The Party of European Socialists (PES) has suspended its Slovakian members over their perceived pro-Russian views.
The decision was announced on October 12 at a PES meeting, at which other differing values promoted by the Smer and Hlas parties were also highlighted.
This follows news that Smer’s leader Robert Fico is set to become Slovakia’s next Prime Minister after creating a coalition with Hlas and the hard-Right Slovak National Party (SNS).
PES, the umbrella organisation of the European Parliament’s centre-Left S&D Group, said it decided to suspend the Slovakians after their “clear divergence from the values of the PES family”.
It also cited “concerns raised” by the announcement of the Slovakian Government coalition with the “radical-Right” SNS.
Slovakia’s “pro-Russian” candidate Robert Fico looks set to become the nation’s new Prime Minister. https://t.co/kSYFiF14h6
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 12, 2023
The chief concern is Fico’s hard-line stance against the European Union’s support of Ukraine in its war against Russia.
In the run-up to the Slovakian elections on September 30, Fico campaigned on a platform of ending his country’s military aid to Ukraine.
In addition, while Smer and Hlas consider themselves Left-wing, they are very different from much of the Western Left. Even though the parties are in favour of greater social welfare and a tax-and-spend approach, they are highly conservative on social issues such as migration and gay marriage.
Smer’s membership has already caused headaches for PES and the S&D Group.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the centre-Right European People’s Party (EPP), has been making hay out of the situation.
At a press conference earlier in October, Weber criticised S&D for not taking a clear position on Smer, asking for “a clarification … on the Socialists’ side, what are they doing now with their own family member?”
He compared Fico to the Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán. Orbán’s Fidesz party had previously been a member of the EPP but left the group over increasing political differences.
Fidesz had grown more critical of the EU and had taken a tough stance against mass migration, leaving it at odds with the pro-EU EPP.
Fico himself has signalled that he cares little if PES and the S&D Group expel his party.
While many observers have labelled Smer “pro-Russian”, Fico maintains that his position is “pro-peace”. He claims Slovakia will continue to supply Ukraine with non-lethal humanitarian aid.
He accused the EU Socialists of being lapdogs of the US and of not being truly Left. “Either we say what the USA wants, or they’ll expel us,” Fico said.
“If our exclusion from the international party is to be a price for pursuing a genuine Left-wing agenda in Slovakia and voicing sovereign opinions, we are prepared to pay such a price.”
Robert Fico, the leader of Slovakia’s left-wing Smer party, has said that he would rather see his outfit thrown out of the European Parliament’s Socialist group than support Ukraine in its struggle against Russia. https://t.co/VVxWXhRNsc
— Brussels Signal (@brusselssignal) October 4, 2023
Currently, there are two Smer MEPs in the S&D Group. Since that is separate from the PES party, they remain within the S&D for the time being.
The S&D Group has welcomed the PES decision and has announced that its bureau will propose the expulsion of its Slovakian MEPs during the next Parliament plenary in Strasbourg.