

The European Union, which is trying somehow to maintain a united front against Russia with the ambiguous positions of Hungary and Bulgaria, must face the rise of “pro-Russian” parties in Austria and Slovakia . For officials at the European Commission relayed by Politicoa possible victory of these political parties would be a “disaster” which would penalize aid to kyiv and make it easier to fight the sanctions imposed on Moscow.

In Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) has risen to the top of the polls by taking advantage of the country’s socio-economic situation and the fall in popularity of the government, made up of the Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) and environmentalists. The other opposition party, the Social Democrats (SPÖ), plagued by scandals and internal differences, is just as fragile.

The FPÖ, a far-right party, won second place in the regional ballot in January 2023 in Lower Austria, the largest “land” (federated state) and the second most populous in the country. Enough to deprive the SPÖ Social Democrats of an absolute majority and force them to accept a coalition.

Countering sanctions and complicating aid to kyiv

The Secretary General of the FPÖ, Herbert Kickl, former Minister of the Interior, does not hide his ambition : to remain at the head of the voting intentions to win the next elections of 2024 and become chancellor. If the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, has Express ses “serious doubts” as to Kickl’s success, “who wouldn’t be trustworthy”this possible success worries another body of the European Union, namely the Commission.

At the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the FPÖ pleaded for Austria to mediate between the two countries. But Herbert Kickl has repeatedly expressed his rejection of sanctions against Moscowa form of “political naivete” Who “would not resolve the conflict”. Denouncing a desire by NATO and the United States to “provoking the Russians”, he described his country’s participation in the sanctions against Moscow as “a violation of Austria’s constitutional neutrality”. The SG of the FPÖ has pledged to use Austria’s veto in the European Council to cancel them.

This commitment would raise concern among officials at the European Commission, who believe that Politico that a victory for this party would endow Moscow with a“powerful tool against Ukraine” to counter sanctions and complicate aid to kyiv.

The US media, which does not reveal the identity of these officials, stresses that the same scenario is feared in Slovakia. The fear is shared by the President of the Republic, Zuzana Čaputová. This Central European country could follow Hungary and become a “problem child” she warned. His concern would relate in particular to “a spread of misinformation” who could use the upcoming parliamentary election to undermine his country’s support for Ukraine.

In his opinion, this “spreading Russian disinformation” would be the source of the opinion of the Slovaks. According to a poll by think tank GLOBSEC, only 40% of the population believe that Russia is mainly responsible for the war in Ukraine. A September 2022 local survey affirm that “more than half of Slovaks would welcome a Russian military victory over Ukraine”.

The FPÖ and the SMER in power, “a disaster”

Zuzana Čaputová is sure that the access of “populist parties” in power would make his country, a precious support of kyiv, an ersatz of Hungary and the foreign policy of its Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. One of these parties is the Smer-SD, led by former Prime Minister Robert Fico. Like the FPÖ in Austria, the Smer-SD is leading the polls in Slovakiawhose early legislative elections are scheduled for September.

Some attribute the Smer-SD’s rise in popularity to its “pro-Russian” and “anti-Ukrainian” slogans as well as its stance on social issues. Hostile to the current president, qualified “US agent”the party also opposed the delivery of MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Its founder and current leader, Robert Fico, has served as Prime Minister three times. He resigned in 2018 after demonstrations organized following the murder of an investigative journalist, who was investigating links between the Slovak government and the Calabrian mafia. He was also the subject of an organized crime investigation in 2022, without his parliamentary immunity being lifted.

Fico has pledged to end Slovakia’s military support for kyiv if elected. Like Herbert Kickl, he has critical the delivery of arms to the neighboring country and the sanctions imposed on Moscow since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, believing that these measures “harm the population and not the regime”.

Her party rejected the President’s criticism, accusing her of leading a “very dirty political practice” in “accusing opponents of spreading disinformation”. The Smer-SD also claims not to want “change the direction of foreign policy” of Slovakia. “Our political party fully supports Slovakia’s EU and NATO membership,” a added Roth Neveďalová, International Secretary for Political Education.

Recognizing the “right of Ukrainians to defend themselves”, she reiterated the party’s call for a ceasefire and a peace process. “We cannot send any military support to Ukraine, simply because there is no more military equipment in Slovakia.”

Positions that do not seem to reassure officials at the European Commission, who have described a possible victory for these Austrian and Slovak parties in the next elections as “disaster”.

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