Is Slovakia a mafia state?

As soul searching in Britain continues over Boris Johnson’s alleged proximity to a slice of cake, a different sort of rule-breaking has apparently been going on in Slovakia. The country’s former leader Robert Fico has been charged by police with leading an organised crime gang from his prime ministerial office.  The Slovak police’s ‘Twilight’ operation, investigating corruption at the highest level of politics, saw Fico’s former interior minister Robert Kaliňák taken into custody last week over fears that he would intimidate witnesses. Fico himself is likely to be arrested as soon as his parliamentary immunity is waived. The allegations against the former prime minister and his right-hand man are shocking.

Russia’s Sputnik vaccine is causing political chaos in Central Europe

A joke is doing the rounds in the Czech Republic that the world’s highest Covid mortality rate can, in actual fact, be found in the Czech Ministry of Health. Yesterday, the Czech health minister Jan Blatný was dismissed, the nation’s third ‘Covid Health Minister’ since the pandemic began. Both his predecessors were sacked by Prime Minister Andrej Babiš in the autumn of 2020. Rumours of Blatný’s departure had been in the wind for weeks. But his fall from favour seems to have little to do with the Czech Republic’s inability to contain the spread of Covid-19, and far more to do with the ongoing controversy over whether the country will join

How the Sputnik vaccine brought down Slovakia’s Prime Minister

March was a dark month for Slovakia. Covid cases and deaths in the country were among the highest in Europe, while political tensions reached breaking point this week with the resignation of Prime Minister Igor Matovič, after the country controversially purchased Sputnik V vaccine doses. Following disputes within the ruling coalition over the decision to depart from the EU’s vaccine strategy, Matovič agreed to trade places with the Minister of Finance, making him the first European leader to fall victim to ‘vaccine diplomacy’ amid concerns about a shift eastward in Slovak foreign policy. Matovič’s fall is particularly painful given the wave of optimism which swept him to power in last year’s

Vaccines are testing Central Europe’s loyalties to the EU

In a fresh embarrassment for the EU in its vaccine rollout, breakaway member Hungary is now at the top of the bloc’s vaccine league table. The Czech Republic, Hungary’s Visegrád Four ally, languishes near the bottom of the list, having so far stuck with the EU’s centralised procurement programme. Meanwhile neighbouring Slovakia has now opted for the Hungarian approach, having taken delivery of its first shipment of Sputnik V vaccines last week. Problems are certainly piling up for Brussels – and in Central and Eastern Europe, a region with a long history of EU rebellion, the idea of ‘going it alone’ is heightening tensions between pro- and anti-EU factions. The