Most Slovaks would prefer to position their country geopolitically and culturally between the East and West. At the same time, their support for the EU and NATO has increased, while they are more prone to conspiracy theories.
While central Europeans clearly perceive the fall of communism in a positive manner, the perspective is not as straightforward as when evaluating the quality of life before and after 1989, especially in Slovakia and Hungary, according to the Globsec Trends 2018 report.
“Feelings of post-communist nostalgia strongly resonate among the oldest segments of the region’s population,” the report reads.
The report provides an insight into the views and attitudes of central European countries concerning the EU, NATO, geopolitical orientation of their country and their belief in conspiracy theories. The analysis contains data from public opinion polls carried out by Globsec in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.
Support for EU and NATO has increased
The self-perception of central Europeans in terms of their geopolitical and cultural identity was dominated in 2018 by a strong preference for the middle position between East and West and a stark diﬀerence between the attitudes of the region’s young and older generations, according to the report.
More than 50 percent of Slovaks would prefer to position their country between the East and West, up by 14 percent compared to last year. Moreover, Slovakia remains an outlier in central Europe in its support for Russia, with 13 percent of Slovaks preferring a pro-Eastern orientation in 2018. In other central European countries, support did not exceed 10 percent.
“Slovakia has historically been the country with the weakest support for the West (including NATO and the US) among the Visegrad Group and was also the last country to join NATO,” the report suggests. “With only 21 percent support, the country remains the least supportive of a pro-Western orientation.”
The gap between perceptions of the EU in central Europe has narrowed. The report suggests that two thirds of Slovaks would vote to stay in the EU if there was a referendum, an increase by 7 percent compared to spring 2017.
“While support for the EU rose among Czechs and Slovaks – originally more Eurosceptic countries – positive perceptions decreased in Poland and Hungary,” the report reads.
“Slovakia’s youth hold the most positive views on the EU, with 68 percent of 18-24 year olds perceiving it as a good thing for their country compared to 41 percent of 65 years old and above,” the report reads.
At the same time, Czech and Slovak youth are increasingly pro-NATO. The support for NATO membership among Slovaks reached 50 percent, a 7-percent increase over the past year. Support among young Slovaks for remaining in NATO increased by 21 percent with an extra 16 percent perceiving NATO membership as a good thing.
A relative majority of Slovaks (40 percent) think that NATO and the US-led coalition support terrorists in Syria. In addition, 29 percent of Slovaks aged 35-44 years and 27 percent of the youngest generation remain undecided on the issue.
The highest support for Putin in central Europe
The Globsec report also suggests that Slovaks are the most supportive of Russian President Vladimir Putin in central Europe, even though more Slovaks disapprove (47 percent) of Putin’s policies than approve (41 percent). This does not apply to Slovakia’s youth, of which only 27 percent agree with Putin’s policies.
The most positively evaluated leader is Czech PM Andrej Babiš (42 percent approval rate), which may be related to his Slovak origins, according to the report.
As for their opinion on Russia, 50 percent of Slovaks said they disapprove of Russia’s military presence in Ukraine, while 33 percent do not believe that the conflict continues due to the presence of Russian forces on the ground.
“Only 27 percent believe that Russia tried to influence the outcome of several elections in Europe, making Slovakia the least aware of such efforts,” the report reads.
The report showed at the same time that most Slovaks believe in conspiracy theories. As much as 53 percent think that secret groups control world affairs with the aim of establishing a totalitarian world order. Moreover, 52 percent believe that Jews have too much power and secretly control the world.
In addition, 25 percent of young Slovaks do not know whether Al-Qaeda or the US government organised the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 68 percent of Slovaks aged 18-24 years encountered disinformation on social media. However, only 9 percent of all Slovak social media users who encounter inappropriate content report it, according to the report.
“While Slovaks are more conspiracy-prone, Czechs are the most impervious to such theories,” the report reads.
The most vulnerable since 1989
The report’s revelations suggest that the overwhelming majority of central Europeans perceive the fall of communism positively. However, Slovakia and Hungary share less positive views when it comes to evaluating whether their countries were better before or after 1989.
Although 67 percent of Slovaks perceive the fall of communism positively, 41 percent say that their lives (or the lives of people like them) were better before 1989.
The older generation’s feeling of nostalgia is prevalent. While 60 percent of people aged above 55 years believe their life was better before 1989, only 19 percent of 18-24 year olds believe the same, the report shows.
16. May 2018 at 12:30 | Compiled by Spectator staff