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Slovak Leader Says Wants to Take Part in Deeper EU Integration


Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico speaks during the news conference at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, April 3, 2017.

Slovakia wants to be a part of the EU "integration machine," its prime minister said on Wednesday, in comments that follow calls by Germany, France and Spain for deeper cooperation and contrast with the eurosceptic stance of some other east European states.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's new President Emmanuel Macron agreed in May to outline a road map for deeper European Union integration while Spain suggested that members of the bloc should pool some aspects of their debt management and share a budget to fight crisis shocks.

"Slovakia meets conditions to be a part of the EU integration machine led by Germany and France," said Robert Fico, Slovakia's leftist third-time prime minister who oversaw his country's adoption of the euro in 2009.

"Deeper cooperation and integration with stronger countries suit a small country like Slovakia, this is a historic chance to come closer to the average living standards of the EU," he told reporters after a regular government meeting.

"Either we get in the integration express or we'll be stuck in the depot on the second track," he said, distancing himself from eurosceptic governments in neighbouring Hungary and Poland, and the Czech Republic, where integrationist Social Democrats are expected to lose an election in October.

Slovakia is the only one of these so-called Visegrad Four countries that uses the euro as its currency.

It has been one of the better budget performers in the eurozone, with public debt load expected to fall to 51.8 percent this year, less than the eurozone average at 89.2 percent in 2016.

Fico also called on opposition parties to get behind the consensus on Slovakia's foreign policy direction.

Richard Sulik, leader of the eurosceptic, anti-immigrant Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, Slovakia's second largest after Fico's center-left SMER, said on Tuesday Bratislava should not try to be part of the eurozone core as it would be forced to agree to tax harmonization and refugee quotas.

Slovakia under Fico's government, along with the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary, refused to accept EU refugee quotas and challenged them in an EU court.

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