Slovak president hopeful may fall short of mending ties with Czechia, experts say

Slovak president hopeful may fall short of mending ties with Czechia, experts say |

Ivan Korčok, the pro-EU candidate in Slovakia’s presidential race and winner of the first round, has made his intentions to mend relations with Czechia clear, though experts believe it might not be enough due to diverging stances over Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Between the meeting of Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanár with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Turkey in early March, the recent suspension of intergovernmental consultations, and Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s comments about Czechia jeopardising relations because of its interest in supporting Ukraine, relations between the once close nations have become rocky.

While the situation has since calmed down and representatives from both countries have met several times, the future winner of the second round of the presidential election on 6 April, between Korčok and former prime minister Peter Pellegrini, a Fico ally, could bring a new dynamic to the relationship.

“Even the voters of the ruling coalition surely do not agree with the way we are distancing ourselves, insulting our closest partners and burning bridges with those closest to us, the Czech Republic and Poland,” Korčok, Slovakia’s former foreign minister, said after his surprise triumph in the first election round on Saturday.

However, several political experts have commented on what to expect after the next and final round on 30 March.

“If Pellegrini wins, we can expect relations between the Czech presidents to be standard, not above standard, as they were between Petr Pavel and [President] Zuzana Čaputová. A certain chemistry and a similar world view helped the above-standardness,” political scientist Pavel Šaradin of Masaryk University recently told

“With Korčok, the superiority could continue because I think they understand each other in a number of areas,“ he added.

These words were echoed by Slovak political experts contacted by Euractiv Slovakia. 

According to them, Korčok would most likely continue in the political legacy of Slovakia’s former pro-Western presidents Andrej Kiska (2014-2019) and Zuzana Čaputová (2019-present) and would “try to neutralise the excesses” of Fico’s government.

However, as Radoslav Štefančík, a political analyst at the University of Economics in Bratislava, points out, even following in Čaputová’s footsteps may not be enough for Bratislava to “redeem itself” in its relations with other countries.

“The presidential elections will not have an impact on the foreign policy direction of Slovakia because it is determined by the government,” Štefančík said to Euractiv Slovakia.

“However, the verbal statements presented by government representatives would be a different matter. As president, Pellegrini would quietly tolerate them. Korčok, on the other hand, would clearly side with our Western partners,” the expert added.

Nevertheless, Štefančík pointed out that Slovakia would have a problem regardless of who sits in the presidential palace, as “the Slovak prime minister is already not welcome at some meetings, even though there is a pro-Western head of state sitting in the presidential palace”.

“So not the president, but the government will have its main say in Slovak foreign policy,” Štefančík added.

(Ondřej Plevák |, Natália Silenská |

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Slovak president hopeful may fall short of mending ties with Czechia, experts say |

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