Doubts about Turkish EU membership – No recognition of Kosovo

Slovak Foreign Policy Association

Slovakia as a member state of the EU has been a general supporter of the policy of further enlargement. As Table 1 illustrates, the official attitude of the political elite corresponds with the public opinion on this issue. However, a more comprehensive analysis of the public opinion shows that the support by the Slovaks is a fuzzy one. When asked, almost 78 percent of Slovaks agree with inviting other countries to join the EU in the future but at the same time they also think that the EU should not enlarge too fast (Eurobarometer surveys). The most cited concerns of Slovak population with regard to further enlargement are connected with possible economic influence of the future enlargement on the member states of the EU as well as with the doubts about the “value orientation” of some candidate countries. Following the development of popular support for further EU enlargement it is possible to observe slight but continual decline of the support among Slovaks. Even if the trends are negative, compared to EU-27 average support of the future enlargement (46%), Slovakia still belongs among the strong supporters.  
 
Table 1: Future Enlargement
Attitude/Year
2004
2005
2006
2007
In favour
69 %
67 %
69 %
59 %
Against
17 %
19 %
21 %
30 %
Do not know
14 %
13 %
11 %
11 %
Source: Standard Eurobarometer 64, 66, 67.
 
According to polls, Slovaks are more enthusiastic about the perspective of EU membership for the countries of the Western Balkans, from which the most support goes to membership of Croatia. The most problematic seems the support for the potential Turkish EU membership (for more details see table 2).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table 2: Support for a Particular Country
 
2005
2006
Croatia
79 %
84 %
Ukraine
55 %
58 %
Macedonia (FYROM)
53 %
60 %
Bosnia & Herzegovina
53 %
59 %
Serbia
49 %
53 %
Turkey
28 %
33 %
Source: Standard Eurobarometer 64, 66.
 
Regarding the political scene, the most audible opponent of Turkey’s entry to the EU is the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) that since the 2006 parliamentary elections has been in the opposition. In its pre-election manifesto the KDH stated that it “supports the enlargement of the European Union to countries that share common European values.” Hence, the KDH “will support the enlargement to the Balkan states but will not endorse enlargement beyond Europe’s borders.” For Turkey the KDH deems a privileged partnership to be the best option. From other relevant political parties, only the Slovak National Party (SNS) shares the KDH’s concerns. Rafael Rafaj, the head of the SNS’s parliamentary club, said that “the entry of Turkey into the EU is unacceptable.” According to Rafaj from the SNS, one of the three parties in Fico’s governing coalition (the third member of the coalition is the Vladimír Mečiar led Movement for a Democratic Slovakia – HZDS), Turkey does not fulfil the basic political and human rights criteria and represents a threat for the ‘islamization’ of the EU[1]. Yet, Slovakia’s government is internally divided in its support of Turkey’s EU membership. On 11 December 2006 during his presentation in the parliamentary Committee on European Affairs Prime Minister Róbert Fico (the political party SMER-SD) stated “Slovakia supports the entry of Turkey into the European Union. This will be beneficial for both the EU and Turkey from economic, political and strategic standpoints.”[2] The Prime Minister also added that we should not discriminate Turkey in the accession process only because its dominant religion differs from that within the EU.
 
In the case of Western Balkans, all relevant political parties are more or less united in their support for the future EU membership. Already in spring 2005, Slovakia’s representatives opposed a decision of EU member states to postpone the opening of entry talks with Croatia. After the announcement of the Union’s compromise decision to open entry talks with Zagreb and Ankara at the same time, the Slovak representatives warmly welcomed such step. At that time the Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda emphasized the security aspect of this decision. “Europe will be much safer if Turkey develops in a desirable way, if the Western Balkans develops in a desirable way and countries of the former Yugoslavia develop in a desirable way.”[3] Former Foreign Affairs Minister Eduard Kukan highlighted the EU decision’s political dimension. “We were very much aware that sending another negative signal about a disagreement over the issue of [future] enlargement would be simply bad.”[4] Dzurinda said Slovakia would offer Croatia cooperation in negotiations over particular chapters of the acquis communautaire and added that Slovakia will strive equally hard to make Ukraine and Serbia and Montenegro follow suit, confirming that in the next round of EU enlargement, Slovakia will focus on countries that have been a matter of priority in its foreign policy.
 
