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Democratic Dilemma
[Opinion] Europe's worst fears are slowly coming true
John Horvath (jhorv)     Print Article 
Published 2006-07-30 11:24 (KST)   
The recent formation of an ultra-nationalist government in Slovakia has once more forced Eurocrats to face some uncomfortable truths. The EU has consistently taken various measures to protest against the political entities it doesn't agree with. Such examples include the cold shoulder given to Austria when Jorg Haider and the Freedom Party achieved a substantial electoral victory in 2000, and subsequently joined a government coalition headed by Wolfgang Schussel's People's Party. Similar was the reception given to Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi in Brussels when his country took over the rotating presidency of the EU last year.

Such strong political views emanating from Brussels isn't limited to just European politics, however. When Hamas secured a major victory in Palestinian elections earlier this year, the EU tacitly refused to accept the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people by withholding funding and laying down conditions to Hamas. These and other such moves reveal the hypocritical nature of Eurocrats sitting in Brussels.

The inherent weaknesses within the democratic principles of the EU has now been made more apparent following the formation of an ultra-nationalist government in Slovakia. This government includes the likes of Vladimir Meciar, who is clearly disliked in Brussels. Indeed, Slovakia's membership to the EU at one point hinged on the defeat of Meciar and his party in previous elections. What Eurocrats didn't realize was that their arch rival was a political phoenix who has throughout his career been able to rise from the ashes of defeat and return to the center stage of Slovak politics.

Hence, although Brussels may put certain political conditions on entry to the EU, once a country is within the walls of fortress Europe these controls are almost useless. Indeed, Slovakia will now be a test for the EU to see if it is in fact a tame and toothless tabby or an organization capable of a lion's roar.

Unlike the previous challenges Eurocrats had to face until now, the problem with the new Slovak government is that the ultra-nationalism it exhibits isn't merely limited to the personalities of one or two individuals. The Slovak National Party (SNS) won over 11 percent of the vote on the back of its outspoken anti-Hungarian stance, among other things. The neo-fascist tendencies of the party is further reinforced by its Nazi-like logo.

Still, individuals do matter somewhat and the head of the SNS is what has most people worried. Jan Slota, the head of the SNS, claimed that recent statements by Slovak Hungarian politicians in support of autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in the region are a provocation that needs to be forcefully opposed. He was also once quoted as saying "Slovakia has good tanks and we can raze Budapest with them."

Meanwhile, the new Slovak government itself appears to be not too bothered by the issue. Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose left-leaning Smer party is the major coalition partner with 29 percent of the vote, blamed his coalition's opponents -- including the Hungarian Coalition party -for stirring up claims that the nationalists would endanger minority rights.

Not only this, but when the Hungarian Foreign Minister, Kinga Goncz, asked her Slovak counterpart, Jan Kubis, to ensure that his new government distance itself from anti-Hungarian comments, her request was diplomatically ignored. Kubis simply noted that the cabinet would do all it could to ensure minority rights, but said that the government did not accept responsibility for comments made by smaller parties against minorities. Admittedly, the government earlier this week distanced itself from some of Slota's political comments concerning the Hungarian Coalition Party, but still fell short of condemning the general undercurrent to anti-Hungarian sentiment within Slovak politics.

The Slovak scenario is, in many ways, the EU's worst fears coming true. Prior to EU enlargement toward the former East Bloc, some had warned that one of the dangers of EU expansion to the region was the threat of the "Balkanisation of Europe," that is, petty rivalries and nationalistic rhetoric spilling over into Brussels from Central and Eastern Europe. With future EU expansion to now include countries such as Romania and Turkey, both of which have minority issues with existing member states (Hungary and Greece respectively), there is every reason to believe that the situation may get worse before it gets better.

The challenges the EU had to face until now in dealing with what it considers unsavory political entities (e.g., Haider, Berlusconi) have all been solved on their own accord. Yet it's hard to see the rivalries of Central and Eastern Europe fading away so easily. Moreover, politicians at the EU level need to realize that the age-old rivalries among European states which, in many ways, is responsible for making Europe what it is, can't be simply brushed under the rug of neo-liberalism. Europe is more than just the free movement of goods and services; it's also the movement of ideologies and concepts, which are pawned by brokers who are just as competitive and arrogant as their business-oriented counterparts.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter John Horvath

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