Slovak President-elect favours Kosovo recognition

Andrej Kiska to become President of Slovakia on June 15th · Slovakia is one of five EU member states not to accept independence of former Serbian province · Hungarian party candidate was most voted candidate in four southern districts

President-elect of Slovakia Andrej Kiska (left image, picture by MGlen) believes his country should change directon and recognize the independence of Kosovo. Kiska, who will become President of Slovakia on June 15th, last Saturday defeated Social Democrat candidate and current Prime Minister Robert Fico in the second round of the presidential election (first round results here). Contrary to Kiska, Fico is opposed to Kosovo recognition. Slovakia remains one of five EU member states that reject the independence of the former Serbian province.

While Slovakian presidents have few powers and it is the Parliament who should make a decision on Kosovo, the fact that Kiska could push from his post for Kosovo recognition could at least force Slovak leaders to discuss the issue again. Close to Slovakia, fellow EU member state Romania is also debating on that. While the country maintains that Kosovo independence was illegal, Prime Minister Victor Ponta is pushing since 2013 for the recognition of the Balkan country in 2015.

Aside from Slovakia and Romania, the other EU members that do not recognize Kosovo are Spain, Cyprus and Greece.

Fico versus Kiska

Robert Fico has been keeping a Slovak nationalist profile for years. The Prime Minister had even said that Slovakia had not been established "preferentially for minorities, although we respect them, but mainly for the Slovak statehood nation". Fico had also stated that minority groups had "blackmailed" Slovakia. Relations with Hungary have not always been easy, especially after Fico criticized Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's party Fidesz for being "extreme nationalist".

However, in recent years Fico's policies have not been especially marked by attacks against the Hungarian community, and his electoral campaign has focused on ending the crisis and his experience in the international arena.

Andrej Kiska has not taken sides in relation to non-Slovak communities in the country (Hungarians and Roma, especially) and has led a campaign emphasizing his independence from political parties. Espousing more conservative views than those of Fico and exploiting an image of being a sensitive businessman (he established a charity that helps families with members suffering from serious illnesses), Kiska has managed to secure the support of those voters opposed to the Social Democratic candidate, thus winning the second round of the election with 59.4 % of the votes.

Strong performance of Hungarian party candidate in the south

A Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MKP) candidate, Gyula Bárdos, also run the election campaign. Although Bárdos had no chance of winning since he had no significant support outside his own Hungarian community, MKP said it was important for Hungarians to have their own representative in the election In the first round, Bardos was the most voted candidate in four southern districts (out of 79 in the whole country), all four bordering Hungary. In two of those districts (Dunajská Streda and Komárno), Bárdos got more than 50% of the votes.

However, Bardos was eliminated in the first round as he got 5.1% of the vote at the state level. MKP believes the results have been good for the party. The Hungarian party was left with no parliamentary representation after the 2010 election (4.3% of the vote, below the 5% threshold needed to be allocated seats), so the party's public profile has declined.

Once Bárdos could not run for the second round, Hungarian-majority districts that had given significant support to him voted massively for Kiska. However, MKP did not recommend to vote for Kiska or Fico. As for Fico, the party said the Prime Minister had been showing for years that he was not a reliable partner for Hungarians. And on Kiska, MKP argued he had not done enough to try to convince the Hungarians about the benefits of his project.

(This article was written with input from Slovakia-based Catalan journalist Hilari Ruiz de Gauna.)