Slovakia’s mind drain picks up tempo below populist chief Robert Fico

Slovakia’s mind drain picks up tempo below populist chief Robert Fico

Although Marek Mikič spent a couple of years finding out and dealing overseas, he by no means anticipated to go away his native Slovakia completely. He had a gaggle of shut mates and a music competition to run within the japanese city of Košice.

However he modified his thoughts final September after the re-election of Robert Fico, a populist who promised he would cease army help to Ukraine, promote conservative household values, and muzzle the courts which have been investigating high-level corruption circumstances tied to his allies.

“The election was the final straw for me,” stated Mikič, a DJ and live performance promoter who lately moved to Prague. “I’m not saying every little thing within the Czech Republic is good, however I might fairly be right here than again dwelling.”

Like tens of hundreds of different younger progressive Slovaks, Mikič finds his nation more and more close-minded, corrupt and out of sync with the liberal west. Fico’s mixture of nationalism, leftist populism and social conservatism has introduced Slovakia nearer to Viktor Orbán’s Hungary. Like Orbán, Fico spreads pro-Russian propaganda and tries to muzzle unbiased media.

Robert Fico arrives to attend a European Council summit in Brussels on 21 March. {Photograph}: Sameer Al-Doumy/AFP/Getty Photos

The nation of 5.5 million ­folks has been haemorrhaging younger elites for many years; in keeping with the Organisation for Financial Co-operation and Growth, 20% of college ­college students go away to review overseas, in contrast with the EU’s common of simply 4%. However since Fico’s comeback the numbers have risen even additional, stated Michal Vašečka, president of the Bratislava Coverage Institute.

“The younger era now not believes in Slovakia,” Vašečka stated. “As soon as they go away, there may be nothing for them to come back again to. They think about the nation a backwater.”

The prime beneficiary of this exodus is the Czech Republic, which receives “the creme de la creme of Slovak society”, Vašečka stated. Greater than half of Slovakia’s faculty graduates find yourself there, drawn by its livelier job market, extra tolerant society and minimal language barrier.

Jakub, a 23-year-old pupil from Central Slovakia, moved to Prague final month to work as a flight attendant for the Czech airline SmartWings – step one in fulfilling his lifelong dream of turning into a pilot. He stated he was bored with Slovakia’s corrupt enterprise local weather, which has solely grow to be worse since Fico’s election.

“Most individuals in my bubble are completely pissed off with the election end result and are a minimum of desirous about leaving,” he stated. “The Slovak society has grow to be extremely polarised and there’s a lot of pent-up aggression.”

A lot of that aggression is geared toward minorities, particularly the LGBTQ+ neighborhood, which was deeply shaken by the 2022 homicide of two folks in entrance of a well-liked homosexual nightclub in Bratislava. In accordance with a latest survey, 55% of Slovaks consider the LGBTQ+ motion is “an immoral and decadent ideology”.

Slovak politicians are solely ­pouring oil on the flames. Ľuboš Blaha, ­deputy chief of Fico’s celebration Smer, has repeatedly warned in opposition to “­gender ideology” and “fascism in rainbow colors”.

Elevating youngsters in such a society can be inconceivable, stated Tatiana Jančáriková, who left Slovakia together with her household final 12 months.

“I can’t management if my youngsters develop into homosexual, or trans,” stated the mom of two who had labored as a strategic communications knowledgeable for the earlier Slovak authorities earlier than shifting to Prague. “However even when these points received’t regard them personally, the environment in Slovakia has grow to be completely insufferable. I simply don’t need them to develop up in a spot the place imply issues can be stated about their mates.”

Though she and her husband moved to the Czech Republic primarily for profession causes, she finds it exhausting to think about ever taking her youngsters again to Slovakia. “Prague is extra liberal. It’s regular to see two guys holding palms in public. That’s one thing I would like for my youngsters – to reside in a spot that’s free and open.”

Slovakia isn’t dropping simply brains: capital is fleeing as effectively. Among the nation’s largest companies, akin to actual property developer HB Reavis, software program firm Eset and tech developer Vacuumlabs have moved to the Czech Republic, citing corruption and a hostile political setting.

Even Slovakia’s high safety convention Globsec, which had previously attracted audio system together with Ursula von der Leyen, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Pope Francis and Emmanuel Macron, determined to maneuver its venue to Prague this 12 months. The choice got here after Fico introduced he would withdraw state funds for Globsec, which he dismissively referred to as “a spot the place George Soros involves have his image taken”.

It’s exhausting for younger liberal Slovaks to return to such a suffocating environment, stated Daniela Hanušová, a movie curator who left the nation proper after highschool. Her working-class mother and father all the time inspired her and her three siblings to go away Slovakia as quickly as attainable. Three out of the 4 now reside overseas.

She returns about thrice a 12 months to see her household, mates and colleagues. However when requested whether or not she would think about shifting again completely, she shakes her head: “There are few issues I’m extra sure about than the truth that I’ll by no means return to Slovakia.”

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