Who is Robert Fico, the pro-Russian “anti-everything” prime minister and enemy of Ukraine


By John

Considered an enemy by Ukraine, to which he had said as soon as he was elected that he no longer wanted to send “a single bullet”; hostile to the EU, NATO and Kiev – defined the Ukrainians as “fascists” – supporter of “good relations with the Russian Federation”, Fico began his political career in the Communist Party shortly before the 1989 Velvet Revolution dissolved the former Czechoslovakia.

Now 60, he was Slovakia's representative at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg from 1994 to 2000. In 1999, after not being considered for a ministerial position, he left the Democratic Left Party (SDL) , political heir of the Communist Party, to found his own political formation, the Smer-Social Democrat (Smer-SD). The gamble paid off in 2006, when Smer-SD achieved an electoral success that catapulted Fico to the prime minister's seat two years after Slovakia's entry into the European Union.

Without thinking twice, Fico formed a coalition with the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS), with strong anti-refugee rhetoric and strong populist inclinations. Fico cleverly exploited the 2008 global financial crisis to boost his popularity by refusing to impose austerity measures. Slovakia's entry into the eurozone in 2009 capped his first four-year stint as prime minister, but the 2010 elections sent him back into opposition, having failed to form a coalition despite his victory.

A new electoral success came in 2012, after the fall of a centre-right coalition brought down by accusations of corruption. In 2014, however, he was defeated in the presidential race by Andrej Kiska, a philanthropist and political novice. When the refugee crisis engulfed Europe in 2015, Fico took a tough stance on migrants, refusing to “give rise to a distinct Muslim community in Slovakia” and criticizing the EU's quota program to redistribute refugees .

On this platform, Smer won the 2016 elections, but his term as prime minister ended two years later following the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his girlfriend which sparked a wave of anti-government sentiment across Slovakia. The 2020 election saw him lose but retain his seat in Parliament. His favorite motto describes his political history well: “Patience always brings red roses.” At the end of April his populist government adopted a controversial bill on public radio and television RTVS, which the prime minister accuses of lacking objectivity. The text was criticized by opposition and media rights groups, including Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

According to Michal Simecka, leader of the opposition party Progressive Slovakia (PS), “the government's intention is to create a state television with news programs that are not of a public nature”. For another opposition party, SaS (right), “RTVS will transform into a disinformation medium that will broadcast pro-government propaganda.” The RSF organization has previously warned of threats to press freedom in Slovakia, accusing the government of attempting to “impose its control over the content of public broadcasting” and “political control over the public audiovisual group”.