Czechia not ready to support new draft of EU migration and asylum pact
Czechia has announced that it will abstain in the vote on an EU migration and asylum pact expected to take place later this month. According to government officials, the new draft of the proposal would reduce the possibility of effectively preventing illegal migration on the EU’s external borders.
A badly needed overhaul of the European Union's asylum and migration system was years in the making as member states struggled with the practical impacts of several large waves of migrants from the Middle East and Ukraine. The first comprehensive draft of the pact was proposed in September of 2020 and it was not until December of last year that the EU reached a major breakthrough in the quest of a new common system for managing migration.
The aim of the new pact is to introduce more effective controls, secure a faster return of failed asylum seekers to their countries of origin and bring into effect a mechanism of “compulsory solidarity”, under which member states would have to accept a certain quota of migrants or else compensate overburdened countries financially.
The Belgian presidency of the EU Council is now working on finalising the details, and EU member states should vote on the draft’s adoption later this month.
Initially Prague seemed happy with the draft slated for approval, welcoming the fact that it does not mention mandatory quotas, and contains measures that should help deal with illegal migration. However, at Wednesday’s cabinet session the Czech government concluded that the country could not support the draft in its present form. Minister Martin Kupka of the Civic Democrats explained why.
“In our view, the changes to the draft made following negotiations with the European Parliament reduce the possibility of effectively preventing illegal migration at the EU’s external borders and there is a lot of added bureaucracy. Czechia primarily needs a pact that would secure EU outer border protection and guarantee an effective return policy. Under the present draft this would be complicated. For this reason Czechia will abstain from the vote.”
Czechia’s decision to abstain from the vote does not mean that the pact cannot be adopted by a qualified majority. Minister Kupka stressed that even if that were to happen, it does not mean that the Czech Republic would be obliged to accept migrants.
“I want to make one thing absolutely clear, in order to prevent the possible spread of disinformation. Even if the pact is adopted this would not oblige the Czech Republic to accept migrants. I think this needs to be clearly stated in view of likely reactions to such a development.”
The Czech government has faced sharp criticism in recent months from the opposition ANO and Freedom and Direct Democracy parties for having given a preliminary nod to new EU migration and asylum rules, arguing that the principle of so-called mandatory solidarity which the pact contains, is in effect equivalent to the mandatory migrant quotas that Czechia has fought against for years.
Interior Minister Vít Rakušan said later that his ministry is working on proposals that would complement the pact with measures to resolve migrant issues outside of the EU's borders, either in the country of origin or its neighbor states, a strategy that Czechia has long supported.