Merkel, Sobotka find common ground on numerous issues with notable exception of migrant quotas

Angela Merkel, Bohuslav Sobotka, photo: CTK

German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited Prague for the first time in four years to meet with Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka as well as the Czech head-of-state. The visit is part of a post-Brexit tour by Mrs Merkel to discuss the future of the European Union as well as bilateral cooperation. On most issues, the leaders found common ground. But not on migrant quotas.

Angela Merkel,  Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
Some opponents of German Chancellor Angela Merkel ahead of her arrival called the visit “a provocation” and several hundred people came out on the day to demonstrate, pointing blame at the Chancellor for the migration crisis. The Czech head-of-state Miloš Zeman, who on Thursday presented Merkel with a copy of The Good Soldier Švejk, too has been a long-time critic and he said he wouldn’t mince words when they met. The most important meeting of the day for the Chancellor by far, however, was with her counterpart, Bohuslav Sobotka, who made clear there was much on which Germany and the Czech Republic agreed – just not migrant redistribution. On Czech TV on Thursday evening, Mr Sobotka said this:

Opponents of Angela Merkel,  photo: CTK
“I don’t think it was a surprise for the Chancellor and I don’t think it was anything new. There are big differences in how the Czech Republic and Germany see the situation. We do not want to leave policy on migration up to the European Union and we disagree with any mandatory and permanent quotas to redistribute migrants.”

Where did they find common ground? The need to join forces to improve European internal and outer security, to counter terrorism as well as to tackle the source of the migration crisis by providing aid to source countries; German Chancellor Angela Merkel pointed out that in many areas she and Mr Sobotka saw eye-to-eye.

“There are a lot of points where we agree, even on migrant policy. We welcomed Czech support for an agreement between the EU and Turkey and support for the NATO naval force in the Aegean. The one thing which we disagree on is on the redistribution of migrants.”

Angela Merkel,  Miloš Zeman,  photo: CTK
Much of the German media, including Spiegel on Friday, reported that Chancellor Merkel had not succeeded in convincing Czech politicians to pivot on migration, and projected that other stops on her post-Brexit tour, such as an upcoming meeting with the leaders of the Visegrad 4, which includes the Czech Republic, would not be crowned by success. Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka responded to the reports soon after, saying that such a shift could not have been expected, saying the real reason for the meeting had been to boost dialogue on the future of the EU after Brexit as well as to discuss bilateral projects.