Slovakia stands firm against EU migrant quotas, welcomes other proposals

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - European Commission proposals for a unified EU response to an influx of migrants include several positive points but Slovakia still opposes mandatory migrant quotas, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Wednesday. Slovakia is among four central European Union states that have been campaigning against plans by the Commission, as well as Germany, to redistribute some of the hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers flooding into Europe among all member states. A new proposal presented by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday went in the right direction on issues like protection of the EU's external frontiers, Fico said. "We appreciate the proposed measures including the protection of EU borders in Italy and Greece. We are ready to contribute financially, and with a military or technical presence," Fico said. He added: "Quotas are irrational and do not solve anything. Let’s not bend down to what Germany and France says. We have our own ideas, information and right to say our opinion." His position echoed that of Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who also reiterated on Wednesday his stance against quotas but a readiness to participate in other forms of response to the crisis. The central Europeans - including Poland and Hungary - could be overruled on the quotas. Fico said the issue should be brought to full debate by EU heads of state. He said most migrants were seeking a better life in Germany rather than fleeing war, and those did not need help. This assessment goes against the view of the United Nations as well as the Commission who see most migrants as refugees fleeing wars and persecution in the Middle East and Africa. The Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have tiny Muslim minorities and remain poorer than western Europe, have only seen a trickle of refugees moving through their territory to Germany; almost none have claimed asylum locally. Under the Juncker plan, the Czechs would take in 4,306 asylum-seekers and Slovakia 2,287. Germany and France would receive the highest numbers. (Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Mark Heinrich)