Slovakia’s new government (after the 2006 parliamentary elections) expressed the continuity of Slovak policy towards the future EU enlargement. Slovakia’s officials subscribe to the continued support of EU enlargement to countries of the Western Balkans, in particular to Serbia that has been declared as one of Slovakia’s foreign policy priorities since Bratislava’s entry into the European Union. For the Prime Minister Robert Fico the “EU enlargement is the export of stability”. Slovak government has been strongly supporting the previous Italian (2006) and nowadays Slovenian plans to renew negotiations on the stabilization and association agreement with Serbia. Foreign Minister Ján Kubiš expressed the Slovak position as follows: “We have to show clearly that if Serbia’s new government (after elections in January 2007) is going to be ready to fulfil its obligations [vis-à-vis the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia], we shall categorically support the opening of negotiations on a stabilization and association agreement with Serbia in order to get Serbia and its citizens closer to the EU. Despite the complicated discussion on the integration capacity or institutional reform we wanted to offer a clear signal to Serbia and its democratic forces already today.”[5]
 
Regarding the Kosovo status, Slovakia was among the four EU countries (together with Cyprus, Greece and Spain) that did not share the standpoint of other European Union countries on this issue before the December 2007 summit[6]. From the very beginning Slovak political parties were strongly opposed to Kosovo’s independence. The reason for such standpoint originates in domestic politics. Slovakia’s political elite is afraid of setting the Kosovo independence a precedent for other European countries and especially for southern parts of Slovakia that are inhabited by the Hungarian minority. Ján Slota, chairman of the SNS, expressed such concerns most clearly: “It is unthinkable for us that ethnic minority in whichever state would have a right to self-determination and a right to establish its own state.”[7] His coalition colleague from the dominant governing party SMER-SD and chairman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee Boris Zala stated that Ahtisaari’s plan could support “separatist endeavours of other ethnic minorities including the half million population of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia.”[8] Also the current opposition leader Mikuláš Dzurinda (Slovak Christian and Democratic Union-Democratic Party – SDKÚ-DS) belongs to one of the strong opponents of the Kosovo independence in Slovakia. According to him, the international community should not establish an independent state against the will of Serbia. “There might be many unintended consequences of forced sovereign state Kosovo.”[9] Dzurinda stated examples as further disintegration of other states of former Yugoslavia as Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina or other parts of Europe inhabited by ethnic minorities. Slovak Prime Minister Róbert Fico stated that an acceptable solution for Kosovo is only such that is revisable and the independence of Kosovo is not revisable[10]. Slovak political opinions on Kosovo’s possible independence were officially expressed in the Declaration of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on solution of future status of Serbian province Kosovo. The Declaration stated that “complete and boundless independence of Kosovo province is not in the interest of regional stability.”[11] Therefore the Slovak Parliament recommended giving up Ahtisaari’s plan. The parliamentary declaration is not binding and should serve as advice to the Slovak government how to vote in the UN Security Council or behave in other international bodies. At the same time it clearly expressed the broad consensus on this issue in the Slovak political scene. The declaration was supported by 123 MPs out of 142 presented ones[12]. The only political party that supported the plan of special UN envoy was the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) in Slovakia. 
 
In January 2008 during his visit of Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe the Prime Minister Fico stated: “Our position is very cautious. We can only hardly imagine accepting the Kosovo independence without such acceptance from the side of international institutions.”[13] He assured that if it was a one-sided proclamation of independence it would not be enough for Slovakia to accept such independence. Fico later clarified that by international institutions he meant “a political consensus between the UN and the EU”. Also, at the end of January 2008 the president of the Slovak Republic admitted that the independence of Kosovo was almost unquestionable. He also stated that: “It is sure that the Slovak Republic will not obstinately oppose the opinion of the European Union or the United Nations.”[14] Yet, following the declaration of Kosovo’s independence on 17 February 2008 Slovakia has not recognized Kosovo as an independent state and such recognition seems unlikely in the near future.


[1] „Fico potvrdil podporu Slovenska tureckému členstvu v EÚ“, ČTK, 11 December 2006.

[2] „Fico potvrdil podporu Slovenska tureckému členstvu v EÚ“, ČTK, 11 December 2006.

[3] SITA news agency, 4 October 2005.

[4] SITA news agency, 4 October 2005.

[5] „Summit EÚ sa skončil bez zásadných rozhodnutí“, TASR, 15 December 2006.

[6] Cf. http://www.euractiv.sk/obrana-a-bezpecnost/clanok/eu-sa-nedohodla-na-spo... (last access: 25.03.2008).

[7] Available at: http://www.sns.sk/clanky/j-slota-prirovnal-nezavisle-kosovo-k-mnichovu-6... (last access: 25.03.2008).

[8] SITA, 12. 2. 2007

[9] SITA, 8. 2. 2007

[10] Cf. http://aktualne.centrum.sk/domov/politika/clanek.phtml?id=216172 (last access: 25.03.2008).

[11] Declaration of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on solution of future status of Serbian province Kosovo, 28.03. 2007, available at: http://www.nrsr.sk/appbin/Tmp/vyhlasenie.pdf (last access: 25.03.2008).

[12] The total number of the MPs in the Slovak Parliament is 150.

[13] Available at: http://spravy.pravda.sk/fico-kosovo-uzname-ak-tak-urobia-aj-ostatni-f2h-... (last access: 25.03.2008).

[14] Správy TA3, 29. 1. 2008.