Slovak election hopeful Fico: ‘illusory’ to deal with Ukraine’s EU membership now

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Robert Fico, the former Slovak prime minister tipped to win this weekend’s election, said neighbouring Ukraine’s accession to the European Union was a far-off prospect due to the ongoing war, corruption and democratic shortcomings.

Fico, who has pledged to halt Slovak arms supplies to its eastern neighbour and has taken a more pro-Russian view than most western allies on the conflict, leads opinion polls ahead of the Sept. 30 vote.His views on the war in Ukraine and some European affairs mirror those of Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, raising the prospect of a wider alliance in the EU and NATO if Fico’s SMER-SSD party forms the next Slovak government.”We are convinced it is illusory to deal with this question at a time when a sharp military conflict goes on in Ukraine,” Fico said by email when asked if he supported Ukraine’s EU membership and the opening of entry talks this year.”In the future we can imagine that Ukraine has the closest possible cooperation with the European Union, including membership. But for that, it has to meet conditions like all other countries aspiring for membership had met.

While not entirely dismissive of Ukraine’s future EU path, Fico reiterated Slovakia would veto NATO membership for Ukraine should it be invited in the future, due to Russia’s opposition.

“We do not want World War III,” he said.

Fico said that a SMER-SSD government may re-open a 2022 defence cooperation agreement(DCA) with the United States, similar to treaties most NATO members have but which SMER-SSD criticised heavily.

“It is needed to at least open the DCA and start repeated negotiations,” Fico said.

Fico’s pledge to halt arms shipments to Ukraine has been unclear over whether he meant supplies from army storage, or commercial supplies as well.

“We are talking about state reserves,” Fico told Reuters.

Under the country’s centre-right cabinet, which collapsed last year, Slovakia shipped equipment including the S-300 air defence system and MiG-29 fighter planes, and diplomats have said there was not much more in army storage to provide.

But the country has ammunition firms that have been investing into raising capacity and companies making fighting vehicles. It also hosts a base servicing Ukrainian German-supplied equipment.

Fico said ammunition makers would have enough work to refill empty army storage, but did not say exports would be banned.

He said he did not support arms shipments through Slovakia to Ukraine, but added it may not be prevented completely because “the American army can do what it wants” under the cooperation treaty with the United States.

via Reuters

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