EurActiv.com

EU news and policy debates across languages

26/09/2016

Slovak PM: ‘It’s impossible to integrate Muslims’

Central Europe

Slovak PM: ‘It’s impossible to integrate Muslims’

Standing up for Slovakia: Robert Fico (second from left)

[Andrij Bulba/Flickr]

Challenging the EU’s political correctness, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said he will not allow a large Muslim community in his country. Fico’s anti-immigration rhetoric has boosted his Direction-Social Democracy party (SMER-SD) ahead of the 5 March elections.

Fico announced “shifts in (the) Slovak position to the EU migration crisis” in the light of the New Year’s eve rampage in the centre of Cologne, during which 90 women reported being robbed, threatened or sexually molested by young, mostly drunk, men, described by some of the victims as North Africans.

“Many things are being said and written, but the Slovak government sees a direct link between the current migration flows and the (November) attacks in Paris and recent events in Germany,” said the prime minister at a press conference in Bratislava yesterday (7 January).

>>Read: Germans debate responsibility for sexual assaults

Fico said that he understood the soothing rhetoric of some German politicians, but he did not share the view that governments should not inform the population about the security risks openly.

He announced the hardening of the already reticent Slovak position on the joint European action to tackle the refugee crisis.

No Muslim community

Fico said that his government has always been opposed to the EU “forcing the member states to accept refugees with diametrically opposed values and ways of life” and “different relationship to women”. Muslim refugees are “impossible to integrate”, he added.

There are approximately 5,000 Muslims living in Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million.

Not only will Slovakia continue to oppose the decision on the mandatory relocation scheme, which it already took to the EU Court of Justice, but it will not take any further voluntary steps that could lead “to the emergence of a compact Muslim community in Slovakia”, Fico stated. The emergence of such a community, he said, would be an inevitable effect of the EU-wide relocation scheme.

>>Read: Slovakia takes EU to court over migrant quotas

According to Fico, the recent events in Germany are the proof that the relocation scheme must be abandoned.

“Under the temporary quota it would only be 2,000 (refugees relocated to Slovakia), but under the permanent quota system we can speak of 50,000. They would automatically create a compact community, with all of the risks that we see in different countries,” Fico said.

Slovakia has only agreed to voluntarily accept 180 Christian Syrian refugees. Even though they are already in Slovakia, their placement with families willing to shelter them in various villages in Slovakia has been postponed, due to the opposition of the local communities.

>>Read: Commission frowns on ‘Christian only’ solidarity with migrants

‘Only weather protects us’

“The Slovak government is of the opinion that the EU and some member states have underestimated and failed to mitigate the risks of unmanaged migration (…) Today only the weather protects us from further migration flows,” he said.

It is generally assumed that fewer migrants take the risk of the perilous journey during the winter season, although a German official said the number of refugees arriving in his country remained stable at some 3,500 per day. In fact, refugees coming from the Greek islands aim at Germany, and Slovakia has never been on their route.

>>Read: Germany says EU policies to stop migrants are not working

Slovak money for strengthening borders, not for “food funds”

In another shift in position, Fico pledged that Slovakia will contribute financially, or with personnel, to the common European efforts to eliminate negative effects of the migration crisis. However, he said he wants to make sure the money will “not end in some kind of food or other fund”, but will be used to put in place security structures that will protect the EU’s external borders.

Slovakia supports the newly proposed European border and coast guard. “We will not complicate this with discussion about sovereignty. The Schengen border is our border,” Fico said. 

Fico’s government has also recently allocated substantial budget increase to police forces as a response to the perceived rising terror threat. That is despite the fact that Slovakia already enjoys one of the highest ratio of police per population in the EU, and in contrast, has substantial budget shortages in education and healthcare systems. 

Looming elections

The general elections in Slovakia will be held on 5 March. Fico’s governing party scores high in approval rates, around 40%, and its support has increased since the start of the refugee crisis. One of the main campaign messages of SMER-SD is “We protect Slovakia”. The only intrigue in the elections is whether Smer-SD would need a coalition partner or whether it will again be able to form a government alone.

The Party of European Socialists (PES), of which Fico’s party is a member, has recently discussed some of Fico’s earlier rhetoric against refugees, and his legal action against the relocation scheme in an internal meeting. So far, no decision on a possible suspension of membership has been taken.

>>Read: Robert Fico: Anti-refugee, pro-Russian headache for the Socialists

Slovakia will hold the rotating Presidency of the Council of the EU from 1 July.

Positions

Reacting to the Prime Minister´s comments, the Muslim community of Slovakia has issued a statement denouncing the events in Germany and saying that “the community has become a subject of the election campaign” in Slovakia.

“We fear that the current atmosphere in the society can compromise the safety of our families, especially our women and children. We urge political representatives as well as the other personalities and media to take that into account,“ the statement reads.