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Czech-Slovak split over Ukraine grows as Prague 'postpones' consultations

by Martin Fornusek March 7, 2024 12:10 PM 2 min read
Petr Fiala, Czech Republic's prime minister (R), greets Robert Fico, Slovakia's prime minister, as he arrives for a meeting in Prague, Czechia, on Feb. 27, 2024. (Milan Jaros/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
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Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico on March 6 accused Prague of "endangering" Czech-Slovak relations by "supporting the war in Ukraine" while Bratislava "talks about peace."

Fico made the statement in reaction to Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala's decision to postpone consultations between the two countries that were planned for April. Fiala justified this by "different opinions on key foreign policy issues."

"We acknowledge that the Czech government decided to endanger (our relations) because it wants to support the war in Ukraine, while the Slovak government openly talks about peace," Fico said in a video published on his official Facebook page.

Initially supporting Ukraine on military and political levels, Slovakia's foreign policy took a sharp turn after populist leader Fico won the parliamentary elections last September while running on a Ukraine-skeptic platform.

Under Fico's leadership, Bratislava's foreign policy took a more amicable position toward Russia, mirroring the stances of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban while growing further apart from other partners like Czechia.

"Our partners on the other side of the world understand that Europe's security affects the security of the whole world, which is why I'm sorry that our Slovak colleagues don't share this perspective," Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky said.

Prague namely criticized a meeting of Slovak Foreign Minister Juraj Blanar with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum in Antalya, Turkey, earlier in March.

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Czechia and Slovakia have traditionally been close partners, maintaining warm relations since the peaceful split of their common state of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

The two countries have carried out regular bilateral consultations since 2012, with the last one taking place in April 2023, months before Fico's government took office.

The Slovak prime minister has repeatedly criticized military aid for Ukraine and sanctions against Russia while making statements parroting pro-Kremlin talking points.

Slovakia has, however, not obstructed the 50-billion-euro financing package for Ukraine or Kyiv's EU accession efforts as Hungary did. Despite his vocal opposition to military aid for Ukraine, Fico allowed arms supplies for the besieged country on a commercial basis.

In comparison, Czechia maintains its pro-Ukraine policy and is currently spearheading an allied initiative to supply Ukraine with 800,000 artillery shells from abroad since Kyiv faces critical ammunition shortages.

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