Fico tells EU summit he opposes military aid for Ukraine

Fico tells EU summit he opposes military aid for Ukraine
Hungarian strongman Viktor Orban (left) has a new ally in Slovakia's Robert Fico (right) to replace Poland's Mateusz Morawieski. / bne IntelliNews
By Albin Sybera October 27, 2023

New Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico followed through on his opposition to aid for Ukraine at the European Summit summit in Brussels on October 27.

Fico told EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that Slovakia won’t support military aid to Ukraine under his watch.

“I informed Ursula von der Leyen that Slovakia will, from this day on, have its own opinion in Brussels,” Fico’s Facebook page stated in bold letters.

Fico told a Slovak parliamentary committee before his trip that there could be no military solution to the war, that  “an immediate halt to military operations is the best solution we have for Ukraine”, and that the EU "should change from an arms supplier to a peacemaker, according to wire agency reports. He also pledged to oppose further sanctions on Russia if they damage Slovakia.

Fico has expressed scepticism about increased economic aid for Ukraine, warning about corruption and said that “spending extra money on Ukraine was difficult for him to sell back home” according to Politico.

While in Brussels, Fico avoided taking direct questions from journalists.

The EU is discussing multi-year plans for €50bn in financial aid and up to €20bn in military aid for Ukraine, with final agreement only expected towards the end of the year.

The previous centre-right Slovak governments were among the strongest backers of Ukraine, supplying heavy weapons such as MiG-29 fighter jets, tanks, and an S-300 air defence system.

Fico had made it clear he wants to attend the EU summit ever since his populist Smer party formed a coalition with centre-left Hlas and far-right SNS following the snap vote held in Slovakia on September 30.

Media experts argue that Smer and other populist parties led an aggressive campaign on Ukraine that could have contributed to deepening fatigue in a country which has so far been a staunch supporter of Ukraine.  

Both Smer and Hlas were suspended from the European grouping of socialists (PES) for joining a coalition with SNS and for Smer’s stance on Ukraine. Smer party representatives have frequently parroted Kremlin propaganda, and Fico referred to the conflict as started by “Ukrainian fascists” in his video response to the PES suspension.

Fico also stated that in his meeting with von der Leyen he “clearly expressed criticism towards the EC for ignoring flagrant human rights transgressions and abuse of criminal law against the opposition in Slovakia” and that his cabinet will introduce changes to the criminal code.  

Several high-ranking Smer party members and state officials linked to Smer face criminal investigations related to Smer’s previous era in power, which ended amid the largest mass protests in the history of Slovakia after Jan Kuciak, an investigative journalist covering Italian mafia links to the Smer-led government, was murdered together with his fiancé Martina Kusnirova in 2018.

Slovakia’s new minister of interior, Matus Sutaj Estok of Hlas, immediately fired the head of police, Stefan Hamran, even though Hamran had already resigned in the wake of the incoming Smer-led cabinet and was on the way out of police at the end of the month.