Intensive last-minute talks ahead of Tuesday’s EU summit of interior ministers in Brussels failed to bridge the divide between Western EU leaders and the Višegrad group over the proposed imposition of mandatory migrant quotas. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland remain firmly opposed to the idea, and Prague has even suggested that the EC proposal may be in violation of European law.
A meeting of Višegrad Group states with Luxembourg, which currently presides the EU, on Monday failed to break the deadlock in talks over compulsory migrant quotas with the Višegrad Group insisting on the need to preserve the voluntary nature of EU solidarity measures in dealing with the crisis. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the country was determined to hold this line at the upcoming EU talks.
“Our reservations to the EU proposal remain, which means that we will not support any agreement that involves a mandatory re-distribution of refugees either at Tuesday’s meeting of interior ministers or Wednesday’s emergency summit of EU leaders.”
The Czech Republic has sent the nature of its reservations with regard to mandatory quotas to Luxembourg in writing. In a legal analysis drafted by the Czech Interior Ministry, Prague questions what it calls ten serious failings of the plan which have not been properly cleared up at previous negotiations. First it points out that an attempt to enforce a mandatory relocation of refugees during the migrant crisis in Malta six years ago failed. It says that the migrants allocated to Slovakia and Romania simply refused to go there and the plan was never implemented. The analysis questions whether allotting asylum seekers to a certain country against their will is not against the European Convention of Human Rights, and asks how they would be prevented from leaving that country, who would be responsible for returning them if they did and what the respective sanctions would be. It moreover inquires for how long they would be restricted in movement around the Schengen zone. And finally it questions the legal basis of such a move were it to be enforced by a qualified majority vote of interior ministers on Tuesday. Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec.
“We are also looking for ways for member states to be able to defend themselves against such a decision. And in order to find out we need to know on what legal grounds such a decision would be made.“
There have even been suggestions on the domestic political scene that, if outvoted, the Czech Republic could take the issue to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Despite the country’s determination to fight the proposal of mandatory quotas all the way, Czech top officials say their opposition is not about the number of migrants the country would be prepared to take in. In fact in recent days Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said that –if mandatory quotas were dropped – the country would be prepared to take in as many refugees as it is did during the war in the Balkans, which was over 10,000 people. What the country strongly objects to is the principle of a mandatory re-distribution which would be open-ended and could definitively rob the country of control over who it opens its doors to in the future.