Home News A would-be assassin stirs the specter of violence in Europe

A would-be assassin stirs the specter of violence in Europe


Former Russian President Dmitri A. Medvedev often predicted World War III, and he did not hesitate to link the assassin of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico to the young man who sparked the First World War. People make comparisons. He said that Europe: is on the verge of collapse again.

Medvedev said in an interview that the person who shot Fico was “a reversed version of Gavrilo Princip.” Fico is a nationalist leader who advocates friendly relations with Russia. Social NetworkX. Princip was a 19-year-old Bosnian Serb nationalist who assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914, triggering what Churchill called “the hardest and most difficult of all wars.” cruel” war.

It’s a crazy connection on so many levels. The imperial Europe that collapsed between 1914 and 1918 is long gone, as is the Europe that replaced it and gave rise to Auschwitz. In its place is the EU, carefully formed by its 27 member states, including Slovakia, whose overarching goal is to prevent war from happening on the long-torn continent.

However, just three weeks before the European Parliament elections, there are ominous signs of brewing violence that extend far beyond the shooting death of Mr Fico, who remains in serious condition.

A 27-month-old war is raging in Ukraine, a country outside the EU but on its doorstep. As Tim Butcher puts it in his book, as with World War I, a conflict involving soldiers increasingly became “trapped in the same murderous swamp.” fodder, sharing the same consumption of bullets and gunfire, disease and deprivation, torture and terror.” The book “Trigger” describes Princip’s life.

In important ways, Russia is waging war against Europe’s liberal democracies in Ukraine. The attempt on Fico’s life raises the question of how far Europeans are willing to go to war against themselves when extreme political polarization plagues their societies.

The motive behind the shooting is unclear, but it happened in a bad political environment The assassination attempt only made things more toxic, at least in Slovakia, but possibly further afield.

Europe is increasingly and dangerously divided. As in Slovakia, the divide pits anti-immigration nationalists against liberals who see the far right as a threat to the rule of law, a free press and democracy itself. In this political world, there are no longer opponents, only enemies. Recent events have shown that all means, including violence, can be used to attack them.

There are so many political fires that a spark can be explosive. Jacques Rupnik, a French political scientist who focuses on Central Europe, said the assassination attempt on Fico “shows what this polarization can lead to, and it’s something that both European society and the United States need to reflect on.”

Wars outside Europe and political struggles within Europe fed into each other. Russian advances on the battlefield, Ukraine’s apparent attack on Russian-occupied Crimea and the possible deployment of NATO trainers to Ukraine are reminders that escalation is always a possibility. The shooting death of Mr. Fico also proves this.

Mr Fico opposes EU powers, military aid to Ukraine, mass immigration and LGBTQ rights. For these and other reasons, he is hated by liberals. He was unpopular in the Slovak capital Bratislava but popular outside. At this point, his political fortunes coincide with the fragmentation of societies such as France, Germany and the Netherlands, where the central struggle is now one between the national and the global.

It sees the forgotten people living “nowhere” in industrial wastelands and rural areas as a threat to their livelihoods, as opposed to the prosperous, interconnected global citizens living “somewhere” in the knowledge economy.

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated these rifts, as nationalists across Europe align themselves with the reactionary moral ideology of President Vladimir V. Putin. They join him and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in portraying Western liberal urban elites as agents bent on undermining church, state, family and traditional notions of marriage and gender.

Medvedev called the Slovak assassin, whose identity was limited to a 71-year-old pensioner, “a hateful degenerate of Europe who knows nothing of his own history,” while Fico Fight it. .

His shooting appeared to reflect the narrowing of the middle ground in Europe’s political conflicts. “You can be psychologically, verbally or physically attacked for what you say or do,” says Polish intellectual historian Karolina Wigura. “In our society, accepting others is in a completely different way It has become unbearable to look at or define something.”

On Thursday, liberal Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who returned to power late last year after defeating the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, Posted on X Threat from the previous day: “Today the Slovaks gave us an example of what to do with Donald Tusk if he dismantles the CPK.”

This refers to a major airport project favored by the legal and judicial establishment but questioned by the new government.

When Tusk took office in December, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, chairman of the Law and Justice Committee and Poland’s de facto leader since 2015, called him a “German agent.” Such charges, effectively treason, had become commonplace across Europe. The air was full of “Jewish agents” and “Russian agents.” During the current campaign for the European Parliament elections, Tusk and Kaczynski have been accusing each other of being “Russian spies.”

Slovak Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok warned this week that “we are on the doorstep of civil war.”

Political violence is not limited to Slovakia. In Germany this month, four men attacked prominent Social Democratic politician Matthias Ecke while he was hanging a campaign poster in Dresden, leaving him with a fractured cheekbone and eye socket that required emergency surgery. Mr Ecker is running for re-election to the European Parliament.

Rapid change driven by technology, the proliferation of social media where any accusation is based, and the disintegration of any accepted concept of truth have resulted in civilizations succumbing to brutality.

“There’s a general sense of loss,” Ms. Viguera said. “Being different can be a threat.”

But the main factor in the slide towards violent confrontation may be the rapid increase in migrant numbers – some 5.1 million migrants entered the EU in 2022, more than double the number the previous year – which has sharply divided opinions across the continent.

“The EU is seen as unable to protect its borders,” Mr Rupnik said. “This leads to countries saying, well, we have to do it ourselves.”

It has also led to the rapid rise of xenophobic far-right parties in Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands and Slovakia that sing jingoistic paeans to national glory. They tend to stem from fascism, though not militarism or personality cults, at least so far. The barriers that once prevented these parties, such as the Alternative for Germany or the French National Rally, from taking power have eroded or collapsed.

These parties are expected to perform strongly in the European Parliament elections on June 9. The European Parliament is a relatively less powerful institution, but nonetheless important as the only one directly elected by representatives of all EU countries. In France, polls show Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally received roughly twice as many votes as President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist Ennahda party.

Even before Mr. Fico was assassinated, the climate was flammable. Even more so now. The realm of possibilities becomes wider. The culture of peace in postwar Europe has been shaken by the war in Ukraine. It is not used to its leaders being such targets. Nearly four decades have passed since Olof Palme, the Swedish Social Democratic Prime Minister, was assassinated in Stockholm in 1986.

“I don’t know about World War III,” Ms. Vegula said, “but it doesn’t look good. There is less and less room for you to speak your mind. The situation is much more dangerous now than it was before.”

The calm normalcy of postwar Europe seemed unshakable, and the hard lessons of history had been learned. But as Russia’s war of revenge in Ukraine shows, the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 was not bloodless. The devil in Europe seems to be ready to move.

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