When the media informed about an unexpectedly high electoral turnout shortly after the election, no one still had any idea just how surprising the results of the Slovak general election would be.
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The referendum on family initiated by a group of Conservative NGOs has divided the Slovak citizenry into two opposing camps. Despite the conflictual nature of the campaign, the referendum has demonstrated that Slovakia is ready to handle civil-society deliberations on a large scale, which could be a sign indicating the gradual maturing of Slovak civil society.
In 2004, eight Central and Eastern European countries (CEECs) and two Mediterranean countries entered the European Union (EU). Hailed by some as the “New Europe”, the CEECs seemed to have finally affirmed their European identity. Ten years later, one is naturally tempted to examine whether the CEECs’ EU membership has indeed made them more “European”.
The final run-off, between the country’s prime minister, Robert Fico, and an independent candidate, Andrej Kiska, has ended with a spectacular victory for the latter. As a result, Slovakia shall, for the first time in modern history, have a president who hadn’t been a member of not just the communist, but any political party in his life.
Self-restraint will be the key test of Fico’s second government. Fico has periodically demonstrated an ability to take the long view, but Slovakia’s first single-party parliamentary majority will produce strong temptations to opt for short-term institutional gains for himself and financial gains for his supporters. If Fico can resist those temptations, he may secure for himself a long future in politics and a place in Slovakia’s history. If he cannot, then in 2016 he may again find himself on the losing end of electoral calculations.
Even though, with the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, Galicia ceased to exist, the idea of Galicia has a kind of ghostly presence in contemporary politics. The area was incorporated in 1919—1923 in the resurrected Polish state, only to be divided twenty years later between Germany and the Soviet Union as a result of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. This cleaving in two endured through the “shift” of Poland westwards after the Second World War. East Galicia became part of Soviet Ukraine and thereafter of independent Ukraine.
The situation of the Romani has not improved since the fall of the Wall and the enlargement of the EU. Europe’s largest minority live as outsiders, and often under the threat of violence.
During the Cold War each side produced propaganda which highlighted the differences between the two systems and peoples, “the others”. There were, however, also conceptions of “the other” derived from sporadic but real meetings, meetings which awoke curiosity and a willingness to establish closer relations. The Aleksanteri Institute’s ninth annual conference, “Cold War: Interactions Reconsidered”, held in Helsinki fall 2009, examined these more low-key contacts and varying interpersonal relations and attitudes.