Czech prime minister says Paris attacks are wake-up call for Europe

Bohuslav Sobotka and Miloš Zeman lay flowers outside the French embassy in Prague, photo: CTK

Life in the Czech metropolis came to a standstill at mid-day on Monday as Czechs joined millions of Europeans in observing a minute of silence for the victims of the terrorist attacks in Paris. In addition to widespread condemnation of the monstrous attacks against innocent civilians Czech officials have stressed the need for stronger coordinated action on the part of the EU.

Bohuslav Sobotka and Miloš Zeman lay flowers outside the French embassy in Prague,  photo: CTK
Expressions of condemnation and sympathy in wake of the Paris attacks came from across the political spectrum over the weekend, and hard on their heels a demand for EU action in place of words. The strongest statement came from Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who said the attacks amounted to a declaration of war and that the Czech Republic was prepared to assist the destruction of the Islamic State to the best of its abilities. The prime minister also said the attacks were a wake-up call for the EU to shore-up its outer borders and start taking security issues seriously.

“If we do not secure Schengen’s outer borders then individual member states will have to act of their own accord. At a meeting of the National Security Council we discussed measures to reinforce border controls on the border with Austria and Slovakia, but we should not have to do that if security on the outer Schengen border was reliable.”

The Czech prime minister also expressed disappointment over the response of European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker to the crisis and his view that the attacks in Paris should not change the attitude of individual EU member states to migrants. Mr. Sobotka said it was inevitable that such a change would take place and the accent should be on greater security.

A woman is being evacuated from the Bataclan theater after a shooting in Paris,  November 13,  2015,  photo: CTK
“I saw the images from Paris and I do not want something similar happening in Prague. So what I am saying is yes, Europe must help people in need, but we also need to consider our own security. The flow of migrants must be under control and it is not. Many refugees now moving around Europe are not registered anywhere. We have no idea who we are opening our doors to.”

Although the Czech Republic is not going as far as Poland, which has already said it is not prepared to accept the quota of migrants earmarked for it, Mr. Sobotka said Prague would insist on its right to screen migrants due to settle in the country and apply the right of veto in the event of doubt.

The prime minister said a speedy agreement with Turkey was essential in controlling the migrant flow, as was a joint European force of border and coast guards to which the Czech Republic has repeatedly offered to contribute. Mr. Sobotka further expressed the hope that the attacks in Paris would put stronger pressure on Russia and the United States to find a solution to the conflict in Syria.

Photo: CTK
The prime minister’s stand has received firm backing from parties across the political spectrum and appears to have strong support from the public. Even before the Paris attacks it was clear that the migrant crisis negatively affected the public’s stand to foreigners and the issue is expected overshadow the 26th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution on Tuesday with over a dozen rallies planned in the Czech capital alone.