Shooting of Slovak PM sounds the alarm for increasing political violence in Europe
Published: May 16, 2024 10:21 PM
A man is detained on the site where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and wounded in Handlova, Slovakia, on May 15, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

A man is detained on the site where Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and wounded in Handlova, Slovakia, on May 15, 2024. Photo: Xinhua

The shooting of Slovakia's prime minister sends a grim signal of political and social fragmentation, violence and extremism in Europe.

On Wednesday, Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and injured after an away-from-home government meeting in the country's Trencin region. According to media reports, Fico has been out of surgery and is in stable condition. The local media also revealed that the suspect was a 71-year-old man, who was an author of three collections of poetry and a member of the Slovak Society of Writers. 

"This assassination (attempt) was politically motivated and the perpetrator's decision was born closely after the presidential election," said Interior Minister Matus Sutaj Estok.

The prime minister is known for his ability to reinvent his political career in the face of major setbacks. Last October, Fico and his Smer-SD party won Slovakia's parliamentary election after campaigning on a pro-Russian and anti-American message, marking the start of his fourth term as Slovakia's prime minister. He has consistently advocated for peace between Russia and Ukraine, and promised to stop sending weapons to Ukraine, to block Kiev's potential NATO membership and to oppose sanctions on Russia. When discussing the situation in Ukraine, he emphasized, "We share the same opinion with China on the impossibility of solving the conflict in Ukraine by military means and we support all meaningful peace plans that will not be phantasmagories but will be based on reality." This stance positioned him outside the European mainstream. He has become the target of criticism by the opposition party and liberal media.

In a video widely circulated on Slovak media purporting to feature the suspect, the man expressed disagreement with the Slovak government's policies. Some foreign media outlets also believe that the root of the attack lies in Slovakia's "bitter divides."

As geopolitical tensions, the rise of right-wing forces, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict intensify, the shooting of Fico reveals not only chaos within Slovakia but also rising political violence and social turmoil across Europe. According to German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, with the European Parliament elections and multiple state elections in Germany approaching in June, recent violent acts have primarily targeted politically active individuals seeking election or re-election. Hatred and contempt for politicians are no longer marginalized phenomena but have increasingly permeated society. In 2023, German police recorded 2,790 attacks on politicians, roughly double the number recorded in 2019.

Currently, political and social crises across Europe are compounding, with contradictions intertwining. Politically, dissatisfaction among the populace with governments and ruling parties is escalating, allowing extremist forces to rise, and leading to polarization in Europe, accompanied by a clear trend of violence.

Rome wasn't built in a day. Europe's overall economic decline, the impact of immigration crises on social welfare systems and the cultural clashes resulting from religious differences have given rise to a plethora of chaos in Europe. "For Europe, this is an era of compounded crises in political, economic and social contradictions. Europe is now at a critical juncture between reform and clinging to the past," Zhao Junjie, a research fellow at the Institute of European Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.

After Fico was shot, many politicians expressed shock at the incident. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, "Violence must have no place in European politics." The sound of gunfire shows that addressing political violence has become a major challenge for Europe as a whole. Extreme sentiments pervade Europe, with many feeling uneasy due to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, climate crises and economic uncertainties. More and more people are unwilling to engage in political dialogue, and the democratic consensus of maintaining political objectivity rather than personal attacks is gradually disappearing.

Upsetting signs are on the rise in European politics. The assassination attempt against Fico sounds the alarm for increasing political violence in Europe. Russian President Vladimir Putin stated, "There can be no justification for this monstrous crime." The chaos in European politics and society is worthy of serious consideration.