EP Socialists decide Fico's SMER should stay out in cold

Robert Fico

Almost exactly a year ago the Socialist grouping in the European Parliament decided to suspend the membership of Slovakia's Smer party - the party led by prime minister Robert Fico. The Party of European Socialists were angered by Smer's decision to go into coalition with the far-right Slovak National Party. On Thursday the European Socialists considered allowing Smer back in - but decided to leave the party out in the cold, for another few months at least.

The party of European Socialists last Thursday debated on the issue of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico's party Smer coming back to its structures. The president of the PES, Paul N. Rasmussen, proposed to postpone the final decision about Smer until it solves the problem with its coalition partner, the nationalist Slovak National Party, for its statements about minorities.

Smer has had its membership in PES suspended from October 2006 and since then is not involved in European parliamentary debates. The European socialists excluded Smer because it formed a government coalition with the SNS. PES spokesman Julian Scola said on Tuesday that the president of PES will propose on the Thursday meeting to give Smer more time to banish extremism from the mixed coalition government:

"The PES does not want to close the door to Smer. But the PES cannot let Smer into our social-democratic house when its coalition partner is making inflammatory statements about minorities. So we are prepared, we will suggest that Smer should be given more time to sort this problem out."

Robert Fico disavowed the statements of Jan Slota but he added for the Slovak media that Slota's statements were provoked by the leader of Slovak Hungarian Party, SMK, Pal Csaky. Fico reacted angrily to the decision of PES for the media because he does not think there are signs of extremism in the Slovak government. He also thinks Smer should be considered according to its achievements. The Minister of the Foreign Affairs Jan Kubis also disavowed the statements of the leader of the Slovak National Party Jan Slota:

"The statements of Mr. Slota do not represent in no case the position of the Slovak government. They are not present in the government program nor in the government actions in our foreign as well as domestic politics."

Slovak analyst Miroslav Kusy sees the negative consequences of Smer's absence in the European structures:

"It is rather rare in European policy that a governing party is not a part of the European structures. In this case, Smer is not a member of the Party of European Socialists and the European socialists called into question its reentry. Smer has a big handicap in comparison with other governing parties including the socialist parties, because it has no common European platform. This handicap is very visible in our foreign policy. In European structures a lot of questions are debated on a friendly unofficial level before they become an official standpoint. These debates are unavailable for Slovakia and therefore we are confronted only with the final decisions. If the European socialists want to keep their reputation, they have to insist on the conditions which they imposed on Smer at the beginning. Smer satisfied none of them. Smer stayed in the coalition with a nationalist Slovak national party and it is also supporting it. For example Smer let itself be lead by the agenda of SNS in the question of law on honouring Andrej Hlinka, a controversial historical politician. This agenda is appropriate for a national party but it is unacceptable for a socialist party."