January 27, 2016 / 3:11 PM / in 2 years

Former far-right Slovak party near power with tough migration stance

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia should reject quotas to share migrants around the European Union and prevent any large Muslim minority from taking root in the country, the most likely junior partner in the country’s next government says.

Andrej Danko and his conservative Slovak National Party (SNS) stand a strong chance of joining the government if leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico needs a coalition partner after Slovakia’s general election on March 5.

The SNS governed with him a decade ago when its xenophobic views against Roma and Hungarian minorities raised concern among European Socialists.

After the SNS won no seats in the 2012 election, Danko has raised its support to near 10 percent with a more moderate tone, tax cut plans for small businesses, criticism of privatizations and a strong stance against immigration.

Fico has echoed that position on migrants in recent months.

Attorney Danko, 41, told Reuters his party wanted the EU to better protect its borders against migrants, who he said were mostly young men fleeing problems rather trying to fix them.

“They disrupt the EU’s administrative system and pose a security threat. It does not matter they are unarmed, it is a mass incursion,” he said in the interview on Monday.

“There are 750,000 young men (in Europe) claiming to be persecuted at home (and) not thinking about how to liberate their mothers and wives,” he said.

More than 1 million migrants came to Europe last year, most heading to richer EU countries such as Germany.

Slovakia received only 169 asylum requests last year but has been assigned 802 migrants under the EU scheme. The government has filed a lawsuit against the quotas and said it wanted to accept only Christian immigrants.

The anti-immigration stance finds an echo with voters in this largely Catholic country of 5.4 million. There are some 5,000 Muslims living in Slovakia.

Danko said the party wanted to raise the bar for a religion to receive state funding to 50,000 members from 20,000 now, which would disqualify the Muslims for the visible future.

SNS’s popularity was falling before Danko took it over three years ago and expelled its far-right leader Jan Slota. Its rhetoric now does not stand out in Slovak politics.

“I don’t want SNS to be a xenophobic, racist and nationalist party but a proud patriotic party, even a republican party that will ... attract voters without adopting extremist positions,” Danko said.

Editing by Jason Hovet and Tom Heneghan

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