- Despite Brexit, Slovakia is still one of the least influential Member States in the European Parliament
Slovakia currently has 13 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), only 1.7% of the total number. If or when the UK leaves the EU, Slovakia will be given 1 extra seat, meaning that the number of Slovak MEPs will rise to 14, and 2% of the total (since the total number of MEPs will decrease to 705).
With such a low percentage, Slovaks could be forgiven for feeling underrepresented. Even though MEPs’ work is not officially organised on a national basis, MEPs from large Member States (e.g., Germany and Italy) can exert more power in the European Parliament as it is easier for them to find support among their own national delegation within the Parliament’s specialised committees or political groups. From this perspective, Slovakia is definitely less influential in the European Parliament.
- Turnout in the EP elections in Slovakia the lowest across the EU
Since its accession in 2004, Slovak voters have participated in 3 EU elections (2004, 2009 and 2014), each time recording the lowest turnout across the EU with 16.97%, 19.64% and 13.05% respectively.
Despite the generally believed reasons for low turnouts in EP elections, such as them being perceived as second rate or the lack of publicity for the EU more generally in the country, some survey data points to different factors in Slovakia. One of these is the lack of debate between Slovak political parties on EU topics which, from a voter’s perspective, reduces the appeal of voting in the EP elections as it might not matter which candidate gets elected, because the European programmes of all candidates sound the same.
Moreover, the pro-European narrative of Slovak politicians tends to focus purely on leveraging the economic benefits of Slovak EU membership and therefore fails to pick up on other positive aspects of European integration. As a result, the pro-European message of Slovak political parties fails to mobilize voters.
Turnout is not expected to rise significantly in 2019. However, some optimists foresee a turnout of around 20% this year. From the institutional side, it is hoped that various promotional initiatives such as the European Parliament’s campaign “This time I’m voting” or “#MySmeEU”, organised by the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will encourage more voters to vote this year.
- Slovakia expected to have 2 populist MEPs
According to some projections, the number of Slovak MEPs affiliated with the centre-left S&D will remain at 4, which contradicts the general trend of falling preferences for the S&D across the EU.
4 other Slovak MEPs will probably partner up with the conservative political groups, ECR and EFDD. This year’s EU elections will probably lead to a major defeat for the Slovak centre-right, which could see its 6 MEPs in the EPP fall to just 2. Some analysts also predict that Slovakia will elect 2 populist MEPs who will take advantage of sensitive issues for Slovak voters such as migration. In this sense, Slovakia could contribute to the expected trend of rising populism in the European Parliament.
The current Slovak Commissioner for Energy, Maroš Šefčovič, has announced that he will run again for the post of EU Commissioner. However, his candidacy will depend on several factors. First, he would have to be nominated by the ruling political party SMER, which has not yet officially confirmed his nomination. Second, the EU elections will also pre-determine the new composition of the college of European Commissioners. In order to succeed, all Commissioner-designates will have to pass hearings in the new European Parliament whose political mood might be shifting in a direction which is unfavourable to Šefčovič.