When the whole of Europe is wailing under the pressure of migrants and asylum seekers, a country with a minimum monthly wage of less than 400 euros should be left alone

Europe is divided over the issue of illegal immigration. The immigration quotas imposed by the European Union caused a backlash in some countries. Back in June, Slovakia experienced a major protest against Islamisation, which is itself the result of illegal immigration from Iraq, Syria and other Islamic countries that are currently ravaged by conflict. Protests like these are often backed by far-right groups and indeed, the ‘Slovakia for Slovaks’ protest was supported by the radical People’s Party-Our Slovakia (PP-OS).

Despite the fact that Slovakia itself would be obliged to resettle only 785 migrants under the current EC proposal, the PP-OS portray the immigration quotas as a ‘diktat’ from Brussels – the same phrase that was used by Germans in the post-WW1 era and during the rise of Hitler. Far-right groups, such as the PP-OS, will certainly rise in popularity in light of the immigration quotas. The June protest alone was attended by an estimated 14,000 people – that is almost 20 times more than the number of migrants that would be arriving in Slovakia. As Russia Today reported,  the protesters view the rally as ‘the last chance to stop the Muslim invasion’.

It is clear that far-right parties, such as the PP-OS, attempt to warp this issue and inflate it, appealing to the xenophobia of many Slovaks. Racism has always been a problem in the traditionalist, Christian-oriented country and the immigration quotas provide groups, such as the PP-OS, with an excellent channel to agitate the common citizen against the perceived ‘danger from Islam.’

The reality is that in a country of 5.4 million people, 785 immigrants are hardly an ‘invasion.’ According to data from the World Bank, in the year 2012, Slovakia experienced a net migration of around 15,000 people. This means that the imposed quotas by the EC would only make up for an additional 20.9 per cent of Slovakia’s yearly immigration influx, spread over a period of several years. Looking solely at the numbers, there seems to be no logical reason for mass protests against a ‘Muslim invasion,’ unless we take a sneak peek into Slovakia’s politics.

Currently, the Smer-SD Party (translated as ‘Direction-Social Democracy’) under the leadership of the current Prime Minister, Robert Fico, is known for its populist policies and Mr Fico understands his voters’ desires well. A well-known example of such a policy was the state funding of railway travel for children, students and the elderly – a controversial policy that was passed under his government presumably to raise Smer’s popularity among its voters. Supporting the immigration quotas would certainly decrease the popularity of the party and Mr Fico is arguably in no rush to leave his current position. The next parliamentary elections will be held in March 2016 and Smer will attempt to retain its majority.

Sadly, the problem of Slovakia’s stance towards immigration quotas imposed by the EC stems from the lack of political awareness of Slovaks. For the people of Slovakia, where the minimum wage runs at 352 euros per month, politics are not a matter of ideological beliefs, but rather a matter of convenience.

Slovaks are going to vote for Smer again, as it offers more benefits than any other party in the Parliament, exemplified by their abolition of travel fees for almost half of the travellers. The party is going to continue its hunt for popularity and votes, at least until the next elections, and the stance of Slovakia on the matter of immigration quotas will likely remain unchanged.

 

Sources:

World Bank Net Immigration Data

Direction – Social Democracy (SMER)

People’s Party – Our Slovakia

Russia Today

OECD Better Life Index