Fighting breaks out in Slovak parliament during vote on controversial military treaty with US

Slovakia's Foreign Minister Ivan Korcok speaks with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a signing ceremony at the State Department, in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022. (Ken Cedeno/Pool via AP)
By Karolina Klaskova
5 Min Read

The beginning of Tuesday’s negotiating of the National Council on the military agreement with the United States was hindered by the opposition, with members of the People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) blocking the lectern and scuffling with other politicians at one point.

The Slovak parliament began negotiations on a contentious defense cooperation agreement with the United States on Tuesday afternoon. Shortly after negotiations began, two opposition deputies holding a Slovak flag first occupied the lectern, while others from the opposition began fighting with colleagues from the governing coalition.

Politicians from the governing coalition then unrolled the Ukrainian flag in the National Council, probably to express support to Ukraine due to its possible military conflict with Russia. LSNS deputies responded by pouring water on the Ukrainian flag, and grabbing it from the deputies.

Opposition deputies began whistling at the beginning of Defense Minister Jaroslav Naď’s speech. Afterwards, the far-right People’s Party Our Slovakia (LSNS) leader, Marián Kotleba, approached the minister, Parliament Speaker Boris Kollár, and interrupted the meeting. Just before that, Kollár expelled several LSNS deputies from the chamber.

The Ukrainian embassy in Slovakia criticized the incident, while the head of Slovak diplomacy, who was visiting Ukraine at the time of the incident, has already announced that Slovakia will apologize through diplomacy.

Slovakia’s recent defense treaty with the United States has provoked political conflict in the country, with those opposed to the treaty saying that it costs Slovakia too much of its sovereignty, while others view it in a positive light.

“The agreement brings more security for citizens. The agreement expresses our foreign policy orientation. The USA is undoubtedly our strongest ally,” stated Naď during his speech.

After Naď’s speech, LSNS deputies continued to obstruct, and due to their whistling, the chairman repeatedly interrupted the meeting to bring order. Later, two opposition deputies spoke in the debate.

The National Council rejected the request of Attorney General Maroš Žilinka to speak in the debate. According to the Slovak media, Žilinka wanted to tell the deputies that the agreement allowing Soviet troops to remain in what was then Czechoslovakia after the military invasion in 1968 was more advantageous for the country at the time than the current agreement with Slovakia and the U.S.

Since he was restricted from speaking, one of the deputies of the parliament then read Žilinka’s speech in the chamber.

The parliament closed the debate with a vote, and deputies will decide on the agreement on Wednesday.

Slovaks opposed to the defense treaty

According to an earlier survey, the majority of Slovaks do not support the agreement. The Median SK agency stated that 54 percent of Slovaks spoke out against the treaty with the U.S., while only 32 percent of respondents supported the treaty.

The Direction–Slovak Social Democracy party convened a protest over the agreement, with the party’s leader, Robert Fico, claiming that the police had forbidden him to demonstrate.

“The agreement is approved only to bring the U.S. military closer to the Russian border,” the former Slovak PM said.

The agreement, which was signed by the representatives of both countries last week, will allow American soldiers to use the infrastructure of two Slovak military airports. Slovakia could then receive a financial gift from the U.S. for its modernization.

According to government politicians, not all members of the four-member government coalition, which has a majority in the National Council, will support the agreement with the U.S. during the vote. According to its decision, the debate on the treaty will continue uninterrupted. The deputies will then vote on the document at the regular meeting of the Council.

Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová, who will complete the ratification process on behalf of the Slovak side, has previously supported the conclusion of the agreement. She enforced the interpretation clause to the text that the treaty does not establish military bases in Slovakia, nor does it place nuclear weapons, for example, on its territory. The Slovak government or parliament will continue to decide on the activities of American soldiers in the country. The United States has added a similar clause to the treaty.

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