Newly-appointed Czech prime minister ready to do battle over migrant quotas in Brussels

Illustrative photo: Fotomovimiento, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Just days ahead of a scheduled EU summit on migration, Prague has announced the launch of a Visegrad group project to strengthen Libyan border protection and improve the plight of refugees in the country. The Czech Republic, which now faces a lawsuit over its failure to take in refugees, is pushing the view that the crisis needs to be resolved outside of Europe.

Andrej Babiš,  photo: CTK
On the very day that he was appointed prime minister, ANO leader Andrej Babiš was confronted with his first major problem. The European Commission announced it was filing a lawsuit against the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary for failing to do their duty and take in the allotted number of refugees according to the EC’s redistribution mechanism. Prime Minister Babiš accused his predecessor in office Bohuslav Sobotka of sleeping on the job, in not being more active in Brussels to explain the country’s position and avoid such a situation.

“I have inherited this unfortunate situation and I will now have to convince the European Commission to withdraw the lawsuit, to convince its officials that quotas are not the answer. The solution to this crisis lies outside of Europe and we need to convince other EU member states to back this view.”

According to the news site, the newly elected Czech prime minister will back his arguments with money – and is planning to announce that the Czech Republic will provide 20 million crowns in support of Libya at the EU summit in Brussels, a form of assistance that it has been providing for some time.

Illustrative photo: Fotomovimiento,  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Meanwhile, the office of the outgoing government announced on Friday that the Czech Republic together with its partners in the Visegrad Four (Slovakia, Poland and Hungary) is launching a joint project to help strengthen Libyan border protection and improve the plight of the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the country. Outgoing Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka wrote that the joint project is one of a number of Czech activities aimed at helping to resolve the migrant crisis.

The Visegrad group's individual financial contributions will go to the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa which was established two years ago in support of African countries of migrant origin and transit. Earlier this year the Czech government approved 25 million crowns in aid of Libyan coast guards who are fighting gangs of people-smugglers off the country’s shores. And recently the Czech Republic launched a joint project with Italy in aid of the Ivory Coast, which should help improve living conditions in the country and help migrants to return home.

Czech doctors perform eye-surgery on Syrian refugees in Jordan,  photo: Štěpán Macháček
The country has also been very active in Jordan where it paid for the electrification of the Zaatari refugee camp, home to some 80,000 refugees. Last year the Czech government sent 40 million crowns to Jordan to finance housing units for some 2,000 refugees and via the governments MEDEVAC aid program Czech doctors have operated on thousands of refugees in need of medical care.

Prime Minister Babiš said the outgoing government had failed to stress the significance and extent of this aid in Brussels and the need for the EU to take a different approach to resolving the migrant crisis, saying he would now have to correct this lapse. Outgoing Interior Minister Milan Chovanec countered that he had made many attempts to do so and wished the new head of cabinet a terse “good luck” in his efforts.