Are you travelling to Bratislava and looking for a place to stay? You might want to book a room with a view in one small hotel on the castle hill. But not if you are a Turk or an Arab, that is.
“For safety reasons in case not staying in the hotel people from Turkey and Arab states. We not accept reservation.” That was the broken English response that the staff of the Stella Apartments in Bratislava sent to a Turkish student who attempted to book a room for his friends there through an international hotel booking site. The student put the response online and it went viral.
But for Slovaks this could hardly be any shock. Not because they would all approve of discriminating against people due to their nationality or ethnicity. There definitely are many who believe it is shocking that a business (particularly one that mainly depends on the money of foreign clients) wouldn’t shy away from open racism. But it should not surprise anyone who has followed the Slovak political scene in the past months and heard many more and less prominent politicians spouting anti-Muslim talk in response to the international situation -- including the country’s prime minister.
“There is an absolute link between migration and terrorism,” Prime Minister Robert Fico said just recently, during a press briefing convened just to announce that individual attacks are likely in Slovakia – “but this is no fear-mongering”. He stands by everything he had said on the matter in the past (no compact Muslim community, no place for Islam), and Slovakia is not going to change its attitude to migration, because “individual culprits have used the migration wave as an opportunity to get to Europe”.
It should also be said that Fico’s claims contradict what President Andrej Kiska said in a recent interview – that Slovakia’s secret services do not believe such attacks to be likely in Slovakia at the moment.
Either way, Slovakia is a part of Europe, the borders are open and according to the recent Eurobarometer survey 87 percent of Slovaks support the free movement of people in Europe. So how much does it matter whether attacks are less likely in Slovakia than anywhere else on the continent?
In that same survey 75 percent of Slovaks said they feel European. But their perception of the challenges our societies are changing paint a different picture: while on the EU level Slovaks believe immigration (59 percent) and terrorism (46 percent) to be the main challenge, on the national level they are overshadowed by domestic concerns like health care or unemployment. Just 17 percent of Slovaks believe immigration to be among the two most important issues their country faces, while only 6 percent listed terrorism among them.
So what does it mean to be European at all? What would the 75 percent of Slovaks say? It appears that the EU’s unity in diversity does not seem to ring a bell here. But solidarity could, it is part of our European experience too and we have known it on the receiving end.
Fico himself has expressed his solidarity with all the countries who have to cope with terrorism. Perhaps now is the time to take it one step further and understand that the problems of those other countries in Europe are our problems too.
A European should not be ready to betray the solidarity the moment they (quite wrongly) feel that they will be safe if they just close themselves in their little fortress -- or inside a small hotel on the castle hill.
4. Aug 2016 at 16:03 | Michaela Terenzani