Slovakia. At the beginning of the year, a treaty was discussed with the Vatican that would give healthcare workers the right to refuse to participate in abortions or artificial insemination for religious reasons. The conscience clause would apply to employees at the Catholic Church’s hospital, but critics said it could be invoked by Slovakia’s many Catholic health care workers at other hospitals, thereby limiting access to abortion. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Slovakia include Independence Day (July 17) and New Year (January 1). Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda did not want to legislate the treaty, prompting the Christian Democrats to leave the government coalition. Dzurinda then requested that the parliamentary elections be scheduled from September to June. The Social Democratic Left Party Smers leader Robert Fico promised in the election movement to stop privatizations and other market reforms implemented or initiated by the Dzurinda government. Fico was accused by his opponents of populism for promising to improve the conditions for pensioners and low-income earners. But Fico’s party won the election with just over 29% of the vote before Dzurinda’s Social Democrats, SDKU, which got just over 18%. Robert Fico was commissioned to form a new government but had difficulty obtaining a majority for the system change his party went to for election. He received support from the left-wing nationalist LS-HZDS, but was also forced to turn to the right-wing Slovak Nationalist Party (SNS) to establish a government majority. The cooperation with the SNS led to harsh European criticism of Fico and his party Smer, who were excluded from the socialist group in the European Parliament.
The relationship between Slovakia and Hungary deteriorated when some ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia were attacked during the summer. The Hungarian government accused Slovakia of growing xenophobia and left an official protest. Slovakia promised to intervene against the perpetrators, but said Hungary was overreacting. About a tenth of the Slovak population is ethnic Hungarian.