When I logged into Facebook this morning it resembled a situation after a major sport success of a national team. The whole “wall” was full of comments and articles on a single topic – a brown stain in the political map of Slovakia after the regional elections. Everybody was presenting his or her opinion on the unfortunate victory of Marian Kotleba, the head of a Nazi-like party, who was elected in one of the regions and will be at its head for the next four years. His victory has only one positive side – that I can tidy up my Facebook friends list and delete anybody who supports this individual.
How did it happen?
It is unbelievable that in 21st century, almost seven decades after the end of WWII, a Nazi supporter, often wearing a war-like uniform, can win in a democratic election. His victory is underlined by the facts that he succeeded in a region with the strongest anti-fascist history, where Slovak national uprising against Nazi-led government broke out 69 years ago. And his campaign cost were only 5 000 EUR! Until today he was looked at and laughed as a harmless and ridiculous figure. This former high school teacher specialized in IT was not even able to secure his own domain Pospolitost.sk against hackers who currently use it to make fun of his victory. While Slovak politicians from both sides of the spectrum react by accusing each other, I think the roots of his success reach far beyond the structures of current national parties.
One of the negative aspects of the economic crisis besides high (youth) unemployment is also the migration of labor force. Immigration of people to seek employment in wealthier countries has often gone hand in hand with a rising antipathy of the citizens in these countries.
In the past few days I have seen several articles about the increase of far-right nationalism in Western Europe or even in Russia: some of these involved violence against immigrants and on the other hand some of them seemed so bizarre that I was not even capable to comprehend them, such as the joint alliance of Eurosceptic parties from France and Netherland before the upcoming EP Elections.
This type of large-scale nationalism in Western Europe aimed against immigrants differs from the nationalism in former communist countries in the Central and Eastern Europe. Due to different historical situation we do not face huge immigration. Therefore “our” nationalists need to find an inner enemy. It was not so difficult for this guy: he raged against a visible minority. A missing long-term solution to the situation with Roma minority in Slovakia already escalated to measures like building walls to separate the Roma settlements or evicting them from illegal housing on state property.
Countries of Western Europe have problems with the concept of multiculturalism and integration of a second or a third generation of immigrants. On the other hand countries like Slovakia, Romania or Hungary have been facing the challenge of integrating their own Roma communities for decades. During communist era it was artificially frozen by the mandatory work and phony zero unemployment rate, but the issue escalated after the fall of communist regimes.
According to the latest surveys the Roma minority represents 10% of total population in Slovakia and they are the biggest minority in Europe. A solution for integration of such a large community cannot be devised at the national level and I hope that the EU will drive this action as soon as possible. It is already strongly tied with the issue of immigration to richer Member States and its negative effect will be even multiplied.