‘Withhold funds or expel them!’ – German lawmakers lose their minds after Slovak presidential victory of Pellegrini

Presidential candidate Peter Pellegrini, centre, addresses supporters at his headquarters after a presidential runoff in Bratislava, Slovakia, early Sunday, April 7, 2024. A close ally of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, centre right, beat a pro-Western career diplomat to become Slovakia's new president, and succeed Zuzana Caputova, the country's first female head of state. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
By John Cody
4 Min Read

German lawmakers hit out at Slovakia following the presidential election victory of Peter Pellegrini, a key ally of left-nationalist Prime Minister Robert Fico, who also opposes further rearmament for Ukraine and advocates for peace.

The run-off success for Pellegrini on Saturday against career diplomat and Slovakia’s former foreign minister, Ivan Korčok, was met with criticism in Berlin as lawmakers from the mainstream parties expressed their concern at another European electorate opting for politicians skeptical of ongoing NATO support for Ukraine.

Norbert Röttgen, an MP for the German opposition Christian Democrats (CDU) and former chair of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, accused both Pellegrini and Fico of “openly sympathizing” with Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggested they were in cahoots with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who he described as “Putin’s Trojan horse in the EU.”

“The EU must not and cannot tolerate this any longer,” Röttgen added without qualifying what he expected Brussels to do about Slovak democracy in action and the electorate voting for a candidate he does not agree with.

The CDU lawmaker’s remarks were followed by Anton Hofreiter, an MP for the co-governing Green Party, who cryptically called on Europe to send an unequivocal message to the Slovak government following the electoral victory for Pellegrini.

“It is important that the Slovak government receives a clear warning signal from Berlin and Brussels,” he said, suggesting that “no more money will be allowed to flow from EU funds” to Bratislava if the government does not act in the way that other European nations expect.

Furthermore, he even floated the idea of EU member states that do not conform to the mainstream view among liberal lawmakers in Western Europe being thrown out of the bloc.

“[Hungary] must be shown the door. Slovakia will then have to decide whether it wants to follow Orbán or stay in the EU,” Hofreiter said.

The attacks had been expected by Fico who warned late on Sunday that his country now faces possible “punishment from the West for not electing its preferred candidate in Korčok, even predicting that calls would be made for the European Commission to withhold funds to Bratislava in the same way it has done previously to “dissenting” governments in Hungary and Poland.

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Despite the mainstream media’s desire to paint Pellegrini as pro-Russian, he immediately reiterated Slovakia’s commitment to the West under his presidency.

“This is not about the future direction of foreign policy. I also guarantee, like the other candidate, that we will continue to be a strong member of the EU and NATO,” he said.

Not all politicians were outraged by Slovak democracy working as it should, with Hungarian Prime Viktor Orbán congratulating Pellegrini on his “overwhelming victory,” describing the election as “a big win for the people of Slovakia and for advocates of peace all around Europe.”

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