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ROBERT FICO
Analysis
Educational exposure of ideas, assumptions or hypotheses, based on proven facts" (which need not be strictly current affairs) Value in judgments are excluded, and the text comes close to an opinion article, without judging or making forecasts , just formulating hypotheses, giving motivated explanations and bringing together a variety of data

Robert Fico, or the unpredictable consequences of assassinations in Europe

No attempt on a leader’s life is innocuous, especially not in places with such a dense history as central Europe. And much less in a time as volatile as the current one

Robert Fico
Archduke Franz Ferdinand with his wife Sophie, shortly before they were assassinated in Sarajevo in 1914.Henry Guttmann Collection (Hulton Archive/ Getty Images)
Guillermo Altares

Many horrors of the 20th century began with an assassination that had a good chance of not happening. The killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand along with his wife Sophie in Sarajevo, on June 28, 1914, which would eventually trigger World War I, occurred after an enormous accumulation of coincidences. The France-based Bosnian writer Velibor Colic, author of a novel about the assassination, Sarajevo Omnibus, described the crime as a “chaotic vaudeville.” Would history have changed if the killings had never happened? Maybe. The historian Christopher Clark has argued that if Gavrilo Princip, the perpetrator, had failed, Franz Ferdinand, who was not a warmonger, would have tried to avoid war.

Clark coined the concept of “sleepwalkers” — the title of his most famous book — to describe the way in which the great powers headed towards the disaster from which all other disasters arose: without World War I, the birth of Nazism cannot be explained, nor can World War II, nor surely the Russian Revolution and, therefore, Stalinism. Without being fully aware that their actions were going to lead the world towards destruction, European leaders moved steadily towards the abyss. When they became aware of the mechanism they had set in motion, it was too late to stop it.

Many analysts wonder if we are living in a new era of sleepwalking in Europe, one of the reasons why Clark’s extraordinary book had such an impact. And the attempted assassination this Wednesday of Slovakia’s prime minister, the populist Robert Fico, is especially shocking because it comes at a time when many Europeans already think that anything — even a full-scale war with Russia — is possible. No assassination is innocuous, especially not in places with such a dense history as central Europe. And much less in a time as volatile as the current one.

Blood and flowers at the spot in Stockholm where Olof Palme was murdered, on February 28, 1986.
Blood and flowers at the spot in Stockholm where Olof Palme was murdered, on February 28, 1986.Bjorn Elgstrand/TT (TT NEWS AGENCY / Cordon Press)

The information surrounding the murder attempt against Fico, who is in critical condition, is scarce. On Wednesday afternoon, Slovakian authorities suggested that the crime was politically motivated. Fico is a complicated politician: an ally of Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, he stands closer to Russia than to Ukraine, and his views rarely coincide with those of the rest of EU leaders, who have unwaveringly condemned the crime. Too many complex political issues converge around his figure for a clear resolution of the crime, although one person has already been arrested.

It took the police 34 years to solve the murder of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme, who was killed in Stockholm in 1986 at the age of 56: in 2020, the crime was attributed to an individual who had been dead for 20 years. In the figure of Palme, one of the founders of European social democracy and one of the greatest symbols of honesty in politics, all the currents and conspiracies of his time also converged — although in a way totally contrary to that of Fico. In the Europe of the Ukrainian war, with Russian networks roaming freely across the continent, a new assassination attempt produces more than merely concern. It is one more indication that we are, unfortunately, living in interesting times.

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