Veronika Oravcova, What does the presidential election mean for climate policy in Slovakia?

Veronika Oravcova, What does the presidential election mean for climate policy in Slovakia?

In April, Slovakia voted for a new president. We asked our expert Veronika Oravcova from the Slovak Foreign Policy Association, which importance the election results have for climate policy.

What is your general perception of the election results?

VeronikaOravcova: The prevailing feeling regarding the recent election is very negative, largely due to the unfairness of the campaign. The victorious candidate Pellegrini, benefiting from the incumbent position as Speaker of Parliament, enjoyed a significant advantage, including the authority to decide the election schedule (date of the elections) and leverage the resources of their office. Furthermore, there have been the lack of transparency in the winning candidate’s financial disclosures, coupled with the dissemination of manipulative and false information against his opponent. Pellegrini´s campaign rhetoric, aligning with a pro-Russian discourse, emphasized “peace” while suggesting that the opposite candidate, Ivan Korcok, would lead Slovakia to war. Despite these issues, Pellegrini managed to gain substantial support, which means that there are citizens who prefer a candidate who spread disinformation and even lies, remains opaque about his financial background and of his party including MPs. That is definitely not a good sign for the country.

What is the significance of the election result in terms of climate policy? What is expected from the new president?

VO: The election outcome also affects climate policies, as the newly elected president has exhibited no interest at all in any of the climate policies. That differs a lot from the stance of the previous president, Zuzana Caputova. Moreover, the new president enjoys luxury, including the use of private jets (which also was part of his intransparent financial behaviour during the campaign), offering little for hope regarding his commitment to climate initiatives. Presently, my colleagues and I are working on a study dealing with the attitudes of political parties toward climate and energy policies. Although our analysis is ongoing, initial findings suggest a complete absence of the current president’s engagement with climate-related discourse within parliamentary deliberations and party communications

Slovakia ranks 40th in the CCPI 2024. What short-term measures should the new president implement to improve the country’s ranking? What are three key demands?

VO: Any kind of interest into climate policies from the new president would be a great progress, compared to his current total disinterest. He could just choose to continue initiatives initiated by Zuzana Caputova, such as the Green Steel Initiative or the Climate Academy for students. That would be a welcome development already. However, the prevailing indifference presented thus far does not foresee the president’s commitment to advancing climate agendas.

What are the biggest climate policy challenges for your country until 2030?

VO: The incumbent government presents several challenges, notably their advocacy for the construction of a new LNG terminal in Bratislava along the Danube River. Second, their policies have facilitated logging in national parks, undermining conservation efforts outlined in the Recovery and Resilience Plans. Third, their reluctance to engage with experts, coupled with a tendency to view environmental activists as their main “enemies”, underscores a concerning disregard for environmental policies. Fourth, the replacement of experienced personnel within the Ministry of Environment with individuals lacking expertise, ostensibly due to personal connections, worsens the situation. Fifth, strategic initiatives toward climate action across various sectors are unlikely to materialise under the current administration, thus impeding progress on climate policies and initiatives. That goes for current plans and it is unlikely that the current government would go with new strategic climate planning.

Where is Slovakia a role model for other countries?

VO: Currently, Slovakia’s climate agenda is hampered by a lack of progressive policies beyond the phase-out of coal, which was primarily driven by economic reasons, as the plants were not profitable. Renewables, e-mobility, modernisation of public transport, energy efficiency, and industrial decarbonisation lag behind in Slovakia, also with the agricultural sector posing many challenges to decarbonisation efforts across the EU. And the current government and president pose a threat to previous small steps and advancements in climate policies.

Which developments in your country makes you hopeful?

Vo: Energy crisis, which began after the Covid-19 pandemic and worsened during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has led to relatively rapid changes in the energy market, including the implementation of energy efficiency measures and the adoption of renewable energy sources. People have begun to prioritise these measures due to economic reasons rather than for climate concerns, viewing them as a means to reduce their energy bills. The entire process of green transition and implementing climate policies offers numerous opportunities to modernise our economies. This gives me hope that even those for whom climate change is not the primary concern will recognise the economic benefits that climate policies bring to our societies and will be more willing to adopt them.

→ Find more interviews with our CCPI experts here.