September 23, 2015 / 10:27 AM / 4 years ago

Slovakia will challenge EU migrant quotas in court - PM

BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia will go to court to challenge quotas for distributing asylum-seekers approved by European Union interior ministers, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Wednesday.

Slovakia was among four central and east European countries that voted against the plan to relocate 120,000 migrants from Italy and Greece among all member states, arguing the EU should focus on other forms of dealing with refugees from war-torn or poor places in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

“We will go in two directions: first one, we will file a charge at the court in Luxembourg... secondly, we will not implement the (decision) of the interior ministers,” Fico told reporters before leaving for an EU leaders’ summit in Brussels.

Fico said on Tuesday the quota system would not be imposed on Slovakia as long as he was in office.

“We have been refusing this nonsense from the beginning, and as a sovereign country we have the right to sue,” he said.

Slovakia, a central European country of 5.4 million, has only a small migrant community. It has said Muslim refugees would be especially hard to integrate.

The Slovak view was echoed in neighbouring Czech Republic and Hungary as well as in Romania, but the group was outvoted by other EU ministers on Tuesday.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Wednesday that while he continued to oppose the quota system, he did not want to escalate tensions with EU partners by a legal dispute.

Fico called the rare vote, rather than a compromise accepted by all, a “dictate of the majority” and said the quotas were symbolic rather than practical because asylum seekers who mostly want to go to Germany would go there anyway.

“The symbol of quotas was a bigger matter than a real solution to the problem in Europe. How can we order someone to go to a given country, and order a sovereign state it has to accept that?”

Reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova; Writing by Robert Muller and Jan Lopatka; Editing by Janet Lawrence

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