Czech Senate calls for end to “open-door” migrant policy ahead of EU-Turkey summit

Photo: ČTK

A two-day summit chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk began in Brussels on Thursday, with European leaders embarking on a fresh round of negotiations with Turkey on a stalled plan designed to tackle the ongoing migrant crisis. In its recommendations to the Czech cabinet issued on the eve of the summit, the Senate called for a rejection of the current EU-Turkey agreement until a clear signal was sent to migrants that the days of an “open-door policy” were over.

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki,  ČRo
Dominik Jun spoke with political commentator Jiří Pehe and began by asking him to sum up the position PM Bohuslav Sobotka is likely to take at the talks:

“Prime Minister Sobotka went to the summit with a formally-approved mandate from the Czech government. The mandate says that the Czech Republic will support an agreement with Turkey on returning immigrants from Greece and other parts of Europe back to Turkey. That means the Czech Republic will basically support the efforts of Germany and other West European nations to reach a successful deal with Turkey.”

Angela Merkel,  photo: ČTK
The Czech Senate issued a statement on the eve of the summit critical of the previously negotiated framework agreement, saying the EU should prioritize its security, and it also had tough words for German chancellor Angela Merkel, saying she was partly responsible for the current crisis. Will this add to the pressure on Sobotka to take a tougher line?

“I don’t think so. The mandate of the PM comes from the government. The government, in essence, reports to the lower chamber of parliament and not the upper chamber… It has no bearing on what the EU will ultimately do.”

The V4 Visegrad Group has become known as a kind of thorn in the side of the EU pushing for a tougher line on refugee policies. So is it possible the Czech Republic will agree to the current proposals even though they contain features such as one-in-one-out (for each Syrian sent back, a Syrian already in Turkey is resettled in the EU) migrant exchanges criticized by some as horse-trading in human beings?

Photo: ČTK
“Prime Minister Sobotka went to the summit with a mandate to agree on trading immigrants or refugees who arrive in Greece for refugees who are in camps in Turkey. I don’t think he is going to violate this agreement. Of course the agreement is criticized by many countries, but my personal feeling is that the EU doesn’t have a better solution at this point and it has to go with what is already there. And it is easy to say that we should have stronger security measures and this and that, but all of those things are complicated, take time, and cost a lot of money. So in the end a compromise will have to be found and I think that this is probably the best one right now.”