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26th Aug 2019

EU socialists kick out Slovaks in 'historic' move

European socialists have made a "historical" move to temporarily suspend the party of the Slovak prime minister from its meetings and decision-making, due to Slovakia's social democrats lining up with extreme nationalists in the country's ruling coalition.

After almost a three-hour debate at the European socialist party's headquarters in Brussels on Thursday (13 October), national delegations from all EU member states but Slovakia and the Czech Republic voted to freeze contacts with the Slovak SMER party.

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"We have decided on a resolution which is historical," said Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, the president of the Party of European Socialists (PES), adding "Never before in our history we had such a clear, open and frank discussion about our values."

He stressed that the decision signalled not only the party's view on the "regretful" situation in Slovakia but it had consequences for any potential links between socialist sister parties and the far-right in any other European country in the future.

"If we are not clear on extreme right-wing parties and on their relations with us, we are are really not defending our values and our responsibility for the whole of Europe," said Mr Rasmussen.

Robert Fico, SMER and Slovakia's leader, reacted with anger to the decision, arguing his party has been "punished for making politics in favour of people" and also because of its fight against monopolies - often owned by foreigners.

"We were also being punished for not taking the Hungarian party into the ruling coalition instead," he said through his spokeswoman.

Thursday's verdict means that the SMER party will not participate in any official sessions of the pan-European parties, it will lose its voting powers, plus Mr Fico will not meet other social democrat leaders at top gatherings, such as the traditional sessions before EU summits.

However, the European socialists want to keep in touch with the party and have agreed to meet next June and re-assess the situation in Slovakia - particularly with regards to the behaviour of SMER's coalition partner, the Slovak National Party led by Jan Slota.

Mr Slota has been criticised for his racist and extreme statements in the past.

"We can then either conclude that there has been a major reform in the Slota's party and a move away from extremist views or there's a possibility of a new ruling coalition in the country," Dutch socialist MEP Jan Marinus Wiersma told EUobserver.

"Perhaps, the European socialists' decision will trigger a change for the better in the party," he said.

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