German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, June 15, 2016. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday that she expected Slovakia to be an honest mediator on migrant issues when it takes over the European Union's rotating presidency in July.
Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn said in May that Slovakia's failure to admit its quota of 1,500 refugees under a European Union plan would hobble its ability to lead when it assumes the rotating EU presidency in July.
"I have no doubt that when it comes to the agenda we have ahead of us - and that now means above all dealing with the Mediterranean route from Libya - that Slovakia will be an honest broker and that it will, with the presidency, unite the member states of the European Union," she told a news conference.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico, speaking at the same news conference after a meeting with Merkel, said Slovakia took its responsibility as EU president seriously, and would not foreground its own disagreements over migration issues.
"We intend to be an honest and sincere broker for those partners who have different opinions," Fico told reporters. "We will do all we can to ensure that our EU presidency is successful."
He said Slovakia intended to focus in its presidency on issues where EU members were already largely in agreement, including the need to defend the bloc's external borders, the so-called "Blue Card" aimed at expanding legal immigration options for skilled workers, and efforts to curb illegal migration from Africa.
"We know we cannot abuse the presidency by putting our interests above those of the overall union," he said.
Merkel said her meeting with Fico had shown that it was possible to have disagreements on some issues and still have constructive dialogue on others.
The two countries were in agreement on key issues such as the need to combat the underlying reasons for the mass migration affecting Europe, and the need to secure the European Union's external borders, she said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Michael Nienaber)