As in some other Central and Eastern European countries, the Slovak society understood overnight that it lives in a state that has been seized and transformed into Mafia state. And it is not only about the accusations of collusion between the obscure Italians from 'ndrangheta and the highest government officials.

The people in Slovakia understood with anger and shock that the corrupt political elite created a system that is not a simple kleptocracy, but a sophisticated scheme of how to dominate the landscape and get rid of the illusion that it can be changed.

Thomas Masaryk

In Slovakia, many do not want to admit it today, but all that started at the beginning of the transformation in the early 1990s.

Thomas Masaryk’s idea that states are reproducing by ideas on which they were founded is very popular these days in Slovakia.

Independent Slovakia did not emerge as the expression and outcome of the ‘millennial emancipation effort of the Slovak nation’ – as we’ve been told by the political elite since 1993 – but in particular as a materialization of the effort to create a new Slovak economic elite and to privatize as much of the former state property as possible.

This is the tradition that is being reproduced today. Most recently, with the participation of the euro-funds and the new opportunities that EU membership has brought.

The state may have been stolen before it was born, and the Slovak oligarchs themselves are a good illustration of that.

Oligarchs moved to the highest stages of the power-tree and big political-elite players have become shareholders throughout the game.

The octopus of the “Dark Forces“ caught the country with a strong shriek and does not want to let it go.

February 2018 as an impulse

The reaction of the public, especially of young people, surprised cynical players of Slovak stagnant waters.

Why? The political elite, even without sociological education, had correctly predicted where the Slovak society was shifting. Society became very cynical, anomic, and full of aversion, nihilism and distrust on both horizontal and vertical levels.

Many people do not believe that it is possible to change anything at all. Paradoxically, this situation is convenient for cynical technicians of power.

How deep is a rabbit hole?

Fake and from the beginning artificial image of Slovakia as successful liberal democracy faded away when a large part of the Slovak public said „that is enough” in response to the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová, but mainly in response to what Ján Kuciak wrote.

Many people who have been silent for years became free and began to speak. Barriers have fallen. Policemen, farmers, officials, prosecutors, even former mafia guys have begun to show the Slovak public how tragically the country is corrupted and how the dark forces are connected.

And people were astonished to find themselves in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ situation and they started to discover how ‘deep is the rabbit hole’. And when they thought they had hit the bottom, a new, even more shocking case has been opened.

Emancipation of the young generation

In 2018, Slovak civil society awoke and emancipated. People stepped out of their shells – as in 1989 and 1998.

In particular, the young generation has begun to build its story. It should not be surprising – young people have been living in the EU for 14 years now, they have been travelling for 11 years without border controls across Europe, and paying with Euro for last 10 years.

Having high demands on the quality of life on a non-material level is a matter of course for them. They are accustomed to the demand for widespread civic and political participation, which does not end with participation in elections.

Zuzana Čaputová

Success of Zuzana Čaputová

Foreign media described Čaputová’s success as ‘a rare victory for liberal forces in Central Europe’. However incumbent President Andrej Kiska also represented a certain deviation from the Central European politics embodied by Miloš Zeman, Jarosław Kaczyński and Viktor Orbán.

An exclusive Focus poll conducted after the first round of elections asked Čaputová voters about their reasons for voting her. The most frequent answer was morality and decency (29% of voters), followed by the opinion that she is a new face and the country needs a change (21%).

In other words, the political offer and social demand come together in a rare way in Zuzana Čaputová.

Many people in Slovakia believe that Čaputová might be their last chance to return to the ideals of the 1989 Velvet Revolution. Zuzana Čaputová has brought about the hope that the optimistic variant – maintaining the basic principles of liberal democracy – will prevail in Slovakia.

Director of the Bratislava Policy Institute, Founder of the Center for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture


Scenarios for cohesive growth

As of 2019 the negotiations about the next Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) will enter a critical moment. In the face of an imminent Brexit and the fallout from global turmoil, the EU has to reflect on its guiding principles and take decisions to fulfil the promise of a united Europe.

Download the report in PDF

The Visegrad/Insight is the main platform of debate and analysis on Central Europe. This report has been developed in cooperation with the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS).

Launched on 1 October 2019 at the European #Futures Forum in Brussels.