Slovak Opposition Scores Upset in Presidential Vote over Fico’s Ally 

Democratic Security Outlook 2024: March 25-31

25 March 2024

Slovakia’s opposition figure and ex-diplomat Ivan Korčok confounded opinion polls to score a first-round victory in the presidential election on Saturday, edging ahead of lower house speaker Peter Pellegrini, an ally of pro-Russian Prime Minister Robert Fico. A run-off between the two men will be held on 6 April.

Upcoming on Visegrad Insight:

  • Wojciech Przybylski and Jan Farfał ask what policies can make a difference with enlargement. 
  • Vojtěch Berger explores the Bratislava–Budapest–Moscow hotline and what Babiš doesn’t say about Fico and Orbán.
  • Spasimir Domaradzki explains the struggles with Bulgaria forming a new government. 

EU/REGIONAL 

  • The EU summit failed to agree on common EU bonds to fund defence spending, with a number of “frugal” nations, including the Netherlands and Germany, opposing the expansion of EU authority into defence. The leaders agreed to come back to the issue in June. Read the full post-summit statement   
  • The summit agreed to slap tariffs on Russian grain and food exports that have been compounding the oversupply on the EU market, angering farmers who have demanded curbs on imports also from Ukraine. 
  • The EU extended Ukraine’s tax-free access despite pressure from Poland and France, which sought strict quotas. The EU farm ministers will meet their Ukrainian counterpart in Brussels on 26 March.
  • Russia was shaken by a deadly terror attack on a concert hall on the outskirts of Moscow, which hollowed out President Vladimir Putin’s celebration of securing another term in fake elections. Putin had dismissed warnings of the attack from Western intelligence agencies as “an effort to intimidate Russia”. 
  • While ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in which over 100 people were murdered, Putin’s regime sought to implicate Ukraine. 
  • Western analysts such as Professor Timothy Snyder believe this aimed to provide cover for continued Russian atrocities as well as to give Putin an excuse to further crackdown on dissent and pave the way to a mass mobilisation. Ukraine denied any involvement in the bloodbath. 
  • Taiwan’s deputy president-elect visited Czechia and Poland, angering China. 
  • The European Court of Justice ruled against regulations on fingerprints on national ID cards. 
  • Armenia is ready to cede territory to Azerbaijan to prevent another armed conflict and normalise relations between the two countries, the Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan said
  • The EU sanctioned 33 Russians, including heads of penal colonies and judges involved in the persecution and death of opposition leader Alexey Navalny. 
  • The steady decline of inflation in the region over the year continues. In Romania, Czechia and Poland, the inflation rate increased slightly over the last quarter of 2023 before returning to a downward trend in 2024. The largest decline in inflation over the year occurred in Hungary.

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