PRAGUE (Reuters) - Slovakia will strive to soften proposed European sanctions against Russia relating to exports of dual-use items and financial markets to protect its economy, Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Thursday.
The EU has said it is considering new sanctions against Russia to punish Moscow for sending troops into eastern Ukraine. Russia denies it has troops inside Ukraine.
The sanctions would target four sectors, including defence, dual use goods and finance. Governments should make a decision on the final shape of the package by Friday, with ambassadors meeting before then to hone it.
Fico, centre-left leader of the NATO member country which has maintained relations with Russia, has long been opposed to sanctions, though Slovakia has refrained from vetoing any EU moves.
He said on Thursday the government instructed its EU ambassador to protest against specific parts of the sanctions package relating to financial markets and exports of goods that may have military as well as civilian use.
“We have said we have the appetite to veto concrete sanctions or a concrete part of sanctions,” Fico told a news conference in Bratislava.
“Most member states will certainly want to adopt sanctions. We do not want to infringe the EU’s unity but we will defend our economic interests very strongly.”
Specifically, Slovakia opposes banning access of Russian banks to syndicated loans because, Fico said, it may endanger hypothetical recapitalisation needs of Russian banks’ subsidiaries in the EU by their parent firms - such as Sberbank and its subsidiary in Slovakia.
On dual-use items, Fico said Slovakia wanted to remove some goods from the sanctions list and opposed banning shipments to civilian end-users.
Fico said his position was similar to the Czech Republic which said it would try to alter the proposed sanctions as well to protect exports of industrial goods.
He said Slovakia had been helping Ukraine, notably by upgrading a pipeline to allow natural gas shipments to Ukraine from the west, a project completed this week.
Reporting by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Toby Chopra