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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Majdan

WHEN you watch the protests in the Ukrainian capital’s Independence Square (majdan) from an office in Bratislava, several things come to mind. The first is how lucky Slovakia is. Robert Fico may have his flaws, the oligarchs have too much say, the judiciary is dysfunctional, teachers are underpaid, unemployment is high and something needs to be done about the Roma. But none of these problems match what you see in Kiev.

WHEN you watch the protests in the Ukrainian capital’s Independence Square (majdan) from an office in Bratislava, several things come to mind. The first is how lucky Slovakia is. Robert Fico may have his flaws, the oligarchs have too much say, the judiciary is dysfunctional, teachers are underpaid, unemployment is high and something needs to be done about the Roma. But none of these problems match what you see in Kiev.

The second point the unrest in Ukraine illustrates is how fragile freedom is in this part of Europe. Yes, democratic traditions and safeguards are better in countries more to the west. But as Viktor Orbán’s measures against the Hungarian independent media or judiciary show, there is no lack of politicians in the region that dream of absolute power.

Fico and his Smer party are more cautious, but even they are tightening their grip over the country. Today, the opposition controls no relevant office with the powers to supervise the government.

And lastly, the events in Ukraine highlight the absurdity of the recent wave of local euroscepticism, which led to the fall of Iveta Radičová’s government two years ago and which is likely going to become fashionable again before the upcoming EP elections. If there is one reason why we are so much better off than our eastern neighbours and why any authoritarian tendencies have a slim chance of succeeding here, it is thanks to our membership in the EU. The majdan should remind Slovaks of what they have, and what they are starting to take for granted.

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