Czech political spectrum united in opposition to EU migrant quotas

Prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Milan Chovanec, photo: CTK

Politicians from across the Czech political spectrum have reaffirmed their opposition to a revised plan unveiled by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels on Wednesday that would see member states dividing-up 160,000 asylum seekers. Instead, Czech elected officials are maintaining that assistance to refugees should be a voluntary matter.

Prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka, Milan Chovanec, photo: CTK
EU interior ministers are set to meet in Brussels next Monday to discuss a range of issues relating to the current migrant crisis. The Czech government says it supports the proposed measures related to border security and repatriation of economic migrants. However, the government has also affirmed that Interior Minister Milan Chovanec will maintain his county’s firm opposition to mandatory quotas. Speaking to reporters, Chovanec explained the Czech stance:

“We are convinced that the path we have chosen is correct and that mandatory quotas do not solve anything. They simply push the problem further down the road – months, years, but the fundamental issues are not addressed.”

The interior minister also argued that given that only 60 Syrian refugees had applied for asylum in the Czech Republic so far, quotas would actually mean forcibly preventing many migrants from reaching their chosen destination of Germany:

“I really do not know how I am supposed to hold migrants in our territory when they simply do not want to be here; whose only wish is to reach Germany. 99 percent of migrants are heading there, and have relatives there. Perhaps the 800,000 people that Germany accepts will generate millions more because European law allows for families to be reunited…which means the problem begins with this and continues – but they don’t want to come here.”

Miroslav Kalousek, photo: Filip Jandourek
TOP 09 opposition party deputy leader Miroslav Kalousek expressed his support on Wednesday for the Czech government’s strident opposition to EU-mandated migrant quotas.

“We support the Czech government in its position that mandatory quotas are not the solution. Because to be mandating someone to stay in a territory in which they do not wish to remain makes no sense.”

However, in his interview with Czech Television, Kalousek also sought to warn against rising xenophobic sentiments in the Czech Republic:

“On the other hand, we are deeply concerned about people being frightened that the arrival of this or that migrant means the end of our civilization. That is simply nonsense, and is playing to people’s fears and other base instincts.”

Opposition Communist Party leader Vojtěch Filip called for closer attention being paid to stabilising so-called “failed states”. Meanwhile, ANO party leader Andrej Babiš, a hard-line voice in the governing coalition with regards to migrant issues, warned that the flood of people migrating from Syria would only further hinder efforts to rebuild that country. He also reiterated calls for military intervention to help break-up human trafficking gangs said to be playing a major role in the current crisis.

Photo: CTK
The three other Visegrad countries, namely Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, also oppose mandatory quotas. A joint communique from the prime ministers of the four members issued last Friday described such measures as “unacceptable”. Meanwhile the Czech president Miloš Zeman called for the current crisis to be taken up by the European Council, enabling Visegard countries to formally join forces to block mandatory quotas.