BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia will put aside its strong views on curbing immigration and act as an honest broker on the issue when it holds the European Union presidency later this year, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Wednesday.
The leftist Fico, who was reelected for a third term in March, said last week that Islam had no place in Slovakia, an extension of anti-immigration rhetoric in the election campaign.
“We won’t change our national position but we won’t put it on the table during our presidency. We want to act as an honest broker and reach compromise wherever possible,” Fico said at news conference in Brussels that was shown live on the European Commission website.
Fico said he supported a return to the border-free Schengen zone after some counties introduced temporary border checks, stronger protection of the bloc’s outside borders and a speedy formation of the European border and coast guard.
His previous government filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice against last year’s EU decision to redistribute 160,000 asylum seekers among member countries, including those who do not want to take any.
He has also criticized the European Commission’s plan to reform the so-called Dublin system of EU asylum rules so that each of the 28 states would be assigned a percentage quota of all asylum seekers or have to pay 250,000 euros for each refugee they refuse to take.
“The reform of Dublin is one of issues where we see many divisions among member states and we see it will be very hard to overcome them and reach any compromise,” Fico said after a meeting with Commission President Jean Claude Juncker.
Slovakia has a tiny Muslim community of several thousand and has seen only a few hundred asylum requests from places like Syria in the past year.
Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Editing by Tom Heneghan