Czech PM: high EU birth rates, not “mass, unchecked illegal migration”, answer to demographic crisis

Andrej Babiš, Viktor Orbán

Prime Minister Andrej Babiš visited Hungary’s controversial “anti-migrant” fence on Wednesday, keen to see for himself the latest thermal imaging camera system installed along the country’s borders with Serbia and Croatia. Leading the tour was his counterpart Viktor Orbán – who along with Babiš and other central European leaders, vetoed an EU proposal for compulsory refugee relocation. 

Following their joint visit to a guard post along the barbed wire border fence, which Orbán built in 2015, at the height of the European refugee crisis, the two leaders took the opportunity to criticise the European Union for failing to keep “illegal migrants” out.

The Czech leader has often praised his Hungarian counterpart for erecting the fence, referring to Orbán as “the only one actually defending the Schengen borders”. Babiš has long advocated “defending” European waters as well – intercepting would-be migrants at sea – and establishing refugee camps in countries of origin, rather than on EU territory.

Babiš devoted a large part of his speech on Thursday at the Budapest Demographic Summit – held every two years since 2015 to discuss key issues affecting families – not only to what he sees as the need to protect Europe’s borders but to defend “European culture” itself.

“Most striking is the reaction of many Western European politicians. Even though they are well aware that European nations are slowly dying out, instead of trying to raise the birth rate of their own women, they choose the fastest, quickest ‘solution’ and that is to import migrants – illegal migrants – especially in recent years people coming from the Middle East and Africa, people from completely different cultural backgrounds.

Viktor Orbán,  Andrej Babiš | Photo: Szilard Koszticsak,  ČTK/AP

“Just how problematic that approach is we can see today every day in Great Britain, Belgium, Sweden and Germany, and also in my favourite, France. Don’t these politicians understand that it is important to help migrants on the spot in their countries of origin, where they were born and live – as I have often recommended, along with Viktor Orbán?

“Yesterday, he and I visited the Hungarian border – the only truly effective one in Schengen. They are fighting against illegal migration. They are fighting against human traffickers who are taking 3,500 euros from those unfortunate people who they have promised a better life but do not even deliver on that promise. We finally must do something about it.”

Babiš further warned of the consequences of declining birth rates in the European Union, where on average of 1.6 children are born per woman while it would take an average of 2.1 to maintain the population. In many countries, such as France, he said, those numbers higher only due to many more children born into migrant families, “and Europeans are becoming minorities”.

“As prime minister now for four years, I say that our citizens will decide who lives and works in the Czech Republic. Our government and citizens will decide – and in 15 days, Czechs vote in parliamentary elections.

“They know that mass, unchecked illegal migration is not the solution. Quite the contrary. The only truly sustainable solution against Europe's extinction is to increase the birth rate of our own, indigenous population.

“This is a path common to the Visegrad Four countries [the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland]. It is the only way that we will not end up like some Western European countries, which are literally changing before our eyes from year to year.”

Babiš and other Central European leaders signed a joint declaration on Thursday saying that immigration should not be the answer to the bloc’s demographic challenges, while calling on the EU to keep family policy under national jurisdiction.

The declaration, signed by the prime ministers of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the president of Serbia, said each state should shape its own family policy in accordance with its own constitution, traditions and customs.