Former Czech president Václav Klaus has said he will consult with parliamentary parties and others to sound out whether there is a political will to push for a referendum on the EU’s mandatory quotas. The former head-of-state said he is convinced the current government has no mandate to enforce them. The Czech Republic, along with two other Visegrad Four countries and Romania opposed EU quotas, but was outvoted at summit of EU interior ministers this week. Mr Klaus has warned that the mandatory acceptance of refugees will fundamentally change security within the Czech Republic as well as the country's "character". A petition against migration launched not long ago by Mr Klaus has gotten almost 100,000 signatures.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka stressed the continuing relevance of the Višegrad Four regional cooperation late Wednesday. Arriving at an extraordinary EU summit on immigration in Brussels Mr. Sobotka said that the cooperation is meaningful in spite of occasional differences. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland have often been able to push through their stances when they act together, he added. The comments follows Poland’s split from the formerly united Višegrad Four stand against mandatory immigrant quotas on Tuesday. Minister of interior Milan Chovanec later said the regional cooperation faced “a short term end.”
For weeks the Visegrad Four countries – including the Czech Republic – were adamant they would oppose mandatory quotas but on Tuesday, Poland surprised its partners by completely changing course, voting with the majority of EU interior ministers in favour of the plan. I asked political analyst Jiří Pehe why most of the EU opposed the voluntary acceptance of refugees which had been pushed for by the former communist bloc countries.
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.
Foreign ministers from the Visegrad Four (the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary) as well as Luxembourg and Latvia met in Prague on Monday to discuss the ongoing immigrant crisis. The meeting was expected to have a coordinating character and not expected to result in a final standpoint or declaration, according to the spokeswoman for the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Luxembourg foreign minister Jean Asselborn said later there had been an exchange of views and that Tuesday’s meeting of interior ministers was very important to find a solution. It was not an impossible goal, he said, adding that he now appreciated the problems better. The Visegrad Four have taken a stand against the European Commission proposal that countries sign up to a mandatory share out of immigrants. Prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka repeated that stand Monday. EU heads of government are meeting for an emergency summit on the immigrant crisis on Wednesday.
EU interior ministers on Monday failed to reach agreement on mandatory quotas for the redistribution of 120,000 migrants across the EU. Efforts by West European states to get firm commitments and a timetable for redistribution were blocked by the Czech Republic and three other Višegrad Group states which have refused to accept mandatory quotas on the argument that they simply will not work.
The foreign ministers of the Visegrad Four countries, Germany and Luxembourg met in Prague on Friday to discuss Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis. Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier insisted on EU states sharing the burden, while his Visegrad counterparts may have shown the first hints of division over the issue of quotas.
The country's centre-right opposition parties, TOP 09 and the Civic Democrats, welcomed steps agreed by the Visegrad 4, including the rejection of EU quotas on refugees. The regional grouping of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, has instead offered to help on a voluntary basis; the Czech Republic, for example, agreed earlier to accept 1,500 refugees over the next two years. On Friday, members of the V4 offered to provide expertise and equipment to help bolster the Schengen zone’s outer borders and combat human traffickers and support the fight against Islamic State during the current immigrant crisis. TOP 09 deputy chairman Marek Ženíšek said his party had called for the rejection of quotas, a reliance on existing measures and the creation of hot spot centres, since January. He criticised the V4 for, in his view, not directly addressing growing xenophobia and racism in the V4 over Europe's refugee crisis.The Communists while welcoming Friday's meeting in Prague and outcome, suggested the move should have come earlier.
Government leaders from the four Visegrad countries agreed in Prague on Friday that they are prepared to provide experts and equipment to help bolster the Schengen zone’s outer borders and combat human traffickers and support the fight against Islamic State during the current immigrant crisis. The meeting was called in Prague by the current country heading the regional grouping, the Czech Republic. Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka warned during the closing press conference that the wave of immigrants would continue as long as the current conflicts in Libya and Syria are unresolved. Development help for those countries would be offered and the stepped up involvement of the United Nations would be sought, he added. Polish premier Ewa Kopacz stressed that it was for individual countries make their own decisions during the ongoing crisis. The four Central European counties, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland, are under fire from other EU states for refusing to accept EU-set quotas of immigrants in their countries.
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