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Slovakia: Fico ally Pellegrini sworn in as president

June 15, 2024

Peter Pellegrini, an ally of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, called for a "just peace" in Ukraine while being sworn in as the new president of Slovakia.

Pellegrini speaks during his inauguration in Bratislava, Slovakia
Pellegrini called for breaking down barriers between feuding political camps in SlovakiaImage: Vaclav Salek/CTK Photo/IMAGO

Slovakia's new president, Peter Pellegrini, pledged to reunite the country as his ally, leftist populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, continues his recovery from an assassination attempt last month.

Assuming office on Saturday, Pellegrini said Slovakia was divided by "a high mental wall."

"Today, that wall is splattered with blood," the 48-year-old said in reference to the shooting of Fico.

"And if we don't want more blood added, we need to knock this wall down together."

Slovakia split on Ukraine support

Leftist Pellegrini was elected in April after defeating Ivan Korcok, a more liberal candidate, in the runoff vote. The campaign was centered on the war in Ukraine and the military and financial aid that the NATO and EU member Slovakia was ready to give to support Kyiv's defenses.

Prime Minister Robert Fico pledged to halt military aid to Ukraine after securing his fourth term in October last year. Fico said his country would only send humanitarian aid, and urged the EU to "change from an arms supplier to a peacemaker."

Slovakia: Protests against the government

The move has caused deep divisions in the EU country. While campaigning for the presidency, Korcok and his allies accused the leftist populist bloc of trying to take the country closer to Russia. Pellegrini tried to paint Korcok as a warmonger, while seeking to position himself as a peacemaker.

The attacker who shot Fico a month ago was also apparently angered by Fico distancing the country from the rest of the EU and the suspension of the military aid to Ukraine.

Pellegrini: Ukraine needs 'just peace'

On Saturday, Pellegrini made only a brief reference to the Ukraine war without providing details on his future policies.

"For us, war was just a concept from the history books — and suddenly it's here, within sight of our eastern border," he said.

"We must help the neighboring country to achieve a just peace."

In Slovakia, the office of president is largely ceremonial. At the same time, the head is tasked with ratifying international treaties, appointing high-level judges, and commanding the country's armed forces.

Slovak PM in stable condition after surgery

Fico did not attend the Saturday ceremony at the Slovak Philharmonic in Bratislava, as he is still recovering from the multiple gunshot wounds he sustained during the assassination attempt. He was released from hospital to continue his recovery from home in late May, after doctors confirmed his condition was no longer life-threatening.

dj/nm (AFP, Reuters)