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Central Europe reaffirms opposition to quotas

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New EU proposal for asylum reform includes fines for those who do not comply and elicits predictable response from region’s politicians.

5 May 2016

Central European leaders have loudly voiced their dissatisfaction with the EU’s latest draft asylum rules, which were officially proposed on 4 May. The new guidelines, passed by the European Commission, seek to spread the burden now faced by those on the EU’s outlying borders, such as Greece and Italy, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“You don’t turn your back on the problem of your neighbor, you share a common solution. That is why we need to introduce a corrective mechanism, triggered automatically,” EC Vice President Frans Timmermans (pictured) said, as quoted by the WSJ.

The proposed reform would enshrine mandatory quotas into asylum policy, despite the great backlash, especially in Central Europe, to last year’s one-off quotas. A new emergency redistribution system would spring into force if the number of applicants exceeded certain thresholds in countries on the front lines of the waves of migration.

The EU member states and the European Parliament still need to approve the rules, which could be a challenge given the opposition expressed in some new member states. Local politicians are also up in arms about the proposed fee of 250,000 euros ($287,000) that countries would need to pay for each asylum seeker that they refuse to take in.

On 4 May, all foreign ministers of the Visegrad Four (Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland) rejected the notion of mandatory quotas, repeating earlier calls against any such compulsory measures.

"The Czech Republic has been stressing for long that the mandatory quotas do not make sense and do not contribute to the solution to the refugee crisis. The past year showed we were right," said Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, CTK reports.

Similar words also emanated from Poland, according to Reuters. "This is a bad system ... It makes no sense, it violates EU member states' rights," said Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. The right-wing Polish government, which took power in November, has backtracked on earlier pledges by the previous government to take in thousands of refugees.

The new Slovak ruling coalition stands firmly opposed to the proposed rules, says The Slovak Spectator.

"I’m telling you straight away that Slovakia won’t support the proposal, but we’re always striving to have the largest possible number of countries seek sensible solutions," said Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák. He referred to the new rules as a setback that will return the conversation about accepting migrants back to where it was nine months ago.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian Supreme Court approved the Hungarian government’s plan to hold a referendum later this year on whether the country should concede to the EU’s quota system, Newsweek reports. Hungarians will be asked: “Do you want the EU, even without the approval of the Hungarian parliament, to be able to prescribe the mandatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary?”

  • The Visegrad Four countries rejected quotas last year, but were outvoted by other EU member states. The quotas were also rejected by Romania, which is not a member of the Visegrad Four. Finland was the only country of the EU's 28 members to abstain from the vote.

  • Slovakia and Hungary are currently suing the EU at the European Court of Justice over the mandatory quota scheme.

  • In a speech to parliament in February, Orbán railed against EU migration policy, as quoted by The Guardian. “Hungary is under enormous pressure [over] whether or not the EU will succeed in pushing a new EU asylum and migrant system down the throats of the central European countries, including ours. Such a system would authorize [the EU] to distribute migrants among the other EU countries, including those which have not taken in migrants, do not want to, are opposed to this and do not want any part in it.” Compiled by Jeremy Druker

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